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Members of the Bethel ‘The House of God’ church sit under tents set up in the courtyard during a service on Thursday night. The church itself also had members for the service. The church’s pastor has come under fire for holding the service despite new COVID-19 measures which ban social gatherings of more than 10 people.

Rhondor Dowlat-Rostant

Pastor Dalton Bruce, of the Bethel The House of God in Freeport, has suspended services from today until further notice.

Bruce made the decision last evening, a day after there was a major backlash over his decision to hold services up to Thursday night despite Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s call on citizens to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.

On Thursday night, Bruce refused to stop the service, which was part of a seven-night memorial event, although police twice visited the compound to raise the issue after residents raised concerns over the scores of people who had gathered for the event. Bruce refused to speak to the media after the service and members of the congregation also advised that they had been told not to speak to the media.

In an official statement yesterday, Bruce initially said that services were not closing off completely.

“We are not closing the services totally but we are reducing our numbers. In the light of suggestion of 25 and even a little more we must comply, not wanting the Government to force the law upon us and show us up as delinquent citizens.

“We of Bethel and other churches are using our Bethel standards to obey the Government in their suggestions of all the laws. We will take these measures as from tomorrow (referring to Friday night) before service and after services. We will apply these regulations and continue throughout the week,” Bruce said.

However, during a service last night, Bruce apparently had a change of heart and decided to curtail the service he was officiating in shortly after 8 pm and then announced that all services will be suspended until further notice. He noted, however, that there were about four pre-planned weddings for tomorrow which will go on as planned but keeping precautionary measures in mind, including keeping the attendance to low numbers and sanitizing the environment. He said social distancing will also be promoted, meaning instructions will be given for no handshakes, kissing, hugging or holding of hands.

Guardian Media was told that the sudden change came after the pastor decided to heed to the words of Rowley. Bruce also wrote a letter and immediately dispatched it to Rowley yesterday but its details weren’t disclosed.