Mystery Trip 2018

Mystery Trip 2018

It’s a mystery! Our mystery trips are one of the best traditions we have at Merge! It’s a great chance for our kids to grow closer together and have a great time. Parents, will be given an itinerary of the trip as we are piling your student(s) on our bus that Friday afternoon. After all, a good Mystery Trip needs to stay secret as long as possible. The real question is, do you trust us with your kids over the Adult Gasparilla weekend?!

When: January 26-28
Cost: $150
Sign up!

NOTE: Up-to-date Medical Form required to travel

MidWeek Message: Cold…but Happy?

MidWeek Message: Cold…but Happy?

Jan. 4, 2018

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Allow me to state the obvious. It’s cold.

I’ve broken out parts of my wardrobe I haven’t had to wear since my years in Iowa. Many of us have been busy covering our plants, burning our fire logs, and putting on layers of clothing. Some of us love this weather, others don’t. But we are feeling it together.


The weather reminds me of a study not long ago by a Dutch researcher named Ruut Veenhoven. He has been studying the connection between geography and happiness: does one’s place of residence have a direct correlation to one’s level of happiness? His work has produced the World Database of Happiness, which ranks countries according to how happy its citizens are. [1] Here’s the surprising discovery. Ranking consistently among the world’s happiest nations (and even number one in a few surveys) is – are you ready for this? – Iceland

Iceland? Really?

I found out about the Database when I read a book by Eric Weiner, provocatively titled The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. Among his journeys was a visit to Iceland, to see what made its citizens so happy. Here’s what he found:

      When I first saw the data, I had the same reaction you’re probably having now. Iceland? As in land of ice? As in cold and dark and teetering on the edge of the map as if it might fall off at any moment? Yes, that Iceland. As for the winter part, I figured anyone could be happy during the Icelandic summers, when the sun shines at midnight and the weather turns “pleasantly not cold,” as one Icelander put it. But the winter, yes, the cold, dark winter, that was the real test of Icelandic happiness.

      But the number crunchers at the World Database of Happiness say that, once again, we’ve got it wrong. Climate matters, but not the way we think. All things considered, colder is happier. Theories abound as to why cold or temperate climes produce happier people than warm, tropical ones. My favorite theory is one I call the Get-Along-or-Die Theory. In warm places, this theory states, life is too easy; your next meal simply falls from a coconut tree. Cooperation with others is optional. In colder places, though, cooperation is mandatory. Everyone must work together to ensure a good harvest or a hearty haul of cod. Or everyone dies. Together.

      Necessity may be the mother of invention, but interdependence is the mother of affection. We humans need one another, so we cooperate – for purely selfish reasons at first. At some point, though, the needing fades and all that remains is the cooperation. We help other people because we can, or because it makes us feel good, not because we’re counting on some future payback. There is a word for this: love. [2]


As I’ve thought more about it, I don’t think it’s the weather that dictates happiness as much as it is a sense of community. It’s that “interdependence” that is the “mother of affection.” It’s expressed when we celebrate each other’s joys, share each other’s burdens, and remember that, in the end, we are all in this together. (Remember how, during Hurricane Irma, many of us learned to depend on each other a lot more? And how novel that felt?)

And if happiness is ultimately determined by a sense of community and belonging, then why shouldn’t the church lead the way? In a world that feels iced over with tension and uncertainty, there should be no greater place to find contentment and real joy than in Christian community.

Weiner discovered that when Icelanders greet each other, the phrase they use roughly translates as “come happy.” And when they depart, they say, “go happy.” Goodwill and well-wishes are built into their language.

It ought to be the same for the church. We, after all, are the ones who bid each other “The Lord be with you (and also with you.)” We are the ones who see ourselves as a body – a dynamic, interconnected, mutually supportive organism. And we are the ones who are commanded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:26-27: If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Yes, Weiner was right. There is a word for this. Love.

I am so grateful to be part of a congregation that is Christ-centered, open to a diversity of people and perspectives, and directed in love toward the needs of others. We are all in this together, regardless of the weather.

So, keep it up. (And by all means, bundle up!)

Grace and peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser



Feb. 22, Homeless Point-in-Time Count

The annual Homeless Point-In Time Count will take place on Thursday, Feb. 22. Hyde Park United Methodist is serving as a deployment site for volunteers.

The annual Homeless Count in Hillsborough County is coordinated by the Tampa/Hillsborough County Continuum of Care (CoC), led by the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative in conjunction with community partners. The data, collected through a short survey and observation during the Homeless Count, provides a Point-In-Time (PIT) ‘snapshot’ as to what the homeless population in our community looks like during a single, 24-hour period to help community planners better understand, through demographic information, who is homeless, why, and for how long.

YOU can HELP us, HELP OUR Homeless Neighbors by:

  1. Volunteering to help conduct the Street Count or at the Youth Count Event – Visit the 2018 Homeless PIT Count Volunteer Page to learn more about volunteer options.
  2. Making a Monetary Contribution to help provide supplies needed to conduct the PIT Count. Monetary donations can be made online or mailed to:  Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, PO Box 1110, Tampa, FL 33601-1101
  3. Donating travel-size items listed below to be given to homeless persons who participate in completing the PIT Count Survey:
  • Socks (most needed are adult male, basic colors)
  • Rain Ponchos
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Combs and Brushes
Thousands Celebrate Christmas Eve

Thousands Celebrate Christmas Eve

Nearly 3,000 people celebrated Christmas Eve at one of the ten services held at our Hyde Park campus and The Portico campus. Our sincere thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who worked diligently to make family members, friends, neighbors and strangers feel welcome. Here’s a glimpse of some of those on campus that day.

