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, October 26, 2007

A beautiful Detroit Roman Catholic Church closes....

...St. John Cantius parish, an old Polish Church in Southwest Detroit is closing this weekend. The parish was down to 200 members (that is larger than the average membership of an Episcopal Church in the USA, fyi). But it is a massive physical plant to support, and there is little hope that the neighborhood will revive, no less with a Roman Catholic population.
It is a shame a handsome building like this couldn't be picked up and moved to a suburban neighborhood teeming in Roman parishioners, who will instead build a hideous modernist structure which will do nothing to lift up the heart and mind to the transcendent!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What I am reading/listening too

I have gotten back into the habit of listening to books on tape in my car. This was especially helpful in my trip to Milwaukee and back.

I listened to "American Gospel" by Jim Meecham. In this book he talks about the faith of the country's founders, and what developed into American Civil Religion. Interesting points, but he obviously sets out to disprove Christianity as American foundation.

"The River of Doubt" by Candice Meland. After Teddy Roosevelt lost the election of 1912 he headed off to explore the Amazon in Brazil, particularly this previously unmapped river. He and his son almost died.

Right now I am listening to "Augustus", a bio of Caesar Augustus.

As for reading...
The usual nighttime books - Souls of the Apostolate and The Way.
Also working through (again) Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution.

Recently picked up Clarence Thomas' Autobiography "My Grandfather's Son" and a book by Fr. Kevin Martin called "the Myth of the 200 Barrier", which I think could be helpful since we seem to have bounced up against that attendance barrier here at St. John's.
I look forward to starting these soon.


Overdue pictures from my trip to Milwaukee.

Some things to note of the interior of the Cathedral -

The seven hanging lamps in the sanctuary, signifying the lamps in the temple and the gifts of the Spirit. Had these in Rosemont when I was curate there.

Also, note the interior sanctuary color....it is the color the sanctuary was at St. John's until 1915 or so. I like it (especially if you were to see the stenciling added at St. John's in gold leaf).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Back from Milwaukee

Great meeting for The Living Church Foundation. Met great people, and I think we accomplished much. We had Noon Mass at the Cathedral. I will download some photos next week.

Afterwards I had an education committee meeting for TLC Foundation at the Milwaukee Airport were Fr. Charles Henery, my old Church History professor joined us for it. It was good catching up with him.

I then got on the road at 7:30pm eastern time and made it home about 2:00am.

Thank you to all for the prayers for travel mercies.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Arrived in Milwaukee safely

I left Detroit this morning a little after 7am, heading to Milwaukee for The Living Church foundation board meeting. The Living Church magazine, as well as other things, are published to build up the church and keep it informed. But like much of the publishing industry we have to meet the challenges of the new electronic age. The Foundation Board is in charge of raising money and some planning. I look forward to the meeting tomorrow.

I also met today with a candidate for curate, a current student at Nashotah House (about 30 minutes west of Milwaukee). I told him I would try to be on campus by 3pm, leaving some time on the drive for construction, gas, and bathroom breaks. What I forgot was that I gain an hour moving into the central time zone.

As I got to the north of Chicago, making good time PLUS the extra hour, I remembered that the National Shrine to St. Maximilian Kolbe was in Libertyville, IL. I visited here probably 10 years ago. So being nearly noon I called Paul at the office who confirmed the location for me, and headed the 2 miles off the freeway. I thought I would sit in the beautiful adoration chapel and say my noonday prayers, and then take a peak into the gift shop.

As I arrived at 11:55 the parking lot was packed. There was a Noon Mass taking place. So I slipped in the back, surprised the church was so packed on a Tuesday at Noon.

It ends up that it is the 90th anniversary of an organization that Maximilian Kolbe founded, the M.I.. Members of this group, associated with the Franciscans who minister at the shrine, were in abundant attendance.

Thinking originally I would be there for 15 minutes of prayer, and 5 minutes (okay, maybe 10) in the gift shop, I ended up staying to hear Mass (of course not receiving because we are not in communion with the Roman Church), and in all was there about a hour. The hour gained was a hour nicely spent!

I am now here in Milwaukee for the night, and off to the meeting in the morning. It is earlier here, but still bedtime for me!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thinking about this week's morning prayer lessons

All this week we have been reading form 2 Kings 20-24.

It always makes me think, and hope, about our own Episcopal Church.

Basically the readings this week start with a succession of Kings of Judah (the Kingdom has been divided by now and Israel dispersed). Each King is introduced by name, who his mother is, and "And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father/brother _______ did. "

All apostate from the Covenant that God had laid out. Worshipping false gods, etc.

