Symbols of Freedom

When you think about symbols of freedom, what do you see in your mind?

  • An eagle in flight
  • In West Africa: Fawohodie
  • The American Flag
  • The Buddha in a lotus position with his hand touching the ground
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • A photo of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

In Japan: wooden sword that was symbolic of a gladiator’s freedom

Symbols that we embrace reflect our values and help shape our thoughts and our hearts.  This Sunday begins a new sermon series on Galatians called Set Free. Christians possess powerful symbols that point us to the power and freedom found in the gospel of Jesus Christ:

The descending dove:  The Holy Spirit, which falls upon Christ’s followers, past, and present

The Bread and Cup:  the sacrament that reminds us of the love and sacrifice of Jesus

The Cross: celebrating the depth of God’s love for us as Christ gave His life to redeem us all

The Empty Tomb: celebrating Christ’s Resurrection and new life found in our Risen Lord

As we begin this journey through Galatians, I invite you to embrace the freedom that is ours through Christ:

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

May God richly bless you with love, hope, joy, freedom, and peace in 2020!

Pastor Cathy

The Light of Christmas

One evening this week we came around the bend on our street and I was dazzled by the lights that were decking the homes and trees of our neighbors.  It was beautiful!

During this season of the year when the days are short and night is long, I find myself longing for light.  When the sun shines, even on cold days, it makes me smile.

As we navigate this season of Advent, I invite you to think about how light helps us.  Lights make walkways safer.  Light can warm us around a fire.  Light helps us find our way home.  Lights help ships navigate into safe harbors.

In the gospel of John, we discover the power of the light of Christ:  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:5,9)

You are invited this Sunday:

8:00 am  and 11:00 am:  A Charlie Brown Christmas continues as Snoopy helps us grasp the importance of joy in our lives.  Wesley Choir will sing at 8:00;  Worship@11 will be led by the Praise Band.

9:30 am “The Light of Christmas,” a unique worship experience with The Canterbury Brass, Cathedral Choir hand bells, and fresh theological reflections will help us rejoice in God’s precious gift:  Jesus, the Light of the World.

Rejoicing in the Christ-Child,

Pastor Cathy

Born Again Irish Beach Brings Hope

An Irish beach disappeared in 1984.  At Dooagh Beach, the sand on Achill Island was washed away by storms, leaving only rocks and rock pools. Right around Easter in 2017 a strange tide came and deposited hundreds of the tons of sand where the former beach stretched about 300 meters.

The locals describe the event as “miraculous.”  The renewal of the beach is inspiring.  The local tourism board explained why people are flocking to the resurrected beach:

“We live in a dark world these days so I think that is why there has been so much interest in Dooagh beach since the story broke. For something like our beach to come back gives people hope. It’s a good news story and one where nature has done something benign for a change.  The title of J.J. McNamara’s article says it all:   “‘It gives people hope’: born-again Irish beach captures world’s attention.”

This Advent we will study the ancient themes of a season that early Christians considered a “mini-Lent.”   This Sunday we begin our sermon series, A Charlie Brown Christmas, with the message “Longing for Hope.”  Invite a friend to join you this month for a fun, meaningful walk through Advent, celebrating Jesus, the Christ, in whom we find our hope.   

Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday,

Pastor Cathy Johns

The Funny Thing about Love

Kim Caasali, a New Zealand native, was a cartoonist who wrote love notes to her future husband in the late sixties.  Her cartoons shed light on what love is all about.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Love is…having your picnic indoors on a rainy day

Love is…accepting that no one is perfect

Love is…someone to get goofy with

Love is…putting some money in his pocket when he’s tapped out

Love is…what overcomes everything

This Sunday, Pastor Sherman Bradley, of our second campus, The Warehouse, will bring a powerful message about what it means to Love God and neighbor.  Sherman is the founder of Consider the Poor, has rich experience in working with people in Over-The-Rhine, including leadership roles with City Gospel Mission.

Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church has partnered with Sherman and Sadell Bradley, our new pastors in Over-The-Rhine, to launch a new multi-ethnic, multi-socio-economic, diverse faith community to reach new people for Christ.  Renovations are currently underway and they hope to have a “soft launch” for worship at “The Warehouse” in late November.  The official public launch is scheduled for Easter 2020.

