Tue | Sep 29, 2020

Church too silent ... Sexual abuse victims protest at Nazareth Moravian Church

Published:Sunday | January 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A group of protesting women outside the Nazareth Moravian Church in North West Manchester

Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer

Sunday service at the Nazareth Moravian Church in Manchester was the scene of a peaceful protest this morning by 14 women rallying support for the 15-year-old St Elizabeth girl allegedly abused by 64-year-old Rupert Clarke, the pastor of the congregation.

The 64-year-old pastor charged with having sex with a minor has been granted bail in the St Elizabeth Parish Court.

Clad in t-shirts bearing messages against sexual abuse, the women sat in the front rows of the congregation this morning.

The women, some of whom were themselves victims of sexual assault, expressed their anger at the church's silence on the matter.

"They weren't forced out of the church or anything but they definitely received some verbal attacks," said a representative for the group, Taitu Heron noting that the women arrived in two sets.

She said the second set of women, however, entered without opposition.

IN PHOTO: Accused pastor Rupert Clarke being escorted from the St Elizabeth Parish Court last Wednesday.

Heron, a lecturer at The University of the West Indies and gender analyst,  said protesters were acknowledged by the church leadership and given an opportunity to speak.

According to her, the president of the Elders' Council of the Moravian Church welcomed the group and made an effort to list the church's strategies to move forward.

She said the president also expressed that the church was open to assistance from external organisations. 

Heron says the silence of the church is no longer acceptable, noting that the problem of sexual misconduct involving ministers and church leaders has been a problem in Jamaica.

Last week, almost the entire congregation broke down in tears as they met for the first time, since Clarke's arrest.

READ: Weeping worshippers - Tearful service after pastor jailed over sex crime allegations

The church members prayed for Clarke and his family with the Moravian bishop Devon Anglin leading a special prayer for all the parties involved in what he called "the saga".