In June of 2019 eight Central students in their third year of the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) MDiv program will travel to Cuba for their second praxis course. In the fall of 2018 they completed their first praxis course in local internships.
While traveling next summer, students will spend time observing the rich religious diversity of Cuba in the cities of Havana and Matanzas. They will also spend significant time with a group of pastoras, Cuban women who lead churches affiliated with la Fraternidad de Iglesias Bautistas de Cuba. The aims for the shared time are mutual learning, examining pastoral ministry, and spiritual renewal.
WLI students will be accompanied by seminary president, Molly T. Marshall, professor Eileen Campbell-Reed, pastor April Baker, and Central board of trustees member, Patricia Griffen.
“I think it is so important for our students in the WLI to see the creativity and innovative spirit of women in other parts of the world as a way to inspire their ingenuity for ministry,” says President Marshall, who has accompanied Central students to many countries and ministry sites globally. This will be the first time she travels with WLI students to Cuba.
Campbell-Reed, who coordinates mentoring, coaching and internship for the WLI says, “Ministry is an embodied, relational, and socially located experience. As women living in the U.S., we have a great deal to learn about accompaniment, vulnerability, and examining our own privileges. In Cuba we can begin exploring how we de-colonize our relationship to global Christianity as well as other world religions.”
With over 15 years of experience traveling to Cuba and building relationships with Cuban ministers and lay people, Baker, pastor at Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee is interested in helping students thoughtfully examine “partnership” as a model for ministry. She says, “partnership offers us a more life-giving paradigm for shared ministry and mission.”
Seeing theological nuance is also a key aim of the learning experience. “To understand how the gospel takes root in other cultures,” says Marshall, “unbalances our western view. All theology is contextual. We need to see how our culture has constricted our way of being Christians.”
This will be the first time to Cuba for all of the students. “When we are de-centered and displaced,” says Marshall, “we begin to see ourselves anew, more aligned with how people outside our context see us. That experience brings on a resettling of self.”