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.

My Photo
Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, May 19, 2014

Reaching others electronically - Rector's Rambling for May 18, 2014

St. John’s has been blessed by having a strong Internet, media, and social media presence.  It is remarkable to see the reach that the parish has inside and outside of our local area.
Recently we received a letter from a man in Indiana.  He begins his note by saying, “I am a subscriber and viewer of your YouTube Channel”, and then goes on to describe finding a newspaper article from the Detroit News in 1954, used as wrapping around some old photos.  On one newspaper page was an article about St. John’s tenth rector, Rev’d I. C. Johnson, and his 20th anniversary as Rector of St. John’s.  He recognized the name of the parish because he knows us from YouTube.  We are frequently contacted by people from around the country, and even other countries, with notes of thanksgiving for our YouTube presence.  They love the inspiring music, and their hearts are lifted to God by the videos.
St. John’s receives a remarkable amount of public relations and media coverage for our Pray Here for the Tigers Service, and our location next to Comerica Park.  A combination of that service, Tigers Opening Day, and Holy Week/Easter being within a few weeks of each other, this month made for a deluge of “hits” on our Web site, YouTube channel, and my blog.
How much traffic?  In the month of April the parish Web site had over 4000 pages loaded (viewed).  The YouTube channel had 18,372 videos viewed.  And my blog had 520 unique visitors who read articles.  In addition, the twitter feed and Facebook page have both been quite active as well.
We have several parishioners who have found us through the Internet.  Bryan Monaco searched “1928 Book of Common Prayer, Detroit” on Google and we were the first choice.  We had a graduate student at the University of Michigan who began worshipping with us after she had become disheartened that there was not a traditional Anglican parish in the immediate Ann Arbor area.  She searched “Healy Willan” on YouTube, and the first video listed was from St. John’s singing his Mass setting.  Parishioner Rebecca Chung was a Middle School friend with whom I became re-acquainted via Facebook, and joined St. John’s when she moved back to Detroit.
More and more the Internet will become the vehicle for those searching for a church home, or searching for examples of well done classical worship in the Anglican tradition.  We certainly are not, nor should we be, hiding our light under a bushel (Matthew 5:15).
There is more that we can do.  The next step is to begin webcasting the 10:00 AM service.  This means that those unable to attend worship can listen in through the Web site to the service.  I know that my parents have mentioned that they would like to be able to listen in on Sunday mornings from Arizona, as would our shut-ins.  Priest friends of mine in New York who webcast their worship have an “Internet congregation”, in addition to the local congregation, who support the parish in prayer as well as contributions (via the Internet, of course).
All this opens opportunities for parishioners to invite friends and neighbors to St. John’s.  Before they even step in the door, they can hear and see who we are, and have some familiarity.  There is a chance they have heard of the “church next to Comerica Park”.  It is our duty to invite them and welcome them into our congregation.
Here are some of the ways to connect: