By Loshaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts-Pastor Cyprian Williams of the New Birth Gospel Tabernacle is concerned about other Federation church buildings could face growing problems similar to the ones his church recently faced.
The New Birth Gospel Tabernacle members were forced out of their Cabbage Tree Housing home when they were set to reconstruct their sanctuary after the congregation had outgrown their previous building.
When construction of the new sanctuary was set to begin, the church was hit with an objection to the construction and had to halt as area residents petitioned against a church being constructed in that location. The government met with Mr. Williams and negotiated an offer the church is currently evaluating.
However, Williams is concerned that a bad precedence has been set.
“A lot of my pastor colleagues are voicing their concerns about their own churches, because if you have set something for one and you are saying that a church cannot be built in a residential area, then what will happen to all the lands that have been given out to churches that are in residential areas?,” he said.
He added that many of those church leaders will be writing to the government and will be visiting the Building Control and Planning Board to get assurances.
“You can’t wait until people have done all this stuff. For example, suppose we had already purchased our steel? We were just in the process of doing it, so what would have happened if we had already purchased it?”
Williams stated that he had already been contacted by some fellow pastors about the situation who are in similar situations.
“Some of the pastors have visited, called, emailed, prayed and it has been tremendous and they have said to me that they are very much concerned about this issue because it means that homeowners around their churches can sign a petition and have them closed down or the same situation happens where they can’t build.,” he declared.
He called on the government to review the situation because many churches are being erected in residential areas.
“I think the government has to look into that, this is not in any way speaking against the government, I’m giving them advice that they need to look into protecting the churches,” he said.
Recently the matter was raised to the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dt. Timothy Harris who downplayed the situation.
“The problem came because members in the community said that they had an objection to the construction of that facility at that particular location. And within the ambit of the law where there is an objection the building board is the relevant authority that must deal with this and make a judgement call,” he said, adding that is why areas are zoned and labeled residential, commercial or industrial.
“If you’re out of place normally you would have to have done some public advertisement and allow persons to say if they have any objections within a particular time frame. That is just the law playing out itself,” he said.
He dismissed the case as an isolated incident and discussed what had taken place with the New Birth church
“What did we do as responsible administration was to call the church and help them find an alternative location. Those churches that are already there are there the period for building is over. None of the churches have reason for concern it is the building regulation at work so these are normal things,” he said.