After 35 years of persecution, Cuba’s Protestants are experiencing revival.
The Cuban church has long been the target of intense political repression—a result of Fidel Castro’s infamous socialist revolution of 1959. But since 1990, the Cuban government has taken a less hostile position toward the church. Thomas Oden, professor of theology at the Theological School of Drew University in New Jersey, was recently invited by Joel Ajo, the Methodist bishop of Cuba, to address the Ecumenical Seminary at Matanzas. He immediately realized that there would be much more for him to hear than say. “I went with an open mind to listen empathetically to the voices of Cuban Christians,” says Oden. “My main concern was to attend carefully to those voices, hear them accurately, and replay them to a North American audience.” Although Oden wanted to assume the guise of an objective journalist, he found himself consistently moved by the emotion and tenacity of a people whose faith could not be extinguished. The following is his collection of snapshots and voices from a church in the midst of a spiritual awakening.
My first Sunday evening in Cuba took me to an Afro-Caribbean Methodist church on the outskirts of Havana. An exuberant charismatic revival was clearly in progress. The church was crammed full; no seats anywhere. People of all ages were standing in the front, back, and along the walls.
Although conditions have improved, being a Christian in Cuba is still a risky business. No one witnesses without peril. Hence, most Cuban Christians are willing to be martyrs in the classic sense of that word. This charges every baptismal decision, even every church service, with radical seriousness. It helps the church to understand precisely what is its ...1
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