Presbyterians Today

SEP-OCT 2016

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'So much we can learn' Patricia Metcalf is a ruling elder of First Presbyterian Church of Champaign, Illinois and a longtime member of the Cuba Partners Network. She has been visiting Cuba since the 1970s and has hosted numerous Cuban visitors in her church. "There is so much we can learn from each other," she says. "These partnerships with congrega- tions and presbyteries have allowed hundreds of Christians to sit down together, face to face, in both coun- tries and discover how much we can learn from one another." Those relationships have dra- matically changed the way network partners look at mission. In the past, some would go in with preconceived notions of how to do things and what to teach the others. In reality, it's a two-way learning process. Cuban sisters and brothers make decisions about determining priorities and sharing resources. One of the most important details that network partners have learned is that church is not just on Sunday in Cuba. Church life there is daily; churches are filled with people every day. Their community life is rich. Seeing the way they share resources, both natural and human, allows partners in the United States to reex- amine the decisions they make. "What we have done," says Jo Ella Holman, PC(USA) World Mission's regional liaison for the Caribbean, "is focus on relationships, a ministry of presence and mutual mission. Being present in their churches and their lives has been so important to them and to us. While the relationship between our governments has been strained, the relationship between the US and Cuban Presbyterian churches has remained constant." Church-to-church contacts continue to help mend relation- ships. Recently a delegation from the presbyteries of Peace River, Tampa Bay, and Tropical Florida made a historic trip to Cuba to meet with leaders of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba. The trip was historic because those PC(USA) presbyteries received the majority of the Cubans who fled the island after the revolu- tion. None of these presbyteries had been involved in the long relation- ship between the PC(USA) and the Presbyterian-Reformed Church during the years of estrangement between the governments. Valdir Franca, who heads PC(USA) World Mission's area office for Latin America and the Caribbean, believes that working together is key to moving forward. "I am hopeful the Protestant church in Cuba will continue to strengthen its relationship among the several small denominations on the island, through the Cuban Council of Churches," he says. "It is impor- tant for them to agree on common concerns and develop strategies and cooperation in areas that are impor- tant for the Protestant church. The Roman Catholic Church is the only religious organization that is legally recognized as a church in Cuba, so a unified voice in the dialogue with government and society will definitely help them face the challenges ahead." Kathy Melvin is director of Mission Communications for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. 1969 The 181st General Assembly (1969) urges an end to the embargo against Cuba, the restoration of normal diplomatic relations, and the closing of the US naval base at Guantánamo. 1985 The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba develop an agreement to guide joint mission. The oldest partnership, South Louisiana Presbytery in the United States and the Presbytery of Matanzas in Cuba, celebrates its 30th anniversary. 2016 The PC(USA) sends mission co-workers to partner with the Presbyterian-Reformed Church. This shortened summary of Cuban Presbyterian history is based on various sources, includ- ing a Cuban Presbyterian history prepared by Dean Lewis of Santa Fe Presbytery. See the full summary at: cubapartnership .org/summary-of-presbyteri anism-in-cuba David Cortes-Fuentes and Josey Saez-Acevedo are the first mission co-workers to live in Cuba since 1959.

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