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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Ash Wednesday & Happy Anniversary

We had our best Ash Weds service attendance in my time here at St. John's - Deo Gratias!

Speaking of time here at St. John's - My first Sunday at St. John's was 8 years ago today.
Another hearty DEO GRATIAS!

Anglican Buddhist Bishop?

God help us....
Anglican-Buddhist is elected Bishop in Northern Michigan
Tuesday, 24th February 2009. 4:35pm
By: George Conger.
The Anglican Communion’s first Anglican-Buddhist Bishop was elected this week at a special convention of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The sole candidate on the ballot, the Rev Kevin Thew Forrester received the support of 88 per cent of the delegates and 91 per cent of congregations, according to a diocesan news release.
The nomination of Fr Forrester sparked controversy last month, when the diocese announced that he was the sole candidate for election. Critics charged it was unseemly that a single candidate was chosen by the search committee --- which included Fr Forrester among its members --- to stand for election. Concerns were also raised about the suitability of a professed Buddhist who said he had received Buddhist “lay ordination” and was “walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together” being consecrated a bishop. Known also by his Buddhist name, “Genpo” which means “Way of Universal Wisdom”, Fr Forrester holds progressive views on a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Writing in the diocese’s news letter he stated: “Sin has little, if anything, to do with being bad. It has everything to do, as far as I can tell, with being blind to our own goodness.” Fr Forrester declined to respond to queries, but a statement issued on his behalf by the diocese claimed the mantle of Thomas Merton for Genpo as one enriched by both faiths. The bishop-elect had been “drawn into the Christian-Zen Buddhist dialogue through centreing prayer and his desire to assist persons in their own transformation in Christ. As many of you well know, he has practiced Zen meditation for almost a decade. Indeed, with marvellous hospitality, the Buddhist community welcomed him in his commitment to a meditation practice as an Episcopal priest (in a process known by some Buddhists as ‘lay ordination’),” the diocesan statement said. The diocese said its nominee “resonates deeply with the wisdom learned by Thomas Merton through his own interfaith dialogue and meditative practice; through the grace of meditation he has been drawn ever deeper into the contemplative Christian tradition.” With a typical Sunday attendance of 690, the Diocese of Northern Michigan is the third smallest in the Episcopal Church. According to statistics released by the national Church, its membership has declined by 31.7 per cent over the past decade. For his election to be confirmed, and for his Oct 17 consecration to take place, Fr Forrester must receive the consent of a majority of standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction in the Episcopal Church. However, the President of the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD) James Tonkowich urged the church to use discretion. “The issue is not whether meditation is good, it is what is being meditated on,” he said. "While church leaders may respect other faiths, their vow of Christian ordination has always meant an exclusive commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith,” he said.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Diocese of Northern Michigan elects a new Bishop...

...and he is a practicing buddhist????



A VERY sad story

This was in yesterday's Detroit Free Press, taken from the Indianapolis Star.
I find it a very sad, depressing story.
To have married 23 times......