Midweek Message: Christmas Comes

Midweek Message: Christmas Comes

Dec. 21, 2017

Dear Hyde Park Family,

“Christmas Comes”
By Ann Weems, from Kneeling in Bethlehem

Christmas comes every time we see God in other persons.
The human and the holy meet in Bethlehem
                or in Times Square,
                for Christmas comes like a golden storm on its way
                                to Jerusalem –
                determinedly, inevitably . . .

Even now it comes
     in the face of hatred and warring –
                no atrocity too terrible to stop it,
                no Herod strong enough,
                no hurt deep enough,
                no curse shocking enough,
                no disaster shattering enough.

For someone on earth will see the star,
                someone will hear the angel voices,
                someone will run to Bethlehem,
                someone will know peace and goodwill:
                the Christ will be born!

On behalf of the staff and lay leadership of the Hyde Park and The Portico campuses of Hyde Park United Methodist Church, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor


We recognize that for many of us, this is a season of sadness, loss and longing. If you or someone you know could use an experience of encouragement and hope, join us for our annual “Blue Christmas” worship service, 7 p.m. tonight at The Portico campus.


This weekend we offer twelve worship services, including “Carols in the City” 7 p.m. Friday at The Portico, and our Family Christmas Service at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Sanctuary on our Hyde Park campus.

On Sunday, we will celebrate Christmas Eve all day long, from two morning services at 11 a.m. until one at 11 p.m. Worship will feature the singing of carols and the lighting of candles. For the full roster of Christmas services this weekend, visit our website’s Christmas page or to view many of the services, visit our Watch Live web page.

Midweek Message: I Hate To Break It To You, Virginia

Midweek Message: I Hate To Break It To You, Virginia

(Note – Parental Disclaimer: the following Midweek Message contains material that may be troubling to some children, particularly if they still believe in Santa Claus. Or the Tooth Fairy.)

Dec. 14, 2017

Dear Hyde Park Family,

I can’t tell you the exact moment when both my daughters realized there is no Santa Claus. But I can tell you when Madelyn realized there was no Tooth Fairy.

When she was five, she lost one of her teeth at school and didn’t tell me or her mother. Instead, our clever girl tucked it under her pillow and wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy asking some personal questions (“Dear Tooth Fairy: How do you know when I’ve lost a tooth? What do you do with all of them, anyway? And what’s your favorite food?”)

Naturally, she woke up the next morning and found the tooth still packed in its plastic bag and her questions unanswered. Perhaps the Tooth Fairy was busy last night, she thought. So, once more without telling us, she tried it again the next night. (You’d have thought we would have noticed she was missing a tooth, but that’s another story.)

Suffice it to say, the whole experiment convinced her that maybe there’s something sketchy about the whole Tooth Fairy story. And if that’s true of the Tooth Fairy, she thought, then what about the Easter Bunny? And if there’s no Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny, then what about….what about….

I do think it dawned on older sister Grace shortly afterwards. At one point she said to me and her mother, “Well, Maddy and I are not sure if Santa is real. But we still really like the idea of Santa.” I remember thinking, Well, I’ll give them credit: They’re too smart to believe in Santa, but not dumb enough to pass on getting the presents.

I miss those early years of their childhood. It’s not that I miss the days that they believed in Santa. I really miss sharing experiences when they were filled with child-like wonder and awe, when their imaginations were unbridled by skepticism and their hearts unencumbered by worry.

I guess what I’m really saying is, I think we all miss having that capacity to wonder as well. Nowadays, we are so caught up in holiday duties and December deadlines that we forget that Advent is less about what we can see and touch, and more about promise and expectation. It’s about discovering a surprising gift, in places where we least expect to find it. And it’s about realizing qualities in others that we might otherwise overlook. Archbishop Oscar Romero captures it well:

Advent should admonish us to discover in each brother or sister that we greet, in each friend whose hand we shake, in each beggar who asks for bread, in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union, in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ. Then it would not be possible to rob them, to cheat them, to deny them their rights. They are Christ, and whatever is done to them Christ will take as done to himself. This is what Advent is: Christ living among us. (From The Violence of Love)

Yes, there is more to Advent than meets the eye. It is not found in a jolly old man from the North Pole, but in the arrival of Christ amid those who are hurting and hopeless. It is expressed in the magnificent song of Mary, the subject of worship this Sunday, who rejoiced that God “has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:51-52)

You have likely lost your belief in Santa. But don’t lose your capacity for a Christmas surprise. Try finding Jesus in unexpected places: in the face of the hungry or impoverished, in the soul of someone who is grieving a loss, in the heart of someone who needs to see the light of hope in their lives, or even in the eyes of an adversary whose opinion is different from your own.

For when you discover Christ in this way, in the people and conditions where you least expect to find him, you will be filled with wonder, all over again.

Grace and peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor

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