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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

HOLY WEEK!!! - Rector's Rambling for March 29, 2015

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!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Passion Sunday and Annunciation - Rector's Rambling for March 22, 2015

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.”
Wednesday, March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation.  That day marks nine months until the celebration of the birth of Jesus, so that day the Church remembers the day that the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son by the Holy Ghost.  This can be found in St. Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 1, verses 26 to 38.
We will celebrate this Feast within our Lenten Fast on Wednesday, March 25, at the 12:15 Holy Communion Service.

Inviting people to church, including ourselves!

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!
~ Edited by Fr. Kelly from “From the Rector”
The Eagle, Eastertide 2010

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ides of March - Rector's Rambling for March 15, 2015

“Beware of the Ides of March” is the historical expression for today, March 15.  The Ides of March was a mid-month celebration of the ancient Romans, attached to a pagan deity.  The warning above has to do with the assassination of Julius Caesar.  He was told by a seer that he would meet his death on that day, and it was so. 
Julius Caesar met his demise on the middle of March, but today we are celebrating the liturgical middle of Lent with Rose Sunday, and that great Irish saint, Patrick.
Being the mid-point of Lent we “lighten” up in the Lenten discipline, going from the deep purple vestments and hangings to a lighter rose color.  After the service, instead of our usual soup luncheon we will celebrate the conversion of the Irish with a lunch of corned beef and fixings.
Of course, lightening up assumes we have been doing the heavier work of our Lenten disciplines of fasting and prayer.  If you have not gotten a good start on the discipline of Lent, a shorter period is better than no period at all.  
A Lenten discipline isn’t like a New Year Resolution, which when dispensed of in short order is forgotten.  Rather, Lent is for the good of our souls.  And if we fail, then we repent and start again, just as we must do in all of the spiritual life!  As is said in the 12 step recovery programs, “we claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection”.   Although we should be striving to be perfect, the reality is that we are affected by original sin, and fail.  Progress is in failing less often, and when we do, repenting and returning quickly! 
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said every day in Lent, after the Collect appointed for the day, until Palm Sunday.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Corporate and Personal Prayer - Rector's Rambling for March 8, 2015

During Lent, in addition to being especially aware of our sins and need to repent, the Church calls us to extra time of prayer and devotion.
What we are doing today, the Holy Communion Service, is a form of corporate prayer.  We pray together.  We do this also at our weekday Holy Communion Services, as well as weekday and Sunday recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer.  It is the Church as a body (the word “corporate” comes from the Latin word “corpus” for body) assembles to pray and worship together in the words of her faith, known as the Book of Common Prayer.  This is a very important element of the vitality of a parish.
But we are called to more than just that.  The Offices (Morning and Evening Prayer) can also be prayed by individuals at home or work.  Additionally, devotional books such as the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book are filled with prayers written by the saints that help to articulate our heart’s desire toward God, as well as form our hearts in those holy words written by the saints.
Other prayers, such as the Rosary, use a set of written and repetitive prayer that help us to focus our minds away from the distractions of the day and towards things heavenly.
But let us not neglect that wonderful intimate time of personal extemporaneous prayer.  This is, simply put, lifting our hearts and minds to God and just having a conversation with Him.  It is in this time of personal interaction that we deeply enter into that relationship with the God who is personal, and personally loves us and died for us.
Use all these types of prayer to grow!
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said every day in Lent, after the Collect appointed for the day, until Palm Sunday.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Giving something up for Lent - Rector's Rambling for March 8, 2015

Lent is now in full swing.  Although last week was the First Sunday in Lent, it took on a festive feeling with the official visit of our Diocesan Bishop, and the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Last week the Bishop mentioned in his sermon the popular use of “giving up something for Lent.”  Often, as he mentioned, it can become a legalistic exercise in not doing something for the sake of proving one’s own grit and ability.  That, of course is not the purpose of giving up something for Lent.

The purpose of this discipline is two-fold.  First, it is an opportunity to offer it up as a sacrifice.  Remember, the word sacrifice means “I make holy”.  We offer up something as a sacrifice in order to help aid us to greater holiness.  But the second reason is that we need to be reminded in a tangible way that we do not have to give in to our impulses and desires.

I know in my experience, when I give something up for Lent, I want it even more at first!  Friday seems like a perfect day for a hamburger, and every cup of coffee I smell and see is overly inviting.

But I don’t have to have them.  I am not controlled by my desires and passions.  And like an athlete in training, I learn holy living by learning to say no to urge, and yes to what God’s Will may be for me.  “Giving up something for Lent“ is an exercise toward that end.