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Cuba: times of transition in a revolutionary nation

Going to Cuba with the Boston University School of Theology was a dream for many of the participants in the 2016 Study-Travel Seminar to Matanzas and Havana, co-sponsored with the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. 

Whether we came with commitments to democracy or socialism, whether we came with a hermeneutics of suspicion or utopian expectations, it was certain that the experiences of our time in Cuba would reflect the diversity of our participants.

Group participants varied in their theological commitments, ethnic backgrounds, age, gender and professions, but we all came together to celebrate the beautiful opportunity to discover the depth and breath of all that this small slice of time and Cuba had to offer.

Cuba was truly a proverbial "Tale of Two Cities," the two worlds of development collided as we viewed a country that seemed to be fluctuating between the past and the present.

Moving on to the seminary of Matanzas we were further greeted with the sights, sounds, and smells of the beautiful Caribbean landscape.

Our group gladly exchanged our hopes and questions for our current trip with eager anticipation and a cool decorum of introductory friendship. We arrived at the Seminary of Matanzas with the humble and warm hospitality of the staff and faculty and looked forward to the days to come.

The conference titled "A Journey of Wisdom and Love" began in full force as we looked at the concept of wisdom, under the leadership of the regal figure Pastor Ofelia Ortega, who has championed the ecumenical advancement of the seminary at Matanzas for many years.

The topics presented ranged from Biblical narratives on wisdom, to contextual understandings of wisdom, to wisdom as it is uniquely expressed through the struggles and ministry of women.

As our time in Matanzas shifted to a close, we could not help but recognize the voices of the seminarians who attended the school. Those of us who were bi-lingual had the opportunity to converse with the young seminarians of Matanzas and hear their perspective on "Cubanidad" or Cuban identity.

The feelings of the younger seminarians were mixed, in that they had great hopes for Cuba and recognized many of the benefits of the revolution (free health care and free education being amongst the most notable), yet there truly was a desire for more.

As Christians they spoke of the difficulties of ecumenism, sexual identity, gender identity, and increasing wealth disparities. They spoke to us about the challenges of living without the abundance that so many of our western societies have come accustomed to. Yet at the same time, these students spoke to us about the sincere comradery that existed amongst the Cuban people. That in the midst of lack there was truly a communal spirit, a comradery that could not be denied. 

We left Cuba with many answers and many more questions and I think for many of us, though it was our first time, we earnestly hoped it would not be our last. 

Mark Harrison, Director of Peace with Justice, General Board of Church and Society 

Omar Brown, student in the Masters of Theological Studies program, Boston University School of Theology

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