On coffee, politics in two disparate places

Published October 1, 2003

Friday I am writing this on a flight from Havana, Cuba, to Seattle, U.S.A. Of course, I jest. There is no flight from anywhere in Cuba to anywhere in the United States. It just seems like one flight because I arrived home yesterday at 2:25 a.m. and left home today at 8:25 a.m. In the meantime I spent enough time at home to have dinner with Dorothy, do a week’s laundry and pack for the next trip. I also spent enough time at the office to consult with staff about some urgent matters and clear the computer of literally hundreds of items of spam, scam and scum, in search of a dozen real messages. Monday And I finish writing after the Seattle visit. The visit to Cuba was occasioned by the retirement of the Bishop of Cuba and my responsibility as president of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba to consult diocesan leadership about the time ahead. It also involved a joyful Sunday visit to a parish, a seven-hour bus ride from Havana, and an opportunity to preach in Spanish. The visit to Seattle was in response to an invitation to give the keynote address during the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the diocese of Olympia, an occasion which turned out to be the most creative and striking musical event I have experienced in many years. The time in Seattle also included preaching on Sunday at the cathedral. Two vignettes – coffee and politics. In Havana, living alone in the empty bishop’s house, I had a small Cuban steel coffee-maker with which I prepared, as Cubans do, my daily (self-imposed) ration of two tiny cups of the thick potent Cuban coffee I love. In Seattle, it was Starbucks on almost every corner. At the celebration in Seattle there were speeches from political leaders, all congratulating the church for its place in society. At the service in Ciego de Avila a representative from the city council was present, as well as two persons from the “ideological” section of the provincial Communist Party. They were welcomed with applause by the congregation, but no speeches from them. Two societies, two countries, geographically near and politically estranged. One where coffee is precious and its local way of preparing it cherished, the other where it is cheap and flows (and tastes) like a river. One where God is freely invoked in the public life of the country and on the currency (though all the major churches opposed the war in Iraq), and the other where public media and statements never mention God (though all the churches are growing). And through it all the church in each place meets faithfully, one Sunday after another. I have developed a deep affection for the Episcopal Church of the United States (though I am still baffled by their General Convention where the clergy and laity meet in one place and the bishops in another, engaging in different debates on the same motion). And I have the same affection for the Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba (though I remain frustrated by the deep division among the clergy which has thwarted every episcopal election in 14 years). I have spent months of my primacy visiting and working with that church and have many friends (and the occasional enemy) in it. How privileged I am, and how deeply I thank God that I have shared in it all. Archbishop Michael Peers is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.


Keep on reading

Skip to content