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Since 1857, the Moravian Historical Society has presented its members with an update on the state of the organization and hosted an annual lecture. Many of these lectures have been published in the Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, now known as the Moravian Journal.  A complete listing of the Annual Lectures can be found here.

The 166th Annual Lecture will be presented by Winelle Kirton-Roberts:
"A free wildlife:" Morale, Morality and Moravianism in Trinidad, 1885-1935
on Saturday, August 19, 2023,
as part of the Bethlehem Conference on Moravian History and Music


In this talk, Rev. Dr. Winelle Kirton-Roberts will examine the first 50 years of Moravian mission work in Trinidad.

When Benjamin Romig, the President of the Moravian Provincial Board, visited Trinidad in 1886, he described it as a place where “careless,” formerly enslaved Tobagonians went to live “a free wildlife.” In the visitation report, Romig expressed concerns about the unacceptable immoral tendencies of the formerly enslaved Africans and proposed a prompt response to expand the Moravian work on the island.

In the 1840s, Antiguan, Kittitian, Crucian, and Barbadian migrants had invited Moravians to Trinidad to connect with their Moravian roots and to boost morale. Between 1885 and 1935, howeverMoravian mission work instead evolved into a moralizing project based around the construction and operation of Moravian schools. 

As Dr. Kirton-Roberts will argue, in the context of a multicultural, multiethnic, and multi-religious Trinidadian community, the Moravians squandered the unique opportunity to meaningfully connect with the liberated Africans who migrated to Trinidad for better opportunities. Instead of offering a faith of affirmation and empowerment, the message of the Moravians demonized integral aspects of Africanism and Caribbeanism. 


Rev. Dr. Winelle Kirton-Roberts is a native of Barbados. She holds a ThM in Ecumenics and Missions from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in History from the University of the West Indies, Barbados. As an ordained minister in the Moravian Church, Eastern West Indies Province, Kirton Roberts served in pastoral and administrative positions. At present, she is the pastor of the Geneva Moravian Fellowship in Switzerland.

Kirton-Roberts has been researching the history of missions in the Caribbean for over twenty years. While working in Trinidad, the Virgin Islands, and Barbados, she discovered the dearth and limitations of Caribbean church histories, an issue she has sought to address in her book, Created in Their Image: Evangelical Protestantism in Antigua and Barbados, 1834-1914 (2015). Her research has introduced the methodology of missiology to Caribbean church history, which brings together the important fields of history and theology. Through this approach, she has brought to the fore important discussions on the theological assumptions of the sending agencies and how these informed and shaped their missionary efforts in the Caribbean. 

Moravian Historical Society Annual Meeting 2016
Moravian Historical Society annual meeting
Moravian Historical Society annual meeting
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