Jaguey Grande, Cuba

Two volunteers meticulously buff the tiles of what will be a sparkling new floor for Jerusalem Presbyterian Church here.

Buffing new floors is fairly commonplace in U.S. Presbyterian churches, but not in Cuba, where the effects of the prolonged U.S. blockade and Cuban government mismanagement have made building new churches prohibitively expensive.

The new physical plant at Jerusalem church is just the fourth new church building constructed in the last 20 years by the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba (IPRC), says the Rev. Francisco Marrero, stated clerk of the IRPC and a frequent worshiper here.

The life and growth of Jerusalem Presbyterian Church closely tracks with church-state relations in Cuba. The congregation was founded in 1942 and grew steadily but was not chartered before the Castro revolution in 1959. Churches were repressed ― but not outlawed ― until shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s chief benefactor, in 1991.

Shortly thereafter, the Cuban government changed its constitution, converting Cuba from an “atheist” state to a “secular” one. The change was significant: it meant that the government went from being hostile to churches to neutral toward them.

The result was immediate ― churches began growing, some rapidly. By 2001 Jerusalem Presbyterian Church was large enough to be formally chartered and by the mid-2000s was bursting at the seams of its 65-year-old building.

“The 40 members and many, many friends were determined that they were going to have a new church,” Marrero says. Among those friends are nearby Dora E. Valentin Memorial Presbyterian Church in Varadero, and in the U.S. Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and the Outreach Foundation, a covenant partner of the General Assembly Mission Council’s World Mission unit.

Construction is slow for everything in Cuba, but the Jerusalem congregation hopes to complete its new home within the next year.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has an Extra Commitment Opportunity for the IPRC's church construction and repair. To donate, click here.