Your prayers and support of the birthing of this new faith community are appreciated.  We are delighted to see how God will move to transform lives through the Bradleys and this fresh expression of faith through The Warehouse.  Please extend a warm welcome to Sherman as he brings God’s Word to us this weekend.   


Pastor Cathy

All Saints Day

This Sunday, November 3, we will observe All Saints Day by remembering those of our Hyde Park Church family who have entered eternal life during the past year. The reading of the roll of the departed will be included in the Sacrament of Holy Communion in all three worship services:

At 8:00 am and 11:00 am:  New sermon series: “ Let’s Do It” begins.

This new sermon series examines the Great Commandment found in Mark 12:28-30 that invites us to Love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

9:30:  Fauré Requiem with Cathedral Choir and  13-piece orchestra.

The 9:30 am worship liturgy is interlaced with the presentation of the contemplative Requiem by Gabriel Fauré, sung by the Cathedral Choir and soloists, with chamber orchestra and organ. Among the most revered works in choral literature, the Fauré Requiem in its final form was first performed in Paris in 1893. The sheer  beauty of the music ignores any passage of time and, combined with our worship, will lift our hearts as we celebrate the lives of the faithful departed.

I am looking forward to sharing The Lord’s Day with you,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Turtles on the Beach

This week I participated in a spiritual retreat in North Carolina.  The daily rhythm of worship, teaching, silent reflection, and sharing in community are life-giving to my body, mind, and spirit. Nearly each day I was able to walk the beach, sometimes alone and sometimes with a trusted soul-friend.

Earlier this week Jan pointed out something that I had missed. There was a protective fence, stakes and red tape, set up right in the sand, around a deep hole.   It was to protect turtle eggs buried on the beach.

Healthy churches practice the building of hedges or fences around the vulnerable, creating a safe space where those at risk can thrive.  I am thankful today for every Interfaith Hospitality Servant, Stephen minister, children, youth, or adult leader who creates a safe place where members of the community can feel safe. Thank you, Hyde Park Community United Methodist, for your commitment to be a place that protects the vulnerable so life can thrive.

In Christ’s Joy,

Pastor Cathy

Lessons about Leadership from Walking Dogs

This summer I became reacquainted with one of my favorite tasks:  training a puppy.  Caspian, our yellow lab rescue puppy joined our family on April 1.  He was named after C.S. Lewis’ fictional prince in the Chronicles of Narnia.  Every prince needs a princess so when our Golden Retriever female puppy joined our family in late August, we named her Zara.  It means “princess” in Hebrew.

Training puppies is a lot of work, but it is a lot of fun!  It is a joy to see them learn new things each day.  They can both sit, stay, shake my hand, come, lay down, and know what to do when I say “treats for good dogs.”  They run as quickly as they can toward me, anxious to receive a small piece of a dog biscuit, a reward for their good behavior.

One thing that is a little tricky is encouraging a new puppy to walk on a leash.  If the puppy does not want to move forward, it simply sits down and looks at you.  What follows is the awkward moment of a stare down.  The puppy looks at you as if to say, “Not happening.  I am not moving.”  At this point you have a few choices:  go and pick up the dog, pull the dog, or encourage the dog to walk where you would like them to go.

The third option is best for dogs and amazingly enough for people.  Most people generally do not like to be picked up or pulled! Henry and Richard Blackaby offer this great definition of spiritual leadership:  “moving people on to God’s agenda.”  They add that the spiritual leaders task is to “move people from where they are to where God wants them to be.”

God may be calling you to a role of servant leadership.  Our Servant Leadership Board has three openings for persons who are highly committed to Hyde Park Community UMC and feel called to the role of servant leader.  It is a three-year commitment.  Applications and criteria for the Servant Leadership Board are available at the Welcome Center and in the church office.  Please submit your application by October 15.

May God richly bless you as you lead those around you, moving people to God’s agenda as you shine brightly for Christ.