23 marriages later, Indiana woman still looking for love
ANDERSON, Ind. -- Throughout her life, she has been Mrs. Scott, Mrs. Street and Mrs. Smith.
She was also Mrs. Moyer, Mrs. Massie and Mrs. McMillan.
But the former Mrs. Berisford, Mrs. Chandler and Mrs. Essex was born Linda Lou Taylor.
She grew up in Alexandria, Ind., a place that lays claim to the largest ball of dried paint in the world. Farther south is Greensburg, where a man once leaped from a plane a record 640 times in a day. More than a decade ago, the 68-year-old found her own way to bring Indiana a Guinness world record: She got hitched for the 23rd time.
Her first marriage was in 1957, for love.
Her most recent wedding was in 1996, for publicity.
Now known as Mrs. Linda Wolfe, she is the most married woman in history.
And she is alone.
A list of lovers
Wolfe can't list her husbands in order. But she remembers things that matter.
The nicest was George Scott, her first and -- at seven years -- her longest marriage. He was 31 and fresh from a stint in the military. She was 16 and just out of eighth grade. The best lover was Jack Gourley, who liked skinny dipping and impromptu trysts on long country drives. She wed him three times over.
The marriage to Fred Chadwick was the shortest, lasting just 36 hours. The love wasn't there.
The strangest exchange of vows took place at the Indiana Reformatory at Pendleton to a one-eyed inmate named Tom Stutzman, the son of wealthy Mormons, who she said was wrongly convicted of rape.
And her last beau; well, his history of marriage makes Wolfe seem almost chaste.
Linda Wolfe has been married in front of judges and priests, in grand halls and living rooms. She never wrote her own vows. And she always saw the end coming.
Two of her husbands were gay. Two were homeless. A few stepped out on her, but she never did the dirty on them. One choked her. Another secured the fridge with a padlock.
Wolfe had enough bad experiences to rue the whole shambolic sequence. So one day, she squashed all her wedding and engagement rings into her daughter's dirty diapers, bagged them and waited by the curb for the trash collector.
"I stood right there and watched, and they were beautiful rings," she said. "Good riddance."
Marriage-minded from the start
Wolfe wears acid-wash jeans, a "Chicks Kick Butt" sweatshirt, and goes heavy on the blush. Her long hair used to be blonde, but it's gray now.
She lives in a retirement housing complex, surrounded by fields that turn to cold corn stubble in winter. Other female residents have names betraying their age, like Doris, Bertha, Marta and Norma.
She has been here three years, long enough to fill her room with trinkets, like her plastic Furby collection. Medicine bottles, glass angels, and crucifixes sit on the coffee table in front of her like talismans.
"It's easy to sum up," she said of her life. "When I was younger I was just a snot-nosed kid, but the neighborhood boys were all in love with me. They all wanted to marry me."
Wolfe was born in 1940, the youngest of seven children.
Her father died when she was 2. Her mother took in washing and ironing and cleaned houses.
"She made it -- took us through school," Wolfe said. "She was a real kind, sweet, loving mother. We grew up all of us Christians, till we got older."
As a teen, Wolfe started chasing boys around town. She claims to have run off and unofficially married several of them, until her mother put a stop to it. Wolfe ended up with seven children of her own, born to her first three husbands: George Scott, Bill Moyer and Bill McMillan.
"They don't come around me," Wolfe said of her brood. "They've got their own lives to live."
Command performances
Zsa Zsa Gabor married nine times -- Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor, eight each.
But they're famous in spite of their marriages, rather than because of them. By the early 1990s, Wolfe was commanding appearance fees of $5,000 to $20,000 on the talk-show circuit. Sometimes she did shows via satellite, and sometimes she traveled. She wrote songs; the few titles she remembers -- "When It's Over," and "The Last Journey" -- seem to reflect the reality of her life.
Most of Wolfe's husbands have died, from heart problems and cancer, from old age and bad luck.
One of the few still living is Charley Collis. The pair met when she was in her early 40s, and he was in his early 20s.
"We stayed married six months," Collis said. "My mom and dad didn't want me married to her. I had a lot of confrontations with them over that."
Collis is currently at Plainfield Re-Entry Education Facility, soon to be released after serving a couple of years for forgery and theft, but he still loves his little "honey bunny."
"We just got along great," he said.
Wolfe walks now with a cane. When she was younger, she said, she used to strut.
"I'd flip my hair back -- it was just something I've always done," she said. "The cars would honk. There was a wreck or two because of me. That's just the story of my life. Men ran after me. I've tried to figure it out, and I can't."
Wolfe's many husbands include a vending machine repairman, barmen and brawlers, electricians and plumbers, musicians and machinists. But her final man was a preacher.
Glynn (Scotty) Wolfe was a Baptist minister, and by the time he reached his 80s, he was also the most married man in the world. Linda Wolfe was his 29th bride.
The last walk?
They say Scotty took the holy out of matrimony, that he married so often because he wanted sex without sin, and that he once divorced a woman for eating sunflower seeds in bed.
Scotty and Linda wed in Quartzsite, Ariz., in 1996. A British TV crew filmed the event, but Wolfe has never seen the footage or the money promised to her for the publicity stunt.
Shortly afterward, she returned to Indiana and he to California, where he died, destitute, just 10 days before their one-year anniversary. Only one of his 19 children came to the funeral -- a son who couldn't afford the cremation fee.
Wolfe fears a similar fate. She has been single now for a dozen years, her longest stint unmarried since childhood. Wolfe has the record, but she would rather have something else, more common and more lasting.
"But I would get married again," she said, "because, you know, it gets lonely."


