I was invited to travel to the island last month with the presbytery and synod staffs of the Synod of the Sun. We spent time at the Matanzas Evangelical Theological Seminary talking about the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba. We also toured churches in each of the three presbyteries.
We heard remarkable testimonies of faithfulness and hope in these Cuban congregations. Church members told us about the long time in their history immediately following the revolution when only one or two people would attend Sunday worship. Today, the sanctuaries of those same congregations are full for worship. We also met a group of young adults who were preparing for a mission trip to Canada.
Particularly striking to me was the story told by Dora Arce Valentin, a pastor in Havana. Dora is the daughter of a minister who led his church during the difficult time right after the revolution.
Dora’s grandmother lived with them, and it was her job to get Dora to Sunday school each week. Not only was Dora frequently the only child in the class, which her grandmother taught, but she was often the only young girl in the congregation. So, like preacher’s kids everywhere, She protested this solitary assignment.
Dora remembers what her grandmother told her every Sunday. “Dora, you have to go to Sunday school. It is important that people see you there. God will bring the other people.”
Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that now we see in a mirror dimly. Now we wonder where the church is going and what will it look like when we get there. Now we question how our little faith and hope will keep our congregations vital and alive.
Cuba holds a lesson for us: God is ever more faithful that we can imagine. So, Presbyterians, go to church. It is important that people see you there. God will bring the other people.
GRADYE PARSONS is stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, Louisville, Ky.