Midweek Message: Making Their Story Our Own

Midweek Message: Making Their Story Our Own

Aug. 15, 2019

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Last Sunday, we started a new worship series titled “Hall of Faith,” based on the Bible’s “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. In that sermon,  I reminisced about my visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1996, to visit the statue of long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneer Lee Roy Selmon, who was inducted the year before.

His induction speech included all the usual elements. He thanked his teammates, he praised his coaches. But he also did something unusual. He made a lengthy biblical reference to two of his personal biblical heroes, Abraham and Sarah. Here’s what he said:

The God that I believe in and my family believes in works in impossible types of situations. And it reminds me of a story in the Bible about Abraham and Sarah. When God promised them a child and it seemed like that would not occur because of the age of both Abraham and Sarah. But even in that difficult, unlikely situation, they were granted a child. I look at this situation and I feel much like Abraham and Sarah probably felt. They had a son named Isaac and Isaac stands for laughter and joy. I’m sure the community that knew them joined in their joy. I’m happy to see my family here. My mom and brothers and sisters and fans and friends from all over the state of Oklahoma and Tampa Bay here to join me in this very joyful moment. But I realize this is not something that I have done, but God has done for me. He has put a lot of angels in my pathway, in life’s path that has made these types of things happen. – from Lee Roy Selmon’s Hall of Fame page.

Amazing. Right in the middle of his hall of fame speech, with millions of people watching, Lee Roy Selmon not only told the whole story of Abraham and Sarah, he found his story in theirs, and made their story his own.

That’s at the heart of our new worship series. By following the examples of these remarkable men and women in the Bible, we can have a faith that helps us endure through the tough times, keeps our eyes fixed on Jesus, and recognizes all that God has done for us.

So join us this Sunday as we dive deeper into the lives of Abraham and Sarah, and make their story our own.


It is with gratitude and sadness that we share the news that our Director of Communications John Barolo has accepted a position with Hillsborough County Public Schools as the Assist. Dept. Manager for Marketing. This Sunday, Aug. 18 will be his last, and his last day in the office will be Thursday, Aug. 22.

Fifteen years ago, this congregation was blessed with John and Nicole’s arrival. They started attending conneXion, our Friday night worship service that would become a precursor to our 11Magnolia service today, and they quickly became an integral part of this congregation.

John was first hired to be part of our administrative team, then became the Director of Adult Education, then was a member of our Communications team, and ultimately served as our Director of Communications since November, 2016. This diversity of roles and responsibilities has afforded him a broad exposure to many ministries of this church, each of which have been shaped by his insightful guidance. Many in the congregation have benefited greatly from John’s friendship, counsel and commitment to the church’s mission.

John, Nicole, and their children will be missed, and we are grateful for the extraordinary impact he has made among us. The Staff-Parish Relations Committee will oversee a process to ensure that all of John’s responsibilities are covered over the near and long term. Join us this Sunday as we thank John for all he has meant to this church.

Thank you, John!

Grace and Peace,


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

Midweek Message: A Time for Renewal

Midweek Message: A Time for Renewal

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Happy Independence Day! I hope this day brings you moments of celebration, connection with friends and family, and gratitude for the freedom to live into your God-given potential. Let us remember that our truest and most enduring freedom is that which comes from Jesus alone, for “it is for freedom that Christ set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

I also want to offer you this special Midweek Message to share with you an important message regarding members of our clergy team.


In his book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives, Wayne Mueller talks about the benefits of honoring the biblical command to observe Sabbath rest:

“Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. It is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us.”

Many of the commandments of God are difficult to keep, but Sabbath keeping may be the easiest to overlook, particularly for those called to church ministry.

Many clergy suffer from emotional burnout, workaholism and depression, likely due in part to a reluctance to regularly observe a focused time of spiritual renewal. This article from the Sojourners website provides additional insight.

To address this pervasive problem, the United Methodist Book of Discipline encourages clergy to have several weeks of spiritual growth and renewal every four years. (Paragraph 351.2) Historically, clergy at Hyde Park have not observed this provision in the discipline, despite working long hours every week, season after season.


