Church worker sacked for refusing COVID-19 orders

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A small group of Saint Barnabas Cathedral church in Honiara has expressed disappointment on the removal of Catechist Michael Saru after he refused to comply with Covid-19 protocols.

Saru, who served the church for nine years, was believed to be the first church worker to have been terminated in the Anglican Church of Melanesia for refusing to comply with COVID measures.

This was after the Dean of St Barnabas Cathedral Philip Rongotha reminded the clergy, assistants and staff to follow the Covid 19 protocols namely:

  1. Masks is mandatory when participating in church worship
  2. Social distancing of 2m or 4sqm per person is to be maintained at all times
  3. That those who are directly responsible for coming in contact with people (i.e., clergy, lay assists, catechist and church workers) and particularly under ACOM payroll and care should be fully vaccinated before performing their duties.

Rongotha stated in a letter on 24 March 2022 the measures have also been fully accepted and endorsed during the Council of Bishops in 2021 and have been relayed to the Deans office by the Archbishop in a letter dated 1st March 2022 that all ACOM parishes implement the measures as required.

Spokesperson for the group said they are not satisfied with his termination.

“Saru does not want to take jab because he knows his condition.

“Also, the church has a cannon. What rule in the cannon Saru breached to warrant his termination?” the spokesperson said.

“You cannot mix church with government because it is self-governed.

“Government submits under church and has no power to revoke anything church has,” spokesperson said.

However, Eric Philip Notere of Cathedral Parish said he met with Saru on Wednesday 13th April 2022 to hear and listen direct from him.

“The management believed that you had spent enough time now reading it and had now made up your final decision on the issues,” he said.

Notere said as senior employee of the St Barnabas Cathedral and as discussed with you, you should honorably do two things, either;

  1. Listen and follow what the ACOM and the Dean’s order; or
  2. You should resign from your duties as a Catechist because you are not able to follow what the church orders.

He said the management of the Cathedral has been asked to enforce the Deans letter dated last paragraph and I quote; “It is unfortunate and under orders from PHQ, ACOM that failure to provide a justified response to the above may inflict consequences to your role, benefit and ultimately employment at St Barnabas Cathedral.”

Notere told Saru the Cathedral sees this as “disobedience and your employment has been reviewed”.