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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What is going on today at St. John's - electronics...

The new furnances were programmed, and a group of us trained how to set them on the computer in the office! Hurray - control of the furnance - something we have been lacking on the old one for several years (other than "on" and "off"). Now on the new one there will be some tweaking to do, but at least there is some control! The new furnances replace the old, inefficiant system from the 1960's.

Also, the microphones are being installed from the ceiling in the Church. The Sound Design team went up 42 feet from floor to beam in the main sanctuary to hang the wire, and then hid it along beam and archways to connect to the sound recording system. This install is pictured here. This will allow us to have professional quality recordings on our website AND to issue CD's of the Choir as well.

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow VPM is installing 14 survellience cameras around the inside and outside of the Church for security (both while we are in the building, and recording it while we are out). It will also allow the staff to access the cameras via internet while off property (in case of an alarm going off). The one camera in the main church has an audio channel as well, and we are looking into connecting it to the website for a 'live streaming cam". The security system was installed in the early 1990's, and the video system will be patched into it.

How is all this being paid for? One large gift paid the $80,000+ for the new furnance. Another anonymous gift is paying for the microphones/sound installation, and a portion of the gift from the estate of Paul Irwin is paying for the security system upgrade.

Now to find a way to pay to upgrade the 1930's/1970's lighting in the Church and/or Chapel!!!! Any takers?

Happy Birthday yesterday and today

Happy Birthday yesterday to our Andrew - 10 years old!

And Happy Birthday today to my wonderful wife Jennifer - age undisclosed....

Thanksgiving at St. John's

Here's a few photos from the big day at St. John's. The weather was cold, windy, and wet (snow flurries mostly), but the crowd happy to be there!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A busy weekend last week!

On Thursday we hosted Wayne State University's Music department for their annual pre-holiday concert. Usually held at St. Mary's in Greektown, it was here due to the construction of the new casino parking and hotel surrounding that Church.

500+ people came for the beautiful offering. The Choral Union did several pieces, and then the Mass Choir, with strings did Faure's Requiem. Beautiful!

On Friday, my day off, we raked, and raked, and raked! Andrew and William were great helpers, dragging the tarp full of leaves from the backyard to the curb for city pick up (and by Monday there were as many leaves in the yard as before Friday).

Saturday Morning we had the burial service for Freeman W. Brown.

In the afternoon we drove to Jackson for Sam's Model Rocket Club launch. It was a miserable, rainy/snowy day. We arrived late, after many early comers had given up and gone home. They started taking down the range early (about 2pm instead of 5pm), but kept up one pad for Sam to prepare and get off the hybrid rocket he has been working on. 7 feet tall, and weighing a whopping 5 lbs (his raptor, which went 3 times higher on a smaller engine is only a pound). In an I engine it did 1105 feet and was a perfect recovery. If he were 14 he would have qualified for his level 1 certification! Thank you to Scott, Dale, Roger, et al at the JMRC for encouraging Sam's work!

On Sunday we had our Sunday AM worship, and in the afternoon went to the Open House for the new indoor training facility for the Grosse Pointe Soccer Association. William is going to play in some Saturday AM leagues this winter.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rector's Rambling for this Sunday and next - ATTENDANCE

Oh no – not another attendance diatribe from the Rector!!! I am sorry to say, that is what this week’s rambling is. Of course, those of you in Church reading this are HERE today, and I thank God for that! But attendance at St. John’s has been slipping from our highest modern level in the past two years. This is a cause of great anxiety for me as your priest and pastor, being entrusted with the care of souls! From 2000 to 2005 average Sunday attendance (ASA) at St. John’s grew from below 50 to over 200 people, with many Sundays having attendance in the 220’s and 230’s.
On a recent weekend there were about 180 people in Church at our three morning services.
An email exchange with a member of the vestry about this change got thinking. Within a few minutes of thinking and listmaking, I came up with some interesting things numbers…..
In the past two years nine families with 42 people have moved out of area/state for new employment. There is nothing we can do about this other than pray for our economy.
In the same time period 9 more families with 15 people have left St. John’s because we are either too biblically conservative for some, or not extreme enough in our political stand against the diocese/Episcopal Church and therefore not conservative enough for these others. Not sure we can do anything about this category either other than continue to pray.
A disturbing group are the 14 families that have stopped coming regularly for a variety of reasons (work, personal/family issues, lukewarmness – other reasons only God knows). Of course we pray, love and offer support and encouragement to get them back into the fold.

