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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rector's Rambling - September 23rd, 2012 - Weekday Mass


During the weekdays at St. John’s a most wonderful, amazing, and glorious thing happens, and it is witnessed  and attended by a relatively few people, some of whom aren’t even members here. 
On most Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 12:15, and Thursdays at 10:30am, Jesus Christ is present.   He is present in a wonderful, sacramental way.   It is during those times that the Holy Communion is celebrated.
As Catholic Christians (which Anglicans are - see the last few lines of The Nicene Creed) we consider the reception of the Blessed Sacrament a weekly, Sunday obligation.  It is Jesus’ gift to us, His own Body and Blood, to nourish and equip us by Grace to become saints and share the Good News of God’s love with others.  But it is also our privilege as members of The Church to receive this Sacrament more frequently.
Although our Sunday celebration is our primary worship, and done at 10am with solemnity, ritual, and music, the weekday celebration of the Holy Communion is closer in comparison to the 8am celebration on Sunday.
Fr. David Ousley wrote while he was an Episcopal Priest in Philadelphia that the difference between the Sunday Solemn High Mass and a weekday service (called “Low Mass”) is like the difference between a formal state banquet with a King and a quiet dinner at home with the same potentate.  Although one is fed in both instances, the grand occasion of the larger gathering with guests calls for greater ceremonial, whereas the regular dinner is just as nourishing but simpler and more intimate.
A weekday Low Mass at St. John’s is an intimate encounter with Jesus our King.  Come spend 30 minutes during the week worshiping Him, being instructed, and being fed with His own Body and Blood at a weekday Mass in addition to Sunday.

Teaching Notes - September 23, 2012 - Today in 1951


Today...in 1951…

Glancing through the Parish Chronicle in the parish library published for Sunday, September 23, 1951 (yes, 61 years ago) we see these interesting notes -

A letter, written some two weeks ago, has arrived from Col. Paul Rusch telling us about some of the plans for the reception and stay of Bishop and Mrs. Emrich in Japan.  In the course of the letter he speaks of the plans to dedicate the new St. John’s Rural Library-Parish House (the 90th anniversary gift ot the parish to the Japanese Church) and mentions the fact that the Emperor’s brothers, Prince Takamatsu and Prince Misaka as well as the governor of Yamanashi prefecture will probably be present at the service.

During the summer a contract was let by the vestry for the raising of the three houses to the East of the Chapel on Vernor Highway (now the Fisher Freeway Service Drive - ed.).  Old landmarks in Detroit, their condition became such that it seemed wise to demolish them and use the property for other purposes.  It has been leased for a parking lot and it is expected that the work of clearing and preparing the land will be completed by October 1.

The women of St. John’s Guild which meets each Monday morning at 10:30 in the Parish House are again assisting in the work of making cancer pads.  They are in need of contributions of white cloths such as old sheets, pillow cases, etc., for this worthy work.

The dormitory for service men operated since last spring has had almost capacity use throughout the summer.  Thirty beds are available and supervision and admission is in the hands of the U.S.O..  Thus far, St. John’s is the only church in the Metropolitan Area rendering this service for men in our armed forces. 

Plans are going on apace for the second annual St. John’s Fall Music Festival to be held in the Church on the evenings of October 21, 22, and 23.  Fernando Germani, world famed organist of the Vatican in Rome, has been engaged as the leading artist.

Published September 23, 1951

Teaching note - September 16, 2012 - Sunday School


This morning, as we resume our Sunday School and Adult Education programs, I thought it might be of interest to look at some of the things recorded in the history of St. John’s about the Sunday School program.  Our 50th Anniversary book has this to say: In the afternoon of the same day, November 20, 1859 , a Sunday School was organized.  Its first enrollment, preserved for us by Mr. Charles H. Vernor (son of the inventor of Vernors Ginger Ale), who was one of those participating in the organizing, was of 28 officers and teachers, and 136 scholars.  Mr. Henry Porter Baldwin was made Superintendent…
Later the book goes on to note: The Sunday School, which as we have seen began with 28 teachers and officers and 136 scholars, grew rapidly; in June 1861 it reported 451 enrolled, in 1866, 727.
The Annual Report for 1926 shows that St. John’s, once a country parish, had witnessed some radical changes to the neighborhood.  Surrounded by commercial rather than primarily residential properties, the make-up of the congregation had changed.  Although the parish had 2430 baptized members, the author of the report laments: It is often asked whether it is difficult to keep a Church School going in a downtown parish.  It is difficult…  Our aim is to have as large a school as possible; but regardless of its size we try to make it the best.
In 1926 the enrollment was 180 children in Sunday School and 80 adults participating in the bible classes.  That is less than 8% of the baptized membership in Sunday School and less than 4% of the baptized membership involved in the Sunday bible classes.  Currently we have about 6% of our baptized membership participating in Sunday School/Children’s Chapel, and about 4% participating in Sunday Adult Education.