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God Who Pays Attention

​Dear Lenten Pilgrims,

In my journey of living into “savor” as my key word for Lent, I am sharing a prayer I experienced last weekend that I have found to be very meaningful.

Last Saturday, I attended an event in Orlando called “Exploration,” which gathered people from around the country who are exploring a call into ministry. It was incredibly inspiring in its hopeful vision of the future of the United Methodist Church.

In one of the opening worship services, my colleague and friend Rev. Debbie Allen offered this guided prayer, which was published by the spiritual resource Enfleshed.

It is a prayer meant to be prayed slowly and meditatively to allow the Holy Spirit to move in and between the phrases. You might simply choose to read the prayer to yourself silently, pausing along the way. You might be creative, audio recording yourself on your phone or other device, so that you can close your eyes as you receive the prayer in your own voice. Or you might have someone else do the same for you, as you experience the prayer together.

However you offer it to God, may this prayer be a blessing to you as it was to me.

God Who Pays Attention

By M. Jade Keiser

God who feels,

God who pays attention,

God who formed webs of life entangled,

Help me to notice today…

To notice my body – what it’s telling me it needs and wants.

To notice my neighbors – who they are and how they are.

To notice the creatures and creations around me – each as a valuable life of their own.

You know my limitations – what is enough or too much

To be aware of at once.

To connect with.

To feel. To hold.

Do not allow me to rush pass what needs or deserves my attention.

Neither let me be overwhelmed by trying to bear more than my share.

Just help me to be alive to what is,

alive to you within and around.

Amen. 

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

My Word for Lent

Dear Lenten Pilgrims,

Last year, I gave up coffee for Lent. It went as you would expect; I found myself longing for Easter resurrection many times.

This year, I’ve decided a different approach. It doesn’t involve giving up something as it does focusing on something. It is captured in a word that I’m claiming as a guide over the next forty days.

Savor.

I’m going to focus as much attention as I can on savoring every aspect of being alive.

  • Savoring each conversation.
  • Savoring each bite.
  • Savoring each breath.
  • Savoring each punchline.
  • Savoring each sunset.
  • Savoring each beautiful day.
  • Savoring each ugly day.
  • Savoring every sensation of being alive.

Other traditions might call this mindfulness. It is a focus on the present that counters grief (which pulls us into the past) and fear (which pulls us into the future.) Savoring is a spiritual companion to gratitude, since one cannot be thankful without pausing, and pausing is an invitation to savoring.

In a way, I guess I am giving up something for Lent after all.

  • Giving up hurriedness.
  • Giving up envy.
  • Giving up shame.
  • Giving up boredom.
  • Giving up excess.
  • Giving up selfishness.
  • Giving up distractions.
  • Giving up life as usual, to gain life as God intends.

I’ll see how it goes. And yes, I’ll be savoring every sip of coffee.

Grace and Peace,

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

Defining Moments

Dear Hyde Park Family,

 

What are the defining moments of your life?

All of us can point to memories that we consider pivotal in shaping who we are today. Perhaps you think of the day you got married, the birth of a child, or the moment you survived a near-death episode. These moments change you, leaving an indelible imprint.

For Jesus, the transfiguration was a defining moment in his life. On a mountaintop with his three closest friends, Jesus appeared glowing white, accompanied by Elijah and Moses. And he heard a voice from heaven: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

The synoptic gospel writers tell this story about halfway in their gospels, to suggest that the transfiguration was not just important to the life of Jesus, it was important to the salvation story of all humanity. The presence of Elijah and Moses, the words heard at Christ’s baptism, and the allusion to mountaintop experiences throughout the Bible all point to the grand sweep of salvation history.

The transfiguration story is therefore a defining moment for all those who walk the life of faith. Will we choose to stay on the mountaintop, as Peter, James, and John preferred, or will we enter a life of self-sacrifice, commitment, and surrender to God?

