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, June 13, 2018

The long summer season - Rector's Rambling for June 10, 2018

The long summer season is now upon us and the neighborhood will be as busy as ever.  The picture here is a bit dated.  It was taken from Comerica Park before the parking garage was built.  On any given Tigers home game day, the neighborhood around us is bustling, as well as for shows at the Fox Theatre and concerts at the Little Caesars Arena.  Add to that the uptick in new housing available and occupied in the neighborhood, and this Piety Hill area (the old name for this neighborhood) has certainly come back to life with joggers, walkers with strollers and pets, and those coming and going on their bikes.  It is a big change from 10 years ago.
Here at St. John’s, I used to say that things slowed down for the summer.  But, in fact, the busyness just changes.  Instead of Sunday School and Guilds/Organizations meeting regularly, we have summer projects and programs.  In July we celebrate our nation’s birth, send students and staff to the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth, and end the month with a day in celebration of our founders.  Regular weekly Evening Prayer will also be scheduled mid-July onward at the Prayer Wall as a chance to be out and seen as the community is busy around us.
Summer is a time for travel and recreation.  My family will be taking a few days away this summer to refresh and regroup.  And as always, I implore you to take the opportunity to visit a church or two if you are away on holiday, and be sure to bring back a worship bulletin or other information about the church so we can see what others are doing in Jesus’ name.
But if Sunday morning finds you in the area, then I hope that you will make the effort to come down to Church to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.  Although the choir is only at quartet strength, the music is still wonderful, the Gospel powerful, the Sacrament Grace-filled, and the fellowship welcoming.
And I hope that while home, or while traveling, you will keep current on your pledge to the parish.  Although the parish income is never considered “straight line”, expecting the same amount each week, the bills expect to be paid regularly throughout the summer months.  In addition to dropping it in the collection plate on Sunday, if you are away, you can always put a stamp on your giving envelope and drop it in a mailbox, and it will get to us that way.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

"This is my Body" - Rector's Rambling for June 3, 2018

“This is my Body”. (Matthew 26:26)  These simple words of Jesus sum up the reason for today’s special celebration of Corpus Christi.  In fact, Corpus Christi means “The Body of Christ”.  Today we celebrate the great gift that Jesus gave to us – his very self under the species of bread and wine.
This feast actually falls on Thursday night for a good reason.  It mirrors the celebration of the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday, when Jesus with his apostles celebrated the Passover meal together and Jesus took the elements of that remembrance meal and gave it a new, more powerful Sacramental meaning.  Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday, and gets lost in the busyness of Holy Week.  So the church, in her wisdom, created this secondary feast to celebrate the occasion again.
I remember the first time I attended a Thursday evening celebration of Corpus Christi.  It was a Solemn High Mass at St. Clement’s Church in Philadelphia and several things stuck out that night that have stayed with me to this day.  First was that it was ridiculously hot and sweaty and I don’t think I had ever been so drenched in sweat outside of an exercise situation.  But more wonderfully, I remember the fantastic music (Shubert’s Mass in G), precise ancient liturgy, and amazing devotion to Jesus in the gift of the Blessed Sacrament.  Years later, after I was ordained, I got to participate in the liturgy  for this feast day at St. Clement’s and it may be the closest to heaven I think I have ever experienced.
Here at St. John’s we celebrate this Feast today, but we also have other opportunities to deepen one’s devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  On Thursdays, year-round, we have the service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament after the celebration of Holy Communion.  In Lent we also have Benediction on Fridays after Stations of the Cross.  And every time the Holy Communion is celebrated, we can draw nearer to Jesus in the way that He gave himself to us on that night before he died.
For more information on this devotion, both in the U.K. and in the U.S., please go to the St. John’s Web site page for the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament at www.StJohnsDetroit.org/cbs.htm.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Trinity in Unity - Rector's Rambling for May 27, 2018

