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

Monday, September 21, 2009

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.