Pastor of St Paul AME Church, the Reverend Nicholas Tweed took aim at what he termed “the hollow men and women that seem to occupy seats on a hill”, who offer up “empty words and vacant policy” on gun murders and gang violence in Bermuda.
Speaking from the pulpit in the first sermon after the recent double murder at Robin Hood, he stated outright that those “empty words and vacant policy ought not be acceptable”.
“And until we change what we put in, we’re not going to alter what we get out,” said Rev Tweed.
“Instead of engaging in conversations about blame that so far produced nothing – why don’t we shift the conversation and start talking about shared responsibility and everybody doing their part – not just politicians, but everybody in our neighbourhoods, in our families, how we raise our children.
“We continue to idly watch and generally do nothing to change the conditions that produce these tragedies.”
While extending condolences to the families of gun murder victims, he said: “I wouldn’t want for this service to pass without some acknowledgement and extension of prayers and support to those who were impacted by the shooting…to the families of the two persons who lost their lives, to the other two individuals…and to all of those who witnessed and were traumatised by those events.
Reverend Tweed also took aim another false narrative that evolved as a result of this latest shooting incident.
“Some people unfortunately because of where it happened pretend that it makes it worse. I don’t care where it happened. The fact that it happened around Bermudiana Road (Richmond Road) – who cares?
“There was a shooting less than two months ago on the wall opposite PLP headquarters – the symbol of our political representation. If that’s not sacred, why in the world would think Robin Hood is sacred?
“But we have got – we meaning us in the community, and the hollow men and women that seem to occupy seats on a hill not too far from here, that empty words and vacant policy ought not to be accecptable, and until we change what we put in, we are not going to alter what we get out.
“And so until we change what we, meaning all of us do, we’re going to continue to find ourselves standing in these places trying to cobble together empty words that don’t mean anything beyond the sound they make when they leave our lips.”
He also explained that he “didn’t want not of that to tainted the preached word,” before moving on to his sermon on October 31.
“Anyway, that’s just me, you know I’m going say it,” he said. “So I have got to get that out the way.”
The sermon was based on the Book of Mark, Chapter 12: 28-34 (RSV).
Rev Tweed stated that “the centre of religious and political power” saw Jesus “engaged in a series of what we will come to know as final confrontations”.
“During the course of his ministry we have seen Jesus challenge the familial system that perpetuates and maintains systems of exploitation and oppression,” he said.
“We have seen Jesus challenge ritual practices that legitimise a system of exploitation. We have seen Jesus challenge systems that are buttressed against an ideology of patriarchy that exploits women and makes women objects who have no standing. And we’ve seen Jesus dismantle elements of this system systematically throughout his ministry.
“Now we’ve seen him as he enters Jerusalem, confront the representatives of this system of power.
“Unlike our contemporary, compartmentalised view of the world where we separate religion and politics, economics and sociology in the context of this narrative and the first century, there is no separation between those elements.
“The religious leaders are also political leaders and they serve at the pleasure of Pax Romana (a Latin word that translates to ‘Roman peace’ in English), and they have aligned themselves with the interests of Imperial Rome. And in fact it serves their interests to be allowed by Rome to be used to keep their people in line.
“In systems of power of colonial outposts it is the administrative and bureaucratic systems of power that ensure that systems will NEVER BE CHANGED!
“Say to yourself we must get to the next level,” he said.
“The greatest commandment – you should love your neighbour as yourself…Do not oppress the neighbour, exploit employees or discriminate against the disabled…And then finally it says do no injustice or show no partiality, or judgement, or slander, or witness against the neighbour.
“In other words beloved, according to Mark’s narrative, these are precisely the commands violated regularly by the dominant Judeal social groups – especially the scribes.
“It seems to be the case where there are numerous examples where particular individuals,know in principle, know what they ought to do. But it seems as if there is a gulf that separates principle from practice because they lack the moral, spiritual courage and fibre to act on principle and so they acquiesce to systems of oppression and exploitation, which make loving one’s neighbour impossible.
“We’ve got to get to the next level,” said Rev Tweed.
“What will it take to get us to the next level?
“It seems to be our lot to coexist with the contradiciton between lofty principles and lowly deeds.
“Governments promise – I nott talking about any government, I’m not even talking about Bermuda. But governments run campaigns on lofty principles about caring for the lowest and the least and the poor and the marginalised and the shut out. But as soon as they occupy seats in government, it appears that they develop chronic amnesia and are incapable of bridging the distance between principle and practice.
“And so when they speak like the scribe in the text, they can go to Jesus and affirm the principle…but yet Jesus recognises that the scribe in the text speaks from a position where he not only has a vested interest, but he is tied to a system that requires the perpetual exploitation and oppression of the marginalised and the weak.
“Afterall, the scribe works for a vested family in a colonial outpost, who need to continue the covering of Rome, in order to protect and provide security to their material wellbeing, even at the expense of their spiritual future…
“Saying yes is not a feeling, it’s an action. How do we say yes? How do we say yes without reconciling the paradox between principle and practice.
“Jesus offers us two guidelines if we’re going to get to the next level. Number one – it’s not enough to grasp something intellectually…Many times we know what God requires but we don’t know how to do it. And we’re not always prepared to engage in it…
“It’s like that Nike commercial – just do it! Stop telling me that you love me while I’m catching hell and you’re just watching.
“Stop telling me that you care while I continue to struggle and suffer.
“Start showing me that you love me by redistributing resources that will make a difference in the outcome of the situation. That’s what loving one’s neighbour looks like.
“Point number two – love of neighbour must be practiced and not just preached.”
- Rev Tweed was appointed the 33rd Pastor of St Paul AME Church in January 2013.
- For the full sermon on Sunday, October 31, 2021 go to their Facebook page: St Paul AMEC Bermuda
- On Monday, November 8, a 25-year-old St George’s woman was formally charged in Magistrates’ Court with the double murder of two young men at the Robin Hood Pub and Restaurant. Quiana Butterfield appeared before Magistrate Maxanne Anderson, to be charged with the murders of Ayinde Eve, 27, and Micah Davis, 22. She was also charged with the attempted murders of Troy Eve Burgess and an off-duty policeman – Derek Golding. The court also heard that other suspects believed to have been involved in this incident on October 26, have yet to be brought before the courts. The defendant was remanded the defendant in custody with her case down for the next arraignment session on December 1.
- Top Feature Photo Supplied by St Paul AME Church