Dear Hyde Park Family,
Last Sunday across the state of Florida, United Methodist churches announced pastoral changes in their congregations. We shared that Sally, Vicki, Justin and I would be returning for another year, for which we are grateful. We also shared the exciting but bittersweet news that Nicki Taylor (Director of Small Groups) and the Rev. Debbie Casanzio (Minister of Discipleship) will be appointed to new congregations starting July 1.
Nicki will be serving as the senior pastor at the United Methodist Temple in Lakeland, and Debbie will be serving Lady Lake UMC near the Villages, putting her closer to family. We hope that you will reach out to Debbie and Nicki and express your gratitude for all they have meant to us over the past several years.
For the rest of today’s Midweek Message, I have asked Nicki and Debbie to share personal words of thanks with you.
A Word From Nicki
To my Hyde Park Family,
It has been such a joy, honor and privilege to serve alongside you since I was first hired in 2015. You all have come alongside me as I have grown so much since I walked on campus for the first time. I came in a newlywed, freshly graduated from college with a call I didn’t really understand yet, and am leaving a mother who is ready to take the next step into my first appointment in pastoral ministry.
To each and every one of you who has helped me along this journey, thank you. To every staff person I have worked with, every supervisor who has guided me, to every volunteer I’ve worked with, every smiling face who has listened to my sermons, every friend I have worshiped alongside, every person I’ve shared Wednesday night dinner with and every fellow small group member I’ve learned so much from, thank you.
While it absolutely pains me to not be able to offer this goodbye in person, I hope you all can feel my love for you despite the physical distance. I will always cherish my time at Hyde Park.
So again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
A Word From Debbie
I thank my God every time I remember you.
Psalm 136:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
This week we are entering into the book of Psalms. Over the years, I have come to discover that each time I read it, God has a way of transforming me in ways I never expected.
I remember back in my 30s when my life was at its lowest point, I didn’t know what to do as it felt like my world was falling apart. I decided to open up the book of Psalms and started praying that God would reveal some comfort and strength to me. In that moment, I felt as if Christ took my hand and I knew I was not alone. Christ’s love filled me with peace amid what felt like a raging storm. As I read the words of the psalmist, who was also crying out for help, I was reminded I was not alone in my suffering and that God’s grace was with me. God’s grace was moving before me, even when I didn’t realize it.
This experience sustained me through a devastating life experience, and the book of Psalms carried me though it all. I believe we are all destined to discover the goodness of our humanity and our need for Divine grace. When we read scripture and serve others together, we can experience great joy through the healing presence of the Holy Spirit.
You all, as the people of Hyde Park, continue to remind me of the goodness of humanity as you each seek to grow in your life of faith. You never give up on seeking to serve, give and love others in the midst of your own struggles and challenges. During my seven years here, I have watched you all allow the work of the Holy Spirit to heal the wounded bits of your life alongside of others.
During this pandemic, I know how easy it is for anxiety, struggles and challenges to rise up so quickly. My prayer for all of us, is that we might find some peace, comfort and strength as we read this book of Psalms together this month.
As you heard last week, I will be appointed to serve as the Pastor of Lady Lake UMC beginning July 1. While I am sad to leave you all, I am grateful to be living closer to my family. I am a better person and pastor because of the lessons I have learned from you all over these past seven years. I am so grateful for all of you!
It is weird to have to share this transition virtually. While I am not sure how we will get to say goodbye, I will be in worship for my last Sunday on June 7. The psalms have wonderful prayers of thanksgiving, however as I close today, I want to share one of my favorite thanksgiving prayers from the book of Philippians as it speaks to how I will carry you with me wherever I go…
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:3-6
Grace and Peace,