SOME members of an Apostolic Church in St Catherine are up in arms after they were ordered by their pastor to sit in the back benches of the church.
The church members had attended a nine-night recently, after the pastor had instructed them not to.
During the praise and worship session of the service on Sunday, apostle Joan Mattis, who is also an attorney-at-law, instructed some of the members, who were sitting in what appeared to be their usual seats, to relocate.
Adorned in white, apostle Mattis strolled down the aisle and between benches while instructing select members to move to the back benches.
Some of them complied, but one woman, who is Mattis's niece, did not budge. Instead, she insisted she had done nothing wrong and remained where she was.
In an apparent move to support the pastor, other members joined her as she stood next to her niece.
“Don't touch me!” Mattis's niece shouted as the women leading praise and worship continued to sing.
The other members who had complied with the pastor's instructions complained throughout the service.
Apostle Mattis did not take kindly to their actions, complaining that the backbenchers were ridiculing her. She also instructed her niece to sit quietly during the service.
Shortly after, the pastor declared from the pulpit that her niece was no longer a member of the congregation.
Mattis, in delivering a sermon on coverage, then asked the congregation if they were comprehensively covered by God.
“Blessed are those whose sins are covered,” she preached.
Making reference to an insurance coverage, she explained to the congregation that they have to pay for their breaches.
“It is not the desire of God to destroy his people. Yuh cyaah hype up when you need to be offered forgiveness,” she continued.
“A mash yuh a mash up di church and a chat faat,” a man, clad in denim pants and a striped shirt, uttered from the back bench.
“There comes a time when God say, 'Enough is enough',” the pastor shouted.
“Honour those who are set over you. Do not grieve the woman who He has set to watch over you,” she added before handing over the reins to another member on the platform.
However, things got worse.
“The enemy has no secret for me,” the new speaker shouted.
Addressing the pastor's niece, the woman said, “I love you”, as she explained to the congregation that she was only trying to make peace when she joined the pastor by her niece's side earlier.
“Mi nuh love you!” the niece said before leaving the church.
Most of the backbenchers then followed behind her.
“Who cyaah stand the fire, go. Obey or leave,” the woman said to shouts of 'Amen'.
Noting that the apostle's role is to “set the church in order”, she said going to the back bench is a sign of humility.
“Unnuh cyaah send gunman fi mi. My God tell mi if you curse mi, I will curse you. Bless mi, I will bless you,” she said, admitting that she was seen recently in the company of a married man.
After Sunday's service, apostle Mattis told the Jamaica Observer that she had informed the now backbenchers that they would have been punished for disobeying her instructions.
Admitting that she had not decided how long the members would remain on the back benches, apostle Mattis said, in recent weeks, God has been impressing upon her heart to look at the reason for nine-nights.
She explained that she made the decision not to attend the ritual celebrations that have become a tradition for many Jamaicans, after she attended a wake and observed the actions of the supporters.
The pastor said she was appalled.
Noting that things have changed, she explained that people at nine-nights would normally sing Christian songs, pray, eat, and then go home. Instead, she said people at nine-nights are now “whining up, skinning out and carrying on”, among other things.
The pastor said that was when she decided not to attend any more nine-nights. She said the manner in which some people behave at nine-nights is not in line with Christian teachings and that she was informed that the now backbenchers had conducted themselves in a manner that was not reflective of God.
Mattis, who is steadfast on her decision, said if only benches are in church on Sunday, she will continue to minister.
Going forward, the pastor said the backbenchers will have to apologise in church for being disobedient.