The comes Josiah. "And he did that which was RIGHT in the sight of the Lord...." In his eighteenth year Hilkiah the High Priest tells Shaphan the scribe that he has found the book of the Law. He brings it to the King. He rents his clothes in repentance and begins a great cleansing - destroying idolotrous shrines and priests, and keeps "a most solemn passover". He goes on to restore right worship and observance.

Now reading this far, I am always hopeful that at the Episcopal House of Bishops, or General Convention, someone will get up and read aloud the Gospels and Epistles; and as if they have been lost and now found, ECUSA will repent of its errors and be restored to righteousness according to His revelation.

Of course, we hear at the end of the righteous king Josiah's story, that God had already decided to remove the kingdom from the promised land as he removed the other 10 tribes, and send them into dispersion in Babylon, because of the great provocation of Josiah's grandfather, Mannasseh.

Josiah's successor sons, Jehoahaz and Eliakim (later renamed Jehoiakim) are as wicked as those before Josiah, and God routes out the Kingdom of Judah through the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar.

Heavenly Father, let us in the Episcopal Church hear clearly your Holy Word and Commandment and turn from our disobedience. Turn away thy fierce wrath - giving us not what we deserve - but have mercy on us through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Let everyone say AMEN!
And sing a Kyrie Eleison as well!
And keep praying through our Diocesan Convention October 26-27.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Battling Nestorianism

One major foundation of the Christian faith is the Incarnation: God taking Flesh. Jesus, who is and was and always will be God: the Second Person of the Trinity. Nestorianism is the denial the Jesus has always been God. Modern Protestants fall into this by trying to downplay veneration to Mary by denying the title of Mother of God. They say, "she is the Mother of Jesus", but not Mother of God. But when faced with the reality that Jesus IS God (which they do believe), what they actually are doing is a knee-jerk anti-catholicism. Unfortunately, this is sometimes an ignorance that cannot be overcome (or so it seems sometimes).

Today is the Feast of the Motherhood of the Blesssed Virgin Mary, established to honor the decision of the Council of Chalcedon in 431 reaffirming Mary as the Mother of God (or Theotokos in the Greek, literally God-bearer). As with all veneration of Mary (remembering that veneration is a form of respect, NOT worship), ultimately it is about her relationship with Jesus Christ! And it is from Mary that He took his flesh in her womb.

As the Anglican Breviary points out for today's feast, celebrating this Feast and the fact of Mary being Theotokos, "that Mary was Mother of God is blessed amongst women (St. Elizabeth's greeting to Mary in Luke's gospel), and hence that womanhood is sacred in God's sight; that the Family of Nazareth is the most noble example of the human home; that chaste wedlock is of such high dignity and holiness that God himself could enter the world as man under its protection' and that the rearing of children in a godly household is in itself so holy and excellent a thing that the eternal Word could come as a babe to such a home." p.E472

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Happy St. Francis Day!

As I mentioned on September 17th the commemoration of his receiving the Stigmata, St. Francis has a special place in my spirituality, being a Third Order Franciscan myself.

Today is his Feast Day and Sr. Clare Elisabetta and I took our annual renewal of promises as professed members of the Order. Br. Justin Simon, a novice, was also present (FYI - that is Cindy Grimwade and Tristan Williams) at the 12:15 Mass, as well as others.

Who is he? From the page on St. Francis on the Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion website. http://www.fodc.net/StFranLife.html

Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226.
Few Saints are more immediately recognizable than St. Francis of Assisi. He is recognized, loved, and claimed by Christians of all denominations, and even embraced by non-Christians. Francis seized the imaginations of his contemporaries, as well as that of modern men, by his unique simplicity, a pure grace of spirit, his overwhelming love for God, and his mode of life in which he actively sought to live according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, given the extent with which he's loved, few Saints are less understood than Francis is. To the modern mind, Francis is a caricature. He is the simple, loveable, man who preached to birds, tamed wolves, talked to fish, and was so gentle that wild hare leapt into his arms.
But, he's so much more than that.
Of Francis' early life, one of his biographers, Thomas of Celano, in the First Life of St. Francis, would later write, "almost up to his twenty-fifth year, he squandered and wasted his time…He was…very rich, not greedy but prodigal, not a hoarder of money, but a squanderer of possessions, a cautious businessman but an unreliable steward. On the other hand, he was a kind person, easy and friendly…Overwhelmed by a host of evil companions, proud and high-minded, he walked about the streets of Babylon until the Lord looked down from heaven and for His own name's sake…and for His praise bridled Francis lest he should perish. The hand of the Lord came onto Francis and a change was worked by the right hand of God, that through Francis an assurance might be granted to sinners that they had been restored to grace and that Francis might become an example to all of conversion to God."
Conversion, or rather living in a state of constantly being converted, is what Francis' life was about. Drawn by the love of God, drawn away from worldly ambitions for glory, Francis instead found his treasure in the total surrender of self to God.
For those of us who follow Jesus in the footsteps of St. Francis, the example of conversion to God, of living each day in a deeper state of conversion, to die to self a little more each day that we might live entirely for God, this is the important thing to see in Francis. In this, our Seraphic Father Francis is our model, our guide, our mentor.

