An Exciting Summer Ahead

An Exciting Summer Ahead

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Starting Monday, June 13, I will begin a six-week period of study leave and renewal. It will be a time away from daily ministry at Hyde Park United Methodist, enabling me to return on August 1 with renewed clarity and energy for the long haul of ministry.

I am grateful for our Staff-Parish Relations Committee, who provided similar leaves for pastors Vicki, Sally, and Justin in 2019. I was approved for leave back in 2020, but for obvious reasons, I have had to delay that time until this year. Such periods of renewal are a provision in our Book of Discipline, which encourages clergy to have several weeks of spiritual growth and renewal every four years. (Paragraph 351.2)


During my time away, I will be exploring concepts of Christian character in the context of live theater. It is based on the work of Swiss theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar, who equated the work of God and the formation of Christian character as that of director and actor. In the New Testament, Paul encouraged the Christians in Corinth to form holy character because “we have become a spectacle to the world,” using the Greek word “theatron.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Florida Conference Passing the Torch Fund, I will be spending two of my six weeks traveling to London and New York with Grace and Madelyn, attending seven theatrical productions:

  • London’s West End: Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, The Glass Menagerie.
  • Broadway: The Music Man, Hadestown, Macbeth, American Buffalo.

Grace and Madelyn will be my conversation partners and co-writers of material that will be the basis for a worship series sometime next year, exploring concepts of Christian character through the lens of popular stage and theater productions.

I look forward to this time away for inspiration, study, rest, and renewal. Thank you for your prayers.


In the meantime, my absence doesn’t have to mean yours from the church! You can support my time away by maintaining your connection with the exciting ministries, programs, and worship services we are planning. Vacation Bible School is just around the corner, and our youth program has some wonderful upcoming missions opportunities. In worship, Sally and Justin will be preaching an exciting lineup of services that share spiritual insights illuminated by some recent popular films:

            June 26: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Sally)

            July 3: “Come from Away” (Sally)

            July 10: “The Batman” (Justin)

            July 17: “Belfast” (Justin)

            July 24: “Encanto” (Sally)

            July 31: “Spiderman: No Way Home” (Justin)

As always, even if you are traveling, be sure to join us for worship online every Sunday morning, or through our YouTube page throughout the week. And you’ll definitely want to hear our District Superintendent Emily Hotho preach on July 19. She is a dynamite preacher and will bring a great word of inspiration to us.

I wish you and yours a restful and re-energizing summer season. May this be a time of renewed connection with God and the church, all summer long.

Grace and Peace,



Join us this Sunday as we celebrate the birthday of the church, and the moment in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit touched the earth and created the first Christian community. See you Sunday!


In lieu of my study leave, I will be taking a break from the Midweek over the next few months. I look forward to resuming this message toward the end of the summer.



Living The Three

Living The Three

(Note: Read to the end of today’s Midweek Message for a pastoral statement on the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.)

Dear Hyde Park Family,

People attending our in-person worship services may have noticed that for the past several weeks I have preceded my sermons with the following prayer:

“O God, open our eyes to empathy, curiosity and humility, that we might be generous and compassionate toward others and ourselves. Amen.”

Prior to these last several weeks, it was not customary for me to preface a sermon with a prayer. A friend once joked that often those prayers either offer a disclaimer (“Lord, I’m not sure that what I’m about to say is all that great, so pump it up a bit, would you?”) or appeal for air cover (“Lord, remind any potential complainers that these are your words, not mine.”).


Rather, the prayer I’ve been offering has come from a deep place in my own spiritual journey lately. It first emerged from a sermon I preached during last January’s “Joy” worship series, based on Philippians 2 titled A Joyful Example from Jesus.” I talked about how our society is so bucketized into polarizing and divisive factions, like tribes who are increasingly entrenched by their own confirmation biases.

So, in examining the truths of the Christ hymn in Philippians 2, I said this:

“Empathy, curiosity, humility. Imagine a world that was governed by these three virtues. Imagine a Christian community that was governed by these three ideals.”

