Matanzas Evangelical Theological Seminary - August 2014 Update
You might think that with only 22 Cuban students in full-time residence on the fairly expansive campus which is the Seminario Evangelical de Teologia (SET) in Matanzas, things would be pretty quiet. But nothing could be further from the truth as our Outreach Foundation team discovered on a recent visit there.
To begin with, most of those students live on campus with their spouses and children. And there is much coming and going of the neighbors who are invited to take advantage of the spigots on the outside of the dining hall where purified water is available courtesy of Living Water for the World. There is a small team of grounds workers tending to the lush flowering bushes, tropical fruit trees (fresh mangoes, anyone?), and the large organic garden which supplies produce for the seminary dining hall.
Community patrons of the arts might be making their way to the small “gallery” which fronts the library to see an exhibition of area artists, such as the small folk art tapestries that currently grace the space, or to the chapel to hear the city’s world-class a capella choir perform. You are likely to meet up with one of many international students from places like Korea, Columbia, Jamaica, Venezuela, Brazil or the U.S.A. doing a semester or two of study. And the dining hall is likely to be buzzing with conversation from the tables full of men and women who have come for one of the many lay-training seminars for Sunday School teachers, deacons, or youth ministry leaders.
But theology education for the Cuban Church (Presbyterian, as well as Episcopal, Friends, Pentecostal) is job #1. Those 22 residential students are only a fraction of the close to 500 who are actually enrolled in one of the many degree or certificate programs. Some are taught on the campus, but many are held in other cities around the island because of the high cost of and limited access to transportation.
As we met with Dr. Reinerio Arce, we learned much about a unique four-year semi-residential Bachelor of Theology program. It is available not only on the Matanzas campus but in Havana at the Episcopal Cathedral and in Holguin, on the eastern side of the island, at the Friends’ (Quakers’) Church. Created for those who are already active in lay or pastoral ministry in their local congregations, five five-day intensives are held throughout the year with two courses per week; papers and readings are done in between the on-site modules.
Dr. Arce was particularly excited to share news of the Prison Chaplaincy Program, sponsored by the Cuban Council of Churches, which was inaugurated on campus several years ago. It is now available at multiple locations throughout the island. Aimed at local pastors who have prisons in their areas, a two–day intensive provides specialized training in the areas of conflict resolution, pastoral accompaniment, addictions, and spiritual formation.
In acknowledging the massive changes which have begun to take place on the island, Dr. Arce reflected that as the government does less and less for the people, the Church must be prepared to do more. And SET continues to discern the ever expanding ways it is being called to equip men and women for the ministry.
Grateful for your partnership,
Associate Director for Partnership Development
Amount needed in 2014
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