Wesleyan Christians refer to the daily decisions to follow Jesus as the process of sanctification. It is the grace-empowered journey of slowly being conformed to the image of Christ in every aspect of our lives. Catherine Livingston was a nineteenth-century Methodist married to the preacher Freeborn Garretson. In an entry in her personal diary, she reflected on the defining moment in her life, when she chose to identify with Christ, in his death and resurrection:

I find myself more than ever engaged for sanctification. I desire to rest in nothing short of this great privilege. I want to serve my God with a perfect heart and willing mind. I have long seen a great beauty in this doctrine, and long to bear witness to the truth of it. I last night dreamed I was crucified. Be it so, Lord Jesus! Let me die that I may live, and that my life may be hid with you. Such a day of heaviness and travail of soul I have not experienced in a long time. (Garretson Family papers, UMC Archives, Drew University)

 
This Sunday, we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday, the final Sunday before the season of Lent. Join us for this important last step of preparation before we begin our journey to the cross.

In the words of Peter on the mountain, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

Grace and Peace,

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

The State of the Church

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Last Sunday night, we had our annual Leadership Gathering of elected committee members and ministry area volunteers. It was a time of connecting with other leaders in the church, learning about our church’s organizational structure, and anticipating the year ahead.

Our guest was our Bishop Tom Berlin, who offered insights into leadership in a large church, the hopeful future of our denomination, and reflections on the resurrection based on his book, The Third Day: Living the Resurrection, which we gave as a gift to all our leaders.

It also included my annual “State of the Church” address, in which I observed the many reasons to be grateful for over the past year, and offered the opportunities and challenges for us in the year ahead.

So, in lieu of a longer Midweek Message, I encourage you to watch my address here.

Thank you to our amazing collection of leaders and volunteers, as we embark on an exciting year ahead.

Grace and Peace,

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

The Treasure of True Friendships

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Like many of you, I watched the 80s NBC sitcom “The Golden Girls,” about a group of four elderly women who forged a deep and enduring friendship. You might also remember the opening lines of their theme song:

Thank you for being a friend.

Travel down the road and back again.

Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.

Many of our most popular television shows explored the beauty of true friendships, from “Cheers” (“Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name”) to “Friends” (“I’ll be there for you / When the rain starts to fall”) and even as far back as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (“Won’t you be my neighbor?”)

We all grew up knowing the value of having a close group of friends to be by our side, to help us face the highs and lows of life.

So, what’s gone wrong?

Many studies over recent years have chronicled our current “Friendship Recession.” The American Perspectives Survey, conducted by the Survey Center of American Life, (American Enterprise Institute, 2021) found that Americans have fewer closer friendships than they did in 1990, talk to their friends less often, and rely less on friends for personal support.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is a factor, but there are other explanations for this downward trend, including the fact that Americans are working longer hours and traveling more for work than before, diminishing time to make and maintain solid friendships. (American Enterprise Institute, 2021)

THIS SUNDAY: STRONGER FRIENDSHIPS

We will explore the value of friendships this Sunday as part of our current worship series “You are Not Alone.” We will gain insight from passages from the Bible’s wisdom literature – Ecclesiastes and Proverbs – including these famous verses: “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 5:9) and “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

We will also learn from the great C.S. Lewis, who wrote an essay on friendship in his book, “The Four Loves:”

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one … It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)

See you Sunday, as we rediscover the power of friendship, and learn ways to strengthen them.

Grace and Peace,

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

VBS

June 24 – 28, 2024!

Dive Below the Surface to Build a Strong Faith

Deadline to register is MAY 31!

Cost: $50 for Preschool – Grade 4 and $75 for Tweens

Schedule: Monday – Friday, 9:00AM – 12:00PM.

* Note: rising 5th and 6th graders have extended programming (until 3 p.m.) Tuesday and Thursday during VBS

 

Ready to Dive into the Scuba VBS volunteer team?

Adult and youth volunteer registration is now open! Early child registration is available for adult volunteers upon completion of the volunteer form.