Today we celebrate one of the great mysteries, and yet biblically obvious truths of our Faith – that we believe in One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.
Google is a dangerous place to explore at times.  When I googled TRINITY for images for this newsletter, choices included comics deriding the doctrine, one of which I clicked on out of curiosity.  This lead me on a 30-minute adventure of Web sites set up by various cults and sects claiming to know the actual truth about God and the Bible, all backed up with misquotes and pseudo-historical proofs.  One group has even retranslated the Bible to try to take out any verses that might be construed as biblical proof.  It is remarkable how they believe that God hid the truth from people from 33 A.D. until their group was founded in the 19th or 20th century.
Despite the erroneous claims of some that somehow the Trinity (and the Bible itself) was an invention in the 4th century, we have evidence from the earliest writings of belief in God in Trinity.  The earliest recorded baptismal records tell of baptisms with the Trinitarian formula, as was commanded in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.“ (28:19)
And Jesus himself speaks of He and the Father being one.  John’s 17th Chapter, called Jesus’ High Priest Prayer, expresses Jesus’ desire to protect his disciples as he prepares for his own death and resurrection.  He prays, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (17:21)  And how can one not see Jesus’ assertion of Divinity and Unity with the Father when in the 8th chapter of John’s Gospel, after a long discourse on He and the Father, Jesus declares, “before Abraham was, I am” (8:58), for which the Jews sought to stone him for blasphemy.
And last week we focused on God the Holy Spirit and his procession from the Godhead upon the disciples to empower the Church for ministry.
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – how Trinity in Unity works may not be definable, but it is believable based on Jesus’ gracious word.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Come Holy Ghost! - Rector's Rambling for May 20, 2018

I had the opportunity in seminary to get to know the then Archbishop of Canterbury’s special advisor on evangelism, Bishop Michael Marshall.  When consecrated, he was the youngest bishop in England, who then subsequently spent some time in the United States at the Anglican Institute before returning to England to serve under the Archbishop.  He was adjunct faculty at Nashotah House and came to lecture us periodically.
One of the lectures that has stuck with me was when he spoke about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in particular how we often begin to exercise them without realizing it.  In fact, Bishop Marshall said, it is other people who begin to recognize how these gifts are being made manifest through our faithfulness and desire to serve.
He harkened this observation back to the day of Pentecost itself.  The disciples, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, would not have seen or recognized at first in themselves what was going on, but they would recognize it in others.  As the bishop described the scene in his proper English accent, “excuse me love, but you seem to have a bit of flame up on your head.”
We should certainly be praying and asking God to make manifest in us the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (as we have been praying for in our Novena the last nine days).  And we should also pray that we may begin to manifest the fruits of the Spirit as well: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.  (Some ancient translations of Galatians 5:22–23 break down “temperance” into self-control, modesty and chastity, which are all aspects of it).
The world wants to reject much of this, or try to redefine the terms into it’s distorted own image, but God’s plan for us is to live in these gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.  It often takes a loving word from a fellow member of the church for us to realize that these things are in fact beginning to be made manifest in us even if we don’t see it.  And we should press on in faith and hope, relying on God’s grace, to continue to grow in all these attributes.
It is only by His most gracious favor that the world will be changed.  And it starts with our cooperation with Him!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Thy Kingdom Come this week - Rector's Rambling for May 13, 2018

We continue our special time of intercession as we are now in the middle of the time between the Feast of the Ascension (last Thursday) and Pentecost (next Sunday).
The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the churches to participate by praying with special intention for the conversion of the world to Jesus Christ, beginning one person at a time.  One of the ways we can do this is by praying for and with others.
If you haven’t signed up and come down for our 6:00 PM service, I implore you to do so this week.  It is a great opportunity for us to gather and let the neighborhood know that we are alive and praying for them.  We sing two hymns, we pray Evening Prayer, and if the Spirit moves someone, we have a five-minute testimony by them about their faith in Jesus Christ.  Then we have a period of intercession for those we have been asked to pray for, and those whom God has placed on our hearts that day.  We are done before 6:30 PM.
Our church building is a wonderful, beautiful structure that inspires people to prayer.  But it is also intimidating.  It is large and imposing.  It can be hard for someone who is not a member, or not a believer, to step inside.
Having this gathering at the Prayer Wall is bringing the Love of Jesus outside and to the people, both witnessing to them by our presence and prayers, and inviting them to join us in a less intimidating location.
A friend and I were having a discussion on getting people into the doors of the church.  Parish Web sites, YouTube, and Facebook can all be effective introductions so it is not completely alien when the newcomer walks in.  If you know C. S. Lewis’ series The Chronicles of Narnia, my friend described how people want to enter the wardrobe to see if that magic back entrance is still there.  The Prayer Wall for us can be that door which helps people to enter in, by first starting a relationship in prayer, and then by welcoming and incorporating them into the fellowship.
Ultimately it is by God’s grace that prayers are answered and new people are incorporated into His Church.  May we be open and willing vessels to participate in His work.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Thy Kingdom Come - May 10 to 20 - Rector's Rambling for May 6, 2018

