Pastor yanked from church during service for alleged breach of COVID-19 quarantine rulesMonday, August 16, 2021
BY MARK CUMMINGS
FALMOUTH, Trelawny – The Sunday morning service at St Peter's Anglican Church in Falmouth was briefly interrupted yesterday when a representative of the Trelawny Health Department entered the building and requested that the pastor, who was just about to deliver the sermon, leave the premises, accusing him of breaching the quarantine order.
The incident, however, did not prevent the usual two-hour service from continuing.
The pastor, Father Basil McLeod, who has been pastoring at the church for more than three years, yesterday described his sudden departure from the service as a “miscalculating of my quarantine time”, and the failure of the Ministry of Health and Wellness to communicate effectively on quarantine measures.
Shortly after his ejection from the church, he took to the members' WhatsApp group and tendered an apology as he sought to explain what had transpired.
“I am here apologising for my early departure this morning, I was of the opinion that my quarantine ended today, but I received a call from Dr [Diahann] Dale of the Ministry of Health during the service that a concerned member called to report my presence. I did not take the call, but she left a message.
“A representative was sent to the church and I was told that my quarantine ends tomorrow [today], so I had to leave,” McLeod posted.
He later told the Jamaica Observer that he had arrived in the island from Canada last Monday after spending five weeks there, and was of the belief that he was to be in quarantine for seven days, which he claimed, would allow him to be at church yesterday.
“The whole thing about it is that nobody says anything at the airport when you are coming in, I filled out a form online before I travel, but at the airport, customs officer, immigration, somebody should tell you when your quarantine starts [and] ends… but nothing like that is done at the airport.
“I thought you come in on Monday, your quarantine starts on Monday, so I was checking that I could be out on Sunday; then again other people were telling me about a four-day quarantine, a seven-day… the information was not really clear on how many days I should quarantine for, so I was taking Monday as the first day of my quarantine,” added McLeod.
He said church members, and himself, found it “very unusual”, for one of their own to call the Ministry of Health and Wellness to report that he was at church yesterday.
“We find it very unusual for a church, that a member would call the Ministry of Health and complain about the pastor being there, because most people would want a service. I have been away for over five weeks and I really wanted to be with the members,” he explained.
“ What is even more surprising is that I put out from Tuesday that I would be at church on Sunday, so if anybody had an objection to that they should have said to me that 'Father, it's too early, you can't come to church on Sunday,' but nobody said anything,” added McLeod.
He said he is fully vaccinated and described the representative of the Trelawny Health Department, who asked him to leave the church, as “very, very nice”, adding that after he was asked to leave, he left without hesitation.
He argued that the general membership is not peeved about the action of the health department, but rather that of the “concerned member” who called to report that he was at the service.
“They didn't come to me, they called the Ministry of Health, and it is very unusual for that to happen. The members are writing in the WhatsApp group that they are very upset, because that person should have come to me and said something,” he stressed.
St Peter's Anglican Church is based on Duke Street in Falmouth and is said to be the oldest public building in the historic town.
It boasts a membership of more than 100 people, but McLeod told the Observer that there were roughly 50 members in attendance during yesterday's service.
He said that the church has “strong COVID-19 protocols”, and would never seek to flout the law.