Mini-VBS and Nursery care is available for children of volunteers. This is not a drop-off program but reserved for those volunteering. A link will be available once adult registration has been completed.

 

Volunteer Training: Thank you for serving at SCUBA VBS! Please mark your calendar for our mandatory VBS Volunteer Training on Wednesday, June 12 at 5:45 p.m.

 

Decorations and Construction: If you like crafting, being creative or even using a hammer, join the VBS Construction & Decoration Team on select Thursday mornings (9:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.).

Amazon Wish List: Have a heart to serve but limited time? Check out this amazon wishlist for VBS supply needs!

Have questions? Ask us here or contact the church office at 813-253-5388.

Day 1 – June 24

God Is a Friend Who Is Real.

Day 2 – June 25

God is a friend who loves!

Day 3 – June 26

God Is a Friend We Can Trust.

Day 4 – June 27

God is a friend forever!

 

Day 5 – June 28

God Is a Friend For Everyone.
What crew is my child in?

A parent email will be sent the week before VBS to all parents of registered children with crew information. This email will also contain pick-up passes which must be shown to your child’s crew leader at dismissal/pick up each day.

How does drop off / pick up work?

Morning drop off: Campers should be seated in the Sanctuary with their crew by 9 a.m. for opening worship each day. Doors open at 8:50 a.m., please escort your child inside the Sanctuary to their crew’s pew and drop off to their crew leaders.

Afternoon pick up: Dismissal will start at 12:10 p.m. each day.* Children should be picked up from their crew pew in the Sanctuary.

*Note: rising 5th and 6th graders will have extended hours on Tuesday, with dismissal at 3 p.m. from the Magnolia building. Dismissal on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday will be from the Sanctuary balcony at 12:15 p.m.

Can I watch closing worship?

All parents are invited to watch closing worship in the Harnish Center. (11 :35 a.m.- 12:10). If you need to get your children before dismissal, please come to campus before 11:40 a.m. and we will locate your child for you. 

What does my kid wear to VBS?

Each day your child should wear their VBS T-shirt. T-shirts can be picked up each Sunday in June in the Courtyard from 9 a.m. – noon. T-shirts can also be picked up in the church’s Ministry Office 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday-Thursday, and 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday. Shirts must be picked up by Sunday, June 26. If we have shirts left over, additional shirts can be purchased beginning Wednesday of VBS week (at the VBS info tent in the Sanctuary Courtyard. $5 each).

Please use a black Sharpie marker to write your child’s first name and crew number on the FRONT of the shirt. This will act as their nametag (Using a flat cardboard piece inside the shirt helps when you do this). We also suggest comfortable shorts and closed-toed shoes for their safety.

What if I can't pick up my child - can another parent, friend or grandparent pick them up?

YES, BUT THEY WILL NEED TO HAVE A COMPLETED PICK-UP PASS FOR YOUR CHILD TO PRESENT TO YOUR CHILD’S CREW LEADER. We are accepting pictures of completed Pick-Up Passes on smart phones as well. If your child’s pick-up person does not have a pass, they will be asked to go to our info tent outside in the Courtyard. They will need to show their driver’s license and we will check registration forms to see who has been authorized to pick up your child. If you did not list them as an authorized person to pick up your child in your child’s registration, we will call you to confirm authorization.

Will there be a 'VBS Recap Video' this year?

Yes! Join us for worship Sunday, June 30.

The Year In Review

Dear Hyde Park Faithful:

As we begin a new year of ministry at the church, we want to say, “Thank you!” Because of your generosity and faithfulness, this church made a profound impact in our community and around the world in 2023.