But on this particular Sunday in question, in 5 minutes I came up with the names of SIXTY-FIVE FAMILIES, with 120 people, who are pretty regular in Church attendance who were not in Church! Some were sick, others traveling out of state. But where were the others?
Where are our priorities? Are we putting our Lord first? What is more important than our relationship with our Good God who sent His Son to die for us on the Cross – and his desire for us to worship Him every Sunday in His Church?


In last week’s Rambling I mused upon the recent slow-down and decline in Sunday Attendance in the past two year. I pointed out a number of people who have left to find employment out of state, others who have left due to theological/political problems with St. John’s and her continued membership in the Episcopal Church. Those are things for which we have no direct ability to fix: I can’t revive Michigan’s economy, and we are called to be a bible-believing, faithful Anglican Parish in the Episcopal Church. But we continue to pray about both of the above.

Far more troubling to me were the 120 (or more) people who are “regulars” who were missing on the Sunday in particular, and the another group of families who have ‘disappeared’ and not responded to contact from the clergy.

I know people travel on weekends, and some get sick and cannot be with us. I hope those who are traveling are going to Church elsewhere, and if sickness continues for several days the clergy will be called for anointing and communion at home or in the hospital.

But it is those others who are not here in church for worship that worries me. As the priest and pastor of this parish I cannot stress strongly enough that our Lord expects us to be in Church EVERY Sunday. As it says in the second Office of Instruction in the prayer book (p. 291) My bounden duty is to follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of His Kingdom. And of course it is only through the vehicle of The Church that we can receive the grace of the Blessed Sacrament to live this life we are called to, and without which we spiritually die (John 6:54ff).

So why are people absent from Church? Distracted by the cares of the world? Not completely converted to Christ? Misplaced priorities or ignorance of God’s expectation to be in Church every week? Too busy for the Lord? Too tired based on being too busy? Unrepentant sin and a guilty conscience? Falling out with a fellow parishioner at St. John’s? Too restless/undisciplined to give God 80 minutes of worship? __________ (fill in the blank with one I have forgotten)?

Believe it or not, all of those things are solved not by absenting yourself from worship, but resolving by the same Grace of the Sacrament to be present in Church every Sunday and learning to participate in this new life. God wills it, and will help you do it!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Rector's rambling for this past Sunday

As I do each second and fifth Sunday of the month, I marvel at the wonderful breadth of powerful worship available to us in The Book of Common Prayer. Although my preference liturgically (how we worship) is the Solemn High Mass (full-blown ritual like we do on Corpus Christi), I am also enamored with the worship of Morning Prayer.
In years past it was a mark of Churchmanship, High Church v. Low Church, whether your primary Sunday Service was Holy Communion (The Mass), or Morning Prayer. And of course there was the Broad Church party, which tended to weekly Communion but with without much fancy ritual.
Even in years past at St. John’s there has been a pendulum swing in High Church v. Low Church. From her founding in 1858 to 1932 St. John’s was considered a Prayer Book Catholic (High Church theology, Broad Church worship) Parish. Such High Church things such as statues, candlesticks, crosses and vested choir were the signs of the Catholic expression of the Episcopal Church (in some dioceses priests were suspended for putting candles on the Altar for being too ‘romish’). Although Morning Prayer was prayed as well as Holy Communion on Sunday, the real “mark” of a catholic parish was the frequent celebration of Holy Communion on weekdays (in 1926 Communion was celebrated 170 times during the week plus twice every Sunday compared to Low parishes who only had it twice a month=24 times a year).
In 1932 the parish swung towards Low Church, with weekday Communion Services being pared down to Wednesday only, and Sunday Communion or Morning Prayer alternating.
Since 2001 St. John’s has swung back to Prayer Book Catholic, restoring the primacy of The Holy Communion as THE worship of the Church – Sundays and weekdays. But on these second and fifth Sundays we retain our heritage by offering as the “ante-communion” (first half of the service) the service of Choral Morning Prayer. And God willing, Evensong (done weekly on Sundays from 1858 to 1932) will be restored on Sunday evenings in the near future. Thank God for the beautiful, rich worship of our Anglican Tradition – Morning and Evening!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

One more old photos

This first one is 1933. Note the sign over the tower door.
Also, the traffic sign to the left of the photo. To the right of the Church is the old rectory, torn down in 1936.

