Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rector's Report to the Annual Parish Meeting 2011

It is hard for me to fathom the reality that I am writing my TENTH Rector’s Report to the Annual Parish Meeting of St. John’s Church. In the past 10 years I have had the great grace to baptize 97 adults and children, present 79 people for confirmation or reception, solemnize 51 marriages, and officiate at the burial rites for 52 people.

Since 2001 St. John’s has hosted Diocesan Convention, film and television location shoots, been the a part of the “FAN ZONE” for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, within the security perimeter of the Super Bowl (and was the feeding center for the police department that weekend), and the location for countless concerts, meetings, and even a summer snowboarding exhibition. We have been the parking spot for 816 Tiger games, 80 Lions games, and numerous shows at the Fox and State (Filmore) theatres. One year we nearly filled a semi-truck with food donations for Gleaners. We have sold pancakes, hot chocolate, and donuts for the Thanksgiving Day parades, and even witnessed a Stanley Cup Parade pass our front door.

Also in those 10 years, in addition to ongoing regular maintenance and repair to the building we did a $380,000 stone and roof repair project, a $120,000 window, sign, and awning project, and a $40,000 boiler replacement. The middle project caused us to be sued by the American Atheists for our matching grants (we won).

Most importantly, between 2500 and 3000 of celebrations of the Holy Communion have been held at our altars on Sundays and weekdays, Morning and Evening Prayer prayed in community almost daily, and scores of other liturgical celebrations and devotions have been offered to the Greater Glory of God and the edification of His people. Guilds, Societies, Ministries and Organizations have been formed and have also added to the many opportunities for greater holiness and service. Average Sunday attendance bottomed out a few years before I arrived at 37 people. This past year it has been 187 (highest in my years was in 2006 with and ASA of 203).

As I like to say, this is a good START. I consider it a great privilege to be the Rector of St. John’s. God has blessed us with a goodly heritage and a wonderful present day as well. And I am firmly convinced that He also has in store for us a wonderful future.

Much of our spiritual focus this year was in planning and preparing for our wonderfully blessed FAITH ALIVE weekend this past fall, and I am looking forward to the expansion of home-based and weekday study, bible, and fellowship groups. As expected, I think we appreciated hearing about one another’s spiritual journeys and getting to know each other outside of our usual Sunday gathering time. In the coming weeks and months look for more opportunities to continue that spirit of fellowship, prayer, and study in various settings.

This past year has been one of transition. We have a new Office Manager, Harriett Mottley, who took over office operations with the retirement of Paul MacDonald. Organ Scholar Richard Newman finished his term and we welcomed Aaron Tan as his successor. David Schafer retired as Treasurer and Gordon Didier has assumed that position. And the vestry has continued to respond to the economic crisis the vestry by being diligent in making sure we meet our current obligations and look to the long-term financial health of the parish. At one time (in the time I have been here) we depended upon over $100,000 of growth and income from the endowment to meet our expenses. It has generally ranged from $57,000 to $83,000 a year. In 2009, as the nation-wide financial crisis took hold and the value of the endowment declined, we were able to make reductions and rely upon your sacrificial giving so as to only use $43,000 in growth and income. This past year we were able to decrease that amount even further, to only $33,000. This has been accomplished with good financial stewardship, your generosity, and we believe we have done so without compromising our ability to do the ministry we have been called to do.

10 years ago as the vestry looked at our expenses and income and was concerned about how we are going to meet our obligations, I told them, “There is no problem we have financially that can’t be solved by having 100 more members.” But I also warned them, “and then we will have new, different financial problems to deal with.” This has proven prophetic as I have repeated it, year after year, to each successive vestry. But it is a good problem to have from year to year – new members and growth in attendance and income.

So as I celebrate my 10th anniversary I would appreciate it if the parish would continue to cause us the problems by having “100 more members”. In fact, double our trouble with 200 more! The formula hasn’t changed in 10 years for how we will grow. As I wrote in my first Rector’s Report to the Annual Parish Meeting in January of 2002

...the success of any growth will be dependent on our prayerful cooperation with the Holy Spirit, and our willingness to invite people to join us. We will continue to advertise, and do other interesting things to get St. John’s recognized in the Detroit Metro Area, but most real growth comes through an anointed human connection. That anointed connection comes through our faithfulness to the doctrines of the Church and our willingness to share it! Before long, if we are faithful, prayerful, and diligent in sharing, we will be a big parish with a whole new set of big parish problems. I look forward to it, God willing!

Good things just don’t change. Be faithful, repent, pray, receive the sacraments, love, forgive, share the good news of God’s love, invite your friends and neighbors to Church with you. It is all Grace!

Thank God for 10 years of ministry here - may He grant me many more years to come.

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