Intercultural Encounter 2024: Cuba

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From January 4th to 11th of this year, In Ministry Year students from Dio and The Presbyterian College, Canadian pastors, church leaders, and lay people from many denominations went on an intercultural encounter to Cuba where they were hosted by the Theological Seminary of Matanzas. This trip provided an opportunity for final year Master of Divinity students to explore the realities of being Church in a markedly different global context, and to better understand how our own culture and context shapes our understanding of the Church, the Gospel, and mission. Much of this work of exploration and discovery happened through relationship building with Christian theologians, ministers, lay people and theology students who are living out their ministries in Cuba.

The group met with Cuban leaders, artists, community workers and others who are transforming their communities. Visits to churches and social change organizations allowed participants to see first-hand the commitment and the struggles of the Cuban people. Reflection time with theologians, church leaders, theology students and others deepened their understanding of the faith, ministry, and theological vision of the reformed church in Cuba, as well as the deep social and economic challenges Cuba is facing. Master of Divinity student, Marie Silvenie, described the trip as an enriching opportunity to practice hospitality, both the giving, and receiving. “The expressions on the faces of the people we met were warm,” she says. “They were willing to serve us and make us happy. They accepted us as we were, without pretense or exaggeration. They simply served us according to their means. And we, for our part, gave them what we brought – medicines, gifts, money –  with the eyes of our hearts, with love.”

The group began each morning with a time of theological reflection. “We integrated what we heard, experienced, and saw, through scripture, song, prayer, and with our own questions about faith, church, mission, economics, and politics,” says The Rev. Dr. Alyson Huntly, Director of United Church Studies at Dio. During the day, they explored historical, religious, and cultural sites including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Cuban Council of Churches, and the Martin Luther King Centre. They attended the Cuban Ballet and saw a jazz show at the Fox and Crow Club in Old Havana and worshipped at Luyano Reformed Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Dr. Renario Arce gave a presentation on the writing and history of José Marti and on the place of various religious traditions within Cuba. At Central Presbyterian Church, Matanzas, they learned from The Rev. Arie and The Rev. Beydi about the ministry, mission and outreach of the congregation in the post-pandemic context.

In-keeping with the college’s practice on previous trips to Cuba, the group made a modest contribution of funds to acquire pharmaceutical products through Health Partners International.