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, November 24, 2014

Big doings for Thanksgiving at St. John's - Rector's Rambling for November 23, 2014

One last hurrah for our green vestments before we begin our next Church season – Advent.  Since June, with an occasional deviation, we have been wearing the green vestments, the color of growth and life, as we have worked our way through the Sundays of ordinary time.  Next week the purple vestments and altar hangings re-appear and we move into the penitential and expectant season of preparing not only for the coming of the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ (Christmas), but also our own preparation for Jesus’ return in glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead!
But before we do that, we have an exciting event ahead.  This week we celebrate Thanksgiving.  The Thanksgiving Holy Communion service will be Wednesday, November 26, at 7:00 PM.  Being thankful on Thanksgiving assumes you’re being thankful to God for the many gifts and blessings He has bestowed upon us.  Thankfulness is a wonderful attitude, especially when we realize from whom, ultimately, we receive all those good gifts.
After the service Wednesday, parishioners and friends are welcome to spend the night at St. John’s.  We will have a snack and then into bed early in preparation for the big day on Thursday.  Bring your own bedroll/air mattress, etc., for the night’s stay.
On Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving by hosting a pancake breakfast from 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM (volunteers needed), having a Donut and Hot Chocolate/Coffee sale, and, of course, watching the parade from our own garden.
St. John’s also becomes a big warming center for those wanting to get out from the cold, and it is wonderful to see so many visitors step into the sanctuary and look up with awe and wonder.  As I often hear at weddings and funerals (when we have lots of guests), we hear many times on this day, “Wow!  I have driven by here a million times, but never imagined it was this beautiful inside!”
Whether spending the night, or just coming down for the parade, be sure to join us and invite your friends, neighbors, and family to come as well.  Be sure to arrive EARLY, and enter the area from the east side since you will not be able to cross Woodward due to its being closed for parade preparation and execution.

Monday, November 17, 2014

We are what we pray - Rector's Rambling for November 16, 2014

Last month we laid to rest the mortal remains of Barbara Frisby.   Like the service for Mary Bedford in August, it was a moving event, both of which honored “matriarchs” of the parish.
At Barbara’s service, her son David read a moving prayer that was found among Barbara’s things.  It was obviously well used and prayed over the years.  One thing the Church has said is that prayer changes us.  In this case, we can see in Barbara a life modeled very closely to the prayer.

All through the day, O Lord,
let me touch as many lives
as possible for thee.
And every life I touch,
do by thy Holy Spirit quicken.
Whether through the word I speak,
the prayer I breathe,
the letters I write,
or the life I live.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

This prayer sums up, what is known in the discipline of Ascetical Theology, as a unitive prayer.  The greatest goal of the life of prayer is to have one’s own will united perfectly with the will of God.
As members of the Body of Christ, we seek to draw near to Christ in prayer for many reasons.  Some of these reasons include improving our conscious contact with God, so that we are more aware of his presence at all times, petitioning for our needs and the needs of others, for deeper contrition for sin so that we not only sorrow for them, but purpose true amendment of life, to glorify Him, and to express gratitude.
But a deeper goal in prayer is to be perfectly united with the Will of God, so that whatt we want and what we do mirrors more perfectly His Will for us.  Prayer forms us, and even in the few lines of prayer above, we see a desire to live and serve God by bringing His love to others, and others to His love.
Let this be our prayer as well!  May we touch other lives for Christ, that he may be gloried, worshipped and adored!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Some election thoughts - Rector's Rambling for November 9, 2014

As I sit here in my office, writing this column, I hear playing on a distant radio the last flurry of political commercials.  By the time you read this column, the election will be over and all that television and radio ad space will be filled with pitches for cars and pharmaceutical products rather than rants and accusations for or against this person or that.
I studied Political Science as an undergraduate.  In a perfect scenario, a man interested in being a priest would do his undergraduate studies in Philosophy and perhaps Classics.  But I spent the first few years of my college studies NOT wanting to be a priest (even though I had sensed a calling from the age of 7 onward).  Political Science interested me, and I immersed myself in the study of international issues between the US and Soviet bloc, particularly nuclear weapon policy, as well as a growing interest in local city government (in Philadelphia).  I thought perhaps I had a future in city politics, or perhaps with the state department.
God had other plans.  And I know that quite frequently, when asked what I studied in college, people are surprised to hear “political science”.  But in some ways that study was a good preparation for ministry.
Although the election season can be the ugly side of politics, the majority of politics is the way in which people interact and share differing philosophies in order to best govern.  If done with good, honest, and noble intention, it can be a decent thing, and blessed by our Lord Himself.
Of course, the problem is that human beings, regardless of political affiliation, are affected by original sin.  We are frequently selfish, self-seeking, and sometimes nasty.  Politics can bring out the worst in us.  But ultimately we are to, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.  His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”  Psalms 146:3, 4
All this will pass away, and we will pass away.  Let us put first the things that are eternal: Jesus Christ our Lord and God!

Monday, November 03, 2014

"For all the saints" - Rector's Rambling for November 2, 2014

For all the saints, who from their labours rest, who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!”
By now you know those as the opening words of the familiar hymn that we sing today for All Saints’ Day.  It was first published in 1864, in England, just five years after the opening of our parish.  It quickly became a widespread favorite, although the current tune most often associated with it, Sine Nomine, was not composed until 1906.
On the last day of 1892, the founder of St. John’s Church passed to eternal life at the age of 78.  By the summer of 1893, a monument was erected on the burial plot of this former Michigan Governor and former U.S. Senator.  At the base of the monument is the opening verse of this wonderful hymn!  When I visit his gravesite I can’t help but sing the hymn as I read it (albeit in a tune Governor Baldwin never knew).
Tomorrow, at 10:00 AM, a Requiem Mass will be said at the Elmwood Cemetery Chapel, a few hundred yards from Governor Baldwin’s mortal remains.  Buried a few hundred yards in the opposite direction is that of St. John’s first Rector, William Armitage.  And all around are the mortal remains of hundreds of people who have been in our pews worshiping the Living God, and now “from their labours rest.”
Today we remember the saints.  We remember those whose heroic virtue in faith is recognized by the Church, as well as those known only to God alone.  It should be our goal in life to be holy.  God wills it!  The word “holy” comes from the same Latin word as “saint” – Sanctus.  Let us strive to be holy.  Let us strive to be saints!
All by God’s Grace and to His Glory!