Remembering Rich Mullins

Remembering Rich Mullins

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Last Monday was the 25th anniversary of the tragic death of Rich Mullins, one of the greatest contemporary Christian music artists, and songwriter of the soundtrack of my youth. His song “Awesome God” debuted during my senior year in high school and carried me well into college. Its irrepressible melody and psalm-like declaration of praise was a signature song during a formative season of my faith.

More recently, I have been re-listening to many other favorites, including “Hold Me Jesus” and “If I Stand,”which I think is one of the greatest contemporary Christian songs ever written:

So if I stand let me stand on the promise

That you will pull me through

And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace

That first brought me to You

And if I sing let me sing for the joy

That has born in me these songs

And if I weep let it be as a man

Who is longing for his home

His music was unashamedly Christian, proclaiming the salvation of Jesus through the cross, and calling us to deepen our commitment to Christ beyond superficial platitudes. But he was also a bold critic of a certain kind of narrow-minded evangelicalism:

On the twentieth anniversary of Mullins’ death, noted author Shane Claiborne remembered him in this way on his Facebook page. 

He often joked about how surprising it was that so many evangelicals took him seriously. He said things that–even though they came straight from the Gospels– were at odds with what had come to characterize much of evangelicalism in the 1980s and 1990s. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken… This, I know, will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re wrong. They are not bad, they’re just wrong.”


In preparation for this Sunday, I have been listening again to his song “Sometimes By Step,” which debuted in 1993 and was an immediate hit on the heels of “Awesome God.” It was a declaration of trust in God, step by step:

O God, You are my God

And I will ever praise You

O God, You are my God

And I will ever praise You

And I will seek You in the morning

And I will learn to walk in Your ways

And step by step You’ll lead me

And I will follow You all of my days

It’s a fitting song for you to listen to before this Sunday. We will be continuing our worship series “The Art of Hearing God’s Voice” with the guidance of Proverbs 3:5-6 to trust in God, one step at a time. 

Thank you, Rich, for your life, your music, and your enduring witness to a radically loving, ever-trustworthy God. We miss you.





The Staff-Parish Relations Committee is excited to announce the hiring of two persons on our church program staff. Kim Apthorp continues her work among us as our new Children’s Ministry Coordinator, a new position created to provide strategic oversight of our ministry to children and their families. It concludes a nearly year-long search for a director. And we are glad to welcome Chris Temple as our new Director of Youth Ministries, who will bring years of excitement and energy to the youth and families of our community. Now would be a great time for families of children and youth to re-connect and invite others in the community to join us, and you can learn more on our website. We give thanks to God for filling all of our staff vacancies as we head into an exciting future together.

For Everything a Season

For Everything a Season

Dear Hyde Park Family,

At the outset of a meeting last Tuesday of the Committee on Lay Leadership, I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which contains the iconic “For everything there is a season” passage. Then I read a lovely poem by Laura Grace Weldon titled, Compost Happens.” It’s from a wonderful collection of poems I read over the weekend titled How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, which you can purchase through our church’s Amazon page

I think you’ll see the connections between these two readings, along with whatever you might be carrying today. Blessings to us all as we watch, with patience, the transformative love of God in our lives and in the world.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSV)


For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die;

a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill and a time to heal;

a time to break down and a time to build up;

a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek and a time to lose;

a time to keep and a time to throw away;

a time to tear and a time to sew;

a time to keep silent and a time to speak;

a time to love and a time to hate;

a time for war and a time for peace.



“Compost Happens”

Laura Grace Weldon


Nature teaches nothing is lost.

It’s transmuted.


Spread between rows of beans,

last year’s rusty leaves tamp down weeds.

Coffee grounds and banana peels

foster rose blooms. Bread crumbs

scattered for birds become song.

Leftovers offered to chickens come back

as eggs, yolks sunrise orange.

Broccoli stems and bruised apples

fed to cows return as milk steaming in the pail,

as patties steaming in the pasture.


Surely our shame and sorrow

also return, composted by years

into something generative as wisdom.


Grace and Peace,





Join us in person or online as we continue our worship series, “The Art of Hearing God’s Voice.” I’ll be sharing three principles through the acronym “S.O.S.” that will help you sense God’s presence in the midst of life’s challenges. Be sure to invite a friend, or share our service with others through our YouTube channel

The Art of Hearing God’s Voice

The Art of Hearing God’s Voice

Dear Hyde Park Family,

“Can you hear me now?”

You may remember that famous line from the advertising campaign for Verizon Wireless. It began on January 14, 2002, when nearly half of all Americans owned a cell phone. The ad assured Verizon subscribers that their cell coverage was so comprehensive that they could hear the other person’s voice from virtually anywhere in the country, at any time.

Think about the first time you ever owned and used a portable phone. Remember the remarkable feeling of being able to hear someone’s voice on the other end, wherever you happened to be? Remember the freedom and awe it was to feel connected at any time?

