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Exchanging Burdens

September 21, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Today is the feast day of St. Matthew, the person traditionally credited as the author of the first gospel. Born into the Hebrew tribe of Levi, Matthew was a tax collector who met Jesus, became his disciple, and wrote an eye-witness account of his life, death, and resurrection.

Matthew’s gospel is similar in many ways to the others, especially Mark and Luke. But there are passages that are unique to his: the Sermon on the Mount, the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, and most especially, the Great Commission.

But one special passage that catches my attention today is in Matthew 11:18-20, about exchanging the burdens we are carrying for the lighter yoke of Jesus. I suspect it’s one that you need to read and reflect on today:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I invite you to read this scripture a few times, slowly and prayerfully. Note what is happening in your body to indicate the heavy burdens in your mind and heart. Envision accepting the invitation of Jesus, literally handing over those burdens and exchanging them for the lightness of God’s love and favor.

Remember that Jesus never promised us a life free from burdens. Jesus instead offers us a lighter one. Imagine the feeling of letting go of a 30-lb weight for a 5-lb one. Your muscles have been both fatigued and conditioned by the heavier weight, so picking up the lighter one feels so much freer, maybe even joyful.

This is the kind of life that God desires for you.


We continue our worship series on Christian ethical and moral formation called “Good and Faithful: Life Well Done.” This Sunday we will be focusing on the sacredness of life. We will again tie it into stories, illustrations, and songs from live theater, to help these ideas come to life.

We invite you to click here for additional weekly resources, including lectures by Dr. David Gushee, who wrote Introducing Christian Ethics, on which this series is partially based. The website will also have links to YouTube clips that feature songs from the musicals we are referencing.

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist



This Sunday will also be a special and bittersweet day for our congregation, as we celebrate Rev. Vicki Walker and her 24 years of ministry among us. We will recognize her throughout the morning services and online, and then join at 4pm for a celebration in the Harnish Center. Visit our website for details on the event, and click here  to contribute to a love offering to her. Thank you, Vicki!

Good and Faithful

September 14, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

In case you missed worship last Sunday, we introduced our current fall series “Good and Faithful: Life Well Done.” It is a series that explores Christian character, based on a book by Dr. David Gushee titled: Introducing Christian Ethics: Core Convictions for Christians Today. Visit our website for resources that supplement the series each week, including a link to purchase this book.

I had not read a book on Christian Ethics since my seminary days, but I picked it up from a recommendation of a friend, and from the book’s reputation for addressing many controversial, polarizing topics of our day from a Christian perspective.

When I got to chapter 8 in the book, the part that explains five qualities that constitute the moral core for Christian people, I knew I had to explore these five ideas with you in this worship series:

1. Truthfulness. What does it mean to be a truthful person? And how do you hold on to truth in a time when there are such competing and contradictory notions of what is true? We will talk about that this week.

2. Sacredness. What does it mean to live as a sacred child of God, and see others as just as sacred? And how do we preserve the sacred dignity and worth of others, in a time we are just as prone to dehumanize each other? We will explore that theme on September 24.

3. Justice. What does it mean to be a just person? What do we mean by justice, in a world that has vastly different definitions of it, from retribution to redemption to reconciliation? We will explore that idea on World Communion Sunday, October 1.

4. Love. What does it mean to be a loving person? Given the wide spectrum of understandings of love, how can we agree on what it means to act in loving ways toward each other? That will be on October 8.

5. Forgiveness. We will round out our series on October 15 with maybe the hardest question of all: How can we be a forgiving people? Despite the harm that we have done to each other, how can we make forgiveness a central part of our character, and be agents of reconciliation in the world?

Truthfulness, Sacredness, Justice, Love, and Forgiveness. All five of these qualities are found throughout the teachings of Jesus, and together they form a composite sketch of how Jesus would define the virtues and the ethics of the Christian moral life.

And as I mentioned last week, each of the services will include stories, songs, and illustrations from famous musicals. (Last week’s in-person rendition of “Light of the World” from Godspell was a hoot!)

We look forward to what Broadway will bring us this Sunday! See you then!

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist



The Rev. Vicki Walker has announced her departure from serving on staff at Hyde Park United Methodist. Read more here. Help us celebrate Vicki’s ministry at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24. Learn more here, including an invitation to contribute to a love gift for Vicki.

Living Theater

September 7, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts.”

(Shakespeare’s As You Like It)

One of the most joyful parts of living in a small town in Iowa from 2007 to 2015 was it gave me and my two daughters a chance to be involved in community theater. I’ll never forget how, within the first several months of our arrival, one of the directors stopped by my office and said:

“Magrey, we’ve always wanted to do a production of The King and I. Would you be interested in the role of King Mongkut? You wouldn’t even have to audition. And your daughters can play your children.”

Over time, we had roles in many other productions. I was the Ghost of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol: The Musical (they even flew me on and off stage, much to the grunting chagrin of the stagehands), part of the ensemble in Les Miserables, a pirate in Peter Pan, and Gary Lejeune in the riotous Noises Off! (which involved a nightly pratfall down a flight of stairs. I still have the elbow and knee pads.)

People talk about “getting bitten by the theater bug,” and that certainly happened to me, Grace, and Maddy. Over time, we’ve seen countless productions here in Tampa, up on Broadway, and over in London’s West End. There is something powerful, even magical, about seeing performers on stage, rendering beautiful music and telling powerful stories.


Early in my ministry, I heard former Florida Bishop Timothy Whitaker give an ordination sermon at Annual Conference, in which he unpacked 1 Corinthians 4:9. In it, Paul uses a word he uses nowhere else in the epistles:

“I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all … because we have become a spectacle to the world.”

Bishop Whitaker said that word “spectacle” is the Greek word “theatron,” which comes from the world of live theater. To be a “theatron” is to be used by God to showcase for the world the subversive, counter-cultural characteristics of the Christian life. To be humble instead of

haughty, and self-sacrificial instead of self-aggrandizing. Basically, it is to follow the example of Jesus, who established the role that we are to play.

He quoted the first century Greek philosopher Epictetus: “Regard yourself as an actor in a play … Your task is only to play well the part you have been given; the choosing of it belongs to someone else.” Epictetus taught that God chooses the role we are to play, and it is our task to perform it well.


These ideas will come together for our new fall worship series that starts this Sunday, called, “Good and Faithful: Life Well Done,” which explores aspects of Christian character, ethics, and moral formation that God expects us to showcase as a “theatron” for the world.

Each week, we will connect these themes with stories and illustrations from well-known theatrical productions, including musical numbers as part of the sermon. It will be a way for me to share some of my reflections on my renewal leave last summer; I am very excited to explore it with you.

To keep up with book recommendations and theatrical references throughout the series, you can visit our website.

“Break a leg,” and see you Sunday!

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

Waffle Day!

August 24, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Well, here’s an opening to a Midweek Message that I never thought I’d write:

“Happy National Waffle Day!”

I normally overlook these kinds of special recognitions, likely manufactured by restaurant and food industries to promote their products. But for some reason, my email inbox this week was inundated with local breakfast eateries advertising today’s special day. (It may have something to do with the fact that I generally go out for breakfast on Wednesday mornings as part of my weekly sermon-writing routine.)

For what it’s worth, today is sandwiched (pun intended) between yesterday’s “National Cuban Sandwich Day” and tomorrow’s “National Banana Split Day.” Its historical roots are connected to an inventor named Cornelius Swartwout (Great name!), who received a patent for his new invention – the waffle iron – on August 24, 1869. For 154 years, Mr. Swartwout’s invention has graced countless kitchen counters, ubiquitous Waffle House franchises, and hotel breakfast stations.

So, what’s the religious connection? Well, I’m glad you asked!

