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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Baptism Celebration! - Rector's Rambling for August 24, 2014

Today we celebrate new life in Jesus Christ!  In addition to four baptisms scheduled for today, we are celebrating Baptism as a Sacrament in the life of the Church in general, and in the life of St. John’s in particular.
Baptism is most generally appreciated as the gateway to membership in the Church.  It is the outward public statement that you belong in this group of believers that claims Jesus Christ as Lord.  It is public in the sense that in the last generation or two the Church has reclaimed the ancient practice of having baptism done either during, or immediately proceeding, the primary worship gathering of the community.  The baptism service is a public statement that this child (through their sponsors) or adult is making promises in a community.  The community witnesses the promises and itself promises support to the newly baptized.  In the case of infants and young children the parents and godparents promise to be sure the children “learn the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul’s health”.  And not only the parents and sponsors, but all in attendance at the baptism do their part in prayer, fellowship, and support of the Sunday School ministry of the parish.
But something deeper than a public affirmation of belief occurs in the waters of baptism.  We are all born into the Body of Adam and therefore are inheritors of sin and death (known as birth sin or original sin).
But by the grace of the Sacrament of Baptism we are BORN AGAIN of water and the Holy Spirit; we are taken out of the body of Adam and grafted into the Body of Christ.  This is called Baptismal Regeneration.  More than just a public promise or membership ritual, it is God changing people!  And changed we are!
By the end of this day, St. John’s will have baptized, God willing, 7258 people.  Next week we have number 7259 scheduled.  What a great grace to be a part of the continuance of the Kingdom of God by making heirs for it!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome Bishop Biggers! - Rector's Rambling for August 17, 2014

We welcome back to St. John’s our dear friend Bishop Jackson C. Biggers.  Bishop Biggers is the retired bishop of Northern Malawi in the Anglican Province of Central Africa.  Since his retirement from being the diocesan bishop, he has been active in other dioceses of Malawi, helping the other diocesan bishops, and aiding the Leonard Kamungu School of Theology and the ministry of the Sisters of St. Mary.  In thanksgiving for his recent 50th anniversary of ordination, he helped secure funding for a new building for the Mother’s Union, the equivalent is some ways to our Episcopal Church Women.
Bishop Biggers makes his primary residence in Malawi, but spends time in Pensacola, Florida as well.  He is finishing up his latest stint here in the USA and will be returning to Africa soon.
In addition to the Bishop’s visit today, we will also be having a short meeting for those interested in teaching in Sunday School this year.  Curriculum samples will be dispersed, and schedule and timing discussed.  If you think you might be able to pitch in and help teach a class when one of the regular teachers has to be absent, please let us know.  Next Sunday, after the 10:00 AM service, there will be an All Parent Sunday School meeting to introduce the updated program.  Classes begin on September 14.
Next week is also our celebration of baptism at St. John’s.  In addition to having the baptisms of several children, we have invited to Church all who have been baptized here in the past 30 years and for whom we have valid addresses.  Invitations were sent out to 100 families!  If you were baptized at St. John’s please fill out a form in today’s Chronicle and put it in the collection plate.  If you have adult children and grandchildren please give them a call and tell them you would love to see them here that particular day.   We’ve asked for RSVPs so we have an idea how many people will be attending.
Finally, thank you to all who attended the funeral liturgy of Mary Bedford yesterday, and who pitched in for the reception following.  Your prayers and presence were greatly appreciated.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Big News about St. John's Sunday School for Fall 2014

We cannot emphasize how important it is that we educate our youth (and not only our youth but adults as well) in the foundations of our faith!
BIG CHANGES ARE COMING FOR THE FALL FOR SUNDAY SCHOOL! SUNDAY SCHOOL WILL BEGIN AT 10:00 AM.
The Children’s Chapel and Sunday School program will be merged.  All children will begin the service downstairs in the Children’s Chapel location (with acolytes joining after the opening procession).
THERE WILL BE AN INFORMATIONAL MEETING HELD ON SUNDAY, AUGUST 24, after the 10:00 AM service to discuss the new curriculum and format.  It is hoped that all parents will take 15 minutes on this day to check in with us.  The Sunday before we will have a teachers’ meeting.  If you are interested in helping to teach, please contact Fr. Kelly.
SUNDAY SCHOOL BEGINS September 14, with a big kick off event – more details to follow.
The history of the blessings of St. John’s has been tied up in the Sunday School programs.  From the founding of the parish Sunday School was a priority.  In fact, our founder, Henry Porter Baldwin, was not only the Senior Warden for 34 years, but he was also the Sunday School Superintendent for most of them.  In 1860, when the parish had been worshipping in its new building (now our chapel) for six months, the Sunday School had 28 teachers and 136 children.  By the next year it had 451 children enrolled, and five years later (1866) 727!  Percentage-wise, the number of children of Sunday School age now, compared to the number of total parishioners is about the same now as in the 1920s.  We have 61 children of Sunday School age on our mailing list.  The move to this new timeslot should increase attendance since they should be here for Church every Sunday anyway.
More information will be coming about the Adult Education programming in the coming weeks.
See you in Sunday School!


