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

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thank you, thank you, thank you! - Rector's Rambling for April 27, 2014

   It isn't a Sunday after Easter without a heaping dose of gratitude!  I want to say THANK YOU to all those who made last Sunday’s celebration of the Resurrection so wonderful!
Thanks begin at the altar to Allen Bass and all the servers and readers who help me with the worship and administration of the Sacrament.  I also want to thank the Altar Guild for their many extra tasks for Holy Week and Easter  Thank you also to Dr. Lewis, Dr. Tan, and all the members of the choir for their hard work and dedication to glorify God in the worship here at St. John’s.  And of course I want to thank the ushers for directing “traffic” and helping to insure that everyone got to where they needed to be before, during, and after the service.
Behind the scenes I want to say thank you to Harriett Mottley for coordinating all the office work of compiling orders of service and making sure people and things were in place all week.  This thank you extends to Shirl Howell, John Clark, José Zeiler, André Smith and Bernard Gloster who were all busy working and volunteering in the office.
Thank-yous also go out to José, Pat Walter, and Gary Barker who work so hard during the week to keep the building neat and in good repair, and who had extra responsibilities for Holy Week and Easter.
And a special thank you to my wife and children for their love and support.  Jennifer jokes that for Lent she gives up having me around the house since I am busier than usual.  I am grateful for her humor and understanding.
And of course thank you to all the parishioners who attended the celebration, and who also brought guests with them!
Supremely I am grateful to Almighty God for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead and lives!  Let us be sure to celebrate this great and wonderful reality all 50 days of Easter!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Seven Stanzas at Easter (J. Updike) - Rector's Rambling for April 20, 2014

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom..

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike
1932—2009
Episcopalian Layman


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Week! - Rector's Rambling for April 13, 2014

This is the most important week of the year!  Holy Week begins today, and between now and next Sunday you will have 13 opportunities to be at St. John’s for the public worship of the Church.
Five of those worship opportunities actually happen most weeks of the year here at St. John’s: Holy Communion on Tuesday and Wednesday at 12:15 PM, and Evening Prayer Tuesday through Thursday at 4:00 PM
For Holy Week we add several important opportunities for worship and devotion.  On Wednesday evening we have a service of psalms and lessons at 7:00 PM called Tenebræ.  On Maundy Thursday the one celebration of the Holy Communion will be at 7:00 PM (no 10:30 AM Mass this day), which is followed by the stripping of the altar and an opportunity to spend time in the Garden Watch in the Chapel.
Good Friday starts with the opportunity to spend time in the Garden Watch before the Good Friday Liturgy, which takes place from Noon to 3:00 PM.
On Holy Saturday the great Vigil Service of Easter begins at 6:00 PM, which includes the first Communion service of the Easter Feast, and on Sunday we will have the grand celebration of the Resurrection at 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM.
Information about these various services can be found in the insert in today’s Order of Service called Holy Week Explained.
More importantly, I cannot stress more strongly that we need you to attend these services!  This is the most important week of the year, and yet only a small percentage of parishioners avail themselves of one or more of these services that lead up to Easter Day.
I understand that we are a busy people, and that many of us live very far away from the church facility.  But it is important for your spiritual life to participate in this holiest of weeks, and your presence will also be an encouragement to those others who have taken time and distance to be here, especially our visitors.
See you in Church!

