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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rector's Rambling - August 26, 2012 - Building Ministry

In 1925 the Annual Parish Report to the parish notes that during a week’s time the old Parish Hall building hosted over 800 people for Sunday School for Youth and Adults, classes for a local Armenian congregation, sports groups (it had a gym) and even the YWCA was founded at and hosted in our building.
This tradition continues today.  Our building is used for meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous five days a week.  Cursillo uses our building for meetings and retreats.  The Komen Race for the Cure uses our building for planning and training meetings, and the Cornerstone Schools “Be a Tiger for Kids” pre-game tailgate fundraiser is hosted on our property.
Various college “alternative spring break” groups use our building for housing as they do social service work in the community.  The 13th District Republican Committee meets here bi-monthly (we would welcome the 13th District Democrats as well), and the Daughters of the British Empire meet here monthly.
Some outside groups have come and gone.  Pro-literacy Detroit met here for years until they moved into a new larger office space with room for training.  There was a homeschool co-op meeting here for a period of time, as well as an autism support group.
We have received inquiries for community use in the future, including the possibility of an afterschool program for children in the foster care system, and a possible “fitness club” to meet here once a week.
We maintain our buildings not only for our use for worship, education, and fellowship on Sundays, but also as an outreach ministry tool to the community around us.
We are grateful for the goodly heritage of our facilities, and for your generous support of their upkeep.

~ Originally published in The Eagle, Fall 2012

Rector's Rambling - August 19, 2012 - Social Fellowship

Last week Jennifer and I had the privilege of hosting a Social Fellowship gathering at our house. About 75 people came by for a picnic potluck. The grownups enjoyed the food and fellowship in the backyard, while the teens hung out and played board games. The younger kids bounced on the trampoline and played on the swing set. A good time was had by all, especially yours truly who manned the grill. We have had a wonderful assortment of Social Fellowship outings this past year. From museum trips, and a cemetery tour, to the Tigers game outing, and brunches here and there. Many people have taken advantage of the opportunities for fun and fellowship with parishioners and friends of St. John’s. These events occur because parishioners step forward and agree to “host” an event. Everyone pays their own way after the host organizes the outings, gets prices, and makes reservations. We need outings for fall, so please contact the parish office, let us know what event you would like to host, and on which date. Once we have all the information the office will advertise the event. Although most events have been on a Sunday, they do not have to be. Let’s start the fall with a bowling outing up the street at the Garden Bowl in the Majestic Theatre building, less than a mile up Woodward! Sunday, September 30th, after the 10:00 AM service, we will bowl and eat pizza. The cost will be $8 per person. Sign up in the undercroft! What event would you like to host?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Rector's Rambling - August 12, 2012 - Capitalization?

DO NOT LEARN HOW TO PUNCTUATE USING THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER! That must sound like a ridiculous statement. After all, the Book of Common Prayer is in proper English, so it must be a great place to learn proper use of the English language, without “Thee” and “Thou” and “Beseech” of course. A wonderful tradition in past generations, learning to read and write was encouraged and reinforced by the King James Version of the Bible (which is actually the version of Scripture authorized for use in the Church of England by King James I). I have read accounts of both urban and rural youth using their Bibles to learn how to read out loud, and I know that I have seen several museum quality needlework items from early pioneers which include verses of the Scripture as practice in both reading and the art of needlework. The Book of Common Prayer is certainly grammatically correct, except in one aspect – punctuation. Capital letters appear randomly within sentences. But there is a reason for this. For example, in the General Confession during the Holy Communion we see, …We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. The capital letters in the italics portion above would not under general grammar rules be capitalized. But there is a genius to it. Because this is a Book of Common Prayer, the capitalization is there to trick you into pausing so that the congregation can pray together! We are accustomed to seeing a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence after a period, therefore we will pause instinctively when we see a capital letter. Putting capital letters after semi-colons or commas makes us pause together, which helps us to pray together.

Rector's Rambling - August 5, 2012 - A good month for saints

August is certainly a slow month for most churches. Parishioners dash away for their last vacations before school begins, others find the heat and humidity a good reason to stay holed up in air-conditioned spaces. August, however, offers a number of Holy Days to be celebrated. Two of these are “Prayer Book Holy Days”, noted on the calendar contained in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. They are The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord on August 6th (see Luke 9:28–36), when the apostles got to see a glimpse of the glory of God in the second person of the Holy Trinity, and The Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle on August 24th. These great feast days will be kept at the altar for the celebration of the Holy Communion. In addition to these Prayer Book Holy Days there are more great saints of the Church which are commemorated throughout August. The primary one is The Feast of St. Mary the Virgin on August 15th. Other saints celebrated in August include; St. John Vianney (August 4) – patron saint of parish priests and Third Order Franciscan, St. Dominic (August 8) – founder of the Order of Preachers, St. Clare of Assisi (August 11) – founder of the Second Order Franciscans (Poor Clares), St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14) – who gave his life for another at Auschwitz and Third Order Franciscan, St. Louis IX (August 25) – King of France and Third Order Franciscan, and St. Augustine of Hippo (August 28) – bishop and theologian. All these saints will be celebrated at the altars of St. John’s on their feast day or nearest available day on the calendar. We remember the saints in thanksgiving for the lives they lived in dedication to Jesus Christ, and to commend us to also strive (by Grace) to live such lives. The saints remind us, by the great variety of callings they had, that God has a plan for us and that we all can be saints! It is our duty to seek to do His will and allow our selves to be molded into His image.

Rector's Rambling - July 22, 2012 - what we are NOT doing this summer

We have a remarkable thing NOT happing this summer at St. John’s: we have no weddings scheduled! This is the first time in my 11-1/2 years as Rector of St. John’s that we do not have a single wedding in June, July, or August! We have had a spring wedding, and have some weddings scheduled for this fall, but nothing during these summer months. Not that we haven’t had inquiries! We get lots of phone calls in the parish office from people who want to “rent” the church for the wedding. When we get a phone call inquiring about weddings, Harriett or Shirl ask a series of questions beginning with 1) Are you a member of the parish, or 2) are you a member of another Episcopal Parish? “Yes” to these two are easy and we can begin preparations. If the answer is no, then they are invited to attend services on Sunday so that they can begin preparation to join the parish. We expect them to attend regularly for six months before a wedding. Although some churches supplement their income by “renting” their churches for weddings, we take the Sacrament of Matrimony far too seriously to just let the building be used as a pretty backdrop for photographs. Additionally, nothing beats the joy and excitement out of parish volunteers than a string of weddings of people who are just using us for a ceremony. We do have some couples who put in the six month effort, get married, and we never see them again. Others move away shortly after they are married but leave behind family members who join the parish. We have had a some who get married, disappear for a while, and return when children are born. And we had one couple who got married and left, but a friend at the ceremony ended up joining the parish. Of course, there is a secondary reason why we don’t have any weddings scheduled this summer: we tell couples when they call to inquire about a summer wedding that we don’t have air conditioning. This dissuades those more interested in the service than the faith right from the start.