Christ Church, Exeter
July 18, 2013
Our Man in Havana
The phrase 'Our Man in Havana' conjures up for me images of the Cold War, Latin heat, and intrigue. Published in 1958, and later turned into a movie, Graham Greene's thriller evokes nostalgia as it offers a satirical way of looking at the world that never seems to get old.
Back in 1986 I was that imaginary man. I spent a year, mostly based out of Havana, working for the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba and attending classes at the seminary two hours away. The Episcopal Church's presence in Cuba goes back to the late 1800's when Americans began taking more of a commercial and political interest with the islands in the Caribbean. Before Fidel Castro took power, the Cuban Episcopal Church was a church of the middle class, with schools having been planted throughout the countryside by American missionaries. Though the government confiscated its schools, no churches were closed by the Revolution. Today the diocese is led by the Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado Del Carpio, a native of Bolivia but who has lived in Cuba for over three decades.
My son Will leaves for Cuba on Monday as a Young Adult Service Corps volunteer of the Episcopal Church. Though obviously new to Christ Church since April, you all are his official sending parish. Donations have been arriving from his supporters around the country into our parish office (thank you Lucia!) and then sent on to the Episcopal Church offices to fund his year.
YASC is inspired in many ways by the Peace Corps. YASCers are meant live simply, be hosted by local Episcopal dioceses, and use what skills and gifts they possess to further the work of the church. Will will be assisting in the hosting of various groups visiting from other countries, as well as coordinating the communication of several development and building projects around the diocese. The plan is for him to live with a clergy family (my former classmate from 1986) about two hours east of Havana, while traveling to the capital often.
This Sunday we will commission Will for his year away in the service of the church at the 9:30 service. As his father, I ask for your prayers for him - for his safety and for the possibilities of what the year can bring. You are invited to follow his journey at his website < http://pendletonyasc.blogspot.com/> which is named, of course, 'Our YASC Man in Havana.'
I am planning a trip to Cuba in January. If you would like to join us, please do let me know.
The Rev. Mark B. Pendleton