Now, let’s take it to a spiritual level. Wouldn’t it be nice if God’s voice worked that way, too? To hear a clear, audible voice from God telling us what we are to do, who we are to be, and what we are to say? Let’s admit that we are a bit jealous of some of our biblical ancestors, who apparently were able to hear God’s voice, clear as day.

  • Abraham heard God say, “Pick up your family and move.” And he did.
  • Moses heard God say in a burning bush, “Deliver my people.” So, he did, too.
  • Elijah heard God say in a still, small voice, “You’re not alone.” And he wasn’t.

Wouldn’t picking a job, selecting a mate, deciding on house, even choosing what outfit to wear be a whole lot easier if we could hear God say to us, audibly,

  • “Pursue this degree instead of that one. I have plans for you.”
  • Or, “Go to the coffee shop at 5pm. The person I want you to marry is there.”
  • Or, “I want you to live in that townhouse. The one by the water. Put in an offer.”

The truth is, the spiritual life is not at all like picking up a cell phone and hearing God pick up on the other side. Instead, following Jesus is built on faith, and the practices that help us stretch, grow, and mature. In that way, learning how to listen for God’s voice is just as important as what we hear God say. It is that regular flexing and developing of those spiritual muscles that help us grow in our faith, and live life as God intends.

That is what our new worship series is all about. It’s called “The Art of Hearing God’s Voice,” and it is an exploration of how to develop the spiritual practices that allow us to listen to God, and join with others in the journey.

Starting this Sunday, we’ll discover answers to important questions such as,

  • How can you hear God’s voice?
  • How do you discern God’s will for your life?
  • What do you do when God seems silent or absent?
  • Does God speak through your dreams?
  • How can we listen for God together?

And if you haven’t yet signed up to be a part of a small group studying a book titled “Called” by Susan Robb, it is not too late to do so starting this week, and you can sign up here. It’s principles and stories will be a helpful companion to our worship series.

Join us this Sunday for worship, in person or online, and be sure to invite a friend whom you think would benefit from this important and timely series. So that together, we can answer the question,

“Yes, God, we can hear you now.”

Grace and Peace,




Thank you to the many of you who have stepped up to nearly fill all our volunteer positions in children and youth ministry. We learned this week that of the 30 volunteers we need to fully staff our 9:30 Sunday morning children’s ministries we only have three more opportunities to serve! They are also planning to resume programming at 11am starting Sunday, October 2, and they only need three more volunteers for that hour. In addition, our youth program is celebrating the hiring of our new Director of Youth Ministries who starts next Monday, and you can be a part of the exciting team that is working with our teens. To volunteer for children’s ministries, contact Kim Apthorp and to volunteer for youth ministries, contact Katherine Cosmas.

Why I Love Being United Methodist

Why I Love Being United Methodist

Dear Hyde Park Family,

As we conclude our worship series “The Meaning of Methodist” this Sunday, here are ten reasons I love being United Methodist. I pray they resonate with you, too.

1. I love how United Methodists view God. We believe that first and foremost, God is love. God also exists as the trinity, though John Wesley did not require any one exclusive way to understand it. Like his openness to the varieties atonement theories, Wesley’s primary concern was that any theological claim would lead a person to greater love and holiness. I love how being a United Methodist is so theologically grounded in Christian tradition, while also very practical. This is generous orthodoxy.

2. I love the way United Methodists understand God’s grace. We cannot earn or deserve our salvation, yet we still must accept Jesus as our Savior. John Wesley navigated the tension between God’s power and human free will through the idea of prevenient grace, in which our very ability to choose to accept Jesus is itself a gift from God, at work long before we realized it.

3. I love how United Methodist means being a work in progress. Prevenient grace is just the first step toward a lifelong work of grace in our lives (prevenient, justifying, sanctifying). We remember that God loves us enough to meet us where we are, and loves us too much to leave us there. And I love the idea that God offers us means of grace (including prayer, communion, fasting, and scripture reading) that enable us to renew our sense of God’s love and reaffirm our commitment to Jesus.

4. I love the way United Methodists embrace both faith and reason. John Wesley believed in the Bible as our primary authority for matters of faith, and he encouraged reason as a lens for interpreting it, in light of the scientific wisdom of the time. He encouraged his preachers to learn reason and logic, and he sent them the latest philosophies of his day. I love how being United Methodist enables me to embrace both religion and science, as a kind of stereoscopic way to view and appreciate and understand the splendor of creation. 

5. I love the way United Methodists read the Bible. We focus on the whole of the Bible’s message, which conveys the ongoing and enduring love of God for the world. John Wesley was less interested in more minor details regarding the Bible’s contradictions and anachronisms, concentrating instead on how the Bible’s overarching narratives can lead us to a greater love. I love how Wesley’s approach freed me from my earlier fundamentalist, literalist days, and encourages us to ask reasonable, thoughtful questions that deepen our faith.

