Midweek Message: Creativity in a Time of Crisis

Midweek Message: Creativity in a Time of Crisis

Dear Hyde Park Family,

We continue to be in prayer for you and your loved ones, along with all those affected by the coronavirus. We pray for our health care workers, first responders and government officials as they face this global pandemic. And we pray for workers, business owners and families who are facing financial hardship.

It is in times like these that a church like ours is called to be a beacon of love and an assurance of hope for our community and the world. Here are the many ways that you are part of Hyde Park United Methodist’s efforts to make God’s love real near and far.

  • Our livestream worship services have hundreds joining us in real time, with thousands reached afterwards via social media;
  • Our Open Arms ministry continues in a modified format, balancing the safety of those involved with the serving of meals to our homeless guests. 165 persons were quickly served a bag lunch and bottle of water and dismissed last Sunday using the wide space of the Magnolia parking lot;
  • Children’s Ministries has a “Church at Home” page on our website that will be updated weekly with Bible lessons, videos and ways to connect with your church family. Join the Children’s Ministries Facebook group for lots of weekly fun engagement with Children’s Ministries. And visit our Resources page on the website for helpful tips and articles for parents;
  • Our Bible Project 2020 continues to connect our congregation in a common journey, with 36 of our small groups still meeting regularly in some digital format;
  • Our clergy team broadcasts a brief time of prayer, Scripture reading, and reflection at 9 a.m. weekday mornings on the Hyde Park’s Facebook page, reaching hundreds every day. The Rev. Justin LaRosa is also hosting a time of meditation and prayer at 12:15 p.m. weekdays on The Portico’s Facebook page;
  • Our Little Dresses sewing ministry has partnered with JoAnn Fabrics and is making face masks for health care professionals;
  • Our congregational care ministry has blossomed from 2 to 35 volunteer callers, checking on elderly members who are homebound and isolated;
  • Our New Member Class has been meeting online, and we look forward to receiving them into membership on April 5;
  • Our Merge youth ministry now gathers on Sunday nights through Instagram Live, supports our families through a Parent Ministry Zoom call, and continues Confirmation classes via video conference calls;
  • Our Small Blessings preschool teachers are sharing “virtual circle time” videos for its classes of children, engaging them in a time of playful conversation and learning;
  • Our previously scheduled Seder dinner will continue in an online format, with Rabbi Nathan Farb of Congregation Schaarai Zedek teaching us about this important Jewish observance;
  • A team of lay leaders, including the chairpersons of our major committees, now meets weekly to monitor the church’s financial situation with a vigilant and non-anxious spirit. We are also grateful for the ongoing guidance of our stewardship consultant from Horizons Stewardship.

The history of the church is filled with numerous moments when God summons a spirit of innovation and creativity to respond to significant crises. Adapting our ministries amid the whirlwind of these last two weeks has felt like trying to convert a sailboat into a submarine, but it is happening, by the grace of God.

Thank you for continuing to be part of God’s amazing story, through your prayers and support of Hyde Park United Methodist. We are called to be the church in such a time as this, and God will see us through.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

Special Midweek Message

Special Midweek Message

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Our church is joining the global efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus, protect those most vulnerable to disease, and mitigate undue stress on our medical systems. We have decided to suspend all on-campus programming, including worship and all other activities, until further notice.

Starting Wednesday, the Hyde Park campus will be closed to the public, and our staff will be working remotely. Programs and events at The Portico Campus are also suspended, but The Portico Café remains open for now. For the latest real-time updates and information, visit our website, or email your questions to info@hydeparkumc.org.

As I shared in my sermon last Sunday, this time of uncertainty provides an opportunity for us to both remember and demonstrate what makes Hyde Park United Methodist such a special church. It is not about bricks and mortar, or a full slate of onsite programming or outward appearances alone. Instead, it is your heart and mine, filled with a love for God and others, that serves as a beacon of hope for the world.