There’s two. The first one is comical. National Waffle Day is apparently celebrated in different countries on different dates, including Sweden, who observes it on March 25. Why? Well, March 25 is the Christian church’s Feast Day of the Annunciation, which in Swedish is pronounced “Varfrudagen.” (Try to say it; it’s fun.) Over time, many fast-talking Swedes began mispronouncing it as “Vaffeldagen,” which means – yep – “Waffle Day.”

So, in Sweden, the holy day of observing the grand visitation of Mary by the Angel Gabriel was transmuted into a day of honoring the crisp, crevassed doughiness of Cornelius Swartwout’s invention. (By the way, neither of these words should be confused with “Vaffeljern,” which is how you say “Waffle Iron” in IKEA.)

Anyway, here’s the other religious connection. In Medieval Europe, churches began tinkering with the wafers used to celebrate the sacrament of holy communion. (You can see where this is heading. Wafer and Waffle have the same root word, Weben, which means, “to weave.”) Over time, they modified the irons they used to press the wafers into flat discs, inscribing into the metal images of crosses, biblical scenes, and other religious symbols.

These “religious waffles” were often enjoyed at the end of meals, not only as a final treat, but also as a kind of prayerful reminder of the divine source of the meal itself.

Regardless of whether or not you enjoy waffles, and even if you don’t observe National Waffle Day, I hope each of us can take a moment to give thanks to God, who gives us both the food on our plates and the capacity to delight in it. And just as we often say a prayer of thanks before we eat, it may not be a bad idea to take a page from Medieval waffle practice, and also give thanks to God after the meal is over.

Come to think of it, “Medieval waffle practice” is also not a phrase I thought I’d ever use to conclude a Midweek Message.

I think I’ll go celebrate with a waffle.

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist




Thank you, Vicki!

August 10, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

It is with a sad, but grateful heart that I share the bittersweet news that Rev. Vicki Walker has announced her departure from serving on staff here at Hyde Park United Methodist. As she shares below, she has discerned a new way to live out her ministerial calling. I am glad to note that she will continue to be a part of our congregation as a fellow worshipper and disciple among us.

Her last Sunday will be on Sunday, September 24, when we can look forward to a joyous, albeit emotional, celebration of her ministry among us.

It is impossible to capture in words the impact she has made as a pastor, director of adult discipleship, and leader of our missions and outreach efforts. Her twenty-four years of ministerial service make her the longest-serving clergy in the history of Hyde Park United Methodist.

I hope you’ll join me in thanking Vicki and celebrating all she means to us.

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist


Here is Vicki’s message to us:

Thirty years ago, you welcomed me into the church, and twenty-four years ago, you welcomed me onto the staff. First in adult education, where hundreds of us studied the Bible through Disciple Bible Study. Then, we took Disciple seriously and went “Into the Word, Into the World.”

Together we have discerned God’s call to serve our community in Tampa and beyond. I am proud of our relationships with our neighbors experiencing homelessness, our friends at Dunbar Elementary Medical Magnet School, and our amigos in Cuba and Nicaragua, and places in between. Your commitment to Making God’s Love Real has made my job so easy.

As I have prayed about this season of ministry, I sense God calling me to be more available to spend time with my family in Kentucky and step back from my leadership role at the church. I am not leaving you or the church, just the position. I have also been accepted into a two-year Spiritual Direction training program that begins in September, so I am excited about that.

While I am sad to leave the staff, I am thrilled to still be a part of our church.

Hyde Park, you are always my heart and my home.



Let’s Go Cruisin’!

June 22, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

I am extending an invitation for you to join me on a very special trip next year. I have been asked by Educational Opportunities to be the guest lecturer on a 10-day cruise exploring the Journeys of the Apostle Paul, from September 21 to October 1, 2024. (Note, that is next fall, not this fall.)

