Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Window work begins!

Don't be surprised when you come to St. John's this Sunday to see scaffolding over some of the windows at St. John's. With this project we are replacing the old safety glass. This is being done not only because much of the plastic had gone milky/opaque, but because it was not vented, the heat and moisture build-up can damage the windows. In fact, we have already found a small amount of damage to a Tiffany window, and one of the older Greisai (sp?) windows (painted grey glass) is so badly damaged that it needs either a $4400 repair, or a $13,000 replacement. If you know of anyone who would like to have a new window at St. John's dedicated to the memory of someone LET ME KNOW ASAP!

And yes, that is DUCT TAPE holding together the badly damaged window in the chapel! It is, of course a temporary fix. The safety glass is removed, the window frame scraped and painted, any small repairs done on site, and then the new vented safety glass will be installed.

The entire project should take 3 weeks.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Applying ice....

So today was my day off, the weather was nice, and my son's new baseball coach called to let us know Andrew had been drafted by him for his team (yes, the draft in Little League baseball here in Grosse Pointe Park, after tryouts last week). Practice starts in a few weeks and just last Saturday he had an indoor baseball clinic. Add to that the excitement that Major League Baseball officially starts the season next Monday, and the Tigers home opener is the following Monday (and the Tigers are 17 -11 in the pre-season, not too shabby).

All this means it was a good day to head off to the baseball diamond and hit a few baseballs. I took Andrew, plus older brother Sam (who brought is glider airplane since baseball is mostly boring to him) and younger brother William, to the Little League field in the neighboring town (here in Grosse Pointe Park the LL field is the school, and we can't go over there while the kids are in school - we homeschool). We packed up a couple of bats, the mitts, helmet, and my bucket of 40+ baseballs (a great investment last fall at a sporting goods store looking to get rid of summer stock), and arrived at the diamond to shake the summer rust off.

Well, when you are throwing pitches to 3 youngsters for only the second time since last fall, you shouldn't over do it....but we were having so much fun. So I am typing with an ice-pack on my shouder after throwing over 160 pitches (4+ buckets). Forget about lifting my arm over my head! And yes, it will be interesting to try to elevate the host and chalice at Mass tomorrow!!!

But hey...baseball is starting! Bring it on!