An invitation - Ministry Note for April 13, 2014

There is no better time to invite people to join us for worship at St. John’s than Holy Week and Easter!  God is calling more and more people to come and worship Him, and you might be the vehicle He is using to drive them into our fellowship (figuratively and literally).
Let us be like the sower in the gospels who takes the seed and scatters it in all places regardless of what soil it might be.  Let us sow our invitations to all we meet and with whom we interact.
This can be done simply by saying, “do you have a place to go to Church on Easter?”  If they say “no”, or hesitate, then be quick with an invitation to join you for services at St. John’s.  Offer a ride if they seem leery about coming downtown!  And then pray for them as they decide.
Continue to pray for them, even if your invitation is declined.  You may never know when that invitation today may find fruit in coming years.  Remember, you are just scattering the seed.  Another may water, but God will give the growth.  We have one member of the Vestry who was invited to St. John’s by a former choirmaster years before, but did not come for the first time until a few years later – and has been coming regularly ever since.
Let us not neglect a more primary invitation to attendance at St. John’s – to our own parishioners!  I would be remiss if I did not mention my disappointment with our average Sunday attendance since the beginning of this year.  Extreme weather, sickness, and being out of town is certainly a valid reason one might not be in church on a Sunday for worship.
But let’s be honest with ourselves.  Would the reason we miss Sunday worship cut it with Jesus?  Would you be willing to stand at your judgment day and tell our Lord, who died on the cross for your sins, that you missed worshipping Him because _________ (fill in the blank)?  Could you not find 90 minutes or more to give to Him on Sunday morning?
The good news is that He is about forgiveness!  And each Sunday is a new start to this right relationship in Christ.  Attendance this week, next Sunday, and the Sunday afterwards, and you are back in the habit again!


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Veiled - Rector's Rambling for April 6, 2014

As you may have noticed, the crosses on the altars and around the church are now veiled.  Although most Episcopal churches follow the modern Roman Catholic form for veiling the crosses on all the Sundays of Lent, we keep to the old tradition of doing so from Passion Sunday onwards.  Dr. Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopal priest writes on his blog Canterbury Tales, “In the old days, Passion Sunday (5th Sunday) ‘ramped up’ the Lenten season.  Passion Sunday (also called Judica Sunday from the opening Introit) is the traditional day for veiling the crucifixes and statues in the churches.  The practice allegedly derives from Bavaria (though I’d love for someone more knowledgeable to shed light on the origin of this custom).  The crosses and images remain veiled and add to the dramatic effect of the Paschal Vigil when they are unveiled for the glory and wonder of our Lord’s resurrection.  The famous medieval triptychs that opened and closed were constructed for the purpose of closing them for this season.”
Today is also the first Sunday with a Tigers home game for 2014.  You may notice some changes to the traffic pattern around the church.  The gatehouse entrance on Montcalm will be closed on game days, but the gate closer to Woodward on Montcalm will be open and attended.  Our gate on the service drive will be open to enter, and if it is closed when you are departing, the next gate on the service drive further east will be open and attended for you to exit.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Techniques of personal prayer - A Teaching Note for March 30, 2014

Speaking in general terms, private, or personal, prayer, is by nature “free-flowing”.  It is a loving conversation with the God who loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you.  In it you pour out expressions of your love and faithfulness, and “remind” Him of your needs and the needs of others by offering your prayers and intercessions.
Although we are bidden to “pray at all times”, what we are talking about here is setting apart a time, or two (or more?) a day to pray.  Find a quiet place (Jesus said to go into your room and shut the door).  Take a few deep breaths to try to stop the noise of the day in your head.  And then begin praying.
Some people find it helpful to start with some written prayers.  Personal Prayer after one of the Daily Offices is always a good time.  Or devotional books such as the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book offer many options for “getting the juices following”.
Ascetical Theologians (those who study the Art of Prayer) recommend a 5-fold prayer form to help guide personal prayer.  They form the acronym ACTIP.
Adoration – this is worship, acknowledging God as God.  It is here that we spend a little time praising him for His goodness.  As one writer said, adoration is like goopy love between newlyweds.
Confession – admitting failing in light of God’s expectations for us.  This doesn’t have to be daily wailing and breast-beating, but rather a daily inventory of failings, seeking God’s forgiveness and help in avoiding such pitfalls again.
Thanksgiving – The old adage of “counting your blessings” is a good one.  It helps to put us into an Attitude of Gratitude for the blessings and mercies God has show to us.
Intercession – praying for others.  Keep a list of people’s prayer requests, make notecards of people and ministries you want to pray for regularly.  Pray for St. John’s and her clergy.
Petition – Praying for you own needs.  This order is not random.  If we start off concentrating on Him, and then others, putting ourselves last, we will find this will aid our struggle to be humble as well.   But be sure you remember to add your needs too!