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.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, July 28, 2014

Founders Day - Rector's Rambling for July 27, 2014

“The Past Is Prologue”
That phrase was the title for a history of my college fraternity.  It was an invitation to look backwards because our past was the introduction to who we aspired to be as an organization in those current times (mid-1980s).
I understand that not all people enjoy reading and studying history.  I do.  It was my best subject in high school, and when I was in college in Philadelphia, I greatly enjoyed learning colonial and Revolutionary War history by visiting many sites in the city, including my college (University of Pennsylvania – founded in 1740 by Ben Franklin).  Although I enjoy learning about different periods and places in history (ancient, European, Church, etc.), I know I am especially drawn to a subject if it is something I am involved in – like Michigan history, Detroit history, and Episcopal Church history.
I am especially interested in the history of this, our parish.  Henry Porter Baldwin’s vision, the quick growth, the dedication to worship and service, and staying in the city when other parishes were moving further out or away, are all inspirational!  It is also informative to read about the years from the 1930s to the 1990s when the parish declined for a variety of reasons.
The past is prologue because who we are as a parish has been influenced by our past.  But we don’t just look back to “the good old days”.  Rather we learn from what they believed and did, and look for ways that God the Holy Ghost may be leading us today to live out that same vital faith.
We know that the faith has not changed, and the worship has changed very little in the 150+ years this parish has been here.  But each successive generation adds to the prayers and praise of our Lord, and we live in gratitude for His blessings then and now.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Closing the deal - Rector's Rambling for July 20, 2014

By now you may have heard our first two radio commercials on WJR  Radio, 760 AM.  These are the first two of twelve between now and mid-September to be played on Friday mornings during the Frank Beckmann Show.  An anonymous donor is paying for the campaign.
The idea of this campaign is to connect St. John’s with the happenings in downtown Detroit.  All the advertisements will include the invitation to “to join us this Sunday at 10:00 AM for beautiful worship in the traditional English Cathedral style”, adding “before the Tigers game” on the weeks that the Tigers are playing at home, and likewise for the Lions games.  Additionally, each advertisement will include the identification of St. John’s prime location, “at the corner of I-75 and Woodward Avenue, next to Comerica Park”, as well as where they can find out more about us.  “For more information go to StJohnsDetroit.org”.  The advertisement will then end with the hook, “St. John’s Detroit – worth the trip downtown every Sunday.”
Each week the message will be centered around the readings for Sunday, or an event happening at St. John’s, such as Founders’ Day and the visit by Bishop Biggers.
Advertising helps to grow what is know in secular terms as brand recognition.  We are identifying ourselves with location, traditional worship, and being worth the trip downtown.  But the key to all marketing in the secular sense is to “close the deal”.  Thousands of people will be hearing these ads, many of them your friends and neighbors.  And YOU have to be the sales staff who close the deal by talking up the merits of attending St. John’s, and then inviting them personally to join us here on a Sunday morning.
St. John’s in Detroit is too wonderful a thing for us to keep to ourselves.  Our Lord warns us about lighting a candle and putting it under a bushel!  Let us let the light of faith in Jesus Christ expressed through this parish shine to all those around you, and then close the deal with your personal invitation to others.

Monday, July 14, 2014

St. Michael's Conference for Youth - Rector's Rambling for July 13, 2014

It is that time of the year again, when I and a group of young people from St. John’s make the trip up Woodward to Manresa Retreat Center in Bloomfield Hills.
Beginning today, and continuing through Saturday, the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth, Midwest, will be in full swing.  Begun as the Valley Forge Conference in the 1950s, St. Michael’s Conference began meeting in the 1970s on the east coast.  I was a member of that conference’s staff in 1993 and 1995.  In the 1990s a Midwestern branch was begun in Lansing, Michigan.  I joined the staff in 1999 and brought parishioners when I was a priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  It is amazing to realize that I have been on staff here in Michigan 16 years.  Those 12 year-olds at the conference my first year are now 28 years old.  Several of those who were conferees out east, as well as here in Michigan, have gone on to get married to each other, and a group of the young men from both branches have gone on to be ordained priests.  More importantly many graduates of the conferences are now leaders in their parishes, serving on vestries, and leading various ministries.
As much as there is fun to be had at the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth, we make sure that we put “first things first”.  The schedule of worship and classes is rigorous, and we take both of those things very seriously.  The students are there to become to better acquainted with Our Lord and the teachings of His Church.
But as with all things, when we put “first things first”, then we ALSO see the kids having real, authentic fun and forming lifelong friendships with each other.  Jesus models this for us when he says, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
And of course, the same bible verse holds true for St. John’s Church as well.  Let us be rigorous in worship and learning about our Lord, and the rest of our parish needs will be supplied.

Monday, July 07, 2014

God Bless America - Rector's Rambling for July 6, 2014

God Bless America.
We hear that phrase said by politicians and their promoters.  We hear it sung in the movies and at sporting events.  We hear it muttered sometimes in derision or as a form of sarcastic praise.  And we even see it proclaimed on our sign board this weekend.
But what do mean by that?  For some it is an exclamation of America’s moral, political, and economic superiority.  For others it is a statement that what we have been able to achieve as a nation is a result of God’s special favor.
When I hear, or say that phrase, it is done as a heartfelt prayer.  After all, what can we possibly be, or achieve, if it is not by God’s most gracious favor?  The founding of our country is seen by many as miraculous.  The fact that one early form of government failed (The Articles of Confederation) and was peaceably replaced by a form that continues to our day (U.S. Constitution) is remarkable as well.  And although the doings of our government have not always been noble, peaceable, just, or successful, in the big picture, it has certainly been much more of a positive than a negative.  And I do believe that much of that has been done because people formed by faith have sought to put that faith to work in our communities and beyond.
But it is a prayer, because as much as God has blessed us as a nation in the past, we need to continually be seeking His blessings in what we do, and who we are becoming as a nation.  And in asking Him for that blessing, we need to be willing to DO what He would have us do and be.
God Bless America!  And may we be the people that God desires us to be!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Being vigilant against sin - from the Summer Eagle 2014

Vice (sin) is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
           - Alexander Pope

Having recently reached 20 years of ordained life, I glanced back to some things written about the Church and Society in 1994.  Pope’s poem, written in the 18th Century, holds true for the Church and our Society.  Things so clearly known to be sinful, and to be avoided, has become familiar, endured, and now embraced as normal by so many.  
     Let us be abundant in Love, which also means saying NO to that which God has told us is sin.                         - Fr. Kelly+