Battle Cry Article

An Evangelical Youth Rally is coming to Detroit, to be held at Ford Field near St. John's. We not only have youth going, but due to our proximity we have several large groups of people from out of town staying at St. John's for 'sleep-over'. The first of the three nationwide events happened in San Francisco this weekend, and it was interesting to note the coverage of it by the San Francisco Gate newspaper. Below is some snippets from the article. Note the photos attached from the article- the Christians are joyful. The protester, a minister in The Church of Natural Grace (whatever that is) is a picture of anger. The other protester picture in the paper is someone in drag dressed as a nun. A link to the full article is at the end of this post.
More than 25,000 evangelical Christian youth landed Friday in San Francisco for a two-day rally at AT&T Park against "the virtue terrorism" of popular culture, and they were greeted by an official city condemnation and a clutch of protesters who said their event amounted to a "fascist mega-pep rally."
"Battle Cry for a Generation" is led by a 44-year-old Concord native, Ron Luce, who wants "God's instruction book" to guide young people away from the corrupting influence of popular culture.
Luce, whose Teen Mania organization is based in Texas, kicked off a three-city "reverse rebellion" tour Friday night intended to counter a popular culture that he says glamorizes violence and sex. The $55 advance tickets for two days of musical performances and speeches were sold out, but walk-up admission was available for $199.
After stops in Detroit and Philadelphia in the next few weeks, Luce wants to unleash a "blitz" of youth pastors into the communities to do everything from work with the homeless to find new ways to bring others to Christ. He challenged youth leaders to double the size of their groups in the next year.
And then he plans to return to San Francisco next year to chart their progress.
That's bad news to Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who told counterprotesters at City Hall on Friday that while such fundamentalists may be small in number, "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco."
Luce didn't flinch in the face of the counterprotest. The author, host of the "Acquire the Fire TV" cable television program and a President Bush appointee to a federal anti-drug-abuse commission, wants teens to find Bible-based solutions for the spread of sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, drug abuse and suicide.
The villains, Luce said, range from the promiscuity and "sexualization" of young people on MTV and the popular online meeting hub MySpace.com to a corporate culture that spends millions trying to woo the under-21 crowd.
Battle Cry will try to bring them back to God through two days of religious rockers, speakers and the debut of what Luce called a Christian alternative to My Space.com.
"This is more than a spiritual war," Luce said. "It's a culture war."
Military metaphors abound in Luce's descriptions of the struggle. He tells young people of how "an enemy has launched a brutal attack on them." At a pre-Battle Cry rally Friday afternoon on the steps of City Hall, Luce told his mostly teenage audience that "terrorists of a different kind" -- advertisers -- were targeting them and that they were "caught in the middle of the battle."
"Are you ready to go to battle for your generation?" he asked, and the young people roared "yes!" and some waved triangular red flags flown from long, medieval-looking poles.
Luce's approach has been praised by conservative leaders from the Rev. Jerry Falwell to Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. Much of the statistical backing for the horrors Luce sees on TV is provided by the Parents Television Council, which is funded by conservative foundations such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
Those alliances weren't lost on the 50 protesters representing a rainbow of San Francisco's left -- from abortion-rights advocates to anti-war activists to atheists -- who staged Friday's counterprotest.
"There is a real intolerancy to homosexuality in a lot of these organizations," said Peter Cobb, an organizer with Not In Our Name.
Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning the "act of provocation" by what it termed an "anti-gay," "anti-choice" organization that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."
Luce said it was the first time one of his events has been officially condemned.

To see the rest of the article go to http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/03/25/MNG6OHU6RR1.DTL

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Sunday Afternoon ritual

I revisited a Sunday afternoon ritual today, one that I had not felt the compulsion to do in quite a while. No, it is not something liturgical, nor is it my other Sunday afternoon ritual of listening to the Detroit Tigers game on the radio (which, by the way they are winning v. the Yankees 8-7). No, it is the 'who was missing this morning' ritual.

What is this ritual and why its revival? On Sunday afternoons I would sit down and write down a list of who was not in Church this morning. Generally this is brought on by disappointment in low attendance, but also because it is a way to keep on top of who might be falling through the cracks. I haven't done it in a while because attendance has been generally on the upswing this winter, and it has been a great relief to look out at the growing congregation of worshippers. But the last few weeks attendance has been slipping a bit. Nothing drastic, but not growing either. Attendance at all services together has been lingering around the 180's the last few weeks, not the 210's as had been through through February. So this afternoon I sat down at the table and began the list.

First I list those who are almost always present at services on Sunday, but were missing today. Immediately I thought of 10 families, accounting for 35 people. One family is out of the country, another up north visiting family, a third visiting another parish (they do that monthly). Another just had a baby and another had surgery. Some are probably sick - a cold is going around (I spent Monday through Wednesday battling it). But that is 32 people usually here, but not today.

Then I begin to list those who are not so regular, but should be! We see them occasionally for a variety of reasons; including lingering membership ties to another parish, distance from the Church, or an unfavorable work schedule. Some of them are perhaps lukewarm in their faith, or going through some crisis of belief that the devil is using to keep them away. Here I come up with 48 people from 20 families. Neither of these lists include those who we see 4 or 5 times a year, or those who claim membership here and we haven't seen in a while for a variety of reasons.

So there it is.....80 regular and sporadic attenders not here this morning! That is a larger number of missing 'regulars' than most ECUSA parishes in the city limits (and maybe the diocese) have members. If they all were here we could be averaging attendance in the 260's! God grant us the grace to have that and more!

So this week I take The List to work to make emails, phone calls, or send notes to those not accounted for. God willing we can get them all here next week, and for those who have fallen out of practice - back into the habit!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Saturday Assignment

This assignment was given , via email, to the parishioners of St. John's this weekend, and with the exception of the Rose Vestments and Hangings, is apropos for every day.....