May St. Francis pray for us.

When politicians do theology...

...it is not a good thing!

The Archbishop of St. Louis was asked about whether a pro-abortion politician, in this case Guiliani of New York, should be denied Communion, he replied in the affirmative. This is Church teaching because to promote a position such as this is a mortal sin.

Guilani's response?
"Archbishops have a right to their opinion, you know. There's freedom of religion in this country. There's no established religion, and archbishops have a right to their opinion. Everybody has a right to their opinion."

Wow - what a terrible rationalization/self-justification. Truth is truth, not an opinion. And Church teaching (particularly if you call yourself a Roman Catholic, which he does) is Church teaching, not an opinion. Establishment has nothing to do with it. If you call your self RC it means you ascribe to a set of beliefs - Roman Catholic ones.

Guliani better be careful, with beliefs like this he might find himself becoming a liberal episcopalian like the former governor of New Jersey who left Rome and is now studying at the Episcopal General Theological Seminary in NYC.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

From the Rector - October Eagle (St. John's Newsletter)

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The cool, crisp nights, moderate daytime temps, leaves changing colors and falling in order to be piled and jumped into with joyful abandon.
It is also a great time of the Church year. The routine has been revived, more and more people return to regular church attendance, and exciting events such as our Homecoming are a precursor of the bigger events to come in the months following: All Saints, All Souls, Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas.
My exuberance for this time of the year is dampened this year by all the media coverage of our recent House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. The Bishops of the Episcopal Church seem to have failed to adequately respond to the demands of the Primates of our Anglican Communion, who are seeking to bring our Episcopal Church back to biblical obedience. Although many bishops have proclaimed that they have accomplished the requests of the primates, they fall short.
As usual, it will take months and years to sort out the effects of their decision. Then we have the international meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion (called the Lambeth Conference) in 2008 and our next General Convention in 2009, with an assortment of other Primates and House of Bishops meetings in between to continue to agree, disagree, accuse and counter-accuse each other.
As I have said before, it took 300 years for the Church to sort out and settle the Christology controversies by the Council of Nicea in the 4th Century. The biblically and historically sound theology of the Church was proven true and novelty and falsehood cast out. It might take nearly that long for Truth to conquer once again.
Patience is NOT one of my stronger virtues. But I do know I must pay more attention to the ministry God has given us right here, right now—bringing souls to Jesus. The devil wins if we become paralyzed by the international sword rattling to which we have no direct impact. PRAY!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The House of Bishops Meeting last week

We moved to our new house last week, which means that although I went into the office to say Mass, and make a few emergency calls, I was for the most part living among the boxes and lifting and carrying things all week.

One nice reprieve was that I missed all the hub-bub of the report of the House of Bishops who were meeting in New Orleans to respond to the Primates Communique from their meeting in Tanzania last spring.

Sitting back a few days before diving into the material allowed me to see an overall picture and not just the knee-jerk reactions that I and others frequently have to such things. I have spent the last couple of days reading all sort so material about the report and have come to these prelimanary conclusions.

1) The Bishops worked really hard to try to answer the primates without actually changing, or pledging to change anything that is happening in the Episcopal Church on the diocesan level (ie...same-sex unions permitted by bishops, etc.).

2) The re-appraisers (those who would change, have changed, and are changing the teachings of the Church) think what they are doing is prophetic and if they keep trying to 'dialogue' they think they can beat down or drive out any resistance to their changes. It has worked pretty well in ECUSA, why not Africa?

3) If they repeat often enough that they have satisfactorily answered the primates requests then most people will believe it is true without actually reading the source documents. (see below for an example of this)
This technique is the same used by re-appraisers who repeat continually that the bible isn't against the changes they propose, which is easily believed by those who don't know the bible.

4) The re-asserters (those reasserting the traditional faith) will continue to be marginalized in many dioceses.

