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, February 15, 2010

Rector's Rambling - February 21, 2010 (Lent I)

Today we give thanks to Almighty God for the beginning of Lent.
Although we have been “in the purple” for 3 weeks already with the “gesima” Sundays, we begin in earnest our Lent fast and disciplines.
Most of us know that one suggested discipline is to “give something up for Lent”. This is certainly a good start. This “something” can be something bad for you (and should be given up anyway) or perhaps something that is not necessarily bad for you but it would be a good discipline to live without as an offering to God.
The key is that this is done as an ‘offering’ to God. The word “sacrifice” comes from the Latin phrase “sacrum facio”, which means “I make holy”. When we think of sacrifices we might think of the Old Testament offering for sin of bulls, lambs or doves. Or perhaps we even think of Jesus’ “one sufficient sacrifice, once offered” on the Cross for the sins of the world.
But in Lent we ask you to ‘sacrifice’ some thing or another as an holy offering to God. It doesn’t atone (pay the price of) your sins (Jesus did that already) or somehow appease an angry God.
This offering, this “I make holy”, is a gift of thanksgiving and praise to God for giving us new life. Both in giving something up and taking things for disciplines in Lent we Thank God for eternal life, and the grace to live holy lives, by offering this sacrifice as a small token, as well as learning that we are not at the demands and whims of our flesh and its impulses.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
¶ This Collect is to be said every day in Lent, after the Collect appointed for the day, until Palm Sunday.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Thanks for all the compliments

By God's grace I have lost quite a bit of weight since November (started in earnest on the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the parish). I am eating Low Carb (pretty much along the Atkins New Diet Revoltion tradition) which works very well for me and is recommended to me by my physician. I have also been doing an exercise program called P90X. It is an hour to hour and a half workout, 6 days a week: push-ups, pull-ups, weightlifting, cardio, yoga, kenpo karate, etc.
Info on P90X can be found here

So my clothes are much looser, I am feeling much more fit, and my Cholesterol, at the last check at the end of December was 140.

I have a goal - to start rowing again, probably by summer.

But it is hard to be boastful or proud of the progress - it is my own fault I got so far OUT of shape.

But thank you for the compliments. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (all to the greater glory of God!).

One week from today....

The Tiger pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training!

My Andrew, still rehabing after breaking his arm at Christmas, started indoor practices last week.

Little League Registration is open.

Yesterday I confirmed that the parish choir is singing the National Anthem at the Tigers game on Sunday, May 30, and reserved 350 tickets for the day.

Baseball! Thinking Baseball!


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Rector's Rambling - February 14, 2010

Today we celebrate several overlapping “Feast” days, only the last of which is well known.
First, it is Quinquagesima Sunday, the Sunday next before Lent. Besides being fun to say, it signals to us that this is our last few days of FEASTING (especially on Shrove Tuesday) before we begin our Lenten FASTING on Ash Wednesday. Please be sure to attend either the 12:15 or 6pm services on Wednesday to begin Lent the right way by worshiping, receiving Communion, and being ‘smudged’ with ashes as a reminder of your mortality and need for penitence.
Secondly, it is the Feast of Ss. Cyril and Methodist. Who? They were 9th century monks, bishops, and missionary to the Slavic people. S. Cyril invented an alphabet for their language (the cyrillic alphabet) in order to teach about Jesus through the bible and the liturgy in Slavonic (still the official language of the liturgy of the eastern Church in that region). Both met resistance from both the political forces of the pagan lands, and those Church leaders who did not approve of liturgy in a “barbarous” tongue. The Roman Catholic seminary in Orchard Lake is named after these two saints.
Of course most people know that today is also St. Valentine’s Day. Athough “Saint” has mostly been dropped from the title by the secular forces who see it as a commercial opportunity, it is based on a Holy Day dedicated in memory of one of the saints. St. Valentine was a priest who was martyred in the 3rd century in Rome. His crime, legend says, was performing marriages for Christian couples and helping those who were being persecuted under the Emperor Claudius. Once imprisoned he inflamed the situation by trying to convert the emperor! He was beaten, stoned, and eventually beheaded. The majority of his relics now rest in the Church of St. Praxedes in Rome.
Be sure to read the enclosed Lenten Brochures “Lenten Disciplines and Devotions” and “Keeping an Holy Lent” in preparation for the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.


