Methodist Church

Methodist Church in Cuba continues

NEW YORK – By allowing the Spirit to move in creative ways, the Methodist Church in Cuba is dancing, singing and spreading scriptural holiness over the land. Since 1999, the church has grown from 8,000 to 36,000 members. Bishop Ricardo Pereira encourages congregations to live out their Wesleyan theology in ways that are uniquely Cuban.

“The Methodist Church in Cuba uses Caribbean liturgy because it allows people to express themselves with authenticity and freedom,” he said on a recent visit to the New York City offices of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.

According to him, recent history in the island nation has produced a generation of atheists who do not know about God’s love for them. Young people in particular are drawn to a church that embraces Cuban culture and welcomes everyone in the community regardless of their faith or political background.

“We have taught pastors and laity that they can engage their Cuban heritage by praising the Lord, dancing and raising their voices in worship as they do on the street,” said Bishop Pereira. “ is makes the church attractive, especially to young people.”

Members are generally 35 to 45 years old, and the average age of clergy is 30.

To address the needs created by rapid church growth, the Methodist Church of Cuba established the Evangelical Methodist Seminary in Havana five years ago. “In the midst of so many doctrines,” said Bishop Pereira, it was important to provide a “theological formation that would be eminently Methodist and Wesleyan”.

Today there are more than 350 pastors in Cuba. “At the moment we have about 120 students pursuing their degree in theology,” said Bishop Pereira. e seminary is also extending its training to reach an additional 800 people throughout the country, preparing them for church leadership.

The Methodist Church exists in 92 per cent of Cuba’s municipalities.

Reaching into their Wesleyan roots, many congregations worship in house churches. ey meet regularly in small groups to study the Bible and pray together.

In addition to lively worship, contemplative prayer, theological formation and Bible study, the Methodist Church in Cuba is intentional in living out the Gospel in ways that influence society.

“For example, we have ministries that support seniors and vulnerable families, particularly those headed by single mothers,” Bishop Pereira said. “We want to have all the good things of the Gospel come to pass in our country.”

For nearly 20 years, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission has sent a team to Cuba every month for two weeks at a time. In addition to providing medicine, clothing and tools, the teams build homes and parsonages and renovate churches. – United Methodist News Service.

The Methodist Church exists in 92 per cent of Cuba’s municipalities. Reaching into their Wesleyan roots, many congregations worship in house churches. They meet regularly in small groups to study the Bible and pray together.


Japanese Christians active in triple-disaster relief

NEW YORK – A year after Japan’s devastating triple disaster on March 11, 2011, Japanese Christians are active in recovery efforts to set their country back on its feet.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred last year triggered a seven-metre-high tsunami and led to damage in reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Nearly 20,000 people died or were reported missing.

In May last year, regional Christian partners gathered in Seoul and formed the Japan Ecumenical Disaster Response Office, known as JEDRO, a consortium led by the National Council of Churches of Japan. In the earthquake region, JEDRO supports Tohoku HELP, which has expanded from the initial work of the Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network to an inter-faith organisation with active participation by Buddhist groups.

The Tohoku centre, based at the Emmaus Centre in Sendai, has served as a channel for donations, volunteers and information with an understanding of local needs and the ability to support churches and denominations carrying out long-term projects. e centre registered 1,727 volunteers between March 15 last year and March 4 this year.

One of the most dedicated local volunteers is Ms Noriko Lao, a disaster response veteran and a volunteer consultant for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Her home church, the United Church of Christ in Japan, is also known as the Kyodan, and is an inter-denominational body that is the biggest partner in the National Council of Churches of Japan.

One of Ms Lao’s big tasks has been showing Japanese groups the logistical steps needed to obtain disaster relief funding. “In Japan, they have a totally different working pattern, based on trust,” she explained. “I help them to write their business plan or grant request in a way that will be acceptable to the steering committee of JEDRO so they can send it on to the international community.”

In July last year, the UMCOR provided two grants totalling US$102,470 (S$128,090) to the Kyodan to support the expansion of the Tohoku Disaster Relief Centre in Ishinomaki through staff salary support and the purchase of furniture and office and communications equipment. e centre offers coordination, support and care for volunteer workers as well as the local community.

Known for fishing and tourism, Ishinomaki, 135 km north of the Daiichi nuclear plant, was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. More than 3,000 people died, and over 600 remain missing. e Kyodan has two churches there. – United Methodist News Service.

Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York.