The gift of music enriches worship in Cuba

For one week each summer, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Havana hosts a music camp for children and young adults called the Campamento-Taller de Jovenes Episcopales (Episcopal Youth Camp & Workshop). Father Aurelio de la Paz Cot runs the camp for the Diocese of Cuba—an extra-provincial diocese within the Anglican Communion.


“He and his wife have had a long-standing love for church music, and for developing within people—youth particularly—passion and skills for making music,” says Andrea Mann, General Synod’s coordinator for global relations.

“[The camp is] a week of musicians and interested people joining together to learn—at their own level—to sing, to play instruments, to be a part of a choir, or conduct a choir . . . you name it.”

Participants get a chance to perform each day of the camp. Some also take the opportunity to participate in the weeklong Festival de Musica, held directly after the camp at the cathedral.

While visiting a few years ago Mann attended the diocesan synod. There, Father Aurelio was seeking donations to support the camp and the festival.

“I said to myself ‘I think—as a partner—the Anglican Church of Canada would like to help support this financially,'” says Mann. “It’s a great national program. It is bringing church music and congregational singing-particularly among youth-into all the parishes of the diocese, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

The events aren’t just for fun, however.  Father Aurelio and his co-workers are driven by what they have seen the camp and festival achieve.

“We remain focused on promoting and developing this ministry for many reasons,” says Father Aurelio. “[It gives us] the ability to try different forms of praise as tools for evangelism and liturgical renewal in the life of the diocese; to encourage people in communities across Cuba to serve God through music; to provide a space where these people can share experiences, gifts and talents; and to provide training through workshops, improving worship in the church.”

Father Aurelio especially appreciates the support that the camp and festival receive from churches like the Anglican Church of Canada. “We want to thank God for all the churches God has led to provide the resources to hold the camp and festival in this place for God’s glory, honour and praise.”

Bishop Michael Hawkins of the Diocese of Saskatchewan is a frequent traveler to Cuba, and experienced the effects of the camp and festival first-hand while visiting one Cuban church with family.

“We were there on April 7 this year, which was Low Sunday, but it was anything but low,” says Hawkins. “We were greeted with hugs and kisses from everybody. The change in music over the past few years-but especially the past year-was completely astonishing. When we had gone to this church before—just like sometimes in Canada—many people even had a hard time just finding the hymns in the books. This Sunday though it was just a complete transformation. Everyone was singing and swaying, young and old, and just delighting in the music. They were comfortable with it and knew it, and you could certainly hear it outside the church.”

If you would like to help support the camp and the festival, check page 12 of the Gifts for Mission gift guide, bundled with the October 2013 issue of the Anglican Journal. To request an advance copy email Jacqueline Beckford, call (416) 924-9199 ext. 299, or order one online.

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