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, November 30, 2009

Rector's Rambling - November 22nd, 2009

7418 baptisms, 3402 weddings, and 5276 burials later, St. John's Church in Detroit begins her second 150 years of ministry (God willing). What a great celebration we had on Tuesday night as we gathered in the Chapel to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the first services held in that same building. The building was nearly full, and we sang Evensong in traditional Anglican fashion, as is not only our foundation but our present as well. Our diocesan Bishop was present, as the Bishop of Michigan was on that first day, and he was suitably impressed by the attendance on a Tuesday night as well as with the worship. We had many guests, including former parishioners, far-away parishioners, government officials, and clergy and members of surrounding congregations.
Such a landmark occasion makes one look both backward and forward. Backward to the past as a reminder of who we were founded to be and how God has blessed us in so many ways in good and hard times. From the parishes foundation until the late 1920’s St. John’s quickly became the largest Episcopal congregation west of the Allegheny mountains. From the 1930’s to the 1990’s St. John’s experienced a precipitous decline, bottoming out at an Average Sunday Attendance of less than 50 people on Sunday. In the past 9 years we have seen several spouts of growth, to our current levels, give or take 10 or so.
But as we begin our next 150 years, we must be challenged to be renewed in heart and mind in order to take up that mantle of ministry left to us by those who have gone before us.
This past year or so has been one of great malaise. It has been hard to get people motivated to go deeper and wider in their spiritual life. Many ‘regular’ attenders miss Sunday worship for minor secular reasons. Getting volunteers for ministries and other opportunities around the parish, until recently an easy task, has become much tougher. And this week we also had to postpone our FAITH ALIVE WEEKEND in February because we could not get people to volunteer to sign up to head committees in order to organize it.
Is it the general malaise of society in this economic downturn? Fears and depression over the theological state of the Episcopal Church and its possible impact on our existence? Poor discipleship?
As we move forward ,solutions to all the things above start with prayer and intercession, and then getting up and getting into action to the greater glory of God. We cannot rest on our laurels. Rather, we must build on it until the day Jesus returns!