June 15, 2023
Dear Hyde Park Family,
Thank you for your prayers for last week’s gathering of the Florida Annual Conference, themed “Abound in Hope.” It was the 26th one I have attended in my ministry, and, by far, it was the most hope-filled, energizing, and forward looking of them all. Videos for all the plenary sessions and worship services are available on the Conference website.
Here were the highlights for me:
- Our new Bishop, Tom Berlin, offered a stirring and inspiring opening address, and our opening worship service included a powerful act of blessing on those who have chosen to disaffiliate from our denomination. It enabled us to step out of the past and begin claiming the future together.
- Our clergy session approved all the candidates recommended by the Board of Ordained Ministry, which I chair. This included all those who were denied commissioning last year, as well as the first openly gay persons to serve as ministers in Florida United Methodism. To read about what happened, here is an article from The Lakeland Ledger. You can also read my opening remarks to the clergy session here.
- We were blessed with Bible studies by Dr. Carla Works, professor of New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. She explored the biblical foundation for our theme “Abound in Hope” in the writings of the Apostle Paul. I encourage you to watch her two brief presentations online.
- We affirmed a resolution that will comprehensively change the organizational structure of the United Methodist Church worldwide, enabling different countries to tailor their ministries and social positions according to what is most effective in their contexts. If this is approved at next year’s General Conference and later ratified by Annual Conferences, this could finally move us past the painful debate over LGBTQIA+ inclusion.
All throughout the week, there was a spirit of lightness, joy, and expectation, culminating in what was the most celebrative worship service of licensing, commissioning, and ordination I’ve ever attended.
HOPE ABOUNDS AT HYDE PARK
The next day, last Sunday, I returned exhausted and exhilarated for a morning of worship. But everywhere I turned, there was evidence that the same Spirit that was re-energizing Florida United Methodism was doing the same in and through our church:
- In worship, the staff and I once again met several new families, who expressed their joy in worshipping with us. Some had come from recently disaffiliated churches in our area. Others had been worshipping with us online, then visited in person for the first time. Others came from the invitation of a friend. All of them said they would be back.
- We welcomed another new member class of people committed to following Jesus and fulfilling the mission, vision, and core values of our church.
- After worship, I participated in “Leadership Door,” an event sponsored by our Committee on Lay Leadership that invites people to explore volunteer leadership opportunities in the church. The fifteen people in attendance are deeply faithful, high-capacity persons who have demonstrated leadership in other churches, in their civic and business world, and even on the Conference level. They have recently come to Hyde Park and believe in our mission and core values. It is exciting to have this richness of leadership in the church.
- This week, our Children’s Ministries are abuzz with excitement and preparations for our “Stellar” Vacation Bible School in a little over a week, with all the donation items claimed and all our volunteer slots filled. Thanks be to God!
- Our Merge Youth Ministries program is spending this week in their annual “Missions Week,” where every day a huge crew of teens and adults is volunteering in area agencies that are our missions partners: Hillsborough House of Hope, Quantum Leap Farm, Rosa Valdez, and ECHO Ministries. It is thrilling to see them serving others, having fun, and growing closer to each other. To follow them on Facebook, click here.
Whew. I cannot describe the relief, joy, and hope I feel for who we are becoming as Florida United Methodists, and the broad, wide-open future we have as Hyde Park United Methodist.
Monday morning, one of our newest church members who attended Leadership Door shared the lyrics of “Land of Hope and Dreams” by Bruce Springsteen, of whom he and I have a
mutual appreciation. I listened to it to start the week, and its refrain beautifully captures the hope and anticipation of where God is leading us:
I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings
This train, all aboard
I said, now, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singin’
This train, bells of freedom ringin’
Come on this train
People get ready
You just get on board (people get ready)
You just thank the Lord (people get ready)
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
THIS SUNDAY: I AM THE DOOR
We continue our worship series on the “I am” statements of Jesus in John’s gospel with John 10, in which Jesus says, “I am the door.” Join us in person or online as we discover the key to the abundant life that God intends for us. As always, if you are unable to join us, our worship services are archived for viewing and sharing with others throughout the week.