In other words, you and I can still demonstrate what is best about being the church, even while we are temporarily apart. Using the seven spiritual practices of our Discipleship Pathway, here are practical ways for you to grow deeper in your faith and wider in your sharing of God’s love:

Worship:

  • Join us online on our website or Facebook Live for live streamed services every Sunday at 9:30 and 11 a.m.
  • Starting Thursday, the clergy team will take turns offering live a brief time of prayer, scripture reading, and reflection every morning, Monday through Friday, on Facebook Live.

Small Groups:

  • We encourage your small group to stay connected and studying together, especially if you are part of the Bible Project. We encourage you to meet via email, Facebook or Zoom conference call.
  • Our Bible Project Facebook page can be a way for you to stay current on the readings and exchange ideas with one another.

Service:

  • Pay attention to the needs of people around you, especially those who are most vulnerable.
  • Be extra kind and patient with others, since they may be just as jittery as you.

Give Generously:

  • Keeping up with your financial contributions will be immensely helpful to the church during these unsteady times. You can give securely through our website.
  • Streamline your giving by setting up automatic electronic funds transfer, removing the need to write a check each week. Sign up with this form.

Read Scripture:

  • It is serendipitous that we are doing The Bible Project 2020 this year, as it gives us a way to be connected to each other through the practice of reading the Scripture every day.
  • Podcasts will continue to be uploaded every Monday morning, and the daily devotional and other resources can be found at bibleproject2020.com.

Invitation:

  • Does someone you know need a word of encouragement or hope? Share with them links to our worship service last Sunday, and invite them to join us online (hydeparkumc.org/live.)

Prayer:

  • Let us know what prayer concerns and pastoral needs you may have. Regulations from various hospitals may prohibit us from being able to visit you in the hospital, but we can pray for you and stay in contact with your family for updates. Share your prayer concerns through our website form.
    Finally, join us in reading and praying the words of Psalm 91 every day for the next 91 days.

Last week, Rev. Kathy Conner invited us and other area churches to join them in this effort. She and other clergy serving in Africa in 2014 during the deadly Ebola outbreak began reading Psalm 91 for 91 days. In the week of the 91st day, the New York Times reported that the Ebola virus was “finished” in the epicenter of Liberia, much to the amazement of health officials.

Now, more than ever, it is good to be the church.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

Midweek Message: Being Transcends Appearance

Midweek Message: Being Transcends Appearance

Dear Lenten Pilgrims,

In William Paul Young’s bestselling book The Shack, Jesus has a lengthy conversation with the main character Mack, who admitted to Jesus that he was not quite as handsome as he had imagined him to be. “I just thought you’d be better-looking,” he said. Mack realized that the Jesus he had always envisioned was an “icon, an idea, an image through which he tried to grasp a sense of spirituality, but not a real person.”

Jesus responded that if Mack really got to know him, it wouldn’t matter what he looked like. “Being always transcends appearance – that which only seems to be,” he said. “Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearance fades away until they simply no longer matter.”

Our tendency to value appearance over being is at the heart of this Sunday’s worship service, based on 1 Samuel 16:1-13. It is the story of how God’s surprising choice for David to succeed Saul as King of Israel. Though David was far from the ideal image of a king that the people had in mind, Samuel told them, “Humans look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

If we will just open our eyes, we have opportunities all the time to see the beauty of a person’s being, far beyond their appearance. Last week our Merge Youth Ministries led our morning worship services, stirring the hearts of every person in attendance. The youth were vulnerable, authentic and confident about the power of God at work in them. If you missed the sermon, and the power of their “Cardboard Testimonies” at the end, take time to watch it and see why there were very few dry eyes in the Sanctuary.

Also last Sunday, I attended the Open Arms Bible Study, where every week, members of our church lead a Bible study for more than a dozen of our homeless guests. Like the youth, they spoke earnestly and faithfully about God’s presence and love for them, making personal connections to the story of Ruth and Naomi. It was a deeply moving and humbling experience to be among them.

