From the Deacon’s Bench
Well summer is over and autumn has arrived. Not only is the new school year upon us, but it seems like a new Church year has started.
Well all the paperwork and approvals have finally come through and we are now a companion parish with San Marcos in Holguin, Cuba! It sure took a long time to become officially friends. But now we will start to learn more about our friends in Cuba, and keep them in our prayers. We will also be in their prayers!
As you probably know, Cuba’s first language is Spanish. As a result, they refer to themselves as the Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba. So why the Episcopal Church? Cuba was a colony of Spain until their war of independence in 1898. At that time, while the Cubans won their independence, the US came in at the very end. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1898 but it made Cuba a US protectorate. This allowed the Americans to come in and they quickly gained political and economic dominance. While they allowed Cuba to become independent in 1902, it was significantly influenced by the US. A familiar story? During the protectorate period, the Episcopal Church in the US came onto the island. Cuba had been overwhelmingly Roman Catholic due to the Spanish influence, but now Anglicanism stepped ashore.
Cuba was a missionary district of the Episcopal Church under the jurisdiction of the Presiding Bishop. It wasn’t until after the Cuban revolution of 1959 that it became more difficult for the church in Cuba to continue to work closely with the Episcopal Church. Communication and travel between the US and Cuba were very difficult. In 1966, the Episcopal Church in Cuba become an autonomous Diocese within the Anglican Communion. At the same time, a Metropolitan Council was set up consisting of the Primates of the Canadian Church, the Diocese of the West Indies and the Episcopal Church. In 1967, the first Cuban born Episcopal Church became its Bishop.
Jumping ahead to 2010, the current Bishop was consecrated. Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio. I have met Bishop Griselda and she is a wonderful person, caring and full of energy. She has done wonders for the Church in Cuba and has a very strong social justice concern.
There were more changes just recently. Relations between Cuba and the US improved under President Obama so discussions were held between the Diocese of Cuba and the Episcopal Church. The result was that the Metropolitan Council was disbanded and in 2018, the Diocese of Cuba was re-admitted to the Episcopal Church as part of the same province that includes the Dioceses of New York, New Jersey, Haiti and the Virgin Islands. This will be a benefit to the Church in Cuba as the Episcopal Church is able to provide additional resources. As an example, they began a fund to support the salaries and pensions for the clergy in Cuba.
There are around 10,000 members of the Episcopal Church in Cuba in 46 parishes. In Huron, we have about 50,000 members in 177 congregations. The Diocese of Huron covers 31,000 square kilometres while the Diocese of Cuba covers about 110,000 square kilometres.
So that is the big picture. Next month we’ll start to learn more about the area of Cuba in which San Marcos is located.
Our Friends in Cuba by Rev. Canon Ken Brooks (Lent 2019)
As you may know, Heather and I have been going regularly to Cuba. In 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the International Justice Camp in Matanzas, Cuba, as one of the representatives of the Anglican Church in Canada. While there, I met a number of Cuban clergy, including Gil Fat Yero and his wife Minellis. Rev. Gil is the priest at San Marcos Episcopal Church in Holguin as well as San Andres in Manati. Over the past three years, when Heather and I have gone to Cuba, we have attended at San Marcos on a Sunday. Last year, my mother was also there with us. Each year we have brought things to them. Last year, this included junior choir robes from St. Anne’s, which they now use as server’s gowns. This year we brought, among other things, priest stoles that belonged to Canon Walter Mills donated by Caroline Mills.
If you use Facebook, you can check out their Facebook page. They are an active group with a significant number of youth. This year when there, it was Epiphany Sunday. They celebrated with a piñata in the shape of a church that when opened poured out small toys for the children. Heather and I have brought other things for them to use. The first year we brought along some sports equipment. This year we also brought several books of Bible stories in Spanish for the children. As you may know, Cuba is not a wealthy country and so we try to help in small ways.
San Marcos Church itself is not in a formal church building. It is located on the main floor of a house donated by a generous parishioner who lives upstairs. Building a church is not possible, but the parish has been looking for a larger house to buy in order to better accommodate their growing needs. Rev. Gil’s parish of San Andres is in a formal church building. We have only seen pictures of it but it looks like a wonderful little church.
The Episcopal Church in Cuba is growing, particularly under the leadership of their Bishop, the Right Rev. Griselda Delgado. I had the opportunity to meet her when I attended the Justice Camp. She is an energetic bishop with many ideas as to how to build the church as well as serving the communities in which they are located.
Through PWRDF, there is a project to contribute to the building of water filtration systems in Cuban communities. Accessibility to clean drinking water is a serious problem in Cuba. As you may know, St Anne’s has been raising money over the past year or so for this and are close to the amount needed for one system. Heather and I hope to sponsor a Cuban lunch after a Sunday church service over the next month or two in order to look for donations to finish collecting how much is needed. Look for information on this!
When we were there in January, Rev. Gil asked whether St. Anne’s might consider being their companion parish. We are looking at what that might entail, and will be chatting with the wardens and parish council if this looks feasible.
The church in Cuba is active and growing. If you are ever headed to Cuba and are interested in attending a church while there, let me know and I will see if there is a parish in the area where you are going. Just a heads up: the services are in Spanish!