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,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor
Hyde Park United Methodist
VOLUNTEERS FOR VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL

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.

MIDWEEK MESSAGE RESUMES IN AUGUST

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,

Magrey

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,

Magrey

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

A FEW MINUTES OF YOUR TIME
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.

1. WORSHIP ONLINE

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.

2. FAITH AT THE MOVIES

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.

3. VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL

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!

4. PRAY FOR OUR CHURCH TRIPS

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.

5. DAILY SCRIPTURE READING

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,

Magrey

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

ADULT MISSIONS TRIP FOR HURRICANE REBUILDING
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.

Midweek Message: The Long Shadow of Mental Illness

Midweek Message: The Long Shadow of Mental Illness

Dear Hyde Park Family,

In 1949, the National Association for Mental Health (now Mental Health America) began designating the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a good time to acknowledge the prevalence of mental health challenges in our society, and it is an opportunity for us to combat the unfortunate stigma that is often associated with those fighting mental illness.

It’s an illness that affects about one in four people in the world. The World Health Organization names it as one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. By next year, it will be second only to heart disease in its prevalence among global diseases. See their report.

Chances are, someone you know and care for is affected by some form of mental illness. It may even be you. It shows no preference for any one demographic or life stage, and casts a long shadow in the homes, churches, schools, and workplaces throughout our communities.

If you’re looking for biblical precedent, many scholars point to 1 Samuel 18:10 as the best example of a biblical character who may have had depression: “The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Take a moment to pray for those affected by some form of mental illness. Work to overcome your own prejudice against people who are suffering, and help stem society’s stigma. Reach out in love and concern to loved ones you know who deal with this on a daily basis. Offer them a note of understanding, a compassionate ear or simply a kind word.

And take care of yourself! I, for one, have been blessed with a number of great therapists over the years, especially the one I am seeing now. Some of the finest, healthiest people I know are unashamedly candid about their personal challenges, and the great benefits they have received from a solid support system.

So, if you are one of the millions dealing with mental illness, know that you need not walk this journey alone. Seek out the trusted counsel of a friend or professional, and feel the presence of God’s peace in your life. And of course, the pastors of this church are here to recommend therapists and counselors, and to provide spiritual counsel as part of your journey toward healing.

Together, let’s do the work of the church, and be a beacon of light for those who walk along dark paths.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

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

UMC RESOURCE FOR MENTAL HEALTH
The United Methodist Board of Church and Society offers this helpful resource regarding mental illness. It provides biblical and spiritual guidance, along with practical steps and connections to helpful programs.

Midweek Message: To Grace, on Your Graduation

Midweek Message: To Grace, on Your Graduation

Dear Hyde Park Family,
At 4 p.m. on Friday, at the Florida State Fairgrounds, my older daughter Grace will be among roughly 600 graduates of Plant High School, walking across the stage, turning their tassels, and embarking on an exciting new chapter of their lives. This fall, Grace will be attending the Weber Honors College at San Diego State University, a few hours from her mother in California, and near her uncle who lives in San Diego. She will be majoring in history and political science, aiming to someday help shape public policy.
To process the fullness of my emotions in this moment, I decided to write this week’s Midweek Message in the form of this letter to Grace that I shared with her this morning.
Dear Grace,
Soon after you were born, one of my favorite things to do to comfort you at night was to nestle you against my chest, your little head gently tucked into nook of my neck, as I softly sang one of my favorite hymns:
“This is a day of new beginnings,
time to remember and move on,
time to believe what love is bringing,
laying to rest the pain that’s gone.”
As we approach the moment of your graduation from high school, I cannot help but claim the truth of that hymn for you. It will be one of many “new beginnings” you will experience in your life: some filled with excitement, some born of pain, but each one carrying both anticipation and anxiety about the future.
That’s what makes watershed moments like this so significant. They feel like the finish line, the starting line and a mile marker all at once. Your graduation is the culmination of diligent work and many achievements. It is also the beginning of a bright yet unknown future that is yours to claim. And in the end, it is just one of many milestone moments that will make your life rich and surprising.
So, I join you in feeling all the emotions that this day brings. Your mother, sister, and I are intensely proud of you, for the dedication you brought to your studies, the passion you brought to your leadership in the band and your clubs, the enthusiasm you brought to your work at the Tampa Bay History Center, the devotion you brought to the church youth group, and the joy, laughter, and wit you brought to your family and friends every day.
We are so excited for what this next chapter will bring you. As a college student, you will experience new found, well-deserved independence. You will be able to make many of your own choices, which means dealing with your own consequences. You will discover who you are, and who you are not. You will succeed at times, and sometimes you will fail. You will gain great knowledge, as well as learn the limits of your understanding. You will sometimes come up short, even if you do all the right things. You will confront your fears, and sometimes feel overwhelmed by them. This is all part of maturing into adulthood, and it is as exciting and daunting as it sounds.
But even amid all these changes and challenges, a few things will remain constant. The first is that you will never be alone. In every moment, there will always be a huge cheering section by your side. Your mom, sister, and I will always be your greatest supporters, as will everyone in the family. You know that I am always a phone call or text message away, and I eagerly welcome every chance you have to come home. You have a church that will be praying for you and all your fellow church graduates over the months to come. And you have gathered a solid network of friends that love and care for you.
The other constant, of course, is your faith. God began a good work in you from the moment you were born. Your mother and I claimed it on your behalf at the time of your baptism, and you accepted it for yourself when you were confirmed. You have a much more nuanced faith than I had at your age, able to embrace both faith and reason, mercy and justice, and conviction and doubt in a way that God will use throughout your life. As you stay faithful to your spiritual roots, you will discover God’s fruit born in and through you in ways you cannot imagine.
The last verse of that hymn is about as good a benediction that I could possibly offer to you:
“Christ is alive, and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.”
I could not be prouder of you, Grace. God bless you, each and every day, as God continues to make all things new, in and through you.
Love,
Dad

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