Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

And so it begins... - Rector's Rambling for January 14, 2018

The next phases of the renovation project are getting underway this month.
Pictured is our electronic signboard, which was sent out to be updated.  After the new QLine station was built blocking the sight-line for the sign, the private corporation that built the new trolley offered to pay for us to elevate the sign so it can be seen over station.  While we were getting estimates to do that, we also entered into an agreement to have it updated with newer electronics (the electronic sign panels were failing and replacements no longer being made) which will allow for a higher quality resolution.  The face of the sign is also being expanded to allow the changeable electronic portion to be a larger square, rather than rectangular.  The restored sign should be installed in the next few weeks.
The next project is the 1971 Office building.  Thanks to parishioner Terri Palmer Burton, Palmer Moving came last Thursday and took away furniture and boxes to be put into storage.  In the next week or two the Office Manager and the Treasurer will move into the classroom in the undercroft and phone/Internet connected in there.  My office will be in the acolyte sacristy next to the chapel entrance.
Also, last week a key lock was installed on the garden narthex door to the church, where the new handicapped ramp is located.  This will allow us keyed access to the building during construction.  Until this, the only way to get into the building with a key from the outside was through the office building.
Demolition work on the interior of the office building will begin shortly thereafter so that the entire upstairs and downstairs will be renovated into useable and attractive space for ministry.
I hope everyone will be patient as we will all be inconvenienced in one way or another with this construction.  Hopefully we can keep focused on how great the results will be… well worth the occasional trouble of using a different entrance or finding/not finding something we thought we had stored for use during this project.
If you have questions or concerns, please speak with Dave Schafer (project coordinator), or with me, so as to avoid rumor and gossip, causing unhappiness.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Spiritual Resolutions for 2018 - Rector's Rambling for January 7, 2018

After finishing the 12 days of Christmas we began yesterday a new Church season with the celebration of The Epiphany.  Epiphanytide is a season whose length varies from year to year based on when Easter is celebrated (calculated from a lunar formula which results in April 1 for 2018).  This year we get three Sundays in Epiphanytide before we begin the pre-Lenten “-gesima” Sundays.
The emphasis of this short season is the “epiphany” (a moment of sudden revelation or insight.) that God has come to dwell among us, and that Jesus Christ is in fact the second person of the Holy Trinity.  In the case of the story in scripture, it is three wise men, sometimes referred to as three kings or magi, who are not Jews, but realize astronomically that a great potentate has been born, and so they come to pay homage, to worship the newborn king, as depicted above in the Rubens painting.
In the secular world, this is the first Sunday of 2018.  I pray we all have a good year and that we are open to the many blessings that God is showering upon us by His Grace.
By now, about a week into the new year, many well-intentioned resolutions have already fallen by the wayside.  Fear not, because the good news about our having free will is that we can repent and restart at any time (not that breaking a resolution is necessarily a sin).  Although we are confined to time and space, and the “calendar” is a reality, we can at any time make a decision to grow closer to Jesus and allow him to impact our life in a new and/or deeper way.
Need some ideas for some spiritual resolutions?  Here is a helpful list:
1) Attend Holy Communion EVERY Sunday, and on weekdays when possible.  Nothing better then the grace of receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and being obedient in keeping holy the Sabbath by coming to church.
2) Pray EVERY day.  Whether it is the full prayer book daily office, or 10 minutes set aside to talk to God (preferably both), checking in with the Lord we love is vital!
3) Read the Bible EVERY day.
4) Ask Jesus EVERY day how He would have you live.

Monday, January 01, 2018

125th anniversary of the death of our founder - Rector's Rambling for December 31, 2017