Rector's Rambling - February 7, 2010

As we continue in the midst of the “-gesima” Sundays we should be looking forward 11 days to the coming of Lent.
One way is to begin thinking about what disciplines and devotions we are considering taking on. What are we “giving up” for Lent? This is not necessarily something that is bad for us (those should perhaps given up anyway), but even something enjoyable and good but that we use as both an offering and an opportunity remind ourselves that we have control (by His grace) over our bodily impulses. As I write I am in the midst of weaning myself back off coffee. Coffee in itself is not bad, in moderation. But the last few years I have given it up as an offering and a reminder that I don’t need it. Of course there are other things in my life that I will be giving up as well.
But in addition to giving something up, I am piling up some books I want to read as some fodder for mediation, and some projects I want to do as both a discipline and devotion. Both of these types of things not only build up now, but can be things that carry-over beyond Lent.
If you haven’t given Lent a thought yet, start thinking and praying now about what Disciplines and Devotions might be helpful in addition to the Church’s prescribed Fasts (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) days of abstinence from flesh meat (all Fridays in Lent) and devotion (Weekly attendance at Church).
TODAY - after the 8am and 10am services, at the Altar Rail in the Chapel, we will have the BLESSING OF THROATS in honor of the Feast of St. Blase.
An ancient tradition of the Church, blessed (unlit) candles are crossed and placed upon the throats of all those desiring this healing blessing. The priest prays, “At the intercession of St. Blase may you be freed and protected from all ailments of the throat, and all other infirmities, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
More information on the tradition can be found in the Teaching Note on page 6.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Cold, snowy, and thinking of BASEBALL

Andrew and Sam had the mitts out yesterday for a little catch. Johnny Damon's agent says he wants to be a Tiger. And the Tigers report for Spring Training Feb 18 (Pitchers and Catchers), and Feb 22!


Rector's Rambling - January 31st, 2010

Today we gather for the parish’s 150th Annual Parish Meeting, and my 9th as your Rector.
The Annual Parish Meeting is the opportunity for us together downstairs after the 10am Service to elect new members of the Vestry (all of whom are excellent candidates), and to review and act on the ‘business’ of the parish from the year past and God willing the year to come. A soup luncheon will be served, and hopefully it will take about an hour conduct the business necessary for the day. The newly elected Vestry will then meet for 5 to 10 minutes to electe its officers for the year.
By the end of this year, God willing, I will be the fifth longest serving Rector of this parish. Fr. Worthington served 17 years (1868 to 1885), Fr. Woodruffe served 12 years (1922 to 1934), Fr. Johnson served 28 years (1934 to 1962) and Fr. Frisby served 25 years (1962 to 1987). It was a humbling honor to have been elected as your rector in 2001, and now of the 13 rectors in our 150 year history to move into that length of tenure behind only four others is further humbling to me. May God continue to grant me (and all of us) the grace necessary to continue steadfast in His faith here at St. John’s.
Very much has changed in my nine years here. Great increases in attendance and our more recent leveling off, wonderful opportunities for ministry in common and uncommon circumstances (ministering as the feeding center for the police during the Super Bowl stands out as unusual), and challenges as well as great joys have been abundant over these past years!
This past year has had particular challenges, especially with the finances as concerning the endowment income. By God’s grace, the vestry’s diligence, and the parish’s generosity, we can report that we ended the year without a deficit! But 2010 will be another year of financial vigilance and challenge as well.
But more importantly 2010 needs to be a year of individual and corporate spiritual growth and deepening discipleship. We must continue to be, and become even more, the Church that God desires us to be!