Orthodox Lent

We ask for fast and discipline in Lent, but the Eastern Orthodox Churches keep a much stricter observance!

Here is an article from today's Free Press

An Orthodox Lent: No meat, dairy, dancing
For the next two months, Brenda Kotsis of Clinton Township will lean more on her family's traditional Greek vegetarian recipes and get in the habit of putting soy milk on her cereal.
"It's a cleansing process, spiritually and physically," said Kotsis 53, who abstains from meat and dairy foods during Lent.
Abstaining from meat is a common practice for many Christians, but Orthodox faithful such as Kostic observe the season with a rigor that maintains early Christian traditions.
For the Orthodox, Sunday was the last day they could eat meat for almost two months. And starting next Sunday they can't eat any dairy products until Orthodox Easter on April 19..
"If you discipline your body, you can discipline your soul," said the Rev. Lev Kopistiansky, priest of Holy Trinity Church in Detroit.
For the Orthodox, the Sundays preceding Lent -- which begins March 2 for the Orthodox church as opposed to Wednesday for other denominations -- are special days in preparation for the season. Sunday was called Meatfare Sunday, or Judgment Sunday, and next Sunday is known as Cheesefare Sunday, or Forgiveness Sunday.
But don't think abstaining is a hardship, say the observant. Rather, it's an uplifting experience that helps them get away from the bustle of everyday life.
"The whole point is not just about avoiding certain foods," said Kotsis. "You try to repent, forgive, and treat everyone kindly."
At dozens of Orthodox churches, special feasts were planned for the last days of eating meat.
Inside Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in St. Clair Shores, many people attended a Saturday dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce. The event also included a dance because dancing and parties generally are avoided by observant Orthodox during Lent.
"We're trying to really simplify our lives and focus on the spiritual aspects," said the Rev. Michael Varlamos of Assumption Greek. "It's not that meat and dairy products are bad, but such foods tend to preoccupy us."

Friday, February 13, 2009

yes, the authentic Gospel IS a scandal!

The London Times is covering the Synod in England, and the tone of this article, and those objectors reported in it, sums up how secularized the media is, and even some in the pews and pulpits.

The work of the Church IS TO EVANGELIZE EVERYONE! Because Jesus is Lord and the only way to the Father. There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved.

Thank God the Synod at least passed this legislation. My guess is that it would not pass in the Episcopal Church's General Convention this summer.