Old Photos of St. John's

While searching for something else on line, I came across these old photos from the former Detroit Publishing Company, now on deposit with the Library of Congress. The first is a picture of St. John's from 1900 to 1910. The second and third are up Woodward the other way, with Central Methodist in the foreground, St. John's, and the spire of the old Woodward Baptist Church behind it (now burned down and replaced by the new Crosswinds Housing Development).
As we approach our 150th Anniversary it is neat to find these things!

Global warming a scam?

John Coleman, founder of The Weather Channel recently published this statement -

It is the greatest scam in history. I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming; It is a SCAM. Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create in [sic] allusion of rapid global warming. Other scientists of the same environmental whacko type jumped into the circle to support and broaden the "research" to further enhance the totally slanted, bogus global warming claims. Their friends in government steered huge research grants their way to keep the movement going. Soon they claimed to be a consensus.
Environmental extremists, notable politicians among them, then teamed up with movie, media and other liberal, environmentalist journalists to create this wild "scientific" scenario of the civilization threatening environmental consequences from Global Warming unless we adhere to their radical agenda. Now their ridiculous manipulated science has been accepted as fact and become a cornerstone issue for CNN, CBS, NBC, the Democratic Political Party, the Governor of California, school teachers and, in many cases, well informed but very gullible environmental conscientious citizens. Only one reporter at ABC has been allowed to counter the Global Warming frenzy with one 15 minutes documentary segment.
I have read dozens of scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists. I have studied. I have thought about it. I know I am correct. There is no run away climate change. The impact of humans on climate is not catastrophic. Our planet is not in peril. I am incensed by the incredible media glamour, the politically correct silliness and rude dismissal of counter arguments by the high priest of Global Warming.
In time, a decade or two, the outrageous scam will be obvious.

Arrived safely!

Hershey arrived safely in Arizona. Although we were fearful that he would arrive a drooly mess (or worse - he has tried to scratch himself out of crate once - made his paw bleed), he was dry and safe. My dad said the sedative seemed to still have some effect, although at this dosage it should not have lasted 8 hours.

Dad and Deb picked him up and he was great in the car (always was) and he met Shadow (Deb's dog) at a neutral site - a nearby park. Once the two got to know each other, then Deb took them both to the house and Hershey made himself right at home, even helping Shadow finish her dinner after he finished his. He hasn't figured out the doggie door as of earlier this evening, but I am sure Shadow will show him how.

Things are quiet right now at home. Everyone is in bed, asleep (by 9:30 tonight - very early!) except yours truly. Now is when I would clip Hershey on the leash and go for a walk around the block. Perhaps I will just go for one myself without him and pray for the neighbors as I do with him.

A hard day today...

This morning I put our dog on an airplane to go and live with my sister, her husband, and her labrador retriever, in Arizona.

Since we got him, he has had anxiety problems, particularly separation anxiety. If we left for even an hour he would drool all over himself - so much so that I could pick up one end of the crate, after removing the blanket (a rotation of them being washed daily), and watch the gelatinus puddles of saliva run across the bottom. If not in the crate, there was a huge mess of saliva to clean up as well wherever he awaited our return.

After many training techniques, and an investigation into herbal and pharmacutical means of relief (for him, not us), even my sons came to the conclusion that he needed to be with someone who has a dog. This technique, having him not be alone because there is an older dog to be with when humans are away, is the most humane of cures. My sister was very happy to help.

So now he is flying from here to there (mildly sedated of course). I will certainly miss him as a jogging partner! But I am sure he will really like being there with Deb and Bill and Shadow! And now we are planning a post Easter trip to Arizona to see him as well!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What is going on around St. John's Today?


We have had some water coming in in the nursery at the front corner of the building (fixed last week) and in the basement of the office building. Here is a picture of the men digging a trench to waterproof. They expect to go down 10 to 12 feet.

Interestingly, lots of red brick were found in the pit...probably the remnants of the old houses that used to be on this location before the office building was built, and even before the Church was moved back 60 feet!
Unfortunately, Paul and Shirl have not been able to get into the building yesterday and today because the end of the ramp is pulled up. They shoudl be done tonight.

Heard a GREAT quote today...

...while listening to my book on tape - a biography of Caesar Augustus.

