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April 7, 2016

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Last Tuesday was Clean Sweep in the church office, one of my favorite days of the year. It was a time for all the staffers to go through our work spaces and declutter, reorganize, breathe and, in many cases, relive memories of the past.

Like archeologists digging through layers of geological strata to retell history, or botanists discovering a tree’s life span by considering its rings, we each found ourselves perusing bits-and-pieces of this-and-that, and doing some remembering.

That is precisely what happened as I tackled a large set of thirteen 3-inch binders at the bottom of my bookshelf. Jim Harnish had been remarkably diligent at keeping every newsletter and worship bulletin since 1992, the year he started at Hyde Park United Methodist. Before I packed up the binders into boxes to put them into permanent storage, I decided – just for kicks – to see what the church was up to many years ago.

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Do you want to know what was happening at the church exactly twenty years ago today? On April 7, 1996, it was Easter Sunday. And it was amazing to look back at how things were different back then. According to the worship bulletin:

  • There were only three worship services (no Chapel service and no 11 Magnolia), and the early service started at 8:15 (Traditional), not 8:30.
  • There were three ministers: Jim Harnish, Bernie Lieving, and Dick Martin.
  • The program staff was completely different from who it is today, and included Kristen Bargeron (Education), Nancy Callahan (Traditional Music), Peggy Ingram (Youth Ministries), Belinda Womack (Contemporary Music), Cynthia Lynn (Church Administrator), Anne Brown (Financial Secretary), Donna Studer (Membership Secretary) and many others.
  • Sermons were audio recorded and available on cassette tape, and there was a sermon talk back session right after the service.

There were many indications in the bulletin of how much times have changed in the past two decades. But do you want to know what has not changed?

You.

On the back of the bulletin, there was a list of all the people it took to make Easter Sunday happen. The tech team, in the back of the Sanctuary, making sure worship could be seen and heard; the Altar Guild, tending to the visual liturgical elements in the Sanctuary; the ushers, ensuring that everyone was greeted with a smile and that guests found a seat; the Children’s Ministries workers, who created an environment where kids were safe and parents were worry-free. Their names were listed there, including many of you who are still part of the church today.

It was a vivid visual reminder to me that ministers could come and go, staff could turn over and the format of our ministries can adapt over time. But the one constant determinant of a church’s health and vitality is the depth of involvement of its lay people. It is found in people like you, serving out of your giftedness, to advance the mission of the church.

Which, as it turns out, is the other clear resemblance of that bulletin to the present. Also on the back of that bulletin, emblazoned like a banner headline at the top, and embellished in full detail below it, was the very same mission and vision statement that has guided this church for more than twenty years:

Making God’s Love Real.

Volunteers serving out of their giftedness to fulfill the mission of the church. It is at that precise intersection of a church’s mission with its makeup, of its purpose with its people, that drives a church toward faithfulness into its future.

That is the basis for our current sermon series called “Say Yes.” To put it mostly simply, it is a campaign to encourage everyone to say yes to volunteering their time, their talents and energies to serve God in and through this church. It is a reminder that nothing in this church can happen without the invaluable work of its dedicated laity. And the key to our future vitality as a congregation is in your hands.

Along the way, you will be receiving material about this series, including a Say Yes Card, which will indicate your interest in exploring service in some ministry area of this church. I hope you and others in your family will prayerfully consider how you can “Say Yes” to God and be prepared to turn it in by our Say Yes Celebration Sunday on May 1. I would love for you to be counted among those in this church who will make God’s love real over the year to come.

Happy Easter!

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

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