Rector's Rambling - January 24th, 2010

After two weeks away it sure is great to be home! I enjoy going away and being on vacationwith my family, but I miss being here on Sundays to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness with this parish family.
Today’s return is doubly gratifying because Bishop Jackson C. Biggers is with us today. Bishop Biggers is the retired bishop of Northern Malawi in Central Africa.
Bishop Biggers is a native Mississippian. After a time as a missionary in Malawi he returned to the United States and was the rector of a parish in Biloxi, Mississippi. His election to be bishop of the newly formed diocese was a surprise, and relatively swift compared to the long, drawn out process in the Episcopal Church USA.
Being a new diocese (and a position without a salary) the fellow priests of the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC) banded together and began supporting Bishop Biggers and his new diocese. Our own Fr. Michael Bedford, at that time recently retired for the first time, suggested that St. John’s support Bishop Biggers’ ministry and we have been doing so ever since. In addition to direct support of the bishop and the diocese, St. John’s over the years has supported the foundation of the Community of St. Mary in Malawi, help with AIDS orphans and their grandparents caring for them, and study bibles for seminarians at the Leonard Kamungu Theological College in Malawi.
Bishop Biggers has asked St. John’s to become the American Commissary to the seminary and the Vestry has agreed to take on this ministry. We will be the US clearing house for collecting tax-deductable funds in support of the seminary. We will be making appeals to parishes and individuals to support the seminary, which is able to educate priests with sound theological training for work in the Church in Malawi and beyond.
We welcome Bishop Biggers’ return to St. John’s. Although Malawi is home for Bishop Biggers, he comes to the United States almost yearly, and we are honored that he is able to join us almost yearly!


Rector's Rambling - January 17th, 2010

This week we begin the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Held each year between January 18th (The Feast of the Confession of St. Peter) and January 25th (The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul). Between these two Feast Days the Church prays with special intention for the Unity of the Church.
Jesus prayed that we all be one as He and the Father are one! But it did not take long for the members of the Church, affected by original sin, began to have disagreements with each other and before long forming divisions.
For the most part the Church held together, occasionally having to anathematize small groups of those holding false doctrines in order to bring them to repentance and the true faith. The first big division of the Universal Church came in the 11th Century when the Eastern Church and Western Church divided over political and theological considerations.
Later, by the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the seeds of further division were sown, and the Protestant Reformation rent asunder the western Church.
These divisions are NOT God’s will, but a manifestation of our fallen nature. In fact it is a SCANDAL to the body of Christ that we are divided. Jesus said the world will know we are his disciples if we love one another. Yet we can’t even come together on basic doctrine.
Our divisions are based on real issues, but it must be our prayer and work to build up the body of Christ by learning to love one another and become united so that we can witness with one voice the truth that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD! If we start there then we will go a long way to building up not only the kingdom of God, but he unity of the Church as well.
In fact, this ‘week’ was started in 1908 by a group of former Episcopal Franciscan Friars, now known as the Greymoor Friars. The ‘bookends’ of Ss. Peter and Paul’s feast days are mirrored by our two statues above the altar of Peter (with the keys) and Paul (with the sword). May God use us to his greater glory and unity!


Rector's Rambling - January 10th, 2010

Winter has settled in here in Detroit, and we are all trying to avoid the “hibernation” mode of staying inside too much, fattening up, and isolating ourselves from the rest of the world until Spring.
But we are not bears! Instead we are called to get up and get out, even if the weather itself is not completely cooperative! Thankfully for most of us the modern convenience of central heat makes winter less immediately life-threatening, but staying locked away is not healthy - spiritually and psychologically. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as our selves, and this assumes some contact with them. Church is of course a great starting place for this!
We have now entered the Church season of Epiphany. This past week we celebrated the coming of the Magi - the Wise Men - to worship the newborn Jesus as the great King and God whose very birth is announced by the appearance of a new star. Unlike the shepherds who arrive on the night of his birth and represent the people of the original covenant, the Magi are not Jews. Their arrival signals to us that the Gentiles, those outside that original covenant between God and the Hebrew people, are going to come to know Jesus Christ and ultimately to be incorporated into this New Covenant with God that Jesus Christ himself will seal in his own blood on the hard wood of the cross.
The Magi’s mystical gifts of God, Frankincense, and Myrrh are gifts for royalty and represent and acknowledgement by those who ‘dwell in darkness’ outside God’s revelation in the Old Testament that this child is a God (incense), King (Gold), and Sacrifice (myrrh - a bitter perfume used at a burial).
From now until mid-February (when Lent starts) we are called to deepen our understanding of Jesus as God and King and Sacrifice! This should be a deepening “epiphany” to us - a showing forth of the deeper and deeper truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
So let’s get out of our hibernation mode and throw ourselves deeper and deeper into relationship with each other and the Good God who loves us!