Since then, I have continued to consider these words, and let its impact live in me. Over the last several months, I’ve pondered what it would mean for me to live with greater degrees of these qualities. More importantly, I’ve wondered what could happen if our congregation exhibited these three in greater measure.

·     Empathy: To live with greater empathy would mean more openness to other people, or what our core values call being Warm-Hearted. It would be more intentional about hearing other people’s stories, affirming other people’s identity and worth, and recognizing our common humanity in each other.

·     Curiosity: To live with greater curiosity would mean more openness to other perspectives, or what our core values call being Open-Minded. It would require a willingness to recognize the limits of our own understanding and push us to stretch our minds toward ideas that are unfamiliar and even discomforting. It is the embrace of mystery, after all, and not the avoidance of it, that is the key to learning.

·     Humility: To live with greater humility would mean more openness to God, or what our core values call being Connection-Committed. It would decentralize our sense of self and centralize a sense of the communal. It would adhere to the mantra “I is we,” recognizing the ultimate interdependence and interconnectivity of all living things to each other, and all of us to God.


 At the same time, I’ve been praying a great deal about generosity and compassion, two qualities which have emerged from my regular practice of mindfulness, and exemplified by our core value of being “Mission-Directed.” We remember that St. Augustine defined sin as “the heart turned inward upon itself.” An expression of redemption and salvation would therefore be a heart turned outward in generosity and compassion toward other people.

The natural consequence of a life built on empathy, curiosity and humility is that it positively impacts our relationships with others. Generosity and compassion are expressions of the hands and the heart, of action (generosity) and orientation (compassion). Together, they are the fruit that demonstrate how to live with the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2)


So, here is why I’ve been beginning my sermons with that prayer. It’s not to appeal for air cover or to offer a disclaimer. It’s to lift those values into our consciousness, to remind us of the work we all have to do (including myself) to live differently from this broken world. It is to use those values as interpretive filters to listen, receive, and apply the truths of scripture and the words of the sermon. Ultimately, we are called to live out these values more fully each day.

Imagine living the three in your life. And imagine a world in which everyone did.

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega

Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist



Pastors Sally, Vicki, Justin and I join the grief and anger in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. We lift up this prayer offered by our Bishop Ken Carter. We also lift up the work of an organization called Moms Demand Action, whom we have hosted for events at our downtown Portico location. In addition to considering your support of their organization, you may wish to observe National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend on June 3-5.







Sparrow Fund Provides a Lifeline

Sparrow Fund Provides a Lifeline

If you have ever joined us for Christmas Eve services, you will recall that our collection on that most holy night goes toward the Sparrow Fund. The Sparrow Fund is a discretionary fund established by Hyde Park United Methodist to meet emergency needs of individuals and families. The name of the Sparrow Fund comes from Matthew 10:29-31, which reminds us that God cares for all of us, even the smallest sparrow. The Outreach Department of Hyde Park administers the fund for church members in need and Outreach and Prevention Services at Metropolitan Ministries serves those in our wider community. Hyde Park sends funds to Metropolitan Ministries each month so their qualified staff can help Tampa residents on our behalf.

James Dunbar, Metropolitan Ministries Senior Director of Outreach and Prevention services had this to say about Hyde Park’s support. Metropolitan Ministries has been very blessed to call Hyde Park a foundational partner and a financial community partner since our inception now crossing 50 years. Through the generous gifts from Hyde Park, we are able to alleviate stress and trauma for families struggling in our community with the mission of preventing them from entering into homelessness. The gifts of Hyde Park are used for the very tough cases where families normally don’t qualify for stringent grants or fall through the traditional cracks. The flexibility provided with the tremendous gift allows us to offer assistance to alleviate suffering and guide towards self-sufficiency. The families we serve and the organization are incredibly thankful of our amazing partnership and continued community impacts.