  • On Christmas Eve, 2,500 worshippers heard the good news of Christ’s birth, culminating a week of various services in which 4,000 people worshipped with us.
  • Our Harnish Center has served as a cold weather shelter eight times last year and already once this year, serving up to 80 persons each night.
  • Weekly worship attendance continues to be at or above pre-pandemic levels, and reaching new people through our online service, our Hyde Park services, and our 1001 gathering at The Portico.
  • Our children, youth, and Small Blessings preschool ministries have done amazing ministry to the young people and families in our congregation. We also opened a brand-new, beautiful playground on the Hyde Park campus.
  • We served over 9,000 meals at the Hyde Park and Portico campuses to people experiencing homelessness. We are also among the first institutions to receive Breadcoin to serve our unhoused guests, which you can read about [PROVIDE LINK, BELOW]
  • We gained over 90 new members, welcomed 28 baptisms, and had over 3,000 hours of personal contact through our congregational care volunteers.
  • Our most recent generosity campaign has brought in over 40 new commitments, and over 140 people who are increasing their pledge from last year.
  • And because of your faithful giving, we were able to finish 2023 with a surplus, enabling us to cover all our church expenditures and fund major improvements.

This spirit of joy and excitement is captured beautifully by a woman named Donna N., who said, “After leaving the church where I had grown up and served for more than 50 years, I didn’t know if I would ever find a place that felt like home again. Then a friend invited me to Hyde Park and after one visit, I knew I was home.

You helped us finish last year strong, and you are helping us make 2024 even more amazing. This Sunday, at our annual church conference, the Finance Committee will propose a budget that meets our threshold of being underwritten by your pledges. It once again promises to be an exciting year of ministries and programs for our community and our world.

Thank you, Hyde Park, for making a difference, and for making God’s love real!

With Gratitude,

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

THIS SUNDAY: STRONGER FAMILIES

We continue our worship series “You are Not Alone” by exploring our most personal relationships of all: those within our own families. We’ll listen for what Paul said to the Ephesians, and discover ways to strengthen our relationships with our own family members.

 

FOSTERING CONNECTIONS SEMINAR THIS WEDNESDAY

Coinciding with our January sermon series “You Are Not Alone,” we will be offering another FREE seminar by licensed psychologist, Dr. Erica J. Clark. It takes place on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 6:30pm. She will be discussing a variety of topics including fostering new connections, communicating effectively, building healthy boundaries and navigating conflict. Learn more and register here.

Bike Ministries

Calling all bike enthusiasts and compassionate hearts! Our Bike Ministry is gearing up, and we need your pedal power and passion Sundays 9-11 a.m. on the corner of Azeele and Magnolia. Whether you’re experienced in bike repair or want to donate parts, come be a part of something truly impactful. Contact Mike with questions or to volunteer.

The Time Draws Near

Dear Hyde Park Family,

“The Birth of Christ”
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The time draws near the birth of Christ;
The moon is hid–the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,
From far and near, on mead and moor,
Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound.

Each voice four changes on the wind,
That now dilate and now decrease,
Peace and good-will, good-will and peace,
Peace and good-will to all mankind.

Rise, happy morn! rise, holy morn!
Draw forth the cheerful day from night;
O Father! touch the east, and light
The light that shone when hope was born!

On behalf of the clergy, staff, and lay leadership of Hyde Park United Methodist, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love,

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

The Annunciation (in Rhymed Narration)

Dear Hyde Park Family,

We are ten days away from that grand, holy night
When we’ll gather for carols and warm candlelight

To celebrate Christmas, and Jesus Christ’s birth
And God’s gift of love given to the whole earth

But first there’s this Sunday: Advent Week Three!
When we will thank God for the girl named Mary!

We’ll re-read her story, in Luke chapter one
When God called on her to give birth to a Son.

What was it like, as that story unfolded?
When Mary was called, as Isaiah foretold it?

“A young woman will come and give birth to a boy
Immanuel’s the name that this boy will employ.”

Well, come with me now, to that most holy scene,
And imagine with me all that we would have seen.

Back two thousand years, to zero B.C.
(Or as academics might say, back to 4 B.C.E.)

