St. John the Baptist Church, Cuba
Photo: Andrea Mann
In Palma Soriano in Cuba, there is a house that sits next to the ruins of a church destroyed by a hurricane. Through a window on the second floor of that house, we could see Fr. Halbert, the parish priest, pounding back sheets of galvanized metal that covered the entrance to St. John the Baptist Church. The sound was deafening, but he was determined. As he finished, we got our first glimpse of the people who had gathered outside. Down we went to meet them.
One by one, they introduced themselves. An elderly woman said she was baptized in this church. With tears in her eyes, she told us how beautiful and well kept it once was. Drawing our attention to the piles of broken wood and brick and tile on which we stood, she drew her hands together in hope that one day they could worship again within these walls.
Then a woman came with her grandchild, who had difficulty walking over the rubble. Rosie wanted to sing. She had the voice of an angel. Her singing inspired all the other children to sing, too.
Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio offered words of encouragement for the people’s resolve to rebuild their church. I was asked to pray for God’s blessing on their labours. Their amen echoed far beyond the ruins.
Then Halbert sent us back out into the street. He stayed inside to close up the entrance. I helped others hold the metal sheets as he pounded them back into place and nailed them to what was left of the door frame. This time, I not only heard the blows of the hammer, I also felt them.
I think often of that little congregation.
For them, the blows of the hammer to open the entrance to their temple were the sounds of hope. There, they could gather to pray and sing. Brief as the time was, it lifted their hearts.
As I hear once again how an angel rolled back the stone that sealed the tomb where Christ was laid, and “sat on it” (Matthew 28:2), I shall be thinking of those dear people of God in Palma Soriano, their temple and its entrance, their resolve in rebuilding-and their hope of rising again in Christ.
May their Easter and yours be full of joy and gladness!
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.