It is a quote from Livy (Titus Livius) from his monumental work Ab Urbe Condita ("from the founding of the city").

Wealth has made us greedy; and self-indulgence has brought us, through any kind of sensual excess, to be in love with death, both individual and collective.

Sounds like the warning given to us by a recent modern inhabitant of the Eternal City who warned the world about its increasing Culture of Death.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Anniversary today!

13 years married to my wonderful wife, Jennifer.

Who would have imagined on that day, 13 years ag0 at St. John's Church, Sturgis, where we would be today....4 kids, living near Detroit, Rector of a wonderful parish.

As I have said before - my wife is my definition of GRACE: an unmerited gift from God. Thank God for her!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

All Saints, a possible saint, and one other in particular

Today we celebrated with great solemnity the Feast of All Saints. In the morning we had a Solemn High Mass, and then Solemn Evensong later in the day. The Choir was fabulous!!!! And we had a fine guest preacher, Fr. Dan Fox from St. Bonaventure's Monastery in Detroit. He is the director of the Fr. Solanus Casey Center, promoting the cause for canonization for Fr. Solanus (pictured here). Fr. Solanus ministered in Detroit, as the doorkeeper at the monastery, and died here in Detroit 1957. More info on Fr. Solanus in available at http://www.solanuscasey.org/

But today, November 4th, is also the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo. Son of a Medici, and nephew of a Medici Pope, Pius VI. Having the right family connection he was appointed Cardinal of Milan (Italy) at the age of 25, not even being ordained! But rather than squandering his position which he received, he took it as a responsibility and studied to be ordained. Using his influence as the bishop of an important diocese (Milan), as well as family/church connections (Medici's/Popes) he was instrumental in what is called the Counter-Reformation, centered around the council of Trent in response to the Protestant Reformation. Charles helped to institute many reforms, was instrumental in the founding of the seminary system, Sunday Schools for the systematic instruction of children. He survived and assination attempt by members of the heretical sect, the humiliati. He also wrote the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which remained the official catechism of the Roman Catholic Church until the current one was issued in the 1990's. Charles died in 1583 at the age of 46.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Souls Day

From the ancient liturgies appointed for today, and at any Requiem Mass.

The Dies Irae, translated in hymnal version.

The tune can be found here

Day of wrath, O day of mourning!

See fulfilled the prophet’s warning,

Heaven and earth in ashes burning.

Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth

When from Heav’n the Judge descendeth

On Whose sentence all dependeth!

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,

Through earth’s sepulchers it ringeth,

All before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck and nature quaking;

All creation is awaking,

To its Judge an answer making.

Lo, the book, exactly worded,

Wherein all hath been recorded;

Thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge His seat attaineth

And each hidden deed arraigneth,

Nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading?

Who for me be interceding

When the just are mercy needing?

King of majesty tremendous,

Who dost free salvation send us,

Fount of pity, then befriend us.

Think, good Jesus, my salvation

Caused Thy wondrous incarnation;

Leave me not to reprobation!

Faint and weary Thou hast sought me,

On the cross of suffering bought me;

Shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge, for sin’s pollution

Grant Thy gift of absolution

Ere that day of retribution!

Guilty, now I pour my moaning,

All my shame with anguish owning:

Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning!

From that sinful woman shriven,

From the dying thief forgiven,

Thou to me a hope hast given.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing;

Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,

Rescue me from fires undying.

With Thy favored sheep, oh, place me!

Nor among the goats abase me,

But to Thy right hand upraise me.

While the wicked are confounded,

Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,

Call me, with Thy saints surrounded.

Low I kneel with heart submission,

See, like ashes, my contrition;

Help me in my last condition!

Day of sorrow, day of weeping,

When, in dust no longer sleeping,

Man awakes in Thy dread keeping!

To the rest Thou didst prepare me

On Thy cross; O Christ, upbear me!

Spare, O God, in mercy spare me!

Thursday, November 01, 2007


As your Halloween sugar buzz wears off today from yesterday’s adventures with ghouls and ghosties, I wanted to offer all a blessed All Saints Day.

May all participate in the new life of Grace offered to us by our Lord, that we may be sanctified by the Holy Ghost to be SAINTS!

And as an offering, I found one of my favourite All Saints hymns on line.
And it has 3 more verses than the hymnal….Huw is it too late to add them for Sunday?
You can listen to the tune at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/f/a/fallthes.htm

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!