First, a hearty THANK YOU to all those who pitched in and contributed of their time and talent to make yesterday’s Power of Prayer program a success.  I especially want to thank Martina Stevenson, who had the vision for this day, and was the point person for it!
Now we move on to our next big thing, which is ALSO about prayer!  Starting Thursday, we will be participating with the worldwide THY KINGDOM COME time of prayer for the conversion of the world to Jesus Christ.
We will be gathering at the St. John’s Prayer Wall every day, from May 10 to 20, to Pray for the Church, the city, and the world.  But especially this year, we are going to pray for the conversion of those who are closest to us and do not know, or do not love, Jesus Christ as Saviour.
The world does encourage the life of faith.  It wants us to believe only in our selves, or man-made institutions like government, for our ultimate good.  Of course, we know that the only one worthy of worship, and from whom all blessings flow, is God Himself.  He is the one that we can and must depend upon for our help and direction.
I need you to participate in our THY KINGDOM COME novena in a few ways:
1) Sign up to be present at least one of the 10 days at the Prayer Wall at    6:00 PM.  We need to have at least 10 people here every day!
2) On the days you cannot be at St. John’s, join us in prayer by watching the livestream of it at www.Facebook.com/stjohnsdetroit which you can watch even if you don’t have a Facebook account.
3) Pledge to also pray every morning for the THY KINGDOM COME program, that more and more people will come to know Jesus Christ.
4) Submit a list of those for whom you would like prayers that they come to this knowledge and love of Christ.  First name and last initial is fine.  That list will be complied and shared with all those who have pledged to pray.  The people on this list will be prayed for over a period of 40 days (not just the 10 of the program).

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

People of Prayer - Rector's Rambling for April 29, 2018

As we finish April, we look forward to wonderful opportunities coming up in the month of May.
On Saturday, May 5, at 4:00 PM, we welcome Karen Abercrombie, Miss Clara, from the hit movie War Room.  By now I hope that you have seen the movie or have learned enough about it that you are looking forward to being here to hear Ms. Abercrombie speak.
In this wonderful movie, Miss Clara demonstrates the importance of prayer, and the power that it has to effect change.  The title of the event at St. John’s is The Power of Prayer because it is just that – powerful!  Tickets are only $5.00 and I hope that you are planning on coming and bringing a friend or two.  You can pay at the door, or pay ahead on-line through our parish Web site or Facebook page.
Then the following week, we begin our Thy Kingdom Come prayer services at the St. John’s Prayer Wall.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, has asked that the Church spend the time between the Feast of the Ascension (May 10 this year) and Whitsunday (May 20) praying with special intention for the coming of the Kingdom of God.  And this year we are praying with special intention for the conversion of our friends and family to faith in Jesus Christ.  Please take advantage of this by beginning to make a list of all those you would like to pray for, to come into a relationship with Jesus, or perhaps back into a relationship with Him.
As Christians we might take for granted “prayer”.  After all, we pray here at St. John’s when we worship, and I hope that we are saying our prayers between Sundays.  It is our responsibility, our duty, to be people of prayer.  But more importantly we need to embrace that it is our privilege and joy to be able to pray.
We pray because we know that God hears us, that He loves us, and desires the best for us.  And we pray because we love Him, want to hear Him, and we want to live as he would have us live.  Prayer puts us into His presence so that we can live all these reasons!  This prayer can be formal, like the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, corporate like the Holy Communion service, and personal like those times of private prayer and devotion.
We do all three types, as well as prayerful study of scripture, and quiet time of listening, so that we can come to know Him more and become more like Him.