Explore the Baltimore - Cuba Partnership
Our Presbytery Partnership
Our Presbytery to Presbytery Partnership was formally organized in 2004, after five years of a partnership between Ashland Presbyterian and Cabaiguan Presbyterian. In 2015 the Partnership signed an agreement outlining our ongoing relationship. As part of the agreement, Member churches of the Presbytery of Baltimore have developed a team made up of representatives from each congregation with a partner congregation in Cuba. The team meets monthly to take action to maintain our connections with El Centro Presbytery and with one another, provide a platform for discussion, as well as, support and encouragement for all partner congregations. Those actions include:
- jointly planning and organizing a bi-annual Encuentro (Encounter) for Baltimoreans and Cubans
- annually sponsoring two visitors selected by El Centro Presbytery to spend 1-2 weeks participating in Presbytery and congregational life events
- participating in the Cuba Partners Network, making it possible for our Cuban visitors to attend the annual Network meeting with members of Baltimore Presbytery
- traveling to Cuba for a work meeting to plan with El Centro Presbytery leaders for activities for the coming year, providing support for the growth of church to church partnerships
- fostering the development of new church to church partnerships and provide support and encouragement to existing partnerships
- Annual financial support is provided to El Centro Presbytery for the life and mission of the Presbytery
Acknowledging that we share our faith in Jesus Christ as Presbyterians in Cuba and in the US, our mission is to join in solidarity with members of the El Centro Presbytery, Reformed Presbyterian Church of Cuba. We do this through: prayer, worship, celebration and the mutual exchange of visits and cultures.
Presbyterianism in Cuba
History of the Presbyterian Church in Cuba
The connection between U.S. and Cuban Presbyterians began in 1890 with the work of a Cuban layman and former Baptist lay preacher, Evaristo Collazo, and his wife, Magdalena. They started a day school in their home in Havana, which included Bible studies. Collazo wrote to the Board of Foreign Missions of the Southern Presbyterian Church asking for assistance. The PCUS sent Rev. Anthony Graybill to Havana. He baptized 40 adults, organized a congregation, ordained elders, and ordained Collazo to the ministry and installed him as pastor.
By 1904, there were seven Presbyterian churches in Havana. They were organized into a presbytery and became part of the Synod of New Jersey. Between 1904 and 1960, the Presbyterian Church in Cuba continued to grow with strong support from the U.S. Presbyterian Church through its Board of National Missions. By 1959, the Presbytery of Cuba had 4,300 members in 34 congregations with 46 ministers. Further, there were 1,400 students in a number of Presbyterian schools, primarily located in the provinces of Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus (the location of the Central Presbytery of Cuba).
In 1961, two years after the revolution that brought Castro to power, the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Cuba and imposed an embargo. Castro declared Communism as the form of government and confiscated the schools and clinics of the churches. Subsequently the Presbyterian Church in Cuba rapidly declined. The U.S. Presbyterian Church was unable to support and communicate with its Cuban brothers and sisters. Many Cuban pastors and lay leaders left the country.
By 1979, membership in the Cuban Presbyterian Church had dropped to 1,289. In fact, it was women who sustained the church as men left the church for fear of losing their jobs. Children were even asked at school on Monday if they had attended church over the weekend. If they said yes, teachers were required to report it to the government. This is not to suggest that being a Christian in Cuba at this time was dangerous, though at times it was, but more than anything it was a great and difficult disadvantage.
In 1985, representatives of the PC(USA) mission agencies were permitted to travel to Cuba to meet with the PRCC. A Joint Mission Agreement, approved by both denominations in 1986, among other things approved the formation of partnership between presbyteries of the two churches. In 1990, 75 Protestant church leaders met with Castro to discuss church‐state relations. After the meetings, Castro stated in a broadcast over Cuban national TV that religious groups were providing important support for the Cuban people in a time of great stress and should be respected. Laws were subsequently changed to permit religious believers to become members of the Communist party and that Cuba was no longer to be defined as an atheist state. Most analysts strongly believed that the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, which resulted in immediate and catastrophic economic collapse in Cuba, was a significant factor in Castro’s decision.
There are now some 90 church partnerships from 15 presbyteries around the U.S. Our partnership with Cuban Presbyterians is broad and deep.
Church to Church Partnerships
|Presbytery of Baltimore
||Presbiterio el Centro
|First PC of Annapolis
|Light Street PC
|First PC of Howard County
||Calabazar de Sagua
|Hunting Ridge PC
||Sagua la Grande
|First & Franklin PC
|Woods Memorial PC
*Cuban churches seeking partners: Santa Clara, Placetas, Remedios, Caibarién, Camaguani and Camaguey
See Church Details
Principles for Reconciliation
Partnership between Presbytery of Baltimore and El Centro Presbytery, Cuba
This document is written and included in the Team’s records and will be updated from time to time so as to encourage churches in the Baltimore Presbytery to become a part of the Cuba Network.