Snapshots from a Cuban synod

By Andrea Mann

A busy synod, a gift of motorcycles, and a parish tour punctuated by sweet coffee: the annual Canadian Anglican visit to the Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba (Episcopal Church of Cuba), Feb. 1 to 13, was a success. View a photo gallery from Dr. Andrea Mann, director, global relations, or read her reflection below.

This sign was displayed at the entrance to the diocesan office and hostel, welcoming delegates and guest to the 103rd synod of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. ANDREA MANN
This sign was displayed at the entrance to the diocesan office and hostel, welcoming delegates and guest to the 103rd synod of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. ANDREA MANN

Imagine arriving at the opening of the 103rd synod of the Episcopal Church of Cuba at the cathedral in Havana. You are moved by shouts of greeting and directions, smiles and laughter, posters, art, and anticipation. More than 100 delegates, observers and guests from parishes and mission congregations of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, and its ecumenical and global partners, met February 3 to 5, 2012, to conduct the diocese’s annual business, elect officials and committee members, participate in workshops and worship God.

“Synod,” said diocesan bishop the Right Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio in her opening address, “es un camino, a way of being together in body and spirit through unity in Christ for God’s mission.”

Over the course of three days and nights, delegates heard diocesan leaders report on implementation of the national strategic mission plan, emphasizing child and youth formation, self-sustainability, and taking stock of existing properties and buildings. Other initiatives included a successful summer music festival and youth camp; two issues of Heraldo, the diocesan newspaper; a new pre-postulancy discernment program; chaplaincy and lay training; support to new seminarians; renovation at the diocesan centre and hostel; and much more.

News of the arrival of funds from the Anglican Church of Canada’s Gifts for Mission gift guide was met with applause and cheering; a new motorcycle and side car could now be purchased for use by a priest otherwise relying on expensive taxis, hitchhiking, or an old bicycle. Lack of reliable transportation within urban parishes and between urban and rural mission congregations is an issue in the life and work of parish ministers, as for all Cubans. Part of the challenge is an aging public transportation system. Most Cubans, including Episcopal clergy and their families also live with very limited financial resources. On average, a Cuban priest earns $24 CDN per month.

Following synod, from Santiago to Camaguey and in every parish along the way, Cuban Anglicans opened their church buildings, homes, and hearts with radical hospitality to the four of us who travelled there. Many cups of Cuba’s strong, sweet coffee were poured. Much fresh, seasonal fruit was picked and peeled. Chicken, pork, rice, and beans—the mainstays of Cuban cuisine—ensured our health and fitness for travelling. It was more than a sharing of food and lodging. People told stories of faithful purpose and hope. They shared ministries of visiting neighbours in need, plans to put fallow land under cultivation, the discovery of an old tile from a long-gone original church building, and transformation from Calvary to Resurrection.

It is a privilege and joy for the Anglican Church of Canada to be in partnership for mission and justice with the Episcopal Church of Cuba. We have much to learn and offer together in serving God’s mission in the world. We share a commitment to local community ministry, concern for the impacts of climate change and Biblical teaching about creation and stewardship, perseverance in becoming self-sustaining, creative proclamation and evangelism in increasingly secular societies, and support for vocations, seminaries, lay ministry training, and holistic Christian formation.

Muchas gracias, Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba. Hasta Luego!

Dr. Andrea Mann
Global Relations Coordinator


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