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

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rector's Rambling - August 21, 2011 - In three weeks

Three weeks from tomorrow I leave for my ‘sabbatical’. I have put ‘sabbatical’ in quotes because it is really an extended vacation, which I am taking in the place of a formal sabbatical.
By God’s grace I have now been Rector of St. John’s for 10 1/2 years. It seems like just yesterday I came here as a young man in my mid-thirties. A part of the original template provide by the Diocese for the contract I signed to become the Rector included a clause for a sabbatical after 10 years of service, an enticement to plan on staying put in one place for an extended period of time. The new diocesan template provides for a sabbatical after 7 years. The sabbatical is to be 3 to 6 months long according to the contract.
I don’t want a sabbatical. Quite honestly, I don’t want to be away from St. John’s or my home for 3 months (most sabbaticals include traveling away for study). I don’t want to write a book, earn another degree, or master some obscure new skill (all of which is frequently done on a sabbatical).
So for the second time in 10 1/2 years I am going to take all four of my Sundays off, plus one (we will be away three consecutive Sundays). And as much as it will be hard to be away for that long, I am looking forward to traveling with my family out West to see extended family and to see a few sites along the way.
Thankfully, we have Fr. Bedford here to lead worship and take care of pastoral emergencies, and the competent staff to hold down the administrative fort. And of course I EXPECT TO HEAR GOOD REPORTS that everyone was in Church while I was away! Sunday School and the various programs will get underway while I am gone, and I look forward to returning to a parish family busy at work for the Kingdom.

Rector's Rambling - August 7, 2011 - Looking Forward

Having looked backwards last week, at our history and heritage, with our Founders’ Day, this week I would like us to look forward and do some planning for the coming 5 months and beyond.
August is usually a time of travel and relaxation, and I know many people are away from the area at this time. But it is also a great time to look ahead to fall and the types of programming that gets started again, and how YOU can become involved.
St. Margaret’s Chapter of the Daughters of the King, St. Catherine’s Guild of the Episcopal Church Women, Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and Armitage Men’s club all start meeting regularly again, with their spiritual growth, evangelism, and service projects. If you have not become involved in these in the past, be sure to contact the leader of the organizations listed to the left.
Sunday School and Adult Education start mid-September. Once again we implore our parishioners to be vigilant about bringing their children to Sunday School so they can learn the scriptures and develop the camaraderie that such classes engender.
Small group ministries should also get started this fall; groups of six to ten people meeting weekly for prayer and study. This is a great way to not only build up fellowship and help with our personal spiritual growth, but is an outreach tool when you invite friends to join you, and a great way to incorporate new members into the life of the parish.
Our Social Fellowship outings have been well-received, and we are looking for sponsors to plan and offer outings for the coming months. Pick a place or event you would like to have friends come with you to see, and then coordinate the purchase of tickets and the program.
What would you like to participate in in the coming months?

Rector's Rambling - July 31, 2011 - The Past is Prologue

“The Past Is Prologue”
That phrase was the title for the history of my college fraternity. It was an invitation to look backwards because our past was the introduction to who we aspired to be as an organization in those current times (mid-1980’s).
I understand that not all people enjoy reading and studying history. I do. It was my best subject in high school, and when I was in college in Philadelphia, I greatly enjoyed learning colonial and Revolutionary War history by visiting many sites in the city, including my college (University of Pennsylvania – founded in 1744 by Ben Franklin). Although I enjoy learning about different periods and places in history (ancient, European, Church, etc.), I know I am especially drawn to a subject if it is something I am involved in – like Michigan history, Detroit history, and Episcopal Church history.
I am especially interested in the history of this, our parish. Henry Porter Baldwin’s vision, the quick growth, the dedication to worship and service, and staying in the city when other parishes were moving further out or away, are all inspirational! It is also informative to read about the years from the 1930’s to the 1990’s when the parish declined for a variety of reasons.
The past is prologue because who we are as a parish has been influenced by our past. But we don’t just look back to “the good old days”. Rather we learn from what they believed and did, and look for ways that God the Holy Ghost may be leading us today to live out that same vital faith.
We know that the faith has not changed, and the worship has changed very little in the 150+ years this parish has been here. But each successive generation adds to the prayers and praise of our Lord, and we live in gratitude for His blessings then and now.

Rector's Rambling - July 24, 2011 - Books

I have a confession to make. Since mid-April I have hardly read any books. You are probably saying to yourself, “so?” But I have come to realize two very important things about my life as a priest.
First, I need to be frequently engaged in the written word. I remember a series of public service announcements on television with the tag line, “never stop learning”. Reading (and listening to books or lectures on tape while driving) is the primary way I do this. I need to read to keep my mind sharp and to grow in my knowledge and understanding of our Lord and His Church, as well as to become well-rounded in other academic pursuits. Although I tend towards reading things theological and hagiographical (biographies of the saints), I also enjoy an occasional fictional book or secular biography as well. Additionally, I have several small devotional works that I like to read and re-read for their spiritual benefits.
Second, I have come to realize that from mid-April to early July baseball gets in the way of my reading time. Between being on the local Little League board, coordinating the concession stand and volunteers, helping to coach, and being present at my sons’ games, four or five of my evenings are taken up by baseball.
Now that our baseball season has ended for the summer, I am looking forward to getting back into the habit of regular reading. I have already lined up some books for the next few weeks/months: the Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol. 1), The Sunflower by Simon Weissenthal, Bring it by Tony Horton, Where the Hell is God? by Richard Leonard, S.J., After this Life by Benedict Groeschel, CFR, The Romance of Orthodoxy by Homer Rogers, Jesus of Nazareth and New Outpourings of the Spirit by Joseph Ratzinger, Heaven and Earth in Little Space by Andrew Burnham, and Anglo-Catholic in Religion: T.S. Eliot and Christianity by Barry Spurr. Somewhere in there I will pick up a fiction book or two to cleanse the palate.
What are you reading this summer?