Truly, being always transcends appearance.

Let those words prepare you for worship this Sunday and invite God to help you see beneath the outward appearance of the people you meet throughout the week. Allow their inner character to surprise you, bless you, and reveal to you the image of Jesus himself.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE
All church activities continue as planned, observing the health and safety precautions outlined in last week’s Midweek Message, including passing the peace “in spirit, but not by touch.” As a reminder, our Sanctuary services are live streamed on our website and on Facebook, and we invite you to register your attendance and make your contributions online. Let us continue to “be careful and stay calm.” (Isaiah 7:4)

BIBLE PROJECT 2020 READINGS THIS WEEK
The readings this week detail the powerful reign of King David and introduce his son Solomon as his successor. They encompass just about every strong human emotion, including grief and revenge, and remind us just how human David was. As you read the passages, look for ways that you can learn from both the positive and negative aspects of David’s character. For a full list of resources in the Bible Project 2020, visit bibleproject2020.com.

SEDER OBSERVANCE, APRIL 1
Experience the traditional Jewish Passover meal that celebrates the Exodus at a multigenerational Seder dinner 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 1 in the Harnish Activities Center. It will be led by Rabbi Nathan Farb from the Congregation Schaarai Zedek from 6-7 p.m., followed by a delicious, kosher dinner buffet from 7-8 p.m. This event is open to fourth grade and older students. Cost is $8 for children, 12 years and younger, and $13.50 per person for 12 years and older. RSVPs must be received before Monday, March 16. For questions or more information is on our website or contact Emily Kuche, Director of Youth Ministries.

Midweek Message: Calm Yet Cautious

Midweek Message: Calm Yet Cautious

Dear Hyde Park Family,

When King Ahaz of Judah was facing an imminent threat to the welfare of his people, Isaiah offered him this encouraging yet cautionary word: “Be careful and stay calm. Don’t fear, and don’t lose heart.” (Isaiah 7:4)

That is a helpful word for each of us as we live though another cold and flu season, but as concerns over the coronavirus rise both locally and around the world. It is important for us to “be careful and stay calm,” in all we do.

Here are some important reminders from the Centers for Disease Control to keep in mind:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds.

We would like you to know of the following precautions that we are taking here at the church, to ensure your safety:

  • Entrances into each building have hand sanitizer dispensers that will be routinely filled.
  • Worship attendees will be encouraged to use non-touch modes of greeting during the passing of the peace (waving, peace sign, etc.)
  • Communion servers will continue to use hand sanitizer prior to distributing the elements.
  • Livestreaming of our Sanctuary services will continue through our website and Facebook page, enabling those who are away to join us. Please register your attendance and make your contributions online.

As we move through this Lenten season, let us practice a balance between calm and caution, choosing not to fear or lose heart.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

BIBLE PROJECT 2020
We now enter the rich stories of 1 Samuel, including the call of the prophet Samuel, the reign of conflicted King Saul, and the introduction to the iconic hero David. We look forward to our youth this Sunday, who will be leading us in worship and a deeper exploration of Samuel’s call.

Join us in the daily readings, the latest podcast, and many other resources, as we seek to cultivate more attentiveness to God’s words and work in our lives. Visit bibleproject2020.com for more.

Midweek Message: Seven Questions for Lent

Midweek Message: Seven Questions for Lent

Dear Lenten Pilgrims,

Most of the time, I write these Midweek Messages. And on very rare occasions, the Midweek Message comes to me. Such was the case last Monday night, when a member of our Vision Implementation Team (who wishes to remain anonymous) offered an opening devotional for our meeting.

His opening prayer was extemporaneous, from the heart, and included these deeply provocative questions that I will use to guide my Lenten journey. I encourage you to do the same:

God, help us to ask ourselves each week:

  • What did I give – talents, time or money – in response to your leading?
  • When did I apply Scripture to a decision?
  • When did I invite someone into a life with Christ?
  • Am I praying for my friends and my enemies?
  • Where did worship send me?
  • How have I connected with my faith community beyond Sunday worship?
  • Have I walked with someone not like me?