As one who has never been on a cruise ship, let alone traced many of the cities of Paul’s missionary journeys, I am excited to be asked to offer this program, and even more thrilled at the prospect of having people from Hyde Park join me. Our Primetimers senior adult ministry has already agreed to make this their major trip for 2024.

We will be aboard the Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship with Royal Caribbean International and travel to cities in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Along the way, I will offer three lectures about the life, ministry, and travels of the Apostle Paul as he shared the gospel and planted Christian communities throughout the first century Greco-Roman world.

Here are some details on our itinerary:

September 21-22: Depart from the U.S. and arrive in Rome

September 23: Naples (Pompeii)

September 24: At Sea

September 25: Mykonos

September 26: Athens and Corinth

September 27: Ephesus

September 28: Santorini

September 29: Chania and Crete

September 30: At Sea

October 1: Return to the U.S.

For further details on what we will see in each of these cities, and for information about the optional pre- or post-tour time in Rome, visit the Educational Opportunities website. The cost starts at $3,999 per person, which is an all-inclusive cost for the cruise as well as international airfare.

We will have an information session including a representative of Educational Opportunities on Sunday afternoon, August 27, at 2pm at the Hyde Park campus.

If you are interested in finding out more or would like to be on our contact list to receive updates along the way, send us your information here.

Or, contact me or our Pastoral Administrative Assistant Kim Harcrow (kharcrow@hydeparkumc.org) with any questions you may have.

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist



I will be taking my customary break from writing the Midweek Message for the next several weeks over the summer and will resume it in August. Stay tuned for the latest news and information through our Hyde Park eNews,  Facebook page, and weekly worship announcements.


Be sure to join us on Thursday, July 13, at 6pm at the Hyde Park Campus for a screening of the film Second Chances: A Story of Struggle and Recovery. This documentary film chronicles the positive impact of our Portico campus on the lives of people in our community and was an entry in this year’s Gasparilla Film Festival.

Abounding in Hope

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.


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)

All aboard!

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist



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.

A Time of Comfort and Strength

June 8, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

By the time you read today’s Midweek Message, I will be in Lakeland, Florida for the yearly gathering of the Florida Annual Conference, made up of clergy and lay delegates from every United Methodist congregation in the state. All four of our clergy team will be there, along with lay representatives from our church.

I appreciate your prayers for our work, as we organize, vision, and plan the work of the Conference over the upcoming year. Pray for our new bishop, Tom Berlin, who presides over the proceedings. And please pray for me and the Board of Ordained Ministry, which I chair, as we present ministerial candidates for approval at tonight’s clergy session at 6pm. I would appreciate prayers for clarity and courage as I make my presentation and answer questions, as we navigate the tensions that exist within the denomination at large.

Most of all, pray that these next several days be times of joy, connection, and hope for the future.

On March 3, 1785, John Wesley wrote a brief essay titled “Thoughts Upon Some Late Occurrences,” which included reflections on the first time he gathered clergy together for what would become an annual time of conferencing:

In June 1744, I desired my brother and a few other clergymen to meet me in London, to consider how we should proceed to save our own souls and those who heard us. After some time, I invited the lay preachers that were in the house to meet with us. We conferred together for several days and were much comforted and strengthened thereby.”

Over time, Wesley realized that the long-term viability of the Methodist movement depended on all the preachers coming together for a time of holy conferencing, to conduct the important work of maintaining “doctrine, experience, right conduct, and discipline as essential to the permanency of Methodism.”

279 years later, United Methodist clergy and lay delegates still gather every year for those same purposes, along with celebrating ministries, worshipping together, establishing leadership teams, approving budgets, and deciding missional and strategic goals for the work of the church. The core purpose of the annual conference gathering, however, is still the same as it was for John Wesley and the first delegates: to be “much comforted and strengthened thereby.”

Thank you for the prayers!

