In 1999, the session of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church entered into a partnership with First Presbyterian Church of Havana, Cuba becoming sister churches committed to affirming and building the unity of the Presbyterian Church through mutual exchange.
Over the years, the exchanges have transformed not only the two churches, but have led to creation of a Cuba Mission Network within the National Capital Presbytery which now includes eight churches and NCP’s Presbyterian Women. Trips to Havana by NCP members are now an annual affair, with the most recent trip occurring only shortly after President Obama’s visit to the island.
What’s most exciting about the partnerships that have formed is that the spirit of Mission flows in both directions. First Havana’s Pastor, Rev Hector Mendez, has come to New York Avenue Presbyterian church to preach while NCP pastors have preached at First Havana. Shared worship has inspired church members from both countries to try new things in their own services back home. In fact, on a recent trip, a New York Avenue member noted that the Cuban congregation waved their bulletins in applause, just like they do at New York Ave, only to find out that New York Ave learned the practice from First Havana!
A few years ago, a NCP Global Mission Network grant provided uniforms for one of the local youth baseball team. As part of the partnership, NCP members play a game of baseball with the kids and bring along Washington Nationals memorabilia, hopefully laying the ground work for future Nats fans (maybe even Nats players!).
As relationships between the US and Cuba shift, the relationships between the NCP and First Havana remain strong. New York Ave is currently helping First Havana repair their roof and steeple, with a fundraiser planned for the near future, in fact, work on the steeple is already underway. If you are interested in more information, contact Marilyn Seiber at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if you can’t make a future trip, the NCP’s Cuba Mission Network is an inspiration to enter into missional relationships of “mutual exchange” that bear witness to our existence as the truly united body of Christ in the world.