Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 50 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 impending hockey arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rector's Rambling - January 22, 2012

New Year’s resolutions have come, and many already gone. A friend of mine once said that he counted himself lucky to have half of his resolutions in place by the 4th week of January. I wonder how he is doing this year.
There is one resolution which has eternal consequences is most important, and that is to be in Church every Sunday, assuming you are not hindered by travel or illness (and when traveling you can, and should, worship on Sunday as well).
In addition to being present at worship and participating in it, I would also hope the people of St. John’s will become involved in the life of the parish. This “Life” includes the spiritual, such as the Daughters of the King, Brotherhood of St. Andrew, Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, Sunday Christian Education, home Bible study and prayer groups, weekday worship, and the like.
There is also a service component to this “Life” such as volunteering at Coffee Hour, participating with the St. Catherine’s Guild chapter of the ECW or the Armitage Men’s Club, or assisting with work/clean-up/planting days, and various outreach ministries.
And let us not forget the social aspect of this “Life”, which overlaps all of the activities and groups above, as well as the new social opportunities being planned for parishioners to get to know each other and enjoy each others’ company. Just in the next few months we have outings to the Detroit Institute of Arts, Charles H. Wright and Holocaust Museums. Check the Chronicle and bulletin boards for more information.
Let us all go deeper into the “Life” of the parish as we grow in the “Life” that Jesus Christ desires for us. After all, He came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Rector's Rambling - January 15, 2012

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, to begin to have disagreements with each other and start forming divisions.
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.
The Anglican Church (of which St. John’s is a part) is the third largest worldwide. Roman Catholicism has about a billion adherents, and Eastern Orthodoxy 500 million (in many fragmented national churches). Anglicanism has about 100 million (again, fragmented into a variety of national churches).
Some American Orthodox Churches have reached out to Anglicans in a unity scheme incorporating our liturgy, and yet cannot unite across ethnic lines (Greek, Russian, etc.). The various Continuing Anglican Churches (break away groups from The Episcopal Church) have striven for unity among themselves, but find themselves further divided by theological and personality conflicts.
Recently the media has reported the appointment of former Episcopal Church bishop Jeffrey Steenson (and former Rector of the parish where I served as Curate) to be the head (Ordinary) of a new American Roman Catholic diocese for Anglicans using Anglican liturgy, music, and married clergy. But it doesn’t change the doctrines of the Roman Church which have separated us.
Pray for the unity of the Church, that God may soften hearts, open eyes, and put into effect our Lord’s desire that we all be one as He and the Father are one.

Rector's Rambling - January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!
Today we start the year off right by attending Church, especially because the feast day also falls on a Sunday.
A very small percentage of regular Church-goers attend worship on New Year’s day. Most people stayed up too late to ring in the New Year, and perhaps enjoyed one or two libations which hindered their early rising. And there are many distractions on New Year’s Day, including parades from California and Miami, and a barrage of college football games. In Philadelphia there was the Mummer’s Parade, an all day and evening affair of men dressed in strange feathered costumes and marching to music on saxophone and banjo (I kid you not…try Googling “Mummers Parade”).
Today is a feast day, not because it is the start of the calendar year, but because it is the 8th day of Christmas.
Having celebrated with great pomp and ceremony the birth of Jesus on Christmas, the Church gathers again 7 days later as Jesus participates in the original covenant between God and the people of the Jews by being circumcised. This outward sign of the covenant, sealed with the shedding of blood, was the proof of being one of God’s people. Jesus was a Jew, but this shedding of first blood was also the beginning of the fulfillment of the old Law by Jesus, so that we are marked not in the flesh but saved by grace through faith.
Also, on this day the Jewish child formally receives their name. Just as right before we baptize we state, “Name this Child”, so too the Jew receives his name. For Jesus, this is even more important (his name having been foretold by the angel), because his name, meaning “God saves” is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved. It is only by calling on that wondrous name publically proclaimed at His circumcision that we come into relationship with His Father. A Happy New Year indeed!

Rector's Rambling - December 25, 2011

A hearty welcome to all those joining us for worship at St. John’s! I wish you a very Merry Christmas and the blessings of peace on these Holy Days.
In St. John’s 152 years we have been a church of “destination”, with people coming from far and wide to worship in this beautiful building with its sublime music, traditional Anglican liturgy, and wonderful people.
Christmas Eve and Day, and all the Sundays following are wonderful days to be at St. John’s. Not only are they wonderful days to worship the Lord, but here at St. John’s we delve deeply into the fullness of the timeless Anglican expression of the faith once delivered to the Saints.
It has been a long time since St. John’s averaged a high of over 2000 people on Sunday. But it has also been over 10 years since we hit a low of 37! God has been at work in rebuilding St. John’s, and we believe that not only is He not finished, but there are amazing things ahead for this parish and its parishioners – both those here now and for those not yet members of it.
Recently the Vestry discussed at its regular meeting the many reasons people come to St. John’s: Liturgy, music, building, preaching, location, theology, fellowship. Rarely is it one or two things, but a combination of each thing supported by the others. We called it “the package”. Our Anglican tradition, adhered to because it is the package, inspires people to love Jesus, and to become more and more like him. To become Saints!
If you are visiting today we invite you to consider joining in on all the wonderful things God has in store for this parish! Become a “regular” by worshipping with us on Sundays and by getting involved in the ministries and activities of the parish and the neighborhood.
You are most welcome to be a part of all the wonderful things God is doing here: Holy Days, Sundays, and every day of the week!

Rector's Rambling - December 18, 2011

So close, so very close. Next Sunday is the Feast of the Nativity, with our grand celebration on the Eve as well as the Day. Be sure to check the schedule of services so you know when you will be here. The Detroit Lions have a game on Christmas Eve, but we have timed our services around the start/finish of the game so as to make access to the parking lot possible.
As you begin your last week of Advent, a discipline I would encourage is for you to invite five families to the Christmas Eve service at St. John’s. Think about who you know you would like to see come to Church at St. John’s; family, friends, neighbors, co-workers. Those five (or more) are the ones you need to actively invite to Church this Christmas Eve.
What do I mean by actively invite? Approach them, or call them, and say, “Hey, ______, I was just thinking of you and was wondering where are you going to attend a Christmas Eve service this year?” If there is any hesitation of an answer, begin again, “We go to a great church downtown called St. John’s. We love it there and go there because ___________ (fill in your reasons) and there is no place that has a more beautiful Christmas Eve service. I would love to have you (and your family) come down to the 8:30/9:00 service” (or to see the Pageant at 5:00 PM if you are going then). Offer them a ride if you have room, or to follow you down in their own car.
There are many un-churched or nominally-church people who look to attend a Christmas Eve service. Take advantage of that desire and invite them to St. John’s. There are a few “regulars” around here whose first experience of St. John’s was a Christmas Eve Service. You may be the person God is using to bring them into a deeper relationship with himself through St. John’s Church.
Some will say no, others will hesitate. But pray for them and keep cheerfully offering and asking them to join us, even after Christmas. God may be working on them through you.