My Experience in Coral Park: The Church-Synagogue / Mario Lleonart

The temple of the First Baptist Church of Coral Park: “The Whale”

It was my Sunday of rest in the United States (July 20), on this voyage that I made, between July 9th and August 6th, leading a small delegation that included my wife and daughters, and four other brothers of our church in Cuba. It was my day to be seated to receive the Word.

The previous Sunday I preached in the Baptist church “Star of Bethlehem,”  in Hialeah; and in the nearly two weeks of the journey that remained, they hoped that I would preach to at least four more congregations: “Jesus Worship Center (” of Doral; the “First Hispanic Presbyterian Church” of Tampa; the “Christian House: JWC” of Kissimee; and the “Hispanic Baptist Church” of Naples. It was very opportune that this Sunday was included, because I had done so much speaking in the previous day that I had ended up literally without a voice.

The stained glass window of the Star of David

First Baptist Church of Coral Park is the congregation where brothers worship deeply and with great love for Cuba that today they wanted to dedicate to us their Sunday and their church. The same church in which pastored the well-remembered Rev. Jorge Comesañas whose name, unsurprisingly, was given to one of the neighboring streets, and especially to whom they arrived from their broken isle seeking healing for their wounds.

The sign of the street named for Rev. Jorge Comesañas

The congregation is composed largely of Cubans, as is its pastorate, as well, although its web page ( reports that its members come from twenty-five different nations. This very Sunday its current pastor, Carlos Tellez, who many remember as pastor in Santo Domingo and Madruga, in Cuba, completed his first year of ministry in this church, of the twenty-eight that he has completed as pastor.

Known locally as “the whale” due to its distinctive architectural form, the temple served as a synagogue from its completion until 1986. The church has respected one of  the  conditions stipulated in the sales contract: that the building’s Jewish symbols be retained.

The street with the name of the pastor

That is why both inside and outside one can still see stained glass windows with unmistakable Stars of David. But in addition to its surface decoration, the whale retains something of a Jewish spirit.

I felt this when a group of visitors, including myself, were welcomed — in Hebrew no less — with verses to a well-known song: “Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom, Shalom. Shalom aleichem” When prayers were later offered for peace in Jerusalem, I had no doubts.

In these days of clamoring for true peace for Jews and Palestinians that do so much harm to each other, and of condemning the terrorist organization Hamas, I rejoice in attending congregations such as these that remember so well the sequence of a historic Christianity that was born in the synagogues and that was moved to similar churches, and that are debtors of them.

The church-synagogue from the inside.

And although this Sunday I rested from preaching the message with which I came this time to the US: “From the end of the earth to Jerusalem,” after, of course, having proclaimed it first in Cuba; I continued in the same spirit and each time more convinced of the word of the apostle Paul when he cited Isaiah and Jeremiah in Romans 11:26b-11:27: “As it is written: there will come out of Zion a Savior, that will take away the impiety of Jacob. And this will be my pact with them, when I forgive their sins.”

And it is the most admirable, and Jewish of the synagogue-church of Coral Park, that it proclaims the only one capable of giving peace both to the Jews as well as to the Palestinians: Jesus the Messiah, who gave his live on the cross for ALL.

Translated by: Diego A.

22 July 2014