Not only are these incredibly profound questions similar to the twenty-two questions that John Wesley recommended for use in early Methodist bands and classes. They also beautifully capture the seven spiritual practices of our discipleship pathway: Worship, Small Groups, Service, and GRIP: Giving Generously, Reading Scripture, Inviting Others and Prayer.

So, I offer them to you, that they may guide your Lenten journey and draw you deeper into faithful obedience to God through these disciplines. May God strengthen and encourage you in each area, as we take up our crosses and follow Jesus each step of the way.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

BIBLE PROJECT 2020
This week’s readings carry us through the intensity of the Judges, the warm companionship of Ruth and the faithful attentiveness of Samuel. This set of stories is a critically pivotal transition for the Israelites, who move through their adolescence as a confederacy of tribes into a formidable nation.

As you read them, look for what each major character teaches us about Godly character, through both their positive and negative examples. That is the theme for our Lenten series, “Cross Your Heart: The You that Only God Can See.”

For more about our Bible Project 2020, including the latest podcast and the daily readings, visit bibleproject2020.com.

Midweek Message: Taking the Bible Seriously (But not always literally)

Midweek Message: Taking the Bible Seriously (But not always literally)

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Is the story of Joshua true?

First of all, if you’ve been reading along with us in The Bible Project 2020, congratulations for making it to today! We have officially finished the Pentateuch, and with today’s start of Joshua, we are back to good old-fashioned storytelling.

Over the next five days, we will be reading stories of conquest and courage, as the Israelites finally claim the promised land of Canaan. It begins with the crossing of the Jordan River, the march around the walls of Jericho, followed by victory for the Israelite people.

But is it true?

One of my more startling discoveries in college came when I took a course on biblical archeology, in which I studied the work of Kathleen Kenyon, who devoted much of her life to unearthing the ancient city of Jericho. Many biblical scholars date the arrival of Joshua and the Israelites into Jericho at roughly 1,400 B.C.E. However, Kenyon determined that Jericho had actually fallen some 150 years earlier, and the walls were still down when Joshua arrived.

What do we do with that?

If the story is not historically true, then we sometimes go the other way, and go too far in making it metaphorically true. We take it to mean that victory equals blessing, that our conquest is evidence that God is on our side. Do you ever cringe when you hear a sports figure thank God after winning a game? Or when a political leader claims divine blessing after a successful military campaign? And what does it say to indigenous people whose lands have been taken from them? That God wasn’t on their side?

The book of Joshua is booby trapped with possibilities for misuse, misunderstanding and misapplication. That makes it a perfect book for us to study together, reading it thoughtfully and seriously, without having to take it all literally. Like every book in the Bible, it can be coerced to fit our agenda, or even worse, weaponized to cause harm to others.

But it also has the power to transform our lives, to help us “be strong and courageous, for God is with us wherever we go.” (Joshua 1:9) That’s the rich potential I pray we will discover together this Sunday in worship, in your small groups, and in all the resources that are part of The Bible Project 2020.

See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

HOLY LAND TRIP 2021
The Rev. Justin LaRosa is leading a trip to Israel on Jan. 5-14, 2021, and will be hosting an information meeting at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, March 1 in Knox Hall Room 152. It would be a great way to experience live the stories we will have read throughout this year. For more information, contact Justin.

BIBLE PROJECT 2020
Now is a perfect time to join us in the journey or jump back in if you took a break during the Pentateuch. For the upcoming week’s daily readings in Joshua and Judges, along with the latest episode of the podcast and all the other resources, visit bibleproject2020.com.

This week in the readings, look for the growing pains that the Israelites went through as they transitioned from wanderer to conqueror to settled community. Look for ways to apply those lesson to your life. What do these stories teach you about trusting God, treating sin seriously, and being fearless?

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