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

Monday, October 16, 2006

Here is the Detroit News Article

Thanks to Chris Sayers for finding this on-line!
I am only sorry that the photos are copyright protected. To see the good picture of Shirl Howell, and very unflattering picture of me, go to http://www.detroitnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061013/SPORTS08/610130303
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Father Steven Kelly thought he would draw attention to St. John's Episcopal Church when he hung out a banner three years ago imploring people to pray for the Tigers.
The church, near Comerica Park, got noticed all right -- more than he could have thought.
Father Kelly's batting average is higher for the Tigers than for the Lions. The Tigers have caught the fancy of the city and the nation. They return home to face the A's today in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series before an adoring crowd.
The Lions -- well, the Lions need divine intervention. They're 0-5 going into Sunday's game against the Bills.
Keep the faith, Father Kelly says.
"We always say in this business that God answers all prayers," Father Kelly said. "The answers are yes, no and not yet."
The most hopeful spin for the Lions is the answer is "not yet."
"Miracles still happen," Father Kelly said.
St. John's, on Woodward Avenue just north of Comerica, was founded in 1858. Construction on the original church structure was completed in 1861.
When Comerica Park opened in 2000, Father Kelly hung a banner that said "Pray here for the Tigers." He added "and Lions" when Ford Field opened in 2002.
The banner attracted national attention in 2003, when the Tigers lost an AL record 119 games.
Because of the Tigers' losing record and the banner, Father Kelly was interviewed by many national media outlets. The Los Angeles Times ran a story -- when the Angels were in Detroit -- with a photo of the church and a caption that asked, "Do the Tigers really have a prayer?"
The answer to their prayers was Jim Leyland.
Attendance is booming at Comerica -- and it has picked up at St. John's.
Maybe there's a correlation.
"What it's done is give us recognition," Father Kelly said. "We're the church with the banner. The church has quadrupled in attendance in the last four years (from 60 to 240 for Sunday services)."
Father Kelly, 40, has a sports background. He was a 175-pound center at Orchard Lake St. Mary's High. Let's just say he has grown into the position since departing high school. He was ordained in 1994.
With a sports theme, we wondered if St. John's charges more for a seat in the front pew.
Actually, there's a history to that.
"In the old days, before the 1930s, they used to have what were called pew rents," Father Kelly said. "You actually rented a pew. The pews up front used to cost more than the ones in the back. It was a stature thing.
"The free pews, for those who can't pay, are the ones in the balcony."
There are some perks in having a church near a ballpark. St. John's choir has sung the national anthem at Comerica. Father Kelly once threw out the first pitch, and led the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ball game" during the seventh-inning stretch.
Once, he was one of three people who threw out the first pitch.
"It almost sounds like a bad joke," he said of the three-man rotation. "A rabbi from West Bloomfield and a priest go out to throw out the first pinch. Throw in the punch line."
Who was the third man?
"A guy who won it at the casino."
Like we always say, let he who is without sin cast the first one-eyed Jack.