I think you would agree that among the many blessings of this church is the amazing dedication and talents of ministers Sally Campbell-Evans, Vicki Walker, Justin LaRosa, and Debbie Casanzio. Over the past several months, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee has encouraged and approved each of them to observe the time of renewal that the Discipline provides. It offers the following statement:

“The Staff-Parish Relations Committee strongly believes in healthy, rested and vital clergy. Clergy burnout is a well-documented phenomenon, and this Committee wants our clergy to have renewal leaves that provide rest and growth.”

So, here is the general time frame for those four clergy:

  • Vicki Walker: July 21 to Aug. 31, 2019
  • Sally Campbell-Evans: Sept. 25 to Nov. 5, 2019
  • Justin LaRosa: Summer 2020
  • Debbie Casanzio: Fall 2020

You can pray for each of them, that this will be a holy and sacred time, that the Holy Spirit might provide them with spiritual, emotional and physical rejuvenation for their ongoing work among us.

And as you negotiate the busyness of your life, remember to observe the Sabbath yourself. Find time to disconnect from your daily pressures and create a way for you to “listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true.”

Grace and Peace,


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

Midweek Message: Hearing Music in the Mundane

Midweek Message: Hearing Music in the Mundane

Dear Hyde Park Family,

In 2007, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote an article about a fascinating social experiment involving acclaimed classical violinist Joshua Bell, widely regarded as one of the finest musicians in the world.

Bell has performed in some of the most prestigious concert halls, commanding hundreds of dollars per ticket to hear him play. But in 2007, his venue was outside a busy metropolitan subway station in Washington, D.C. Instead of wearing perfectly appointed concert attire, he wore jeans and a t-shirt and a baseball cap.

The question was this: If one of the world’s greatest musicians played some of history’s most beautiful music, but did it in a most ordinary setting, would anyone notice?

Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked what he thought would happen. His guess was that if a thousand people walked by, there would be 75 to 100 who would stop and take time to listen, and 35 or 40 who would recognize the beautiful quality of the music. He also predicted about $150 in his donation jar.

Slatkin’s prediction was way off.

A thousand people did pass by—1,097, to be precise. But not a single person stopped to notice the wonder of Bell’s music. And he collected a measly $32 and change.

But there was little Evan. Three-year-old Evan Parker was walking alongside his mother Sherry at 8:30 that morning, running late for an appointment. She walked briskly past the violinist with Evan in tow. And as the video would later show, every few steps, Evan kept turning back at the violinist, staring at him to see and hear the music. Even as his mother kept rushing him along, even using her body to block his line of sight, Evan kept craning his neck to catch more of the wonder that every other person seemed willful to ignore.

Sometimes, it takes a child-like perspective to capture the wonder in the ordinary.

The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote,

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

I don’t know what this summer holds for you. Hopefully, it is filled with times of rest, renewal, and time with loved ones, even amid your hard work and busy schedules. But don’t just “sit round and pluck blackberries.” Be more like little Evan, and less like the 1,096 people who missed a chance to experience wonder and beauty.

Don’t miss the opportunities in the next several weeks to open your eyes and see the wonder of God all around you.

Next week I hope to do that, as I spend time in beautiful Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, preaching and teaching at the United Methodist Music and Worship Arts Week. I would love your prayers for the six sermons and three workshops that I will be offering. But most of all, pray that I won’t miss the chance to catch the wonder of God, even amid my work.

That will be my prayer for you. That you would hear God’s music in the mundane, and be filled with the beauty of God.

Grace and Peace,


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

Thank you to the many people who have signed up to serve the 400+ children attending Vacation Bible School next week. Most of our volunteer slots have been filled, but we could use a “deeper bench” of people willing to serve multi-purpose and back-up roles. This is a perfect way for anyone who has never served in children’s ministry to serve in a non-imposing but vital way. Help make a huge difference in the lives of children and sign up here.


As I do every summer, I will be taking some weeks off in July from writing the Midweek Message. I’ll resume writing them again in August. Prior messages can be found here.

Midweek Message: Implementing the Vision

Midweek Message: Implementing the Vision

Dear Hyde Park Family,

For today’s Midweek Message, I thought we could give you an update on everything that has happened over the past six months, since our Vision Plan was unanimously adopted last December. Read ahead for all the exciting developments as we claim God’s future for this church.

An Update on the Implementation of our Vision Plan

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

God has uniquely equipped Hyde Park United Methodist for an exciting future: one where we are making God’s love real, in which people will be connected into loving community, transformed to be more like Jesus, and equipped to teach others how to live life as God intends.

