Several dozen mostly ordinary-looking gay men and lesbians, and a smaller number of their supporters, gathered in inclement weather last Friday in Curepe, with a quiet, yet eager sense that they were making history. Most had come from work.
A handful had dressed up for the occasion. "Today, I'm proud to be Trinidadian," a 23-year-old wrote on his Facebook page earlier in the day, before he travelled in pouring rain and traffic from Chaguanas to a modest Christian church, a stone's throw from the Eastern Main Road, to sing a solo of Don Besig's song, Flying Free.
A 6 pm Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender (LGBT) Community ecumenical service at the Holy Saviour Church that evening, September 18, celebrated peace, human rights and inclusion.
Archdeacon Steve West, a senior Anglican clergyman, along with one of the diocese's youngest women priests, Shelly-Ann Tenia, welcomed the laypeople and one or two clergy from other denominations. Together, they celebrated an hour-long candlelight mass in the tradition of the Anglican church. Tenia's sermon, in which she broke into Trini dialect on more than one occasion, admonished worshippers that "each of us needs to recognise our gifts" and "be prepared to live out our identity."
"What are we willing to give up to reach inclusion and peace?" she asked, cautioning that hard work is required, whereas many of us "just want to tell a victim story, and expect to get a bligh."
The gospel reading, from Matthew, preached to "Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors" (5:44). And so the congregants did, during the people's prayers, for past architects of oppressive anti-gay laws who had died, and been redeemed, to intercede with current lawmakers and judges.
They prayed for a host of national officials by name, for protection of homeless drag queens on the Port-of-Spain streets in the wee hours of morning, for family, friends, and for self-acceptance.
They also demonstrated their connection to larger concerns, praying for "those who work to create safety for people of all genders and sexualities," and for the members of the Equal Opportunity Commission, "who will one day hear our complaints".
In keeping with the theme of the service, which marked the United Nations Day of Peace, prayers also focused on special rapporteurs, the members of UN treaty bodies, and all those who defend human rights and address conflict internationally, "especially in places where we are persecuted in yours and other Gods' names".
At the core of Christian "theologies of inclusion" of LGBT people is the belief that Christ's "New Covenant" overrides the laws and regulations of the Old Testament (against eg, mixing clothing, eating shellfish and many sexual practices, most of them now abandoned,) and it institutes a new, simpler notion of salvation through loving God and each other, spelled out in the Gospels.
The group at the service was no smaller than many church congregations on a Sunday morning, though they were probably younger. The run-of-the-mill nature of the service was its hallmark.
It was also what made its conclusion all the more moving, as worshippers formed a candlelit ring against the church walls, singing, They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love, with the aid of a tiny choir.
The only real flourish in the programme was the offertory hymn, Yolanda Adams', Still I Rise, which a narrow-waisted Giselle Devereaux, past winner of a huge local drag pageant, lip-synced.
The simple, history-making event was the fruit of conversations and planning over several months among LGBT churchgoers, a few forward-thinking faith leaders and journalists about how conservative Christianity drives gay people out of their right to faith and inflicts spiritual violence from which some never heal.
Twelve-year-old gay NGO Friends for Life decided to use July, T&T's LGBT Pride month, to create conversations in their weekly discussion group about sexuality, faith and self-acceptance. The last of these was attended by Anglican Canon Dr Knolly Clarke and Roman Catholic Fr Clyde Harvey.