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

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.