Fully Cuban in character, there are currently 40 congregations and missions throughout the four archdeaconries of Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba. The church’s 4,000 members are served by 28 priests. Lay people also take an active part in the life of the church.
Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba is an autonomous diocese of the Anglican Communion under the authority of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba (MCC). MCC guides the Cuban church in matters of faith and order, and consists of the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, who is chairperson, the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of the West Indies, and the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. The MCC meets annually.
The Right Reverend Griselda Delgado del Carpio is the current diocesan bishop of Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba. The Right Reverend Ulises Aguero Prendes is suffragan bishop.
A missionary diocese at its outset, Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba regards itself today in much the same way. It is active in evangelism that emphasizes social and humanitarian work. Cubans continue to experience daily economic challenges with the continuing trade blockade imposed by the USA in the early 1960s. Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba is similarly affected in its mission and ministry by financial and material restraints.
Young people and young families comprise a significant proportion of this growing church. There is clearly a spiritual hunger among people born after the 1959 revolution. Cuban Anglicanism, presenting the Christian faith as reasonable and intelligent, appeals to many.
Canada’s companionship with Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba works at a number of levels. Nationally, there are connections with the Cuban church through the Office of the Primate and Global Relations program, the Office of the General Secretary, and The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.
Asked what Canada’s companionship means to Anglicans in Cuba, an elder priest said this: “During the dark days, when it was difficult to be a member of the church, when there was a lot of poverty, when there were holes in my shoes and sufficient money only for the essentials, Canada’s companionship was very important to us. Not just for the money we received but for the prayerful support we felt from our brothers and sisters in Christ in Canada. We will never forget that.”
The Diocese of Niagara today continues this legacy of friendship and prayer through a Companion Diocese Relationship. This companionship has over the past 18 years provided many opportunities for interchanges of people, prayer, and ideas. Church groups from Niagara diocese have visited Cuba, sometimes working together on a church project. Visitors from Cuba, including students, clergy, and lay people have visited the parishes of the Diocese of Niagara as speakers and leaders of mission gatherings and leadership camps. Parishes are twinned for sharing prayer concerns and thanksgiving, and seeking to learn more about each other’s lives.
And from time to time, individuals travel to Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba to participate in special events. In May 2016, 25 Canadian Anglicans joined 25 Cuban Episcopalians for an international justice camp (justicecamp.ca). Bien Comun: Promeso del Reino de Dios/Common Good: Promise of the Reign of God offered immersions opportunities to learn about food security, social engagement and economic justice in the local and national Cuban context, and the work of the church in these social ministries. Watch a short video from Justice Camp.
Cuba, known to many Canadians as a warm, seaside respite from winter back home, is also a large, underdeveloped agricultural country. Its compelling beauty and diversity of people, religions, land, and culture brim with passion and possibility. North Americans who know only Cuba only as a vacation destination might think about venturing further than its pristine beaches, waterfront resorts and Old Havana, as lovely as these are.
Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba hosts weekly Sunday worship and weekday prayers. Church members are keen to meet visitors in conversations about mission and outreach, liturgical revision and evangelism. Time and again, when traveling in Havana and in the interior and along the coastlines, one hears “Tell your people to come; your youth groups, clergy, musicians and seminary faculty. We miss you. We welcome you. Come with your gifts and skills and enthusiasm for praising God through worship, song, and mission. We face many challenges. We cannot do what is needed on our own. We must work together. Solidarity, companionship, being one with another in Christ will accomplish what must be done.”
Toward achieving “what must be done” Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba at its annual synod in February 2011 unanimously passed a Strategic Mission Plan containing major development areas, strategic directions and detailed implementation schedules. The Strategic Mission Plan 2011-2015 was evaluated in 2016 and showed much success in meeting plan goals. In 2016 a new Strategic Mission Plan 2017-2019 was developed and launched at the annual Synod in February 2017.
Of critical importance in implementing the plan is the creation of a stable, reliable funding base. Bishop Delgado states: “We have human and material resources, and local opportunities for skills training. What we really need is funding” for mission and for the upgrading of church infrastructure. Communications and information technologies, the restoration of parish buildings and properties, and transportation—the church’s “hardware” for mission—is sadly out of date or out of service.
An equally important mission priority is strengthening the knowledge and skills of clergy and laity for community-based ministry, including training for social analysis, project proposal development, and local leadership. Bishop Delgado reminds us, “Mission begins with people, where they are with various needs, interests and skills led by trained, capable clergy and lay leaders.”
Other mission priorities include:
- Advanced scholarship and academic leadership at Seminario Evangelico de Teologia (SET), Matanzas
- Reaching Cuban youth with Christian alternatives to materialism and secularism
- Annual Youth Camp: Teens for Christ
- Campimento Blenkenship Farm and Retreat Centre
It is Bishop Delgado’s intention to work toward the accomplishment of these goals with Cubans who work for liberty, mutuality, and community irrespective of denominational tradition, faith tradition, or government affiliation. She seeks to broaden and deepen her church’s regional and international mission and development partners, with a sincere and humble thank you to all who have accompanied Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba for many years.