As you are out and about on Saturday, be sure to invite at least one person you interact with to Church on Sunday. Be they a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, or new acquiantence, find a way to work into the conversation something about going to Church on Sunday.

"Hey, if you like downtown, we go downtown every Sunday to a wonderful Church..."
"Speaking of great music - my Church has an AMAZING choir - you should come hear them tomorrow:
"Lent? Sure, we do Lent with gusto at St. John's, next to Comerica Park"
"I like your pink shirt. Speaking of wearing pink tomorrow is Rose Sunday and at St. John's we have a cool set of pink vestments and hangings."

Okay, the last one may not be the best draw, but you see my point. Say something nice about St. John's, and how much you appreciate what our Lord is doing down here, and invite them to come and check it out for themselves. Even offer them a ride if they at all seem interested! And then be sure to pray for that person that if they do not bite tomorrow, the Holy Ghost will open their hearts to it in the future, and give you the opportunity to invite them again at the right moment!

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Annunciation - March 25th

On March 25th we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation (yes, exactly 9 months before Christmas). It is on this day that we commemorate the Archangel Gabriel coming to Mary to announce that she had been chosen by God to bear His only-beggotten Son. Through the instrument of her agreeing to the Angel's announcment, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth.

This Lenten Season, as we are concentrating on, and moving towards the celebration of the end His earthly ministry, our Lord's death and resurrection, let us take a holy glance backward to the beginning of our redemption in His Incarnation (a fancy S.A.T. word for "In the flesh").

And Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38) May we always be as willing to do God's will and be willing to serve as He sees fit!
Painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898, owned by the Phila Museum of Art

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Monthly Requiem

Today was our monthly Requiem Mass at St. John's. At this Holy Communion service we lift before the throne of God all those who have died and were buried from the parish since its founding (actually, since the opening of the Chapel in November 1859).

Shortly after I arrived here at St. John's, I found a 'Chantry Book' in the safe in the sacristy. This is a 366 day listing of everyone buried from St. John's (366 for the leap year). It was a list from 1859 to 1931. A Chantry Book is a sign that a parish kept a regular prayer rota remembering those who died. Shortly after I arrived, Denise Yee had some time to volunteer and she typed all names for those buried from 1932 to present onto an Excel Document, and later office assistant Tristan Williams transcribed the original type-written list onto the Excel spreadsheet as well. We now remember at Evening Prayer ALL those who have died on that particular day of the year since 1859, and once a month at the monthly Requiem we read the names of everyone buried during that month. How many are on the list? Well, we are now up to burial number 5402, so some months we have upwards of 500 names!

I find it facinating, to see names of famous Detroiters (like the Packards, Grosebecks, etc.) as well as those who are were every day folks who lived and died and now are at rest. And of course, I am reminded of the people that I have buried in my first 5 years here. In the first half of the history of the parish nearly all were buried at Elmwood Cemetery here in Detroit, for which I am on the Foundation Board and some names on the monuments are now becoming familiar.

It is interesting to note the picture I have included here. It is our original burial register from 1859. Fr. Armitage had GREAT handwritting. Of the first 17 burials, only two lived to adulthood (20 years and 33 years), one was 3 years old, and all the rest were less than a year old, including the Rector's twin sons (William Armitage on August 1st and Frank Lawrence Armitage on August 17th, 1860)!

Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Today's "saint" has a St. John's Connection!

At the weekday services at St. John's we commemorate the "Saint of the Day" appointed. Although there is no formal canonization process in ECUSA like the Roman Church, we have a calendar that contains lots of saints in common with the Roman Catholic Church (such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Mary, and the Apostles) as well as those of particular Anglican/Episcopal Holiness, whose lives were examples of heroic virtue. They are listed on the ECUSA calendar, and a bio published in a book called "Lesser Feasts and Fasts".