Claiming that future involves adapting to the challenges of the present. Just like the early church did thousands of years ago, we must tailor our practices to reach an ever-changing population in Tampa and beyond. Our mission is the same; some of the ways we fulfill that mission must be adapted to the times.

To that end, here is a reminder of where we have been over the last two years, and an update on where we are heading:

  • The Vision Team synthesized a year’s worth of information from meetings with hundreds of church members and visitors, staff and lay leaders; through ministry assessments; open-invitation visioning chats with more than 200 participants; and a congregation-wide survey with more than 700 respondents; among other outreach.


  • A long-term strategic Vision plan was voted on and unanimously approved at a Church Conference on Dec. 17, 2018. It sets the foundation for deepening our faith, widening our outreach and uniting together in the love of God (read more). The Vision plan:
      • Names opportunities and challenges we face as we seek to fulfill our mission in a changing culture
      • Identifies facts bearing on the challenges we face
      • Sets the framework and rationale for what, in some cases, need to be major changes in our approach to ministry
      • Makes recommendations for next steps and follow on actions


  • An Implementation Team (7 volunteers and 2 staff) was established by the Committee on Lay Leadership, as part of a decision at the Dec. 17, 2018 Church Conference, to shepherd the process and the work of the lay teams.


  • We began the first phase of implementing the recommendations from our Vision Team in February, 2019, and formed 12 initiative teams.


  • 12 Initiative teams are focusing on each recommendation from the Vision Team: Worship, Communications, Stewardship, The Portico, The Portico Cafe, Organization, Staffing, Connection, Discipleship, Debt / Property, Invitation and Missions. These teams are made up of 77 volunteers and 10 staff.


  • Each team is working on recommendations. Teams are considering a wide range of topics, including ways to enhance our worship services, easy ways for new people to connect with small groups and missions opportunities, better ways to communicate and how to increase our biblical literacy. (Read more about each team’s focus.) Some teams will complete their work this summer, and others will continue working through November.


  • No decisions have been made yet. Proposals will first be reviewed by the Implementation Team. Depending on the nature and scope of the proposal, approval may need to come from the Ministry Leadership Council and, in some cases, by a called church conference. Initiatives will be implemented as the overall timeline develops.


  • Next steps in ministry together will be communicated along the way as things become clearer. Your Hyde Park staff and Implementation Team will share information via our website, bulletin, eNews and email. If you’d like to offer comments or ask questions at any point in the process, you can email the team at vision@hydeparkumc.org.

As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, we are trusting God in this process. We believe that God has uniquely equipped this church to be on the leading edge of what it means to share God’s love across a changing landscape, just as generations have done before us.

Grace and Peace,


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

Midweek Message: This Is Where You Come In

Midweek Message: This Is Where You Come In

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Pop quiz, pop culture fans: What do Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Fiddler on the Roof, and Wayne’s World have in common? How about this: in each film, a main character turns to the camera and addresses the audience.

The technical description for this script writing device is the removal of the “Fourth Wall,” the presumed, invisible filter through which the audience observes the story. Normally, action takes place within “three walls” of a set, and the fourth is implied. But when a character notices the audience and draws them in through dialogue, that fourth wall is torn down, and the audience becomes part of the story.

Now what does this have to do with Pentecost Sunday? I’ve often said that Pentecost is my favorite Sunday of the year. Whereas Christmas and Easter have become heavily commercialized by retailers, Pentecost remains the church’s day. You can’t buy a Happy Pentecost card, decorate your yard with inflatable tongues-of-flame lawn ornaments, or peruse ad circulars for Pentecost Day sales.

But I also like Pentecost because it breaks down the Fourth Wall of the biblical narrative. We might observe the rest of the Bible from a comfortable distance, but not so in Acts. We don’t live in Old Testament times, when God’s voice was clearly audible in burning bushes. We don’t live in gospel times, seeing Jesus face to face as the Word made flesh.

When Pentecost happened, God was revealed in spirit and power, in subtlety and strength, just the way we experience God today. And at that precise moment, God the Divine Screenwriter turned toward the camera, peered through the Fourth Wall that separated us from the ancient story and said to us, “This is your story now.”

We are the living embodiment of the ongoing story of Pentecost. It is now a story about us, living into the unfolding work of God’s power, wind and flame, to the farthest reaches of the earth.

