Friday, January 13, 2012

Presbyterian Minister Travels on Religious General License

By Bill Sitterley, Pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church
It is not unusual to head south at this time of year, but it is very unusual for the destination to be Cuba. After all, travel to Cuba has been problematic for U.S. citizens ever since the U.S. government instituted travel bans in 1961. 
I will be traveling there this month, taking advantage of relaxed travel restrictions for religious personnel. In recent years, some Presbyterians from the Baltimore area have traveled there to form partnerships with some local Presbyterian churches there. I’ll be entering the country with a handful of others, but then separating to spend time with a church in Sagua la Grande, in the central part of the country. My plan is to develop relationships there to understand their needs better, and explore partnership possibilities. 
I was as surprised as anyone to discover that there actually were Presbyterians in Cuba. Apparently the first Presbyterian congregation was founded in Cuba in 1890, and the church grew rapidly there in the beginning of the 20th century. It has been a struggle, however, particularly since the Cuban revolution. The area where I’ll be going only has four remaining pastors to serve thirteen congregations.
A God’s-eye view of the world does not see the national and political boundaries that we do. We grow as individuals when recognizing everyone as a child of God, and supporting each other in becoming all we were meant to be.
I am no stranger to travel, having lived for many years in three different countries in the Asia-Pacific region while doing development work with Habitat for Humanity International. I spent time in rural Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Thailand. My time in New Zealand and Thailand included quite a bit of traveling outside those countries.
I try to carry to that sense of connecting with God’s people worldwide into the church I serve in Reisterstown. As the area in which we live becomes more multi-cultural, my intention is to make the church a place of welcome for all. People from a range of backgrounds worship at Northminster, and we also host a thriving Hispanic ministry.

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