Pastor Cathy Johns

Trapeze Artists: How to Trust our Future

Henri Nouwen was once deeply moved by a performance of the Rodleighs, a troupe of flying trapeze artists.  One of the artists explained to Nouwen that the flyer can do nothing but trust that the catcher will catch him.  The timing is crucial.  If the flyer tries to catch the catcher they could both be seriously hurt.   But if the flyer waits, extends their arms and waits to be caught, his partner can deliver him back to the safety of the platform.

That period of waiting to be caught and land safely is hard.  It’s all about trust.  Nathan Kirkpatrick writes that we trust people who are competent, have our best interest at heart, people of integrity (open and transparent), and reliable in their performance and predictable in their behavior.

This year is a year of high anxiety for many.  It feels like an “in between time,” a season of not quite yet.  Some long for new people to be elected to public office while others yearn for a resolution to the present theological impasse in the United Methodist Church.   Regardless of how much we want it be sooner, General Conference will be held  May 5-15, 2020 and the next general election will be on November 3, 2020.  When you find yourself in that place of anxiety or worry, remember the words of Psalm 46:  “Be still, and know that I am God.”

At Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, the Way Forward Task Force has been listening to both the pain and the hopes for this community of faith.  We hope you will attend one of the three remaining listening sessions:  Sunday, August 25, 12:15, Wednesday, August 28, 6:30 p.m., or Sunday, September 8, 12:15 p.m.

This fall the task force will make a recommendation to the Servant Leadership Board about how we will move forward as a congregation, ready to respond swiftly to the options available to us after General Conference meets in May 2020.

We serve a God who invites us to let go and trust God.  We are invited to take God’s hand and step into the future with confidence and deep, abiding joy.   Let us continue to serve Christ, love one another, and open ourselves to be vessels of grace and love for all of God’s people.


Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns

Where Fred Got it Right

Fred Rogers, the star of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, reminded us of the importance of community.  After last week’s shootings in El Paso and Dayton, we struggle to get our bearings.  News of multiple deaths, injured bodies, and countless victims ripped across lives just as tornadoes tore through the northern edge of Dayton just weeks ago.

Mr. Rogers was a bearer of light and hope.  He was interested in building healthy lives and strong communities.  Some of my favorite quotes of Fred Rogers are below:

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world.  That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors – in our own way, each of us is a giver and a receiver.”

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero.”

“Listening is where love begins:  listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.”

Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church is committed to being a loving neighbor to people in need.  Giving ourselves away, we seek to bless those around us.  I celebrate the many ways our faith community extends its love to our neighbors, including:

Summer Jam, August 22, a free concert where we invite our neighbors to come and enjoy music on the church lawn

Free Vacation Bible School each summer, touching more than 300 lives with God’s love

Inter-Faith Hospitality, a ministry where we open our doors to families in need of shelter and food

Stephen Ministers, trained lay-care givers, who listen to people in times of change, grief, and loss

Grief and Loss Seminars, inviting our neighbors to find healing in seasons of pain

I am thankful to call you my neighbor.  Let us hold onto God’s hand and one another’s hands during these troubling times.


Pastor Cathy

Love that Descends

He loved her, without a doubt.

Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher of the 19th Century, wrote of a dilemma faced by a king who loved a humble maiden.  He was a great king and could have whatever he wanted.  Foreign states trembled at his power.  Every statesman feared his wrath.  All would send ambassadors to his wedding.

He realized that if he asked the members of his court about following through on marrying this humble woman that they would respond, “Your majesty is about to confer an honor upon the maiden for which she can never be sufficiently grateful her whole life long!”

The dilemma was simple:  Even if she did want to come with him and join him in marriage, he could never be sure that she loved him for himself.  He wrestled and agonized in his mind.

Finally he decided. If she could not come up to his high station in life and be sure to love him freely, he must descend to hers.  He must descend stripped of all royalty and power, for only then would he know that his beloved loved him freely, as equals.

The king made his choice:  he laid aside all his power and privileges and came to her as her equal, for the sole purpose of winning her love.

Thirty-five years ago this Sunday, July 21, I married my best friend, Doug Johns. Every day I thank God for his love, his laughter, and the joy that he brings to my heart and soul.  Words cannot express my gratitude for his presence in my life and in the life of our family.

May God richly bless you and those whom you love.

Your Servant in Christ,

Pastor Cathy