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November 2, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

This Sunday will be an especially poignant All Saints’ worship service for me. Over the past year, several influential people in my life have died, people who were formative to my Christian journey and my ministerial calling. There is my high school Bible teacher Bruce Strickland, my high school administrator Rita Smith, and my lifelong mentor and senior pastor Jack Stroman. I have written and preached about each of these people over the last several months.

One other person I will be remembering is C. Frederick Harrison, or “Mr. Fred,” who was the longtime Director of Music Ministries at Pasadena Community Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, my home church. Mr. Fred had a remarkable ministry, directing choirs of all ages, including the youth choir in which I sang when I was in the youth group. Every fall, we would have a Music Ministries Sunday, when all of our groups and ensembles would perform in worship, and we would celebrate the fact that the number of volunteer musicians and vocalists under Mr. Fred’s care was larger than the membership in most congregations in the Florida Annual Conference.

In the 1980s, Mr. Fred developed a close friendship with a well-known composer named Natalie Sleeth, who had become famous for her moving anthems and hymns. In the spring of 1985, Pasadena Community Church hosted a music festival honoring Mrs. Sleeth, performing many of her best-known works.

Mr. Fred requested that Mrs. Sleeth compose a special anthem for that festival, for his Chancel Choir to perform as a debut in her honor. Mrs. Sleeth obliged, and she wrote what would become one of our most beloved hymns.

It is titled “Hymn of Promise,” which she composed in honor of her husband Rev. Dr. Ronald Sleeth, who had been diagnosed with cancer. Just weeks after the hymn’s debut at Pasadena, he died. Read the deep and profound lyrics below, and watch it performed here.   

“Hymn of Promise”

Natalie Sleeth

In the bulb, there is a flower
In the seed, an apple tree
In cocoons, a hidden promise
Butterflies will soon be free

In the cold and snow of winter
There’s a spring that waits to be
Unrevealed until its season
Something God alone can see

There’s a song in every silence
Seeking word and melody
There’s a dawn in every darkness
Bringing hope to you and me

From the past will come the future
What it holds, a mystery
Unrevealed until its season
Something God alone can see

In our end is our beginning
In our time, infinity
In our doubt, there is believing
In our life, eternity

In our death, a resurrection
At the last, a victory

Unrevealed until its season
Something God alone can see

After its debut in our church in 1985, its popularity soared. It became a fixture in worship at Pasadena; my dad says it is his favorite hymn. When The United Methodist Hymnal was revised in 1989, Hymn of Promise was included, just four years after its debut. To this day, it is a favorite feature of many funeral and memorial services.

This Sunday, I will join you in remembering those persons who have played an influential role in your life. I will remember Bruce, Rita, Jack, and Mr. Fred. And I will join you in remembering all the saints, that “in their death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory.”

“Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist