Trinidad: Holy Trin­i­ty Cathedral dean says she attempted to stop swimsuit models

Trinidad: Holy Trin­i­ty Cathedral dean says she attempted to stop swimsuit models
Reverend Shelley Ann Tenia
Reverend Shelley Ann Tenia

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Dean and Rec­tor at the Holy Trin­i­ty Cathe­dral, Rev­erend Shel­ley Ann Tenia said she was dis­ap­point­ed that the ac­tion of one de­sign­er taint­ed the pub­lic’s view of an event meant to help with the restora­tion of the Port-of-Spain church.

The church was dam­aged by a pow­er­ful earth­quake on Au­gust 21, 2018, dur­ing which the steeple of the church was bro­ken.

Three fash­ion shows were host­ed by Style­Week Port-of-Spain on Fri­day, Sat­ur­day and Sun­day at the An­gli­can church, to raise funds for the church’s restora­tion.

How­ev­er, sev­er­al swim­suit mod­els were cast in the show, which caused an up­roar among many who saw it as a des­e­cra­tion of a holy site.

Rev­erend Tenia ex­plained that there were guide­lines that were agreed to by the or­gan­is­er for the event when they ap­proached the church to use the venue.

She said based on her in­for­ma­tion, it ap­peared on­ly one of the de­sign­ers went against the church’s guide­lines for the event.

“I think there were about five de­sign­ers each night who show­cased their work and of those five de­sign­ers, one of those de­sign­ers dis­re­gard­ed com­plete­ly the agree­ment that we had about how things would be done as it re­lates to the de­signs to be show­cased,” said Tenia, who was present at Sun­day’s show.

She said she at­tempt­ed to stop those mod­els from go­ing on stage but was too late. She ex­plained that she had no­ticed the swim­suit mod­els just as they were prepar­ing to go on to the stage but by the time she had ar­rived back­stage, they were al­ready on.

Rev­erend Tenia said she pro­ceed­ed to speak to the event’s or­gan­is­er about the sit­u­a­tion and they, in turn, promised to speak to the of­fend­ing de­sign­er.

There was no at­tempt at that point, how­ev­er, to bring the show to a halt.

Guardian Me­dia was un­able to get a re­sponse from Style­Week Port-of-Spain yes­ter­day, but on their Face­book page, a pic­ture of one of the con­tro­ver­sial de­signs was post­ed with the hash­tag #getover­it.

Tenia said the fash­ion shows were not sup­posed to dis­re­spect the place of wor­ship.

“As folks would have known post-earth­quake last year, we had to do a sig­nif­i­cant amount of re­pair which was done. But it al­so catal­ysed the need for the restora­tion of the cathe­dral which is a 200-year-old build­ing which is, in fact, a her­itage site. And if any­one comes in­to the build­ing I think you have to see for your­self, the ex­tent of the restora­tion to be done and so we al­so thought it would raise aware­ness about the need for restora­tion and al­so the need for fundrais­ing for said restora­tion,” she said.

She al­so de­fend­ed the use of the church of the fash­ion show.

“Per­sons who are cre­ative have al­ways been part of who we are at church. Who are re­spon­si­ble for our bap­tismal? Who are re­spon­si­ble for our al­tar…re­spon­si­ble for all of the aes­thet­ic in the church? And so cre­atives in fash­ion and de­sign and so are no dif­fer­ent. We fa­cil­i­tate oth­er kinds of art forms. So mak­ing space for up and com­ing cre­atives, mak­ing space for oth­ers who have been in the busi­ness for a while is some­thing we thought could be pos­i­tive and up­lift­ing and ben­e­fi­cial to every­one,” she said.

Tenia said she at­tend­ed two of the three fash­ion shows held at the cathe­dral over the week­end, on­ly miss­ing the show on Sat­ur­day night.

She said it was un­for­tu­nate that out of all the de­signs which were show­cased over the week­end, the on­ly one that got ma­jor me­dia ex­po­sure were the con­tro­ver­sial pieces.

“Those are the on­ly pho­tos be­ing cir­cu­lat­ed. None of the oth­er de­sign­er’s de­signs or none of the oth­er mod­els from any of the oth­er three days or 14 or 13 oth­er de­sign­ers, their things (haven’t) been shown. The on­ly thing be­ing shown in the me­dia both in print and on so­cial me­dia is the one per­son who dis­re­gard­ed the guide­line,” she said.

The Trinidad and To­ba­go Coun­cil of Evan­gel­i­cal Church­es was among the groups con­demn­ing what it called the “des­e­cra­tion of a holy place”.

It is­sued a state­ment say­ing, “The Trinidad and To­ba­go Coun­cil of Evan­gel­i­cal Church­es views with alarm the host­ing of a fash­ion show at the Trin­i­ty Cathe­dral last week. It af­firms that the al­low­ing of the al­tar of God to be used as a fash­ion run­way is a des­e­cra­tion of a sa­cred place. In ef­fect, the house of God is a place of wor­ship and of prayer, a sa­cred place and there­fore, ought not to be used for any oth­er pur­pose.”

It added, “Matthew 21:12-13 makes this clear. It re­counts Je­sus’ anger at the use of his tem­ple for gam­bling and the mar­ket­ing of goods. It states, “Je­sus en­tered the tem­ple courts and drove out all who were buy­ing and sell­ing there. He over­turned the ta­bles of the mon­ey-chang­ers and the bench­es of those sell­ing doves. ‘It is writ­ten,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are mak­ing it ‘a den of rob­bers.’ In oth­er words, to re­it­er­ate, the church is a sa­cred place, a place of prayer and of wor­ship. It has been set aside strict­ly for the wor­ship­ping of God, for prayer. It is not to be used for any oth­er pur­pose.”

“It is al­so clear, from the verse above, that God is not pleased when his house is treat­ed dis­re­spect­ful­ly. There­fore, this fash­ion show ought not to have been al­lowed at the cathe­dral. It was a des­e­cra­tion of God’s house of prayer and wor­ship, and there­fore, in con­tra­ven­tion of the word of God.”

How­ev­er, Pres­by­ter­ian Rev­erend Clif­ford Rawl­ins ques­tioned the source of the up­roar, as he point­ed out, “If peo­ple can wear swim­suits at the beach and, the whole earth is the Lord’s where noth­ing is hid­den from him, then why not in a hu­man-made church build­ing used for a sec­u­lar pur­pose?’

He al­so ques­tioned if re­li­gious be­liefs from oth­er faiths such as Is­lam and Hin­duism in­formed the re­ac­tion to the event.

He said, “We ought not look at one through the eyes and lens­es of an­oth­er. That one ought to be seen and heard for one­self. But un­for­tu­nate­ly things can be­come too con­fused in the cross-thread­ing of val­ue sys­tems and many get lost in the all too ready hurl of so­cial me­dia ob­se­cra­tions and dep­re­ca­tions.”

The three fash­ion shows, come just over a month and a half since the church host­ed a char­i­ty boat ride to aid with the restora­tion.


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  1. AH yes Rev­erend Clif­ford Rawl­ins we should go around naked everywhere too because God sees us when we are naked. Also, why not have your church meetings in the toilet while it is being used? Because each space has its own purpose. Bending over backwards to excuse your fleshly desires.


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