The Blessing of the Animals

The Blessing of the Animals

Dear Hyde Park Family,

My first pet was a turtle. I was young when I received one as a gift from a friend. It was a small box turtle that I kept it in a green plastic bowl shaped around a fake island and topped with a plastic palm tree. I thought about naming it after one of the characters from Gilligan’s Island. To give you a glimpse into my prepubescent mind at the time, I decided to name it Ginger.

After a few weeks of caring for Ginger, I came home one day to discover her bowl empty. My mother broke the bad news to me. Ginger had gotten sick, and she was gone.

I was incredulous. I asked my mother what signs Ginger was exhibiting that suggested she was ill. My mother said she wasn’t moving too quickly. “But she’s a turtle,” I replied. “She didn’t ever really move that quickly.”

After coping with the news for a few hours, I went into my brothers’ rooms to warn them. I told them, “Listen. I gotta tell ya’, you better not sit still. You better keep moving, because otherwise mom will think you are dead.”


Like many of you, I learned to cherish the special relationship that humans have with animals. After Ginger, I had a handful of parakeets, a series of fish, and a total of three adopted dogs over the years, including Micah and Winnie, whom we have now. There is something about having a pet that fills a vacancy in our spirit and eases our journey through life.

This Sunday, join us as we explore Day 5 of the creation story, as part of our worship series titled “The Seven.” We will celebrate the glorious diversity of wings, fins, feathers, and fur that make up the amazing animal world. We will also discover the special responsibility and privilege we have to be in relationship with the earth’s animals.

It will include the story of St. Francis of Assisi, the 12th century Irish Catholic friar who is known as the patron saint of animals. St. Francis once said, “God requires that we assist the animals, when they need our help. Each being, human or creature, has the same right of protection.”

A culmination of the day is our first ever Blessing of the Animals, at 3pm this Sunday, February 5, on our Magnolia parking lot. We invite you to bring all the special animals of your life for an informal, come-and-go event, in which the clergy will impart a word of blessing on your pet. It would be fun for you to bring a friend, two-legged or four-legged!

See you Sunday!





From February 6 – 16, I will be joining a group of clergy from the Florida Annual Conference to travel to Israel as part of the Marcy Preaching Cohort program. We will be led by Rev. Gary Mason, whose formidable work in peacemaking has brokered conversations across the most polarized trouble spots in the world. We will be traveling to Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem to meet some high-profile civic, academic, and religious figures involved in navigating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. We will discern the role that religious institutions, including local churches, can play in forging mutual understanding and healing from divisions. Thank you for your prayers for our safety and for all we will experience. I will resume the Midweek Message upon my return.



Parents’ Night Out

Parents’ Night Out

Parents: Enjoy a night out on the town 6-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10!

Children will party the night away celebrating Jesus’s love with pizza, crafts, games and more!

$10 per child, max of $30 per family

RSVP now for this fun night!


Questions? Email

Blessing of the Pets Service

Blessing of the Pets Service

3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5 – Parking lot in front of the Magnolia Building (corner of Magnolia and Azeele St.)

As we celebrate God’s acts of creation in worship, we also celebrate God’s creation of animals.

All people are welcome to attend and your pet to this short Blessing of the Pets service.

Includes a reading of Scripture, prayer and special blessing over each pet.

What is Your Thin Place?

What is Your Thin Place?

Dear Hyde Park Family,

In Celtic spirituality there is a term called “thin places,” where a person experiences the God’s presence more readily than in any other place. Travel writer Eric Weiner describes them as “those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses.” These places range from religious venues to outdoor scenery to childhood settings and everywhere in between.

Do you have such a “thin place,” where you sense the presence of God most closely to you?

I have a few. There is a prayer labyrinth at the United Methodist Life Enrichment in Leesburg, Florida. There is the backyard of my parents’ home in St. Petersburg, where memories of my childhood seem vivid and real.

By far, the most sacred thin place for me is on Pass-a-Grille Beach, a few steps away from the Gulf of Mexico. It was there that I first sensed God calling me to ministry in 1995, where I heard the closest thing to an audible voice from God that I’ve ever heard. “Magrey, I want you to be a preacher.” When I want to remember my calling, I return to that beach.

It is there that I walked on countless occasions to pray about whatever burden I was carrying and sense God’s direction in my life. It is there that I have sat with a computer to write some of the most important sermons I’ve ever preached, including my Large Church Initiative sermon in 2013 and my installation sermon in 2015. It is there that God has inspired me to write important pieces for this church and for the wider Conference and denomination.



Thousands of years before the Celts, the Hebrew people also had a strong connection between God and the land. The Bible is filled with instances where they experienced the sacred in thin places, connecting them to the promise, presence, and provision of God.

In our worship series on the seven days of creation, this Sunday we will explore day three, when God created the land and the seas. We will remember what a gift the land, the seas, and the environment is to us, and discover ways to be proper stewards and caretakers of it.

Join this Sunday, as you think about those special places where “the distance between Earth and heaven collapses.”

I would love to hear what your thin places are.


See you Sunday!





Thank You for Providing Shelter: Julie Watkinson

Thank You for Providing Shelter: Julie Watkinson

Good day,

I wanted to reach out and thank all our community partners and ask you to please extend my gratitude to your staff and many, many volunteers. You opened your hearts and shelters to provide our most vulnerable population, a hot meal, and a warm place to sleep. This is such a gift, especially over the Christmas holidays. You took time away from your family and loved ones, to help those in need. It sure was cold!

I also want to extend my appreciation to our CWS spokesperson, Vicki Walker, from Hyde Park United Methodist Church, for talking with so many news outlets over the multi-day activation. Her team was also interviewed and even our newest partners joining last week, Church of God of Prophecy, did an amazing job on Bay News 9.

Every volunteer and guest I talked to was so kind and grateful to give, grateful to receive.

Together you provided 1,204 nights assistance to more than 300 individuals. With wind chill dipping in the 20’s and 30’s, that would have been detrimental sleeping outdoors or places unfit for human habitation.

I look forward to working with you and your organizations as needed throughout the winter. Also, wishing each of you and your friends and family, a happy and healthy new year.

Please feel free to provide feedback so, we can continue to support our community partners, and provide the best experience to those both providing and needing a warm place on a cold night.

Kind regards,

Julie Watkinson

Community Relations Coordinator

Department of Homeless and Community Services


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