Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 50 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 impending hockey arena.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Saturday, December 31, 2005

A happy new year!

Tomorrow is not only Sunday, but a major feast of the Church! It is the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, also known as the Feast of the Holy Name. All covenants in ancient times were sealed in blood, and for the Jews, their covenant with YAHWEH was sealed by shedding of blood on the eighth day, when the males were circumcised. It is on this eighth day that they officially received their names. Jesus, in fulfilment of the law as a Jew was circumcised, and formally received the name given to Mary and Joseph by God - JESUS (Yeshua - God Saves!). He, of course, would seal the new covenant in his own blood on the Cross; a one, sufficient sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the whole world. And it is only by the name of Jesus Christ that we are saved! A big day indeed! So even though there will be plenty of revelery tonight for New Year's Eve, be sure to get up and get to Church tomorrow not only because it is Sunday (our obligation) but also a major holy day! (painting - The Circumcision, by Signorelli)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy 147th Birthday to St. John's Church!

147 years ago today, The Feast of St. John the Evangelist, in the home of Mr. Henry Porter Baldwin (pictued here in his official congressional portrait), St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit came into official existance. A group of men had met twice, on December 6th and 13th (St. Nicholas and St. Lucy's Day) to discuss the need to found a new parish 'out in the country', since the 3 existing parishes in the city were all on the river. Surely, they thought, Detroit would begin to expand northward, and not just up and down the Detroit river. Henry Porter Baldwin, then Senior Warden at St. Paul's (now the Cathedral Church relocated further north at Woodward and Warren) donated a parcel of land where the Church and Parking Lot now stand, surrounded by what was then farmlands and orchards. He also paid for the construction of a Rectory (now demolished) and the Chapel. But it was on St. John's Day that the parish officially came into exisitence with the signing of articles of incorporation and the election of Wardens and a Vestry (hence the choice of the name St. John's) Within the first year of its exisitence St. John's built the Chapel (dedicated November 10th, 1859) found a Rector in Maine (William Armitage), formed a boys choir, and even grew out of the original building!!! Within one year of its founding St. John's was making plans to build a second building for worship (completed in 1861), to seat at least 1000 people which eventually sat 1300 before the reconfiguring of the building in the 1930's.

We give thanks to Almighty God for those men and their famiies who gave of their prayers, fortunes, and time to get this parish up and running: Henry P. Baldwin, George C. Jones, John M. Reily, John P. Cook, William Brodie, John Roberts, John Rumney, James M. Johnson, Theodore J. Barry, George W. Rose, B.G. Stimson, L.L. Tiffany, T.B. Leavenworth, Henry Heames, Andrew Backus, A. Richmond, Robert M. Reilly, J. Parkinson, T.H. Armstrong, Hamilton Miller, John Campbell, Thomas G. Scott, James W. Hanford, John W. Strong, George Swift.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

And now begins the 12 Days of Christmas! I hope you are not sick of Christmas Music yet, because the next nearly two weeks are the real Season of Christmas (until January 6th, when Epiphany starts).

At St. John's we had a grand celebration. Unlike the last two years when we had snow and bitter cold (15 below zero wind-chill), this year's weather was a balmy 38 degrees, but raining. This was better weather for our far-ranging parishioners and friends to drive to downtown Detroit for worship.

Attendance this year at all Christmas services was over 450 people, and increase of over 75 from last year. The Children's Service showed the biggest percent increase (up to 115 from last year's 85) and even this morning's Mass, which was Low Mass with a few a cappella hymns, attracted an additional 12 people over last year.

The choir at 10:30/11pm was outstanding, and having such a large crowd sure adds to the 'feel' of worship! Unfortunately, I woke up on Christmas Eve Morning with no voice, the residual effect of a cold on Monday and Tuesday. Singing hymns and saying Mass at the children's service only made it worse, and I had very little voice to give to the 11pm Mass (the sursum corda and proper preface were a disaster!), but I gave it the best I could!

I look forward in the next few years, God willing. to our regular Sunday worship being as largely attended as Christmas 2005 (we are already past Christmas 2002 levels today). With a building that seats 800+, we have the room to grow!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Greening of the Church

After the services on Advent IV (December 18th this year) we had our Greening of the Church. After a quick soup luncheon in the Undercroft, we go back upstairs to decorate the Church for Christmas. It is hard work for about an hour or two, but the results are always stunningly beautiful! Green and Red are definately this old building's colors. Thank you to all parishioners who pitched in t0 help.

The picture on the left is the High Altar in our newer Church (built 1861, High Altar installed 1892/1894) , and on the right our original 1859 Chapel which was built to seat 125, and was already too small the day it was opened for worship!

Rose Sunday


Friends -

We recently (December 11th) celebrated Rose Sunday. At that service we unveiled a wonderful new set of Rose Vestments. The Superfrontal was given by the family of Kathleen McNab, the Burse and Veil by Richard and Mary Mammana of New York/Connecticut, and the pulpit/lectern hangings (not pictured) in by parishioners Lauren and Garrett Myers. The Chausable was donated 2 years ago by the Tischer Family, and orphreys recently added to match the new hangings. That is me at the High Altar at St. John's.

Yes, those are old fashioned altar cards on the Altar. We are a 1928 Prayer Book Parish, using the minor propers from the American Missal for weekday Masses, and sung from the Anglican Use Gradual for Sundays.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Some Good News

The really Good News is Jesus Christ is Lord!
But additionally, the good news is that we have a completely revamped website for the parish.
www.stjohnsdetroit.org -same address, new look! Thank you to Chris Sayers, our webmaster, for his HOURS of hard work in developing the site! It is awesome.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

What goes on at St. John's other than Sunday Morning?

When I came to be interviewed by the Diocesan Bishop before interviewing at St. John's, he expressed a hope that St. John's wouldn't be a "Sunday Only" parish...and we certainly are not.

Of course, we have worship on Sunday, and the majority of our classes (for youth and adults) happens then. Parishioners drive from as far as an hour (or more) every Sunday, and it is hard to expect them to come down on a weekday as well. But much is happening during the week, and many do!

Since last week we had a Saturday morning healing seminar put on by the Diocesan Chapter of the Order of St. Luke, attended by 35 people. While that happened, Pro-Literacy Detroit met in our Chapter Room. On Wednesday Night Pro-Literacy Detroit returned, while there was also a fundraising dinner for the Cornerstone Schools www.cornerstoneschools.com with the CEO, Mr. Clark Durant speaking. This dinner raised $1200 for the schools, which strives to help inter-city youth get a great, Christ-centered education.

Those were special, occasional events (although P.L.D. is pretty regular, about 12 times a year). Every week Monday through Friday we have Morning Prayer at 9am and Evening Prayer at 5pm. We have the Holy Communion on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Alcoholics Anonymous has 5 meetings a week at St. John's. We also have the front doors open on weekdays at lunchtime for people to come in and pray, reflect and be quiet. Two adult baptisms in recent months have been the result of people walking in the front door during the week because the doors were open. We also hope to start offering The Alpha Course on a weeknight at the Church in the near future (recently we did it on Sundays after Church). Also, our chapters of the Daughters of the King and Brotherhood of St. Andrew meets on a non-Sunday day.

Other groups using St. John's include a home-school co-op on Thursdays, and occassional use by the Detroit Police Department Chaplains Corps (that is me in my Chaplains uniform) and Mariners Inn (an Episcopal Church affliated rehab facility about 10 blocks from St. John's). For the Super Bowl Week (yes, Super Bowl XL will be happening about 2 blocks away in Ford Field) the non-worship space will be rented by the Police Department and a video production company for the NFL. We have even been a lunch room for the crew shooting the movie The Island (yes, that is a picture of me with Island star Ewan MacGregor - I didn't know who he was at the time!). We have even had a huge snow-board half-pipe set up in our parking lot and covered with dry ice in August for the Molson Snow Jam! That was quite a sight!

We also host concerts, for the most part classical music but occasionally a gospel concert as well (music at St. John's is glorious traditional Anglican fare!).

We are most certainly not a Sunday only parish church, and we are always looking for other opportunities for use of the facilities to the greater glory of God and the support of the parish.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Global Warming???


Global Warming? A few weeks ago I might have believed it with temps in the 60's in early November! We didn't turn the heat on at our house until mid-November.

But since shortly before Thanksgiving it has been downright bitter. Today's high was nearly 20 degrees below the normal for this time of the year.


Quite frankly, it is all pretty cyclical anyway. Too hot, too cold, "I remember when I was a kid we had snow this high....".

Was it Mark Twain who said "everyone keeps talking about the weather but no one seems to be doing anything about it?"
As they say about Michigan weather - "if you don't like it, just wait a minute and it might change".
Photos from Thanksgiving Day 2004