Here is what some of the community members that received help said:

I always feel blessed and happy when I come to Metropolitan Ministries for help because the people who work there are very caring and treat my husband and me with respect and kindness. The items we received helped us make it through the month.Loralee

I believe that the Ministries help promote dignity and self-sufficiency by helping a person any way they can. It gave me hope that I can make it on my own after my husband passed away. I felt lost without him, not knowing what to do. Linda helped.Catherine

Your help came into my life and helped with utilities. I thank them from the bottom of my heart because I needed help the most at this time.William

Your gifts are provide a most-needed lifeline. Thank you, Hyde Park faithful, for making God’s love real in such a tangible way in Tampa Bay!

Graduating Students

Turner Mooney Plant High School
Scotty Mooney University of Florida
Luke Davis Jesuit High School
Samantha Stites Graduating from Plant High School
Ryan Lundahl Sickles High School
Chip Roth Plant High School
Jake Rickert Plant High School
Colin Clark Plant High School
Andrew Finn Robinson High School
Libby Gough Plant High School
Cadence Augustine Busbee Graduating from Plant High School
Klaas W. van de Groep Berkeley Preparatory School
William Aaron Pre-K graduate, Bay Hope Day School
Charles William Patterson III HB Plant High School
Anna Elizabeth Mullins Hillsborough IB High School
Rye Kral Robinson IB
Bella Horiszny TR Robinson High School
Maris Brown Plant High School
Jesse Daniel McCoy Plant High School
Meredith Faye Smith Riverview High School
A Word for Graduates

A Word for Graduates

Dear Hyde Park Family,

We are now in graduation season here in the Tampa Bay area, as we celebrate high school seniors embarking on an exciting and unfolding future. We will be honoring our seniors this Sunday in worship, as well as praying for graduating students at every level of education.

Yesterday I re-read a passage from Jeremiah that I have often turned to in times of transition and unsettledness in my life, which I also commended to Grace and Madelyn during their own recent graduations from high school:

“The Lord proclaims: Stop at the crossroads and look around; ask for the ancient paths. Where is the good way? Then walk in it and find a resting place for yourselves.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

Addressing the Israelite exiles, who were at a significant crossroads of change and uncertainty, Jeremiah called them to look for the “ancient paths” and the “good way.” He encouraged them to lean into the values and principles that formed them and were imparted by their ancestors.

In that spirit, I offer these words of guidance to our graduates:

  • Look for the ancient paths. Remember the way integrity and obedience to God. Follow the path charted by all those who entrusted the faith to you, and you will always find “a resting place for yourselves.”
  • Cultivate the qualities of empathy, curiosity, and humility. These three will serve you well as you meet new people, navigate new challenges, and become a better human being.
  • Orient your life toward generosity and compassion toward others and toward yourself. Remember how the most important adults in your life demonstrated those qualities for you.
  • Enjoy the discovery of who you are, and who you are not.

  • Know that a life of independence will mean you can make many of your own choices, which means dealing with your own consequences.
  • Remember that sometimes the most important lessons will only be learned in the hardest of ways. 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.
  • Remember that you will never be alone. Your family and friends will cheer you on. You have a church that will be praying for you over the months to come and will always be a spiritual home that will welcome you back.
  • Recognize that your parents will be changing, too. They will be navigating a new kind of parenthood, shifting toward becoming more of your mentor, coach, and adviser. Give them grace, as they do the best they can.
  • Most of all, hold on to your faith. God began a good work in you from the moment you were born. As you stay faithful to your spiritual roots, you will discover God’s fruit born in and through you in ways you cannot imagine.

Friends, our future is bright because of these rising generations of young people. Born in the shadow of 9/11, raised during a major recession, educated during a global pandemic, and joining in the great social and political challenges of our day, their resilience and determination can give us hope. We pray for them and give thanks for the difference they will make in the world.

Happy Graduation!



Join us this Sunday as we near the conclusion of our worship series Rise: 12 Steps with Jesus. Many of you have shared what a meaningful and helpful series this has been. This Sunday, we will explore Steps 8 and 9, which call us to make amends with others. Download the Rise workbook  and catch up on any services that you missed on our YouTube page.


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