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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A long season done - Rector's Rambling for November 24, 2013

I know that when I have a big project, it is a relief to finally finish it.  So too we have finished a big, long project in the Church season of Trinitytide.  We began this season way back in June, and with only a few deviations for Sunday Feast Days like St. Michael and all Angels and All Saints, we have been in green vestments all along.
Trinitytide has been a season of teaching and spiritual growth.  We have concentrated on the parables and miracles of Jesus so that we can take them to heart and apply them to our lives.   What Jesus had to say then, to those living in 1st Century Palestine, contains the Truth for us as well today.
Next week we begin the yearly liturgical cycle again.  Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Pre-Lent, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost,. and then back to Trinitytide.  Some of these seasons are as short as 10 days, and two of them are 40 days each.  And each season has for us a different emphasis to help us to understand the nature of God as He has revealed Himself to us, His teaching, and how to follow Him as Lord and Master.
But before we begin this new season we have a day of celebration on Thursday, when we have more interaction with those who are not (yet) members of St. John’s.  After our Thanksgiving Eve service in the chapel (7:00 PM), and sleep-over for those who want to stay in the building, we have a wonderful morning on Thanksgiving Day.
The undercroft will be abuzz with our Pancake Breakfast, as will the St. John’s Canteen at the front door selling donuts, coffee, and hot chocolate.  We will have scaffolding set up in the garden to watch the parade.  But the best part of the day is opening the building to the public so that they can not only join us for breakfast and to warm up, but also for them to discover the wonder of our church building glorifying God.
Join us Thursday as we welcome Metro Detroit into our spiritual home, and bring your friends as well.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Open for worship 154 years ago today - Rector's Rambling for November 17, 2013

One-hundred-fifty-four years ago today, November 17, the chapel of St. John’s was dedicated by the Bishop of the Diocese of Michigan, and officially began her offering of public worship on both Sundays and weekdays.
It is hard to imagine that this part of Detroit was “out in the country”, with this particular corner being an apple orchard when purchased in April of 1858 by Henry Porter Baldwin, founder and patriarch of this parish.  Before he called together his neighbors in December to propose starting a new parish, he had purchased this land, and had commissioned plans for a chapel, a church, and a rectory.  When he invited that group of people into his home (then located where I-75 is now, across Woodward from the church), he already had plans and was looking for supporters for the project that came to fruition as St. John’s, of which we are inheritors.
Much has changed in our 154 years!  The neighborhood has gone from orchards to Victorian mansions, to shops and warehouses and theatres, to derelict and dilapidated.  Thankfully, in the past 20 years, the neighborhood has and continues to go through an economic renewal.  Detroit has and does continue to change (it was 50 years after St. John’s founding that the Model T Ford was put into production).  Liturgically, this parish has alternated from High Church Prayer Book Catholic (first 70 years), to Low Church (next 70), and is now restored again.
But through all the chances and changes outside and inside of St. John’s, one thing has not changed: our adherence to the Christian Faith as the Anglican Communion has believed from her founding.  This was emphasized at the laying of the cornerstone of the church.
We thank God that we shall be permitted to leave to our successors, not this building only, wherein the truth of God may be proclaimed, but the stronger and more enduring building of the Church, made at the first, “the Pillar and Ground of the Truth”, and now its best preservation and defense.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Regular use of the Daily Office - Rector's Rambling for November 10, 2013

The Episcopal Church in the United States is unique among her sister churches in the Anglican Communion in ways good and bad.  I won’t list the litany here (after all, no church is perfect).  But one particular way is that it is the only National member that has never had a requirement, via the canons of the church, that the clergy have to pray the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer).
Perhaps this is just an oversight.  As the second independent member of the Communion (The Scottish Episcopal Church already acting independently of the Church of England) perhaps when they compiled the rules there was just an understanding that all clergy would want to, and therefore would, pray the Daily Office daily.
Further, it was also an understanding that that Office would be at a set time, in the parish church, so that people could attend and participate.
My coming back to the practice of the faith was facilitated by a parish in Philadelphia that understood the importance of this practice.  One evening, as I was walking home from work, the bell on a church rang as I was passing by.  Looking at the sign I saw that it announced that it was Episcopal, and that Evening Prayer was being prayed in a few minutes.  The door was propped open.  I decided to give it a try.
I was an occasional Sunday morning Episcopalian, but I especially liked the cadence, the scripture-intensive content, and brevity of this service.  I began attending several days a week and then began praying it at home on those days I couldn’t make it to the church, or it was not being publicly recited that day.  That regular practice of praying the Daily Office lead to remarkable changes in my spiritual life and a return to the full practice of the Faith.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 4:00 PM, a group of people gather at St. John’s to pray Evening Prayer.  You can join us.  Or knowing how to pray the Daily Offices, like we do this morning, you can pray it at home.  It is a wonderful vehicle to greater grace and holiness.


Veterans' Day - St. John's Teaching Note for November 10, 2013

 Begun as a holiday to commemorate the ceasing of combat in World War I on November 11, 1918, this day was originally know as Armistice Day.  It was a day when people stopped to remember those who gave their lives in that awful conflict.  Known also as Remembrance Day, after World War II it became known in the U. S. as Veterans’ Day to broaden the commemoration.
In the United States the Memorial Day holiday began as a commemoration of the Civil War dead and continues to be the primary celebration in this country.  Veterans’ Day seems to have morphed into a more general holiday to commemorate not only those who died in the service of our country, but also all those who served in the Armed Forces, our Veterans.
One particular poem, written in 1915 by Lt. Col. John McCrae after the battle of Ypres, summed up the sense of Remembrance, and poppies mentioned in the poem have become a symbol of this day.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
We give thanks to Almighty God for all those who served our country in the Armed Forces, and for those who gave their lives we pray,
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.


Monday, November 04, 2013

All Saints Sunday - Rector's Rambling for November 3, 2013

Today we are celebrating the Feast of All Saints.
When we think of saints we usually think of long ago and far away.  But here in Detroit we have someone who is being considered for sainthood by the Roman Church.  Fr. Solanus Casey was a Franciscan friar who lived at St. Bonaventure on Mt. Elliot, who helped to start the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and had a really remarkable, humble ministry of healing and intercession.  He died in 1957.  We have parishioners who have had a relative who had a miraculous healing through Fr. Solanus’ intercession.  That is close by and not too long ago, both relationally as well as geographically!
But even more importantly, WE are called to be saints!  As members of the Body of Christ, the Church, we are expected to be in a state of grace, repentant of sin, and desiring to cooperate with God’s will for us to be holy!
Fr. Fredrick William Faber, priest and author of many hymns, including Faith of our Fathers (#393 in our hymnal), had this to say about what the saints had in common:
Look at all the saints in all ages, no matter what their history may be, or their lot in life.  They differ much from one another; yet after all they are very much alike….  In a word, while the saints differ in almost everything else, there are three things in which they all agree: eagerness for the glory of God; touchiness about the interests of Jesus; and anxiety for the salvation of souls.  In these three things consists sympathy with Jesus, and sympathy is at once the fruit and food of love, and love is sanctity.  And a saint is simply one who loves Jesus above the common run of pious men and has had unusual gifts given him in return.
~ All for Jesus: The Easy Way of Divine Love, p. 30,31
In other words, this is about being “All for Jesus!”  It means getting out of God’s way and letting Him direct and guide us by His Holy Spirit.  Not always easy (taking up one’s cross rarely is), but He will provide the Grace to do so.