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

Monday, October 16, 2006

St. John's in the News and Free Press

With all the Detroit Tiger baseball excitement, St. John's is getting noticed, although there was some mis-information in the articles.

Saturday there was an article in the Detroit News by Mike O'Hara, which was pretty good, although he messed up our attendance figures (I said 50 to 200, he wrote 40 to 240) and he mis-stated the fact that I had the banner put up, when I said the banner was up before I got here (I told him it was, but he mis-stated that). The News article, with a fun picture of Shirl Howell in Tiger ears at the Pray Here for the Tigers Service, was only in the hard print edition.

In today's Free Press, there is another article. Despite the mistaken quote that we are full of Comerica Park employees (I said we had some who come and go) on Sunday AM, and the fact that I won't pin the Tigers losses on our Lord (I said PERHAPS the answer the last few years was "Not Yet") since I don't ultimately know His Divine Will. Finally, he says we are praying for 3 more victories...he meant FOUR! Otherwise, it is a pretty good article. I copied it below....

All this lays a groundwork for ALL OF US, the members of St. John's, so that when we invite friends, family, and neighbors down to St. John's, they will know where/who we are when you can say "it is the place next to Comerica with the Pray here for the Tigers banner" and perhaps they have a recognition from reading the paper.

THE SCENE: Praying for a title next door
Saving souls and four more games
October 16, 2006
The Rev. Steven Kelly stepped outside to take his dog for a walk seconds after Magglio Ordonez touched home plate. Up and down his Grosse Pointe Park street, he heard hollering leaking out from windows.
"It was a rumble, really," Kelly said.
And it warmed his heart on a cool October night.
For five years, Kelly has presided famously over prayer services for his beloved Detroit Tigers at St. John's Episcopal Church, across the street from Comerica Park and the Fox Theatre. On Saturday evening, Ordonez lifted a moonshot to the heavens, sending Detroit to the World Series for the first time in 22 years.
So what does Kelly do now?
"Keep praying, of course," he said. "You pray in good times and in bad. And you pray to give thanks."
Kelly has one of the more unique perspectives on this astounding Tigers season. His church at the corner of Woodward and E. Fisher Freeway shares a parking lot with the ballpark. And for the first time since he took over the parish, he watched the lot grow full.
"I can remember when the park was built, and a board member suggested we might have to hire extra security for when the World Series came," Kelly said. "We laughed at him. About the worst that ever happens is when our garden gets used as a urinal."
No one is snickering now, although nearly everyone at the church is smiling. The congregation is full of Comerica Park employees -- ushers, vendors, ticket-takers. Every Sunday, they, the rest of the parish and Kelly bless the boys across the street.
"God always answers; it's either yes, no or not yet," Kelly said, explaining how the Almighty could let the Tigers lose 119 games just three years ago. "He was telling us 'not yet.' "
Kelly got the idea for a Tigers-centric prayer service when he arrived at St. John's five years ago. The new ballpark dwarfed the elegant, limestone-sculpted Victorian-Gothic church built in 1859. Kelly feared the church would get swallowed.
Then he saw opportunity and began offering prayer services for the Tigers, hoping to lure fans to his pews and publicity to his parish.
"We wanted people to know we are still here," Kelly said.
Besides, he loved baseball.
So does Tristan Williams, the church's office assistant, who also lives there. Williams spent many of his summer nights this season perched outside the backdoor. He'd smoke a cigarette and listen as the score from the stadium's public address announcer floated over the parking lot, and the victories kept piling up.
"Day in and day out people kept coming," Williams said.
And he kept watching. And listening. And following his hometown's baseball team as it stitched together a summer for the ages.
"Baseball has never left the city," he said. "It's Detroit."
And in Detroit -- at least at St. John's -- the city kept praying, every Sunday, every summer.
This Sunday, Kelly and his congregation will pray once more -- to stay levelheaded, to love their neighbors, to stay in His grace.
Assuming He still is listening, they will be asking for only three more victories.
The World Series begins Saturday night.
Contact SHAWN WINDSOR at 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com.
Copyright © 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.