6. I love how United Methodists understand shared governance and holy conferencing. We have a unique polity and structure in our denomination that reminds us that no one person ever has sole authority to make all the decisions on any level. The local church has shared governance between the clergy and laity, and among the various elected leadership committees. The denomination has no pope or president, but is guided by a gathering of delegates in holy conversation. The Annual Conference is given spiritual direction by the bishop, who presides over the decisions made by elected delegates from all its churches. I love that in the United Methodist Church, we discern God’s best future together. 

7. I love how United Methodists live in the center, in the way of love. We are a people of the via media, the way of the middle, the center. We take the best of two ideological opposites and forge a third way that allows us to be unified in the essentials of our faith while allowing latitude on lesser matters of interpretation. When we are at our healthiest and best as a church, we model the kind of non-binary, non-dualistic thinking that guided John Wesley’s belief and practice.

8. I love how United Methodists are connectional and impact the world. From the small groups that meet in a local church to the missions and efforts that span the world, we are a connectional people. Our denominational structures ensure that our faithfulness on the local level can be amplified on a global level. We support hospitals, relief agencies, community service centers, schools, seminaries, and missionaries near and far. We recently raised $27 million dollars of relief for the people of Ukraine. We are making a difference.

9. I love how United Methodists sing their faith. John Wesley believed in the balance between heart and mind, something that the songs of Charles Wesley and other songwriters convey. Whether we sing in corporate worship or in the privacy of our own devotions, we put melody to our theology, and offer praise to God with our hearts and our minds. Methodists are a singing people.

10. I love how the United Methodist Church is itself a work in progress and moving on to perfection. God’s sanctifying grace is at work on the people called Methodist, just as it has been throughout our history. When we have gotten it wrong as a church, God has nudged us toward more perfection in love. We overcame our structural separation over slavery in 1939. We began ordaining women to be clergy in 1956. We allowed divorced pastors to remain as clergy in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We are navigating new challenges over LGBTQ inclusion, and we will get there. God loves the church enough to meet us where we are, and loves it too much to leave it there.   

Most of all, I love serving a congregation that will be part of the continuing United Methodist Church. For nearly 125 years, we have been part of the remarkable work of the Holy Spirit here in Tampa Bay and throughout the world. It is a joy to make God’s love real together.

Grace and Peace,



Over recent months the Florida Annual Conference has been navigating challenges from some churches wishing to leave the United Methodist Church. Hyde Park United Methodist is not one of those churches, and we remain committed to being part of God’s bright future for the continuing United Methodist Church. The Conference website is a helpful place to read the most recent developments, including this statement from Bishop Ken Carter and this helpful FAQ giving additional details. 

Shaping the Future

Shaping the Future

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Today I am remembering some very special people in my life.

I remember the woman who worked in the church nursery when I was just a small child. I don’t remember her name, but I can still recollect her face and her smile. She welcomed me when my parents dropped me off prior to attending worship at Pasadena Community Church in St. Petersburg.

I remember a woman named Ruth, who told me a story about Jesus when I was in her classroom at just six years old. She asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus into their heart. I raised my hand. I said a prayer. She gave me a hug. I wrote the date in my Bible: January 7, 1979.

I remember two women named Jackie and Carol. They were volunteer youth leaders at Pasadena when I ventured enough courage to attend Sunday night youth group for the first time. They welcomed me, introduced me to the other kids, led in some games, and then threw a whipped cream pie in my face. I was hooked, and kept coming back to that youth group.

I remember a couple named Nancy and Mike Gilson. Nancy was the youth director at the church; Mike, her husband. Together they modeled Christ’s love and offered warm acceptance of all the teens, including me. They recruited, trained and encouraged youth volunteers. I eventually became a volunteer myself.

Now, I am serving in a church that is built on a legacy of faithful children and youth volunteers. I like to think that the same Spirit of God that called Ruth, Jackie, Carol, Nancy and Mike is still calling forth people to serve this most precious generation of Christians.

Perhaps that can include people like you.

Do you have such faithful people in your past who have shaped you? More importantly, would you consider volunteering in children or youth ministry? We have an amazing staff of people who would love to work with you, discover your interest and passions, and steer you toward making a profound difference in the life of a young person.

To sign up or to learn more, click here.

By volunteering for children and youth ministry, you can literally shape the future. Just like people did for you and me.

Grace and Peace,




This Sunday we have the privilege of welcoming Rev. Gary Mason as our guest preacher. He is the director of Rethinking Conflict in Belfast, Northern Ireland, an internationally recognized advocate for peace and reconciliation in conflicts around the world. Gary played a central role in navigating the Good Friday Peace Accords that ended the 30-Year War in Belfast known as “The Troubles.” He will speak to us about the power and calling of United Methodists to impact the public sphere through mission and witness.



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