Join us this Sunday for the celebration of Pentecost, as we worship the God who is invisible but active, subtle yet strong, almost imperceptible, but very, very real. We will conclude our Surprise! worship series with a sermon titled “The Ultimate Surprise Party.”

Together, let’s experience the power of the Holy Spirit.

Grace and Peace,


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

Have you taken our Stewardship Survey yet? If not, you please take three minutes to complete this anonymous survey.

It will help your Stewardship Team better understand our congregation’s connection with the spiritual practice of financial generosity, and how we can better support people growing in their discipleship.

God is always generous with us. Our response to God’s generosity is to be generous ourselves—to give of our time, talent and money. As followers of Jesus, we believe that there is a connection between our relationship to God and our relationship to money and possessions. Thank you in advance for your time. It is appreciated and matters.

Midweek Message: Together as One this Summer!

Midweek Message: Together as One this Summer!

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Ah, summer.

Do you know where the word summer came from? It’s from the Old English word sumor, which is derived from the early Germanic word sumer, which in turn came from the early Indo-European word sem.

And here’s the kicker. Do you know what sem meant? It meant “together” or “one.”

At the heart of summer is togetherness. It can and should be a time of creating memories with others and strengthening relationships with them. Whether that means going on vacation with your family, or spending long evenings in the backyard with friends, or heading out to the beach with loved ones, summer gives you a chance to feel like you are not alone.

That should most certainly include your church family. You may have a very busy summer ahead, but here are five practical ways you can stay “together” as “one” with Hyde Park United Methodist over the months ahead.


Have you worshipped online lately? View here. If it’s been a while, you’ll be amazed at how great the quality of the online experience is now. Our terrific worship tech team works very hard to make sure that those who join us remotely feel connected to everything that is happening live. Join us on your computer, tablet or smartphone, wherever you may be.


Our worship team has put together two terrific worship series that are sure to catch your interest. The first is “That’s Not in the Bible!” from June 16 to July 7, which will explore popular sayings that sound biblical but are not actually in the Bible. If you’ve ever heard (or even said) phrases like “Everything happens for a reason” or “God helps those who help themselves,” come join us and hear what the Bible has to say.

Then, we’ll once again offer a series based on recent popular films. It’s called “Faith at the Movies,” from July 14 to August 4. We’ll be exploring truths of the Christian faith as found in the movies “Mary Poppins Returns” (July 14), “The Little Prince” (July 21), “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” (July 28), and “Black Panther” (August 4). And if you haven’t seen these films, don’t worry! We’ll be having a special screening for everyone in the Magnolia Building on the Wednesday prior to each Sunday. Both of these series would be great opportunities for you to invite friends to worship.


Once again, we are ramping up for a joy-filled, energy-packed week of Vacation Bible School, this year themed “Roar!” We will have about 400 children learning about God’s love, led by hundreds of volunteers. In fact, we are still looking for about 30 adults to serve in some important roles throughout the week, so I invite you to check out our website to find out more. Even if you’ve never volunteered for VBS, you will get all the training you need to have as much fun as the children themselves. All you need is a willing heart and a caring spirit!


Throughout the upcoming months, scores of people from the church will be participating in various missions and ministry trips around the world. Will you mark these dates in your calendar and say a prayer for these teams as they travel and make God’s love real?

  • June 3-12: Chancel Choir in England visiting and singing at various Wesley heritage sites
  • June 17-22: 4th– 12th Graders at Warren Willis Camp
  • July 14-19: Youth Domestic Mission Experience at SIFAT (Science in Faith And Technology) in Lineville, AL
  • July 21-28: High School Missions Trip to Costa Rica doing VBS for local communities
  • Nov. 10-16: Adult mission trip to Southwest Florida for Hurricane Irma rebuilding. For more information, see the note below.


Finally, join us in reading, studying and praying through the Bible using our daily scripture readings. These texts have been carefully selected by our discipleship team to coincide with the themes of our worship series, and will unite us in experiencing the truths of the Bible all throughout the summer. Feel connected with the congregation as we read the Scriptures together! 

On behalf of the clergy, staff, and lay leadership of this church, I wish you and yours a blessed summer, as we stay together as one!

Grace and Peace,


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

If you are interested in learning more about the trip this November to Southwest Florida to help in the rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Irma, there is a planning meeting from 6–7:30 p.m. Monday, June 24 in Knox Hall Room 150. Sign up here.

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