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

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rector's Rambling on Sunday School

Today we get back into the swing of the education program at St. John’s.

A few years ago there was a public service announcements that ended with the tag-line “never stop learning”. This is certainly true when it comes to our life of faith!

Most of us know that Sunday School is an important element of a parish church. ALL CHILDREN IN THE PARISH should be participating in Sunday School! We certainly would be shocked if a parent decided not to have their child educated by not sending them to school or arranging to homeschool them. And yet some in the body of Christ who faithfully do the secular requirements of education do not have the same vigilance to have their children educated in the things that have ETERNAL consequences. In Sunday School the children not only learn the facts of the scriptures, but also learn to love them because they point us to Jesus. As they grow they need this foundation of faith to fight against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. What are we saying to our children when me make a great effort to get them to school Monday through Friday, but Sunday School (or God forbid Sunday Worship) can be put aside for other matters? Children absorb their parents’/grandparents’/guardians’ priorities.

What is true for the children in Sunday School is also true for adults. We also need to continue to learn more and more about our Lord and His Church. Reading and studying the Scriptures at home is a great start! Being involved in Adult Education at St. John’s is another great place to be! The Alpha Course is yet another great opportunity, as are other programs put on in this parish. And in the coming months we hope to branch out into small group ministry where people can gather together during the week to study the Word of God together.

Children and adults alike are called to keep learning! Let us do so to His greater honor and glory!

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More on Sunday School

This morning, as we resume our Sunday School and Adult Education programs, I thought it might be of interest to look at some of the things recorded in the history of St. John’s about the Sunday School program. Our 50th Anniversary book has this to say -

In the afternoon of the same day, November 20, 1859 , a Sunday School was organized. Its first enrollment, preserved for us by Mr. Charles H. Vernor (son of the inventor of Vernors Ginger Ale), who was one of those participating in the organizing, was of 28 officers and teachers, and 136 scholars. Mr. Henry Porter Baldwin was made Superintendent….

Later the book goes on to note

The Sunday School, which as we have seen began with 28 teachers and officers and 136 scholars, grew rapidly; in June 1861 it reported 451 enrolled, in 1866, 727.

The Annual Report for 1926 shows that St. John’s, once a country parish, had undergone some radical changes to the neighborhood. Surrounded by commercial rather than primarily residential properties, the make-up of the congregation had changed. Although the parish had 2430 baptized members, the author of the report laments

It is often asked whether it is difficult to keep a Church School going in a downtown parish. It is difficult...Our aim is to have as large a school as possible; but regardless of its size we try to make it the best.

In 1926 this enrollment was 180 children in Sunday School and 80 adults participating in the bible classes. That is less than 8% of the baptized membership in Sunday School and less than 4% of the baptized membership involved in the Sunday bible classes in 1926. Currently we have about 6% of our baptized membership participating in Sunday School/Children’s Chapel, and about 4% participating in Sunday Adult Education.

We can, and must do better by having members participate, and including new members as well.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rector's Rambling - September 6th

This week I got a phone call from the parishioner who so graciously edits for grammar and clarity our monthly newsletter The Eagle. He had a question about a phrase I used. We came up with a better one because the one I picked had a variety of meanings not related to what I intended.

That discussion morphed into one about about “Churchy Talk”. We use all sorts of great, ancient, specific words - often with Latin or Old English roots. They perfectly describe what they describe!

The problem is, unless you are an “insider” those words mean little to nothing to you. There are two ways to correct this problem. One, the preferred method by most is to just stop using the proper names. But for some of us, it is important to use the right words for the right things! The better solution is to use them AND explain them. For example, when I describe where coffee hour is I say, “In the Undercroft, which is directly beneath where you are sitting”. This way you learn the proper word AND what it means. Now for terms like Nave, Narthex, Sanctuary, Thurifer, Acolyte and even Rector we will have to work it into a conversation or perhaps a future Teaching Note.

I also want to wish you all a blessed Labor Day. Started primarily to celebrate the organized Labor movement in this country, for which many positive reforms in workplace resulted, we now broaden it to celebrate all human labor big and small. We pray for those who work the auto-line, push a broom, patrol our streets AND for those who take the risks to develop and grow businesses that provide employment opportunities.

The Roman Catholic Church has a history of encyclicals (teaching pronouncements) that encourage neither communism/socialism nor unrestrained capitalism. Instead, they promote a responsible business atmosphere that allows for private ownership and the opportunities for workers to make a dignified wage. Anglicanism, without a central teaching authority, would do well to start the conversation there, and pray God’s blessing on our common good.

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