Today we continue our celebration of the Nativity, better known as Christmas.  The 12 Days of Christmas started on December 25 (or for many of us on Christmas Eve) and continues until January 5, when we get ready to celebrate another great Feast, the Epiphany, on January 6.  On that day we commemorate the Magi, the Three Wise Men, arriving to worship the newborn King.
And today, here at St. John’s, we are also having an additional celebration – it is the 125th Anniversary of the death of our founder, Henry Porter Baldwin.  After the 10:00AM service and coffee hour, we will head over to Elmwood Cemetery (maps will be available) to lay a wreath at his monument.
Pictured is Governor Baldwin, his monument, and the house which was at one time located across Woodward Avenue where the freeway now stands.  It was in that house that he met, on December 6 and 13, to discuss the possibility of starting a parish, and on December 27, that the incorporation papers were signed and Vestry elected.  That day, in 1858, Henry Porter Baldwin was elected Senior Warden, a position that he held until his death on December 31, 1892.
A merchant turned banker, Governor Baldwin was a founder of the Republican Party, campaigned for Abraham Lincoln, was elected Governor of Michigan, and then appointed by the state legislature to be the US Senator from Michigan (Senators were not directly elected back then).
He was a great civic leader for Detroit, as well as a luminary in the Episcopal Church.  He was a member of the Diocese Standing Committee for 48 years, and for nearly 50 years represented the Diocese of Michigan as a delegate to The General Convention.
The Vestry published a book of remembrances shortly after his death, which was unknown to me until recently when a copy from the University of Michigan Library appeared on Google Books.  In it are tributes from the business, government, and church community, reprints of his newspaper obituaries, and his funeral sermon.
The Rev. William Prall, the Rector of St. John’s in 1892, wrote this of Henry Porter Baldwin’s commitment to the work of the Church as One, Holy, and Catholic – a true High Churchman:

It must not be doubted, as a layman, he believed in the apostolicity of the Episcopal Church; he believed that the Bishops are the true successors of the Apostles.  He felt that  we have a treasure, the treasure of true catholicity, which we, the rightful trustees, hold for the use of the American people.  He did his best, and that best was always excellent, to augment the Episcopate, to make the apostolicity of our Communion known to all; to broaden men’s ideas of the scope of Catholic truth; to deepen their love for the love of God.
In addition to his diocesan involvement and work with the General Convention, he also served on many church related boards which required him to travel to New York several times a year, not an easy task in the 19th century.  In his funeral panegyric, Fr. Prall notes that the founding of St. John’s was motivated by Baldwin’s desire to serve all mankind.  While Senior Warden of another parish in the city someone said, “The Episcopal Church is a church only for the wealthy and ambitious; there is no room for the poor and the humble in it,”  He replied, “It is not so; if it were, I would leave it at once.”  We all know this is not so, and one of the proofs that it is not, is the action that Henry Porter Baldwin then took.  He went home and thought the matter over.  It occurred to him that there was room for another parish north of the Campus Martius, and that there were many people there, some of them plain and simple, who were unchurched; so he resolved that a new parish should be formed.  And so he set in motion the founding of St. John’s.
In a copy of his Will we have in our possession, we find that he not only left money to his family and St. John’s ($5,000, the equivalent of $130,000 now), but to the Diocese, the National Church, the former St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Home, and Orphanage in Detroit (now Canterbury on the Lake in Waterford), The Protestant Asylum, the Women’s Hospital, the Children’s Free Hospital, Elmwood Cemetery (where he is buried), the University of Michigan (where he served as a trustee and gave a building on campus while living) and most of his art to the Detroit Museum of Art.
Today we honor his memory.  Unlike the men who followed him and are remembered with public statuary, such as Hazen Pingree who sits in Grand Circus Park looking towards St. John’s – he bought H.P. Baldwin’s shoe store from him – there are two grand edifices on which his memory rests.  One is the State Capital building, which he proposed and convinced the legislature to build and for which he laid the cornerstone, and the other is this parish church.  We give thanks to God for Henry Porter Baldwin’s vision, faithfulness, and generosity.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent IV/Christmas Eve - Rector's Rambling for December 24, 2017

