Dear Advent Pilgrims,
(Be sure to read the end of today’s message for an invitation to take a brief and important survey!)
Who could have known when we started The Bible Project 2020 back in January, that we would have a year like this?
In so many ways that only God could have known, this journey has been a gift to this congregation, at just the right time. It was an idea that came to us as part of our visioning process more than two years ago. You all expressed a desire to grow more connected to God and to each other, and to be more connected to the Bible. This would all lead to our learning to read the Bible without fear or frustration.
Well, the results have been pretty amazing:
- Our podcast has amassed an audience of 2,700 individual listeners, with over 138,000 downloads of our episodes.
- Forty small groups in the church have stayed on this journey throughout the whole year.
- Our sermon podcast has more than doubled its audience (127% increase) since last year, and it was recently ranked in the Top 50 Methodist podcasts in the country.
- Most importantly, I regularly hear from church members how meaningful and timely the scriptures have become for people, and how doing this as a church has kept them connected to God, to each other, and to the church.
But here is the deal: the end of The Bible Project 2020 is not the finish line. It is just a mile marker. We now get to live into the long-term benefits of what this journey has brought to us individually, and as a congregation. Hopefully, you have started to flex new spiritual muscles and developed new routines for making Bible reading a more regular part of your life. As a congregation, we can draw from a more common well of biblical imagery and stories, which will shape our future together. And each of us can continue taking steps toward reading the Bible without fear or frustration.
We will be celebrating this journey on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2021, as we welcome the new year. And we would love to hear how The Bible Project 2020 has impacted you.
Click here to fill out this brief, four-question survey, and let us know how your relationship with the Bible has changed, and the difference it has made in your spiritual life. We may choose some of your responses as part of our celebration in January!
Thank you for helping make this year through the Bible such an amazing journey!
Grace and Peace,
ESTIMATE OF GIVING CARDS
Thank you to those who have already submitted an estimate of giving card for 2021. We are off to a great start, and need you to submit one if you have not yet done so. Click here to fill out a card in a private, secure way.
CHRISTMAS EVE AT HYDE PARK!
Join us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus! Our Christmas Eve services will be online at 2,3,4,5,6,7, and 11p.m. We will also have brief, onsite, outdoor Candle-lighting Ceremonies on the Hyde Park campus (around the Courtyard Fountain) and The Portico campus (around Homeless Jesus). Specific times and further information is available at hydeparkumc.org/Christmas.
Dear Hyde Park Family,
For today’s Midweek Message, I’d like to share an excerpt of my remarks to lay leaders and teams at our Leadership Kick-Off event last Tuesday. It is an update on the implementation of our Vision Plan, and a list of all the exciting things we have seen God already do over just the first month of 2020.
Address to Lay Leadership, Feb. 4, 2020
I would like to offer a word about where we have been as a church, and where we are going in the year ahead. First, an update on where we are on the implementation of our 2018 Vision Plan, then to give you a sense of where that is heading. And I also want to celebrate with you how productive and meaningful 2020 has already been, just one month in.
Over the past year, the Implementation Team and the dozens of lay and staff members of various initiative teams have made major progress in implementing our long-term strategic plan. Many of the teams have already concluded their work, and their reports have been given the green light to implement.
- The Missions and Outreach Team have stronger clarity about the programs that we support as a church, focusing on homelessness, hunger and education.
- The Discipleship Team has emerged with a renewed emphasis on our Discipleship Pathway as the backbone of our spiritual formation, emphasizing our seven spiritual practices, and giving rise to The Bible Project 2020, our journey through the Bible this year.
- The Stewardship Team conducted a comprehensive survey last fall of our congregation’s practice and understanding of stewardship, and hired the services of Horizons Stewardship, who guided our successful stewardship campaign last fall.
- We made some strategic decisions about current staffing, which largely contributed to the hiring of Peggy Hisey, our new Executive Director.
- Our Worship Initiative Team presented a report providing many options that would fulfill its charge from the vision plan. While changes to the worship schedule are not yet planned for the foreseeable future, the Worship Team is bringing in an outside consultant to help us make worship at all our services more inspiring and more engaging to the demographics most within the reach of our church.
- The Portico Café team made some significant changes to its operations and updated its menu, resulting in sizable improvements to its profitability, nearly breaking even each of the last three months. And since Jan. 1, 2019, no money from the church’s Ministry and Missions budget has been used to cover any deficits of the Café.
- And last week, our church conference unanimously adopted new clarity about the mission and vision of The Portico, bringing all of its ministries, the work of the Café, and its emphasis on homelessness, all in line with the goal of the whole church, which is to teach people to follow Jesus and guide spiritually seeking people along the path of discipleship.
