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.