Today, March 22nd, is the Feast of Blessed James DeKoven of Wisconsin. The www.satucket.com website lists the following info on Fr. DeKoven.

James de Koven was born in Connecticut in 1831, ordained to the priesthood in 1855, and promptly became a professor of Church history at Nashotah House, a seminary of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin. He also assisted at St. John Chrysostom Church in Delafield, Wisconsin. In 1859 he became Warden of Racine College, an Episcopal college in Racine, Wisconsin. Nashotah House was from its inception dedicated to an increased emphasis on the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and on the use of ritual practices that recognized and honored that presence. In the General Conventions of 1871 and 1874, de Koven became the chief spokesman for the "ritualists," defending the use of candles, incense, bowing and kneeling, and the like. He reminded his hearers of the numerous assertions by prominent Anglican theologians from the Reformation on down who had taught, and the ecclesiastical courts which when the question came up had ruled, that it is Anglican belief, shared not only with Romans but with Lutherans and East Orthodox, that the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament is a real and objective presence. However, he was eloquent and firm in saying: "The gestures and practices by which we recognize the presence of Christ do not matter. Only Christ matters."
In 1874 he was elected Bishop of Wisconsin, and in 1875 Bishop of Illinois, but because he was "controversial" he failed both times to have his election ratified by a majority of Bishops and a majority of Standing Committees of Dioceses, as required by canon law.
He died at his college in Racine, Wisconsin, on 22 March 1879

So besides the points of connection to me (I went to Nashotah House, albeit 137 years later, and also served as the seminarian assistant at St. John's Chrysostom in Delafield), he is also connected to St. John's Church. Our first Rector, Fr. William Armitage, went on to succeed the great missionary bishop Jackson Kemper as diocesan of Wisconsin, and therefore was not only James DeKoven's bishop, but James DeKoven was elected to succeed him when Bishop Armitage died in 1873 (but DeKoven was never elevated to be a bishop due to Church politics...).
Finally, Bishop Armitage died while in New York on Church business and is buried here in Detroit. His funeral sermon was preached by James DeKoven! It can be found here http://anglicanhistory.org/dekoven/sermons/sermon21.html
As I read about the controversies in the 19th Century it reminds me that although the 'issues' are different today (quite frankly, the battle today is between biblical relevance and biblical disregard altogether rather than 'churchmanship'), the reality is that there have always been deep disagreements in the Church.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An overdue post on "The Billboard"

I promised my email list last week that I would post an picture of the offensive billboard put up by the diocese near St. John's. But on Thursday when I tried the blogger site was down, and then I was out of town Friday and Saturday. So today is the first chance I am getting. In addition to the sign going up, I have now been informed that there are ads on the the busses as well, including the "My God is Dog spelled backways" ad. Any yes, more and more questions are rising about it being paid for by the diocese which in effect is where a portion of our pledge is going. Some of the billboards are quite clever, and I particularly like the one with "My God is Forever" with a couple embracing and wedding ring graphics, and "My God is Merciful" with a man holding a rosary through a jail cell door. Both theologically sound. But there is one particular one on the diocesan flash play intro that I pray will not appear on busses or billboards since it contains a graphic in the picture that endorses a position contrary to biblical christianity concerning marital relations.

Here are two billboards - the first being the theologically unsound one with God as Mother. The second, although the statement in true, leaves one asking "what are they advertising?" Is this a church for especially for the blind (assuming the reader notices the braille dots)? What are we trying to advertise as a denomination?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ministering to the poor in Jesus' name

I wanted to say a hearty DEO GRATIAS all the volunteers who helped with the One Night Initiative temporary shelter at St. John's last night/this morning. We hosted 18 guests, feeding them spaghetti with meat sauce/bread and salad, offered them the opportunity to shower, and a warm safe bed for the night. In the morning they had eggs, pancakes and sausage for breakfast, offered a change of clothes (jackets, pants, shirts, underwear, socks, hats and gloves) and everyone received a toiletry kit (toothbrush/paste, soap, deoderant, etc.). As they left they were given an ample two-bag lunch packed by the ECW.

I couldn't begin to name all the volunteers (as always happens at St. John's, we had more volunteers than even signed up!), but I do want to mention just a few. First, thank you to Tristan Williams for his coordination of the project. Tristan spent the entire night at the church with our guests! Also, thank you to all who brought in clothes, bedstuff, etc. A special thank you goes out to Carolyn Ricca and her sister Ann Thompson who went from thrift shop to thrift shop and even a trip to KMart to make sure we would have enough clothes, sheets, pillows, and blankets for the night! And thank you to the many Brothers Andrew who stepped up and volunteered, and to the ECW for their contributions of toiletries and the bag-lunches!

We had one special visitor at dinner; former city council member and now special counsel to the Mayor, Sharon McPhail. Her office started this program 6 years ago, asking the churches in Detroit to host a night or two in the winter. Now that she is no longer on council she has volunteers helping to coordinate the program. She was very grateful for our help, and impressed by our facilities and hospitality. We are hosting another night in May, and I promised I would send a note to the editor of the Diocesan Newspaper to see if we can get some promotion to encourage all the Detroit ECUSA parishes to contribute to the effort next year!Serving others in Jesus' name is at the heart of Christian ministry, and it is edifying to see the people of St. John's doing ministry such as this (and our feeding ministry to the Police last month) as we reach out beyound ourselves to others.

I thank God for the opportunity to be a part of what He is doing in this place!

Fasting/Abstaining from meat...a rant

Fasting and Abstinence is one of the most under-utilitized tool of the spirital life. Roman Catholics were infamous for their 'rules' about not eating meat on any friday of the year. After Vatican II each individual national bishop's conference was given the authority to ease up on the discipline, restricting it to Lent only. Of course, the American RC Church, in its zeal to be hip and relevant, tossed off the requirement. The result? Most RC's don't even practice it in Lent either unless they have a pastor who is vigilant in teaching it. So having cut back from 52 fridays to abstain from meat to 7, the discipline is so watered down that today I read this in the newspaper.....

Cardinal Adam Maida has advised Roman Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit that they may eat meat on Friday, March 17 -- St. Patrick's Day -- with his blessing and permission to deviate from church tradition and practice. However, the cardinal reminded Catholics of the importance of performing acts of penance, especially during Lent, including prayer, fasting and the giving of alms.

So, RC's can't wait until Saturday to eat Corned Beef? Perhaps their faithfulness and a desire for holiness can't take precidence over the secularization of a HOLY DAY for St. Patrick. Would Patrick be happy to see the church discipline bent for a day of drunken debaucery (the inability to abstain from Meat, as well as over-indulgence in drink are both sins of gluttony, FYI). Wouldn't it be great of everyone who thought of St. Patrick on March 17th, instead of going to the pub to drink themselves stupid would go the Church that day to pray for the conversion of unbelievers and themselves before lifting a glass of beer (assuming they haven't already earned a seat with us friends of Bill W.)?

Okay...rant over. PS - the Episcopal Prayer Book discipline assumes all Friday's of the year to be days of special sacrifice...ie...not eating meat. Most of ECUSA has adopted the more RC discipine if it has kept it at all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Transfiguration: By Canon J H Heidt

I recently stumbled into an interesting post by Canon John Heidt, who spoke at St. John's a few years ago at our Festival of Faith. Here is the first paragraph, followed by a link to the rest....

Time For Action
Those who follow the postings on Canon Kendall Harmon’s blog site, “TitusOneNine” are well aware that a recent comment made by Bishop Stanton of Dallas about future membership in the Episcopal Church has thrown a whole crowd of “traditional” Episcopalians into a real tizzy. In a recent meditation given to his executive council the well known Network bishop said that the question of leaving or staying in the Episcopal Church was the wrong question to ask. This comes shortly after Bishop Duncan, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network claimed that he wasn’t “leaving” the Episcopal Church, and the wrath of many has fallen upon them both.
For the rest click below.....
Transfiguration: By Canon J H Heidt