5) There is no way any time soon those in power (the re-appraisers in most dioceses) will let a parish leave with the property which they claim is held by the Diocese/ECUSA in "historic trust", without the historic faith for which the parishioners of ages past sacrificed to promote and preserve.

6) There is no way any time soon the re-appraisers will let go of any power whatsoever in giving some sort of pastoral oversight to another diocesan bishop or foriegn primate.

7) After hearing for 13 years as a priest that schism is worse than heresy, our heresy will cause some sort of schism from our international communion and the re-appraisers will blame it on others, using good old American arrogance that believes only we have it right.

So PRAY, PRAY, PRAY - it is going to be a bumpy few months and years!
As for the example for number #3, this was from Titusonenine blog (www.kendallharmon.net/t19)

Dueling Letters to the Editor in the Birmingham, Alabama, News

Friday, September 28, 2007
Bishops didn’t reject Anglicans’ request
I am writing to call attention to the inaccuracy and distortion of the article “Episcopal bishops reject Anglican demands” (The News, Wednesday) from the New York Times News Service about the meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops. The bishops did not reject the requests of our Anglican partners. We responded with great care, and the truth is, our response takes significant positive steps for the sake of our interdependence and unity in the Anglican Communion.
The article only quoted people who have a divisive agenda and whose assessment of the House of Bishops meeting is intentionally misleading. No one from The News attempted to call me or my office to ask for our view of the bishops’ work before publishing this front-page article. Not a single bishop present at the meeting is quoted. This is disappointing and biased journalism. It is harmful to the church and to the commonwealth.
The meeting of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church included a spirit of compromise and sacrifice for the good of the Anglican Communion, as well as an affirmation of our church’s commitment under God to love and respect the dignity of every human being. I hope our Anglican friends, and maybe even The News, will recognize this in the months to come.
Henry N. Parsley
Episcopal Bishop of Alabama
October 2, 2007
Bishop's letter itself inaccurate: Bishop Henry N. Parsley's letter ("Bishops didn't reject Anglicans' request," The News, Sept. 28) alleging inaccuracy in The New York Times story is itself inaccurate.
The Anglican primates addressed three major concerns to the leadership of the Episcopal Church. On the first, the bishops said yes, sort of, but on their terms. In doing so, they continued to use expansive language (referring to bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church"), which was not the language they were asked to use ("any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same-gender union").
The Episcopal bishops in New Orleans then said no to requests two and three, and they also did and said nothing about the lawsuits they were asked to stop. Going even further, however, they then insisted on two things they said were necessary of the rest of the Anglican Communion, which they have so badly damaged.
This was a last-ditch effort to seek to enable healing in a very deep wound. Tragically, the bishops have done nowhere near enough given what was asked and what the stakes were.
The Episcopal lobbying group Integrity, which is seeking to overturn the Episcopal Church's teaching and practice in the area of legitimizing same-sex practice, titled its response to the New Orleans meeting: "Integrity applauds bishops' strong stand against primates."
Is it not possible it and The New York Times see truth Parsley does not?
The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon
Canon theologian
Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Summerville, S.C.
These are the letters as they appeared. My submitted letter had one additional sentence in end of the first paragraph: "The expansive language the bishops chose to maintain was used by some Episcopal leaders recently to vote against South Carolina’s choice for Bishop, Mark Lawrence, a person who upholds the very theological position the Primates were trying to protect."

Monday, October 01, 2007

A lonely October...without baseball.

Well, the Tigers season is over. They finished with 7 fewer wins than last season and 7 games behind the Cleveland Indians for the American League Central title.

There were some great ups and downs this season. Good start into June, then the bullpen faded, then the bats, followed by the starting pitchers (although rarely was all three down at the same time). August was dreadful (11 and 17). By September they made a stab at a wild card race and even an outside chance at the central title going 11 and 3 until they went to Cleveland and got swept, pushing them out of division title hopes. The stuck close though, and were only mathematically eliminated last Weds.

I saw 13 games this season and saw 11 wins and 2 loses. I saw Justin Verlander throw his no-hitter with all the boys there with me. That was awesome!

I also got to interview Sean Casey. I am sad to see him go, but I do recognize that Carlos Guillen has a better bat and is slowing down in the field at SS, so it makes sense to move him to first (especially since he is signed to a longer contract). I wish Sean Casey well. It will be interesting to see if Pudge returns (he has an option the Tigers can take), Kenny Rogers (retire), and Todd Jones (retire or play nearer to home - probably Atlanta).