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, November 18, 2009

Rector's Rambling - November 15, 2009

This Sunday, 150th years ago, must have been one of great anticipation. A century and a half ago on this weekend a group of Episcopalians worshipped at St. Paul’s, Christ Church, and the Mariner’s Church for the last time. The Senior Warden of St. Paul’s resigned his position as head of the Vestry of that original Detroit parish. Others resigned vestry positions, as well as membership in various guilds and organizations, in their current parishes.
They did this not in protest or disagreement with their parishes, but in anticipation of what was to come! On that third Sunday in November 1859 they would be worshipping in their parishes for the last time because the following week, on the 17th, they would gather out in the country, on the corner of Woodward Avenue and High Street, for the first service at the newly built St. John’s Chapel. The Bishop of Michigan was to be there to consecrate the new building, something that can only be done if it is free of encumbrances. Being no debt or mortgage on the new parish, the building would be dedicated for use to the greater glory of God at two services that day.
The former St. Paul’s Senior Warden, Henry Porter Baldwin, dreamed of founding a new parish outside of town, and nearer to his country home. He had purchased the land and had a church and chapel designed before ever pitching it to his neighbors the previous December.
Since then subscriptions were secured, the building constructed, a priest hired, and a boys choir trained for just this moment.
There must have been some sadness for those folks leaving to be a part of this new venture. But little could they imagine that within another week not only would the new parish be a ‘success’, but would be too large for the 125 seat Chapel they had built! Plans for a larger Church, seating over 1000 people had been planned for several years down the road. It now had to be constructed immediately! But that is a story for another day.