In October 2018, a group of Disciples women participated in a Woman-to-Woman Worldwide pilgrimage to Cuba, coordinated by Global Ministries and the Office of Disciples Women. The 11 women were moved by a number of ministries offered by partner churches and programs. Subsequent to each W2WW trip, upon the return to their home contexts, the participants share their experiences and promote special giving opportunities to support the life-giving ministries for women offered by partner churches. This year, the group of participants is highlighting giving opportunities for the Matanzas Seminary with a priority to support the Gender Studies program, and the Trauma Recovery and Income-Generation Project for Women of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center. In 2019 and years to follow, these ministries are promoted as giving opportunities while the delegates visit Disciples women around the United States and Canada to interpret their experiences during a special period of study, prayer, reflection, and advocacy.
Gender Studies program of Matanzas Seminary
The Matanzas Seminary provides academically challenging and innovative theological education and pastoral training for church leaders from 14 denominations and five countries. Graduates, lay leaders and those who are ordained for ministry, are helping to share the Good News of God’s abundant life with all people. Nearly all faculty members and administrative staff of Matanzas Seminary also pastor churches in addition to teaching courses. Additionally, depending on the pastoral needs of the denominations, students pastor a church or serve as an associate pastor in congregations across the country during their studies.
Students taking courses with the Gender Studies program of the seminary study the coming together of issues of gender and church and ministry. One graduate of the program shared that the program led her to discover the ways she has internalized machismo in her own life. After the program, she feels more prepared to address this in her own life and in her community.
Trauma Recovery and Income-Generation Project for Women of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center (CMMLK) is an organization of Christian inspiration in which Cuban people and their churches contribute prophetically to the solidarity of their country and communities. The Center contributes to society with a liberating and contextual theology and practice. They give hope by organizing social participation, ministering with the Cuban people, actively striving for social justice.
The Trauma Recovery and Income-Generation Project for Women of the Center is a network of emotional support, skills training, and income-generation projects for women from difficult circumstances. Using the model of popular grassroots education, many women find healing from domestic violence situations in the group, and find a network of support from women in the community. Each woman in the project learns an artistic skill and means of self-expression such as doll-making, making clothes, cooking, and more. Women in the group then use these skills to generate an income and to contribute back to the project for other women to join.
Disciples Woman-to-Woman Worldwide and Global Ministries welcome gifts to support the Gender Studies program of Matanzas Seminary and the Trauma Recovery and Income-Generation Project for Women of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center, both in Cuba.
Update November 2020
The Evangelical Seminary of Theology was established in the city of Matanzas in 1946 as an ecumenical training center. The seminary provides high-level theological education to prepare students for full-time ministry in churches and other Christian service endeavors throughout Cuba and elsewhere.
Even while confronting natural disasters, a resurgence of religious fundamentalism, and the worsening of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, 2019 was a year when the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Matanzas, Cuba, (SET), thrived. From 2018 to 2019, the school saw a 44% increase in enrolled students, with the number of enrolled female students doubled. A focus on providing effective answers to the needs of church and society has guided Matanzas Seminary, and this focus has made it a place where students continually refer to the seminary as a blessing.
This course allowed me to discover the wonderful importance, usefulness and necessity of ecumenism, said Rosaida, a student in the Biblical Studies and Theology training course and a full-time Physical Education teacher. As a lay person, Rosaida applies the lessons she learns at the seminary on practicing theology and respecting the differences of all community members during her church’s adult education class, teaching children’s ministry, and even into her work as a teacher in the community. Reflecting on her experience as a student at Matanzas Seminary, Rosaida says, In Christ, everything is possible. The most important thing is love and not only the particular denomination we represent.
The training and preparation Rosaida and other students gain while being at Matanzas Seminary continues to sustain a movement of Christian leaders committed to ecumenical dialogue and transformational ministry that spans across the region and globally.
The Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Cuba began its fall semester on September 1, 2020. Reverend Doctor Carlos Emilio Ham described the way professors welcomed students with the hope of contributing to their pastoral formation while also caring for the health of themselves and others as "hugs from the heart". Classes are taking place with students and professors keeping physical distancing in gatherings at common facilities. Most recently on November 2-6, 2020 a group of 25 Bachelor's students gathered for a course on Biblical and Theological Studies for Pastoral Accompaniment.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center
In 2019, the Ecumenical Network of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center (CMMLK) in Cuba experienced an increase in the number of members. Many of the members became more involved in the network as well. One action the Ecumenical Network completed recently was mapping out ecumenical actors in Cuba. This map is already in use for conversations toward a new strategic plan to begin in 2020 and for the following years.
Today, the Ecumenical Network has placed identified priorities for the areas of organizing, solidarity, accompaniment, and communication. The Network’s strategic plan is helping to guide members to participate locally to work together for common efforts, to participate in acts of solidarity with the community on a variety of programs, and to host training opportunities.
Alas de Corazon (Wings of the Heart) operates a community arts program in the town of San Cristobal. The program uses paper mâché and recycled materials to create art pieces that encourage participants to think about the differences it would make to concentrate on the We over I. These projects generate environmental awareness through promoting community ecological stewardship and to help children and adults alike consider how they might care for others and the earth. One of the larger events put together by Alas de Corazon in years past is the Paper Festival. Taking place in May, the event brings together hundreds of people to participate in a parade with costumes made of recycled materials and paper to celebrate arts, recycling, and collaboration.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the CMMLK budget as well as the resulting restrictions on gathering and meeting in person, the center's work with the ecumenical network has focused on local activities and has postponed national and regional gatherings in 2020.