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

August Agenda - Rector's Rambling for August 3, 2014

The busyness of July has come and gone with Patriotic Sunday, the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth, and Founders’ Day all now in the rear view mirror.  I also performed three weddings.  Thank you to all who contributed prayer and scholarship support for the Conference, and their time and labor to help with those two special Sunday celebrations.
August promises to also be a busy month of activity here at St. John’s!  Next Sunday we have the baptism of Angelus Mapp during the 10:00 AM service.  Parents Rexienia and Dominic were married by me here at St. John’s, and Angelus’ big sister Kinmah was baptized here in 2010.
On Saturday, August 16, at 11:00 AM the parish, family, and friends will gather to pray for the repose of the soul of Mary Bedford.  Her mortal cremated remains will be interred in our columbarium in the chapel.  She will be greatly missed by all of us who loved her so dearly!
The following day we will welcome back to our pulpit our dear friend Bishop Jackson C. Biggers of the Diocese of Northern Malawi (retired).  St. John’s has had a long relationship with Bishop Biggers and his ministry in Central Africa.  We will both welcome him back into our midst that day, and pray for him as he departs to return to Africa the following week.
August 24 brings with it a celebration of Baptism at St. John’s!  We have one, and perhaps four, baptisms scheduled for that day.  We will also be inviting back friends far and wide who were baptized here to join us for a celebration of the many who have been made regenerate at our baptismal font in 155 years.  Also in the planning stage for that day is a meeting of parents of Sunday School-aged students about the upcoming school year.
And if you think that is busy, wait until you hear about the opportunities coming in September!


Monday, August 04, 2014

A prayer request - future neighborhood development

Sent via email to the St. John's Email List, and posted on the St. John's Facebook page

Friends - 

I am writing today to ask for your prayers for our parish, St. John’s.  
As many of you have seen, Olympia Development has published their very ambitious plans for the building of a new hockey arena, apartments, offices, parks, and retail spaces in the neighborhood around St. John’s.
St. John’s has seen many large-scale changes to our neighborhood in 155 years.  Two notable projects included the demolition of many buildings and the moving of the church sixty feet to widen Woodward Avenue in 1936
 and 1937, and more recently the building of Comerica Park and Ford Field in 2000 and 2002.  In each instance there was excitement and anticipation, as well as fear and apprehension.  I am sure that we will experience all those emotions in the coming months and years as the neighborhood continues to change in dynamic ways.
Today I am asking parishioners and friends to PRAY FOR ST. JOHN’S, and for wisdom and discernment for her elected leadership in particular, as critical decisions are made in the coming months about the development around our building that will significantly impact St. John’s in the years and decades ahead.  Senior Warden Bruce Burton, Parish Council John Nicholson, and I had an initial meeting with members of the development team of Olympia last Tuesday.  During that meeting Olympia officials outlined their conceptual drawings of the development and requested that St. John’s participate in their development plans by considering allowing the erection of an retail/apartment complex partially on a portion of St. John’s property.  We listened and advised Olympia officials that we are interested to hear more about their plans as they develop from conceptual drawings to more detailed plans.  
Bruce Burton summed it up to the Olympia team when he told them that our decisions will be made based upon what is best for the mission of St. John’s of which we are stewards: to glorify God and to build up His Kingdom through the ministry of this parish.  
Our discernment process will be to seek God’s guidance and  grace as to the scope and form of St. John’s participation in what may become an exciting opportunity to proclaim and spread the Gospel to those who do not know the Lord and who will be in our neighborhood.

So, let us be all of one mind and purpose to begin praying today, tomorrow, and consistently in the coming weeks and months as we seek to discern the direction of Holy Spirit in each decision to be made by the Vestry and leadership of the parish.  Also, pray for the leadership at Olympia that they will also be guided by that same Good Spirit to do what is best for St. John’s and her mission to Know Christ and Make Him Known. If we keep ‘first things first’, then God will certainly guide us through the details.