The Reverend Doctor Dances – Jan. 17

Today was our last full day in Cuba. I woke to the sound of torrential rains lashing the windows and winds hurling limbs and trees through the air. El Nino is raging this winter. Havana has had severe storms for over a week now. We had beautiful weather in the east, but each day here has had weather challenges. When Sam left to gather breakfast from a local buffet the skies were blue, but the storm hit while he was at the hotel and he was stuck for an hour. Thankfully the rain stopped in time for church, but attendance was much lower than expected. We had about 20 in the new Moravian Church, which is in a converted house. They have only been worshiping there since November, and the interior is beautiful.

Armando is the pastor and he spends hours writing the liturgy and preparing the music, most of which is recorded and shown on a screen. The pictures that accompany the music are often very moving. He started with a Spanish recording of Ode to Joy that was very moving. I often think that it may be the single best piece of music ever written. From there we moved to more contemporary praise music. Sam sang one of his original compositions. Armando even had one song in English called If Jesus Say Yes Nobody Can Say No and he taught the congregation to sing the chorus. They were clapping to it and he started dancing, so I started dancing too. The congregation was very surprised that a professor was dancing so vigorously if not very gracefully. I don’t normally work up a sweat during the singing in church. Near the end of the service – after more than an hour of music – I preached a brief sermon from Colossians 3, especially the verse “Clothe yourselves with compassion.” At one point I got choked up, but otherwise it went well. People seemed engaged with it. It was one of the best worship services I’ve participated in.

One of the members of the church wrote his dissertation on Comenius and is translating it into English. Another is a bus driver who helped change our bus tickets so we didn’t have to take the night bus to Havana. The most remarkable person was an elderly woman who was both an accomplished artist and an art teacher. Some of her students are the most celebrated artists in the Caribbean with works in many museums. On my next visit I want to visit her and see her paintings.

They fed us one of the best meals I’ve in Cuba, which provided enough leftovers for our dinner tonight. After a long afternoon nap, we went back to the hotel to sit by the pool and smoke our cigars. They have a large beautiful pool and I swam about 30 laps even though the water and the air were cool. Not many people were crazy enough to swim so I had the pool to myself. It was good to stretch out and wash away the cares of the week. I am no better at swimming than I am at dancing, but it gives me quiet time to think.

After my swim we sat under a cloudy night sky and discussed so many issues in the Moravian Church. Sam informed me of the details of things that I knew only in passing, and I learned more than two sides of different controversies. We talked mostly about the future and what can happen if the Moravian Church is willing.

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