We come to her home, and we knock on her door
We hear footsteps approaching, from the indoors

She appears before us, and the first thing we see,
Is that Mary’s so young! Just barely a teen!

What we also can see is how common she appears
No glitz, and no sparkle, not mature past her years

As a girl, she’s quite plain in a quite troubled time
Could this be what Isaiah said would be God’s sign?

Then suddenly, from nowhere, with a loud boom
Came the presence of something quite big in the room

We jump to our feet! We jump here and there!
For an angel’s appeared here, right out of thin air!

“Mary” he says to her, “Peace be with you”
“The Lord is with you and he favors you, too”

We all look at Mary, and she’s white as a ghost
She’s never played host to a Heavenly Host

What is this girl thinking, while she’s standing right there?
Is she frightened with fear, is she gripped with a scare?

Then we see, in her eyes: she is troubled, confused.
(If to you came an angel, wouldn’t you be so, too?)

She’s a normal young teen in a Nazareth town
Just the typical type that we’d see all around

In a sense, she’s no different from the you’s and the me’s
So she wonders, “Why me, Lord? Tell me, won’t you please?”

We guess the angel reads minds, ‘cause he rightly reads ours
He says, “Don’t be afraid, Mary.” And he says this with power:

“God has richly blessed you, and soon you will give birth
To God’s one only Son, the Messiah, on earth.”

“God will make him a king, somewhat like ones you’ve known
Just like David his ancestor was king long ago.”

“He will be a great king, over all Jacob’s kin
And the kingdom he rules?  It will never end.”

Then Mary opened her mouth, and she sounded quite tense
As she started to speak, her words really made sense.

She said, “How can this be, I am such a young girl!”
I cannot be pregnant, there’s no way in the world!”

(She does make a point, she’s not married just yet
And the baby-maker-kit is a two-person set!)

Then the angel replied, his voice strong and secure
He responded with words that were divinely assured:

“The Spirit of God upon you will arrive”
And then in your womb the Messiah will thrive.”

“God’s power will rest upon you and this one;
For this reason, your child will be called God’s Only Son

“And in case you forget this, please let me remind you
Of this one certain truth: there’s nothing God cannot do.”

We are speechless by now, and not one of us speaks
We’ve lost touch with reality, in some bad campy flick

And again, we see Mary. She’s different somehow
No longer afraid, she’s more confident now

She says, “I am the Lord’s; may this happen to me.”
Then the angel, at once, could no longer be seen.

We stand blinking, perplexed, trying to pick up the clues
Is the prophet’s prediction now coming true?

Could it be, we now wonder, that our wait is no more?
Isaiah’s words are fulfilled, as we’d heard them before?

The young woman foretold in the days from the past
Is this Mary, this one who was least of the last

And Jesus Christ, God with us, this boy Immanuel
Will come down to earth to proclaim, “All is Well!”

Here is what’s powerful to hear every Christmas:
It’s not just that God came, but how God comes to us

God came through some people, just like you and like me
Not special-brand people, just from good family trees

When God’s Love Became Real in a most holy birth
God chose plain, simple folks, the most common on earth

So it shows that when God does extraordinary deeds
God prefers to use folks just like you and like me

You don’t need special training, or a call to the cloth
You don’t need to use words like “Thus sayeth” and “Doth”

All God wants from you now is a true, open heart
To say yes to the Lord when God gives you your part

In a tension-filled world that is battered and bruised
In a time when deep anger and resentment are fused

When we wonder how God might come redeem us again
When we wonder how God might come save us from sin

There is only one answer, from the Bible we’ve heard
That we’re Joseph and Mary and we can bear God’s Word

Will you choose today to say yes to God’s call?
To say yes to the one who was born in a stall?

Will you not wait to have it all start to make sense
And like Mary declare to God obedience?

The world needs Christ today, and to that there’s no doubt
The Christ that’s within you, you must boldly give out.

In the name of our God who created the heavens,
And redeems us, sustains us, we all say, Amen.

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