After what was a shortened Advent because it started in December, and the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on Christmas Eve, we have felt rushed as we have gone along.  But I hope and pray that despite its brevity, this Advent has been a great opportunity to be refreshed and renewed in preparation of Jesus’ return in glorious majesty, as well as His birth in Bethlehem.
In some ways having Advent IV and Christmas Eve on the same day shows us the sharp contrast that God could become a child, and that the one who is Lord of Heaven and Earth would deign to be born to a poor family and in a manger, literally a feedbox, in a small village.  Although we believe when the Scriptures describe Jesus’ return with power and majesty, and we recite every time we say the Nicene Creed that His return will be to judge the quick and the dead, today we are also faced with the even more awesome reality that He loves us so much that He would come into the world as a little child to begin the work of our salvation.
How awesome it is when we think that the Lord of heaven and earth would become vulnerable enough to have to be cared for and raised by Mary and Joseph as he grew into physical adulthood, and did so in order to walk among us, minister to us, and ultimately die and rise again for us that we may have everlasting life.
Today we welcome our many friends who have made St. John’s their “high holy day” destination.  We are grateful that you consider us that special, go-to place for this wonderful service tonight.  And if you haven't been here since last Easter or Christmas, the changes to the neighborhood, the new church entryway from the garden, and being able to park in our new parking structure shared with the stadiums may have come as a surprise to you.  And in the coming months even more updates are in store!  Beginning in January the rear office building is being completely renovated into a fantastic ministry annex, and then the undercroft (basement) and kitchen will be updated to better equip us for ministry to the parish and to our growing neighborhood community.
This is a wonderful time to be at St. John’s in the midst of the renewal of Detroit.  I hope that you will feel at home tonight, come back again frequently, and even consider making this your regular parish home!  We would love to have you join our happy throng!

The neighborhood coming back to life! - Rector's Rambling for December 17, 2017

Yesterday was a VERY busy day at and around St. John’s!  It is a joy to be a part of our new reality in the surrounding neighborhood.
Back in the spring, a couple called inquiring about being married at St. John’s.  They are Episcopalians living in Boston, the woman being from the Metro Detroit area.  As we do with out of state inquiries, particularly those already Episcopalians, is to make sure they are connected to a good parish where they can do the pre-marriage preparation.
However, from the moment they inquired I warned them that because of the upcoming opening of the new arena, and because we were waiting on the Lions and Fox Theatre schedules, I couldn’t promise them parking availability.  We just didn’t know what might be happening in the neighborhood on December 16.  But they were able to make prior arrangements through their reception venue (the Colony Club, a block away on Montcalm and Park), and they prepaid for parking for their guests in the Fox Garage.
Since those initial inquiries, all the schedules converged into one very busy Saturday.  At Little Caesars Arena, the University of Michigan played the University of Detroit Mercy at noon, followed by Michigan State University playing Oakland University – a basketball doubleheader.  On this side of the freeway the Detroit Lions had a 4:30 PM game at Ford Field, bringing their tailgaters.  The City Theatre (in the Hockeytown Café) had a 3:00 PM show, and The Fox Theatre had Mannheim Steamroller later that evening.
In the middle of all of those events, Chris and Emily were united in Holy Matrimony here at St. John’s and have begun their new life together as husband and wife.
Thankfully, we don’t have too much overlap for our Sunday morning worship, with the exception of an occasional Fox Theatre Show, or early-arriving Lions fans five or six Sundays a year.  But as we schedule Holy Day services, speakers, quiet days, hymn sings, and other events, we are learning the new rhythm of the neighborhood to work within.
Thanks be to God for the beginning of the renewal of our neighborhood!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Learn, to be able to spread, the Good News - Rector's Rambling for December 10, 2017

In 1994 I had the grace to hear Bishop Michael Marshall speak at my seminary about Evangelism.  For many Episcopalians Evangelism sounds like a dirty word.  But Bishop Marshall, at one time the youngest bishop in the Church of England, drove home the imperative that Evangelism is a foundational principle for those in the church who identify as Anglo-catholic as well as Evangelical.  In fact, the church when she is functioning best is Evangelical Catholic.  She is catholic in keeping all the universal teaching of the church, particularly concerning Jesus in the Sacraments and how the church worships and glorifies Him in the liturgy.  But we do it to make Him known, the meaning of Evangelism.
We are to spread the Good News, and in order to do that we must know the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord, and be able to share the hope that is in us through His Holy Word.
One of the sessions Bishop Marshall led that week was on reading and learning the Bible, germane to today’s Collect of the Day.  In order to really know Jesus, we need to know Him as He has revealed himself in his Holy Word, as well as in the Sacrament, and in the hearts of His faithful people.
Bishop Marshall had a couple of interesting hints that I remember to this day:
1) Find a translation and an edition of the Bible that speaks to you, and buy several copies of it so when that edition goes out of print you will have a back-up.  My study Bible is The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, expanded edition, Revised Standard Version, copyright 1977 – I have three copies.  His point is that you will start remembering where things are in the Bible by left or right page, and column, if you consistently use one edition.  (For memorizing and worship, I use the King James Version).
2) Sing the Bible out loud.  Pick a simple tune and sing it.  Sung things are easier to memorize!  At one time you are reading it, singing it, and hearing it, thereby triple reinforcing the memorization of the Bible.

Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Hurry up and wait - Rector's Rambling for December 3, 2

And so we begin a new year with the celebration of Advent.  When the rest of the world shouts, “hurry up!”, “buy this!”, or “here is a deal”, the church says to slow down, to reflect, and to prepare internally and spiritually for those things with eternal consequences.
Advent is a season of the Already and the Not Yet.  We are preparing for that which has already happened – the birth of Jesus Christ, and for that which has not yet happened – His return in glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead.  It isn’t “pre-Christmas”, but an intentional time of preparation by looking at the state of one’s soul.
This year, however, we will feel a bit rushed about Advent because the 4th Sunday in Advent is also Christmas Eve.  We miss out on the days that we would usually have between the 4th Sunday and Christmas to reflect and prepare.
The first three weeks of Advent will be full of our regular busy activity of Soup Luncheons, Bazaar, Gift-Giving Tree, Warm Fuzzy Mitten Tree, and the Cookie Walk.  Be sure to patronize all these events.
This year, because of the Advent IV and Christmas Eve overlap, we will have to stagger our church decorating.  Instead of doing it all on the weekend of Advent IV, please plan on staying after church for 45 minutes on December 10 and or December 17 as we start to put up the pew candles, draping greens on the balcony, etc.
And, of course, now is the time to begin inviting friends, neighbors, and family to attend worship for Advent and to attend our Christmas Eve Services.  This is the time of year when people who may not be regular about church attendance are looking for a place to worship.  God may be using you to bring them to Himself through the ministry of this parish.  Don’t miss the opportunity to “talk up St. John’s” whenever you get the opportunity to do so, and offer to bring them down here for an Advent Sunday and Christmas Eve.
Prepare!  Reflect!  Christmas is coming, and Jesus is coming back.  Let us be ready by His grace.

Monday, November 27, 2017

"animated with earnest zeal" - Rector's Rambling for November 26, 2017

First, I want to thank everyone who pitched in to help on Thanksgiving, with the pancake breakfast and donut/hot chocolate sales, as well as the many people who welcomed guests and showed them around our beautiful  building.
St. John’s is an amazing place, with amazing people!  When I give tours of the building during the week, I get to see the our place through their eyes.  They walk in and you hear them gasp, and look around in awe.  Before long someone in the group says, “I have driven by this place a thousand times and I never imagined how beautiful this is!”  And as I give them a synopsis of our remarkable history, I always make a point of telling them that as wonderful as the building is, and amazing as our history is, even more amazing and beautiful is what God is doing here now, and more beautiful are the people who are members here!
On Thanksgiving we welcome hundreds of people into our midst.  Our big challenge is to find ways to reach out to the multitude of people who live near us, work near us, and pass by on their way to the stadiums, arena, and theatres, to come in to pray, worship, and join us for both religious and social events so that we can build relationships which open opportunities to share Jesus with them.
In our prayer for St. John’s we ask God to “Enlighten our minds, subdue our wills, purify our hearts, and so penetrate us with Thy Spirit, and fill us with Thy love that we may go forth animated with earnest zeal for Thy glory; and may Thy living Word so dwell within our hearts that we may speak with that resistless energy of love which shall melt the hearts of sinners to the love of Thee.”  This is the formula we need to embrace in order not only to become holier, but to do so in order to draw people to Jesus.  If we are working on growing in grace, we will be motivated to reach out to others and share Jesus’ love.

The building is a wonderful attraction,  a wonderful inspiration to lead us to holiness, and a great location for ministry.  Let us step up to our responsibilities to use it for God’s Glory!