Anglicans were commanded to “go forth and evangelise” yesterday in a dramatic assertion of missionary fervour that could jeopardise carefully built-up relations with Muslims, Jews and other faiths.
The established Church of England put decades of liberal-inspired political correctness behind it in a move that led one bishop to condemn in anger the “evangelistic rants”.
For Muslims, to convert to another religion is condemned as apostasy.
The Church’s General Synod, meeting in London, overwhelmingly backed a motion to force its bishops to report on their “understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain’s multifaith society” and offer guidance in sharing “the gospel of salvation” with people of other faiths and none.
The move echoes 19th-century missions to Britain’s overseas colonies, with the difference being that modern-day evangelicals want to be mandated to carry out these missions on home turf.
The Rev Nezlin Sterling, who represents the black-led churches and is a minister in the New Testament Assembly, said that the marginalisation of Christianity was proceeding at a rapid rate, with further examples reported every day.
She said that the churches were so anxious to be politically correct that they were in danger of forgetting their mission. “We have positioned ourselves like the disciples did immediately after the death of Christ, behind closed doors, paralysed with fear of the world.”
Evangelisation should be a priority, she said. “Every person in my mind is a potential convert.”
The move was proposed by Paul Eddy, a lay member from the Winchester diocese, who said that he was aware of the religious and cultural tensions in many parishes in England. He also understood “the distress that talk of the historic Crusades can evoke” and that, to some, sharing the Christian gospel equates to sharing the “values of the West”.
He quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to British missionaries to India: “I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, practise your religion without adulterating or toning it down.”
He said that the uniqueness of Christ must not be compromised by Anglicans. “It does no harm for the Church to re-state it’s beliefs time and time again and then to go further — in this case commending good practice in making that belief known.”
The Rev Andrew Dow, a vicar in Cheltenham, said he did not think bishops should be put through a “sort of doctrinal and theological Ofsted”. It was something the whole Church had to wrestle with. “I believe we are in danger of losing our confidence in this great although admittedly difficult truth,” he said. The Church needed to recover its confidence in proclaiming that “Jesus is the only saviour”.
Referring to conversion, he continued: “The dreaded ‘C’ word, we are terrified of it. But why? We need to recover our nerve. We need to refute the lie that to be evangelistic is to be a religious bigot or fundamentalist fanatic.”
However, the Bishop of Hulme, Stephen Lowe, who leads the Church’s mission in urban life, told The Times that he was “saddened” by the debate.
Condemning the “evangelistic rants” of some members, he said: “There are one or two contributions that worried me because they did not seem to have any understanding of the nature of relationship that precedes good evangelism.” He added: “There’s an element of people who have not got experience of living and spreading the gospel in a multicultural, multifaith context telling those who do have that experience how to do it. That makes me very uneasy.”
He conceded that a Muslim would expect a Christian to proclaim his faith. “But it has to be on the basis of mutual respect and mutual understanding.” Earlier, legislation introducing women bishops cleared its first hurdle at the Synod.
After more than two hours of debate, members voted to send draft legislation allowing women bishops and a draft code of practice to the revision committee stage.


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Today! It starts TODAY!

Pitchers and Catchers report to spring training camp TODAY!

Spring Training begins!
The boys and I have been doing some inside work, but I am itching to get outside and really do some baseball.
Bring on SPRING!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Last Friday night - a damaged soul

Last Friday I had the privilege of preaching at the funeral of a parishioner's mom in Illinois. Lovely parish and GREAT people. The reception afterwards was at the family's club, about 15/20 minutes away from the Church.

I missed my flight home. The cab had the wrong place to come to pick me up, and the town where the club was located was NOT the same as the name of the club. In fact, the 'village' it was in was actually in was not on the cabbie's garmon so he was very late. I was able to use a bit of patience I do not always have, and I did two things 1) called the airline and figured out pretty early on that if I missed this one flight, I could get on a flight afterwards without a problem, and 2) started to pray and figure out why this was happening. Was I there for a reason beyond me and the cabbie?

I got my answer a bit later.

As I waited out at the entrance near the awning for the cab to finally arrive, people would walk out, see me in my collar and comment on the service and/or the sermon. I tried to keep humble and offer all the glory to God, thanking them and reminding them (and me) that it is all Grace.

One of our St. John's parishioners came outside to make a phone call, saw me, and commented how wonderful the service and the sermon was. I thanked her, and as I did another person came up behind her and said, "what was wonderful?". When the parishioner repeated her praise this other person said "nothing was wonderful today".

My first thought was that this person must be especially grieving over the death of this fine woman. As she walked from earshot into eyeshot I was confronted by an elderly lady, about 5 feet tall, with white stringy/flat hair, and a lovely fur coat.

She continued her assessment. "Nothing was wonderful". So I took the bait. "Why is that?" I asked.

"It was all awful" she repeated, and began to walk toward the curb. She then turned toward me and said, "I am a buddhist". Just like that. So now my mind goes to the fact that perhaps she was deeply offended by my preaching the Resurrection of the dead through Jesus Christ and Him alone.

Before I could formulate a response, after an awkward silence, she then said, "I was married to an Episcopal Priest for 15 years, and he decided in 1970 (or was it the 1970's, I am not sure) that he was gay and he left me. The bishop (which she described with some disparaging remarks) did nothing about it. And NO ONE from the Episcopal Church - Bishop, neighboring priests, or members of the parish - contacted ME to see if I and my two kids were doing okay or if we needed help."

BAM! A damaged soul.

She had every right by human terms to be absolutely livid at her ex, the bishop, and the Episcopal Church in general. And now 39 years later ECUSA has gotten worse in dealing with deviant sexuality as well as with divorced/divorcing clergy. This woman had been wounded by the Church. And the look on her face showed how deep the hurt had been and continues to be.

I apologized on behalf of the Episcopal Church (as did my parishioner). Mentioned original sin, human actual sin, the the fact that the Church is made up of sinners but it had not right to have treated her this way. I mentioned that the Church was imperfect because it was full of sinful human beings but the Jesus Christ himself was our strength and direction.

But that made here go even deeper into attack. She said, "I don't belive Jesus was the son of God." (God help her) She disparaged ALL clergy, all christians, and particularly the Episcopal Church. She then muttered again becoming a buddhist and even a yogi (sp?).

Then the Holy Spirit got to work.

"So as a buddhist, your goal is inner peace, even nirvana?" I remembered from my studies. She then said, "yes, of course".

Looking right at her pursed lips and furrowed brow I asked, "how is that going for you?" " I sense a lot of anger and unpeacefulness". She mumbled something about how because of this thing (husband, etc.) she had more work to do.

I then responded, "the only way to true peace is through forgiveness. And the grace to be able to do that in the face of what happened to you is only available through the Cross of Jesus Christ. His very nature is about forgiveness and real peace."

She just dismissed that idea with a wave of the hand.

Before I could go further a car drove up to pick her up. Jumping out of the car were two people who immediately blurted out, "Mother - stop that" and "I am so sorry Father". Apparently they have seen her do this to others.

But on her way into the car she then insinuated that because my wife was back in Detroit and I was talking to a female parishioner (whose husband was probably 50 feet way) I was just like all the rest of the clergy - unfaithful.

PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for her.

I will be contacting the family to find out her name.
She was certainly deeply wounded by sinful people in Christ's Church.
And the devil takes real situations, real hurts, real failings, and exploits it!

Pray for this woman that she repents of the apostacy of turning away from her baptism.
Pray that she comes to know Jesus Christ as Lord.
And pray that she may access the grace to learn to forgive and love, so that she may know the real peace that passes all understanding - only possible through Jesus Christ.

Thank God my cabbie was late.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A fun graphic

Nothing beats finding a good graphic that you can use later for a teaching class, something from and old book now in the public domain.

In this case it came from a website of a strange group, and the page doesn't appear to have been updated since 2000.

But what a great line sketch of a priest vesting in proper vestments!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A big afternoon for Sam and Andrew

The two oldest (12.5 and 11) were a part of a 5 1/2 hour test today for their black belt in Karate.

They passed this test, and now start preparing for their formal test at the Club demonstration night March 27th.

What a great accomplishment for the boys!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Observation about the two churches I preached at this week

This past week I was invited to preach at the burial of two people who were not my parishioners.

One was someone alienated by her Rector at a posh suburban parish in my diocese, whom I have been visiting with the sacrament occasionally for the past few years. Her family's ties to that parish were strong, and the service was held there.

Yesterday I was flown to Chicago to preach at the burial of the mother of one of my parishioners, who was a member of a parish in an affluent northern suburb.

I have a list of theological objections at both services BUT on the top of the list is that both had notes in the bulletin inviting ANYONE who desires to come forward to receive Communion (no mention that you need to be baptised).

Did I just happen to hit two rare parishes violating Canon I.17.7 (requiring baptism to receive communion), or is this more common?

This is yet a further deterioration of the theology of the Episcopal Church if it is becoming rampant. I know these parishes are doing it in the name of trying to be 'inclusive', but this is ridiculous!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

How to spend a day off....

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at a funeral for Abby MacDonald at Christ Church Cranbrook.

Friday I am flying to Chicago to preach at the funeral of Joan Porter at Christ Church Winnetka.

So in between (TODAY) I took my day off.

Want a crumby way to spend the afternoon of your day off?

At least it is done now!


Sunday, February 01, 2009


What a great game this evening!

Steelers give up 2 with a safety, the Cards drive down the field and score with about 3 minutes left, and Big Ben takes the Steelers down the field and into the endzone to win it with seconds left!

Until the Lions find out how to win, I will keep cheering for the Steelers!