Rev. Armando Rusindo, chair of the Moravian Church in Cuba, complained to me that he really felt that the Cuban church needed to have its first general assembly to ratify their Book of Order prior to any other events in the church, especially given their limited resources. But he saw that the women in the church, comprising the majority of its membership, were completely determined to hold their first women’s conference this fall, and so he relented.
With the support of the Unity Women’s Desk, the Canadian Moravian Mission Society, the Florida District churches and others, about 60 women from the churches in the districts of Holguin, Camaguey, Matanzas and Havana came together from November 30 to December 2, 2012 at the Martin Luther King Center in the capital city to make history for their church.
Attendees were joined by me, Southern Province ministry candidate Virginia Tobiassen, and Cuban Illovis Gonzalez, acolyte and church planter to the Latino community in Miami. This was the first time that women from all four areas of Cuba had come together—the first time they could see their unity as a national church. The pastors from the different areas, all men, also came and shared in worship times. They clearly supported and affirmed the important role of women in their congregations.
The theme of the conference was, “Woman, Rise up and Shine.” And that’s exactly what these women did. Opening worship was filled with song and praise, with the message centered on Matthew’s parable of the yeast (Matthew 13:20-21).
Workshops on Saturday, led by Yolanda Brita, were stimulating and helped the women consider barriers to ministry, as well as the many opportunities that lay before them. That afternoon the women chose their first women’s board: national coordinator Tania Sánchez; vice-coordinator Alay González; treasurer Arisbel Escalona; vocal Sandra Pérez; and national advisor Yoland Brito. Sister Alay will be the representative to the Unity Women’s Desk.
I was privileged to preside at Holy Communion Saturday evening, the first female clergy to do so in the Cuban Moravian Church. Sis. Illovis gave the message at the closing worship, challenging the women to shine in sharing love and gratitude in every aspect of their lives. We then lit candles to symbolize how the small light of our lives can blend with the lights of others to brighten the world. The room filled with song and God’s presence among us was very real. The passion of these women, who often find ways to make “something out of nothing,” was very stirring. We from the US assured them that they did not face their challenges alone, but with the prayers and support of women not only in North America, but in the worldwide Unity.
At the conclusion of the conference Brother Rusindo confessed that truly it was God’s plan to have the women’s conference first. By bringing these women together and encouraging them, the whole church was encouraged. It is now ready to move forward to formalize its structure within Cuba and the worldwide Unity, which it hopes to do in the Spring of 2013.
The Rev. Judy Ganz is executive director of the Board of World Mission for the Moravian Church in North America. Photos illustrate events during the women’s conference in Cuba. In top photo, Judy serves communion during a women’s conference in Cuba.
From the January/February 2013 Moravian Magazine