They never wanted to leave. No one, really, asked them for your opinion. Yet in 1966, after having lost roughly 75% of their church membership to exile in the U.S., the House of Bishops voted to make the Missionary District of the Episcopal Church in Cuba autonomous.
Autonomy was difficult. Cut off from trade with the United States, so-called autonomy for the church in Cuba was more isolation than freedom. Remaining faithful to the witness of the Gospel under Marxist anti-religion education and propaganda, the Episcopal Church continued to worship, baptize, bury, pray and visit the homebound and sick.
Thirty years ago I had the opportunity to spend a year in Cuba as a seminarian and driver for the dean of the cathedral. My son retraced that experience in 2013 as Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) volunteer – later meeting his soon-to-be Cuban wife. Cuba is personal to my family and me.
Over the last four years I have led four trips from New Hampshire to Cuba to continue making connections, bringing down water filtrations systems for churches, and worshiping and praying with the faithful. From the Obama to Trump administrations, the average Cuban has become inoculated and a bit numb from not knowing what the future will bring from its mighty neighbor to the north. The contacts we make are the life-blood to an isolated island and independent church wanting to return to the family fold.
A Task Force on Cuba, on which I serve, is charged with writing a resolution for General Convention in 2018 to welcome the Episcopal Church of Cuba back into The Episcopal Church. They would, if approved, join other dioceses in the Caribbean such as Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. A Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba organization has been founded to be a one-stop resource and network for those wanting to help create a future of hope with our faithful sisters and brothers. You can learn more at https://www.friendsofeccuba.org/
As I write this update, our efforts are focused on helping the church in Cuba respond to the devastation of Hurricane Irma that stalled on the northern central coast of the island, causing unprecedented damage. We stand with them, in good times and trial, to show that they are not alone. And they bless us.
|Havana, Cuba the day after Hurricane Irma|