Grace and Peace, 

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist



We continue our series “Jesus Revealed” with an exploration of John 8 and 9, in which Jesus calls himself the “light of the world.” Learn from two very powerful stories in John’s gospel about how Jesus shines the light of conviction and forgiveness into the darkness, even the darkness within ourselves.


We are joyous and grateful to announce that all our donation items for Vacation Bible School have been claimed, and all our volunteer slots have been filled! Thank you for your willingness to give and serve as we welcome about 200 children to an experience of God’s love at the end of this month!

Leading On Purpose

June 1, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Among my leadership roles beyond the local church is that I serve as the chairperson of the Florida Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for the United Methodist Church. We evaluate and recommend persons to serve as clergy in our Conference. Our work culminates every year with our Annual Conference gathering in Lakeland, set for next Thursday through Saturday. I certainly appreciate your prayers for our work.

Last year, our Board invited consultants from the Forum for Theological Exploration to help us improve the way we do our work, including identifying implicit biases in our perceptions and processes, improving communication, and navigating through change. Those two consultants, Stephen Lewis and Dori Baker, presented insights based on their book “Another Way: Living and Leading Change on Purpose.”

Their wisdom was not only helpful to the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Conference; I think they are applicable to all of us, in whatever vocation, life stage, or walk of life we find ourselves in that requires courageous, adaptive leadership.

Here are seven of their most powerful insights. I hope you find them meaningful:

· Dialogue is an essential leadership practice and a core process for change.

· Leadership is a communal practice that builds the capacity of a team, community, or organization to envision and enact a future informed by the past and the diverse people around us.

· Strengthen your capacity to embrace mystery by thinking about, playing with, and adapting to uncertainty, because it, like death, is inevitable.

· Leadership is more about public listening than public speaking.

· The wisdom of our ancestors and descendants is always present and available to us, so remember to welcome them as we face the most difficult tasks of our lives.

· Learn from multiplicity. Most of us are more than any one thing simultaneously. Appreciate the complexity of other stories and perspectives.

· There is a future that mourns if you and I do not step into our purpose.

As people of Pentecost, let us open ourselves to the ongoing, innovative work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. May we each step into our purpose, and claim the leadership voice that God summons of us.

Happy Pentecost!


The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist



For the next several weeks, we will be exploring the famous “I am” statements in the gospel of John, discovering different characteristics of Jesus Christ. This series will draw us into a deeper love for God and a greater commitment to follow Jesus. We begin our series “Jesus Revealed” this Sunday, with Jesus’ reminder, “I am the Bread of Life.” Join us online or in person!

Pentecost: Visions and Dreams

May 25, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

This Sunday, we join with Christians around the world in celebrating Pentecost Day, the birthday of the church, when the Holy Spirit touched the earth and ushered in a fresh experience of God’s presence and power on earth.

On that day, Peter stood before the crowd and preached his very first sermon, referencing the ancient prophet Joel:

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)

Peter’s words cast a vision of a time when all people, younger and older, are captivated by a sense of God’s love, and compelled to share that love with others.

It is in that spirit that our Bishop Tom Berlin has asked United Methodists across our state to take up a special offering this Sunday, in observance of Pentecost. It supports two vital ministries in our connectional system:


Part of the special offering will support the youth camp at our Warren Willis Campground in Leesburg, Florida, which for decades has introduced thousands of children to the saving love of Jesus Christ. Many of our most dynamic lay and clergy leaders in Florida first experienced God’s love at Warren Willis, and our support of this ministry will ensure that “young people will see visions” of God’s grace for years to come.


The special offering will also support a special scholarship at Gammon Theological Seminary, one of our denomination’s historically black seminaries. Gammon’s endowment is small relative to other, better-known seminaries, affecting its ability to support and train bright, gifted African-American ministerial candidates to serve in the wider church. This scholarship is named after the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, one of the pioneering clergy of our Conference, and a graduate of Gammon.

To give to this special offering and help the young and old dream dreams, click here.

See you Sunday!

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist