Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 50 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 impending hockey arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rector's Rambling - November 1, 2009

Today we deviate once again from the “Sundays after Trinity” in order to celebrate a grand holy day. Today is the Feast of All Saints. On this day we celebrate with great liturgical and musical solemnity all those holy women and men who have gone before us and are now in the presence of God.

The Roman Catholic Church has a very formal process for proclaiming someone a ‘saint’. It involves collecting materials and testimonies, miracles attributed to the deceased’s intercession, and a process from venerable, to blessed, to saint. This process was codified over time to assure the faithful of the holiness of the person being remembered, and to avoid the over-excitement about that holy person developed in local cultus around him or her.

The Anglican Church, particularly our American Episcopal Church, recognizes those early saints of the early church, as well as those recognized by the East and West in more recent times. We also have a ‘process’ to add someone to our calendar to be remembered, usually on the anniversary of their death (their heavenly birthday). This roll of people is commemorated in the Book Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The deceased are proposed to a committee established by the General Convention for investigation, possibly added to the calendar for trial use, and the approved by the Convention itself. Some additions in recent years have, unfortunately been added for political motivation rather than the person’s holiness of life. God is sorting that out.

It may be of interest to note that in our register of services we have the signatures of several American Episcopal “saints”. Bishop Jackson Kemper of Wisconsin consecrated our first Rector here at St. John’s to be his successor. Fr. James Lloyd Breck, founder of 3 seminaries (only Nashotah House remains) and countless parishes, preached and celebrated here, and Fr. James DeKoven, twice elected and then overturned to be a bishop, (for being too traditional) preached our first rector’s funeral here as well. And I would also guess, known to God alone, that many saints have sat in our pews this past 150 years, and some are sitting here now.

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Rector's Rambling - October 25, 2009

Yesterday was the 175th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. The Diocese officially came into being 25 years before St. John’s was founded, with a small number of parishes that were being cared for by Canadian bishops who traveled across the Detroit River from Windsor. St. Paul’s, then located on Woodward near the river (now located at Woodward and Warren in their 3rd structure) is considered the mother church of our diocese. It was the long-time Junior Warden of that parish, recently elevated to Senior Warden, who called for a meeting of neighbors living ‘out in the country’ near his new house to found a new parish, St. John’s.

18 months after the parish was founded, and 7 months after the Chapel was opened, the Convention itself met for an special afternoon session to help with the laying of the cornerstone of our Church. In there was placed a document from the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of the parish while included this…

“We are conscious and confident that we are building that which will outlast ourselves; and we rejoice in the hope that, within the walls we are permitted to raise, thousands, in successive generations, will worship GOD, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and confess our LORD and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, in the sacraments and ordinances of His Gospel; and partake of all the blessings of membership in His Church, which are precious to our souls today. As Christians and Churchman, we thank GOD for our strong assurance and conviction, drawn from past history, that the Protestant Episcopal Church, for whose communion this building will be reared, is so grounded on the one foundation, Jesus Christ, so true to Him, in the ministry, the doctrine, the Liturgy, the sacred year, the entire system which she inherited; so careful of His complete Gospel, holding each and every part thereof, in its own due proportion and harmony; that however we and those who shall follow us may prove unworthy of her and of her LORD, among all the changes and chances of this world, she will remain, in all essential things unchanged.”

Although St. John’s remains “in all essential things unchanged” concerning the faith and worship of The Church, I wish I could report that yesterday’s Diocesan Convention does the same. (ie...legislation supporting funding of ministries at odds with biblical lifestyle choices, calling for action on climate change based on bogus research for 'global warming', and worship not at all in accord with Anglican Prayer Book worship) I would venture that The Episcopal Church 2009 is little that Henry Porter Baldwin and the other founders of our parish would recognize.

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Rector's Rambling - October 18

Welcome to all who are joining us today for our Homecoming celebration.

Begun in 2001, Homecoming Sunday is a chance to invite our friends, family, and regular visitors to join us for an extra festive Sunday of worship and fellowship. It is a “fall” opportunity to gather, just as many visit for “winter” (Christmas) and “spring” (Easter). This year we have added a “summer” opportunity with Founders Sunday in July.

As you have experienced, the worship at St. John’s is a great grace filled act of love and gratitude to the good God who loves us beyond comprehension. The richly symbolic liturgy, combined with sublime music, lifts our hearts and minds to greater and bigger things. Our participation is our offering to God, however imperfect we (and it) may be, because it our bounden duty and joy.
And the fellowship at St. John’s is certainly warm and inviting. Add to that a potluck luncheon and all the excitement of the Detroit Marathon and Detroit Lions game happening nearby and we have a glorious day all around.

In 1926 St. John’s was the largest parish west of the Allegheny mountains. Easter that year saw over 2500 communicants at seven Sunday Services! By the 1930’s attendance began to slide. A long-time member told me that a predecessor as Rector from 1932 to 1962, Rev. I.C. Johnson, told him that he was encouraged to come to St. John’s to stop the downward slide. Only in 2001 did we start increasing, building from 45 average Sunday attendance to over 200 in 2006. Things have backslid a bit since then, dropping to 196 last year.

In the coming months we will be having a Faith Alive weekend. I hope that it will be a chance for us to recharge and move forward once again. And from this recharged congregation more and more people will be brought into our fellowship through that renewal and evangelism.
Everyone here today is most welcome, and encouraged, to become a part of this renewal. “Get in on the ground floor” as we grow once again toward a full church many times over.

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Rector's Rambling - October 4

Thank you to all who made yesterday’s Community Flea Market a success! If not for the good planning work of many people involved in the process, as well as all who pitched in on the big day, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this. We not only made some money for the operating expenses of the parish, but we also made a good impression on the many vendors and neighbors who participated and enjoyed the day.

Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of St. Michael and All Angels. The feast day actually occurs on September 29th, but it is an important enough feast that it has an “octave” assigned to it - which means that it can be celebrated for 8 days! We are celebrating it on the Sunday within the octave.

It is an important feast day because there is a lot of misunderstanding about the ministry of angels and who they are in their created order. Keeping this feast day allows us to give thanks to God for their creation and their ministry, as well as be informed about who they are and what they do (and who they aren’t and what they don’t do) so we can dispel the myths and mis-information surrounding them.

Today, being October 4th, is also the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis lived in the 13th century in Italy. The son of a middle class cloth merchant, “Frenchy” chased after military glory in hopes of elevating his and his families status by earning knighthood. Instead God used him to renew the Church.

After a conversion experience in which Jesus told him to ‘rebuild my Church’ Francis embraced absolute poverty in order to preach the gospel without being attached to property concerns. Many others were attracted to his way of life and joined him. Three modern religious orders are the fruit of his call - The First Order Franciscan (brown robed friars), Second Order semi-enclosed nuns (the Poor Clares) and Third Order men and women following a rule of life but living in the world and their families.

Although the rule of life has changed over the years, the charism (‘spirit”) lives on in the Franciscan vocation. More info? www.fodc.net

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

An opinion on the recent Anglican/Roman news

There is much buzz about the recent pronouncement from Rome setting up a pathway for en masse Anglican defections to the Roman Catholic Church. In many ways this mirrors a similar program already in effect in the USA only, allowing for re-ordination of married Anglican clergy and for parishes to continue to use Anglican Prayer Book worship while Roman Catholic (there are several in Texas, Massachusetts, and I believe Virginia already). This would now be available world-wide with the additional caveat that they would be able to set up parishes and have their own hierarchy without depending upon local RC bishops to give permission (a stumbling block in some places). What has not changed is that Anglicans still have to convert to Roman Catholicism and clergy have to be re-ordained (not have their orders recognized as valid).

Impact in the USA? Minimal to ECUSA I would think. Many who have been leaning Rome-ward have already jumped. It might be an attractive option to some of the alphabet soup of continuing churches who have already separated from The Episcopal Church, particularly those who separated in the 1970's and are of a more Catholic Anglican understanding. I would also speculate that only a minority of those who are recently separated into the Anglican Church in North America will be interested since most involved are of the Evangelical Party, and have adopted non-catholic understanding of Holy Orders (not to underestimate the long-standing animousity by evangelicals toward Rome). Those from the more Anglo-catholic dioceses of Ft. Worth, San Joaquin, and Quincy, as well as those under the new ACNA Bishop Ilgenfritz from Forward in Faith would have a better fit with Rome than the ACNA in the long run.

Impact on the Anglican Communion? This could be devastating to the Catholic Anglican movement in the Church of England, which has been pushed to the edge over recent legislation to introduce women into the Episcopate.

This could also gain steam in Australia and Catholic Anglican pockets in Africa.

And the formal document itself has not been released in full, so details are scarce at this time.

My biggest disappointment is that it will further weaken the witness of the Catholic position in the Anglican Communion.

So, what about St. John's on all this?
1) We are still a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan in good standing.
2) There are no plans for St. John’s to investigate this option.
3) I have a hard time believing Anglican Orders are "utterly null and completely void" as Leo XIII promulgated about us (or something to that effect). As the USA option currently stands, I am not eligible for re-ordination because I was confirmed as a child in the Roman Catholic Church. There is no hint by Rome that this would be changed.

We have had a small number of parishioners leave St. John's in recent years and convert to Rome, and we have also had former and lapsed Roman Catholics join us. Ultimately God is in charge and we remain faithful to the 'faith once delivered to the saints' as a parish, and as a priest, in The Episcopal Church. This puts us at odds with Rome (being in the Episcopal Church), and most of ECUSA (the faith once delivered to the saints).

May God help us all.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Flea Market is coming!

This week the Flea Market Committee will meet one last time, after the 10am Service, to make sure we are on track for our big fundraiser on October 3rd.
Originally conceived last spring to be a ride carnival, unfortunately the ride company was not able to squeeze us on their schedule for this fall. But by mid-summer we realized that rather than wait an entire year we need to have a fundraiser this fall as well. The Community Flea Market is the fruit of that desire.
There are several reasons I think this event is important. First, it is a community event. Various Churches, ministries, and other vendors will be participating. We are the hosts and in addition to selling our wares, we will also be selling food concessions and 50/50 tickets. It is a chance to gather various groups in our community together for a day.
Secondly, it is a chance for us to be ‘visible’ in the neighborhood. Our big building is hard to miss, but many pass by without ever seeing anyone come and go. This event in the parking lot is a chance for us to be seen by our neighbors who will (hopefully) be coming in to browse the items, meet parishioners, and hopefully develop a favorable opinion of us, opening up an opportunity to develop a relationship with each other and hopefully with them and the Lord.
And of course, it is a fundraiser. In our hard-pressed economic times, we cannot use any reserve funds because their value has been greatly depleted by the stock-market downturn, and the lack of growth and income in the account. Parishioners have been very generous in supporting St. John’s - this is a chance for others to have the opportunity to come to the Flea Market and to help us to cover our expenses.
Be sure you will be here Saturday during the Flea Market hours to volunteer AND welcome our many guests!
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Sunday School got off to a good start last week, as did Adult Education, but there are still children and adults in the parish (and in metro Detroit for that matter) who need to be involved for their sake and for the good of the parish!

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