Looking ahead, the work of the Implementation Team continues with:
- Reports still to be received and reviewed in the areas of Communications and Invitation, along with a comprehensive review of our organizational structure and alignment of staff.
- We are continuing work with our stewardship consultant, who will guide us in a thorough analysis of our giving patterns and unlock greater potential in our giving through a comprehensive stewardship campaign.
- Our Discipleship Team will continue work with renowned church development consultant Tom Bandy in helping us deepen the spiritual practices of our congregation and reach currently underserved demographic groups in our community.
You can see that it was a very full 2019, and we can see that 2020 has a great deal of promise ahead of us. But what you may not know is just how much we have already accomplished just in the last month, over these first few weeks of 2020:
- We finished 2019 in the black, enabling us to make lay retirement contributions to our staff, and building up our capital reserve to more than $245,000.
- We held two nights of cold night shelters in the Harnish Activities Center, providing a warm, safe space for many living on the street (with terrific local media coverage).
- We had a fun and inspirational weekend for our youth at the Rock the Universe Christian music festival in Orlando.
- We gave out about sixteen Beginner’s Bibles to our 2-4 year olds in worship on Jan. 5 and began a three-week class for their families to learn how to read the Bible together.
- We now have brand new, beautiful pavers for our Sanctuary Courtyard, as well as new pew cushions for our Sanctuary pews.
- We far surpassed our goal of 2,000 books by donating 3,051 new books for the students and familes at Dunbar Elementary School, altering the trajectory of their lives through the gift of literacy.
- The PrimeTimers and Merge held successful parking fundraisers during both Gasparilla parades.
- We had more than 120 people watch the documentary “True Justice” and engaged in a conversation about racial inequality in the criminal justice system.
- At The Portico, we hosted dozens of bishops and other significant denominational leaders from throughout the connection for an important video broadcast related to the Protocol, a training event for presiding over General Council, and a meeting of the Council of Bishops Executive Committee.
- Last week at our Church Conference, we approved a budget that is underwritten by a larger than usual percentage of stewardship pledges.
- We had close to sixty people gather around our Homeless Jesus sculpture to honor the 69 homeless people who died in our community in 2019. It was an incredibly moving service.
- The Bible Project 2020 is off to a very strong start, with people engaged, reading the Bible, talking about it, and making use of our wide array of extremely well-produced resources: small groups, worship, daily devotional, Facebook group, and a weekly podcast that now has about 1,000 active listeners.
- We welcomed our new Executive Director, and Peggy is quickly filling the void long vacant in our church.
- And we have continued to provide pastoral care through hospital visits, weddings, baptisms, and of course, funerals, including a stirring memorial service for George Gage with the largest crowd many of us have ever seen for a funeral in this church.
I would say: this has been an amazing start to 2020!
Now, none of this happens without the devotion of a terrific staff and amazing lay leadership. But more importantly, none of this happens – none of this happens – if the people of this church don’t take their spiritual practices seriously. Not just the three corporate practices of worship, small groups and service, but the four personal practices of giving generously, reading Scripture without fear or frustration, inviting others to Jesus in a natural, non-intimidating way, and the final practice, prayer.
Thank you, Hyde Park United Methodist, as we claim God’s exciting future together.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
Dear Hyde Park Disciples,
From its inception, The Portico campus has presented us with unique opportunities to connect to the spiritual but not religious residents of downtown Tampa. When we began restoring the historic chapel on the downtown campus, we knew that it would be a place for contemplation and meditation. But we couldn’t have foreseen that for one resident across the street this restoration would be a new beginning for her faith.
Silvia Hale has lived in Vista 400, a community for senior adults, since 2011. Located directly across from The Portico, she had a bird’s eye view of the new construction. As soon as the Chapel opened for meditation in 2015, she went. Growing up, Silvia never gave religion or Jesus much thought. She had never attended church. But in that restored Chapel, she found an expression of faith and spirituality that drew her in.
Through the meditations, Silvia met Justin LaRosa. As someone in recovery, Silvia was intrigued by the thought of a pastor who was in recovery too. As they talked more, Silvia shared that she had never been baptized. According to her, “Justin jumped on that!” They began talking about what baptism meant and would mean for Silvia.
In December 2016, while worship was still happening on the second floor of the Admin Building, Silvia was baptized.
Silvia continues to be a vibrant part of the Portico community. She attends Tuesday meditation and the spiritual discussion afterwards. She continues to grow spiritually, “And hopefully it spills out into my everyday life.”
As she reflected on this journey to faith, Silvia said of The Portico, “It’s a wonderful community—I see nothing but good things coming out of this. I see tremendous potential for The Portico.”
You are a part of Silvia’s story too. Your financial generosity and support for all the ministries of Hyde Park United Methodist continue to transform lives and Make God’s Love Real.
Grace and peace,
The Portico Community