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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

St. George and Heraldry - Rector's Rambling - April 21, 2013

This week The Church of England celebrates the Feast of St. George, and he has recently been added to our calendar as well.  St. George is the patron saint of England, and more information on him can be found in the Teaching Notes on page 4.
One connection between the Church of England, St. George, and the Episcopal Church has to do with our heraldry.  The flag and shield of the Episcopal Church were designed to incorporate elements of the English and Scottish Churches.
After the American Revolution the Church of England in the United States found itself separated from England, and without bishops.  The clergy and parishes that remained after the war banded together by colony (now states) and formed associations which then met in a national convention to develop a form of governance not dependent upon the English monarchy (who appointed Bishops, and to whom the clergy swore an oath of allegiance at their ordination).
Although connected theologically to the Church of England worship and prayer book, it took some time to convince the Church of England to make bishops for the new church in their former colony.  The Scottish Episcopal Church gave us our first bishop, and then England followed soon after.
The Cross of St. George is the Red Cross found on our flag.  It is the National Flag of England, introduced by Richard I in 1194.
The Scottish Flag has the Cross of St. Andrew, their patron.  This is the blue field on the Episcopal Church flag.  However, a change was made, with the white cross being comprised of nine small crosses, representing each of the original dioceses of the Episcopal Church.
English, Scottish, but more importantly Catholic and Apostolic – your Episcopal Church.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Connected from the past - Rector's Rambling - April 14, 2013


St. John’s is a special place in many different ways: music, liturgy, and people.  One interesting thing about St. John’s (which I suppose might be true in many other parishes) is the sense of connectedness people feel to the parish, even though they are far away.  In my 12+ years here many people have moved out of state for employment and to be close to extended family, yet continue to stay in contact with the parish.  This is easier now than 20 years ago with things like the Web site and iTunes to hear sermons, YouTube to peek into the parish worship, and the interconnectedness of Facebook and Twitter.
This past Tuesday I buried a woman who began attending St. John’s in 1931 when she was 17 years old.  Doris McCormack had suffered the loss of both her parents, her mother in 1926, her father in 1931. While on a train to Michigan the grandmother she was going to live with passed away.  She moved in with her aunt Mabel Hall Dewar, who raised her, and cared for her, and in turn Doris cared for Mabel in her senior years.  Mabel passed away in 1958 and was buried from St. John’s in the mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery and Doris moved outstate, and then eventually to Arizona.
According to Doris’ daughter Janet Tawakalna, Doris always spoke of Mabel’s interment and that Mabel had purchased a space for her, but the location was lost to family history.  Doris passed away in 2004 at the age of 90 and was cremated, and it took Jan five years to discover, through a Google search, that Mabel had been buried from St. John’s.  She was listed in our weekly Chronicle as a “year’s mind” of death, and our burial register confirmed the burial in Woodlawn.  It took four more years to clear the title for the right for Doris’ cremated remains to be put in her final resting place.  And of course it is the ministry of this parish and a great honor to bury the dead, even those who have been far way for over 50 years.
Rest eternal grant to Doris and Mabel, and may light perpetual shine upon them.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Saints and St. John's - Rector's Rambling - April 7, 2013



After the grand celebration of Easter Day last week this Sunday’s celebration will not be as fancy.  No brass accompaniment, and the choir is not at full strength this week either.  And as I write this I am assuming we will not have quite as many in the pews today as we did last week.  But remember that Easter is a SEASON, not just a day.  We celebrate for 40 days, until the Feast of the Ascension on Thursday, May 9th.  So be sure to keep greeting one another with “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!”  “The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!”
This past week, on April 2nd, the Church celebrated the Feast of Blessed James Lloyd Breck.  This is of particular interest to us since he preached here at St. John’s Church on Easter Day in 1864.
St. John’s was an early parish of the Oxford Movement, to restore the sacramental, catholic nature of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.  Jackson Kemper, missionary bishop of the Midwest and founder of Nashotah House, preached at St. John’s several times, including to consecrate his successor, our first Rector.  Breck was the first Dean of Nashotah House and missionary to Minnesota and California.  When Bishop Armitage died, his successor, James DeKoven, had his election nullified by the other national church dioceses because of his now common understanding of the nature of the Church.  Kemper, Breck, and DeKoven all preached here at St. John’s and are all on the Episcopal Church’s calendar of commemorations.
So there may not be as many in the pews this week as last, but we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses past and present!

"Yipee!!! - Rector's Rambling - March 31, 2013


Yippee!!!
I remember as a young child hearing my parish priest proclaim “Yippee!!!”, followed by an equally enthusiastic “Hurray!!!” during a sermon on a Sunday morning.  I was an acolyte that morning, and was able to see the surprise on the faces of the congregation as he made this proclamation.  How out of place it seemed.
After a pause, Fr. Johnson let us know, that what he was doing was expressing his enthusiasm as the people of Israel would have done, and the early church as well.  Of course, what he was doing was translating for us the word “ALLELUIA”.
This morning we start the liturgy with what is known as the Proclamation of the Resurrection.  From the earliest times the Church would begin her Easter celebration with the phrase “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” to which the congregation would respond, “The Lord (He) is Risen indeed, Alleluia”.  It is the foundation of our faith, belief that in fact Jesus Christ has conquered death and though dead is now alive.
“Yippee” and “Hurray” may sound a bit foolish to us, but they sum up nicely, I think, the enthusiasm of the first disciples, once the news had time to sink in, that Jesus Christ is Risen.  And placing it at the beginning of the Easter Liturgy is a wonderful way to kick-off our celebration.
And it isn’t just a one day proclamation.  Over the next 40 days we are in “Eastertide”, a full season of celebration.  And like the early Christians we can greet each other with a hearty, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!” to which we then respond, “He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia”.
Death is conquered, the price of sin is paid for, and we have new life in Jesus Christ.
Yippee!  Hurray!  Alleluia!