Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 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 27, 2015

Homage to our Founder for Founders' Day - Rector's Rambling for July 26, 2015

He was certainly not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  Henry Porter Baldwin was born in Rhode Island in 1814 and was orphaned when we has 12 years old.  To support himself he began working as a clerk in a store, learning how to be a merchant.  He moved to Michigan in 1838 and built up a shoe business, which he later sold to Hazen Pingree, whose statue is in Grand Circus Park facing toward St. John’s.
By the time he was 40 he became involved in politics and was present at the first convention of the Republican Party in Jackson, Michigan in 1854.  He served in the Michigan Senate from 1861 to 1862, he was elected to two terms as Governor of Michigan, from 1868 to 1872, and he later served as a U.S. Senator from 1879 to 1881.
His later business interests included banking.  He served as the director of the Michigan State Bank and president of the Second National Bank of Detroit, 1863–1887.  He also served as a trustee to various charities and educational institutions.  At his death he bequeathed money to over a dozen charities in the City of Detroit.
We give thanks on this Founders’ Day for Henry Porter Baldwin, for all those in the beginning, he was the primary founder of our parish.  It was he who was the donor of the land, the one who acquired the plans for chapel, church, and rectory, and donor of a substantial amount of cash toward their completion.  He also was the one who called the meetings to organize the parish (see that story on page 4).
What we have here today at St. John’s, as far as buildings and land, are primarily the gift and motivation of Henry Porter Baldwin.  All done in great faith and hope.  By God’s grace we continue in that same faith, and continue with great hope.  St. John’s has gone through good and bad times in her history, and has never wavered on the proclamation of the Gospel.  Truth never ages.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Teens without cell phones for a week? - Rector's Rambling for July 19, 2015

If past experience is any indicator, when you are reading this on Sunday morning you will have a parish priest who is over-tired, with a hoarse throat, and yet walking two feet above the ground.
I am writing this before the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth.  My experience is that the clergy don’t get enough sleep because we are up earlier than the Michaelites; and then after they go to bed, it takes a little while for us to debrief from the day.
We also sing A LOT during the week at both Morning Communion and Evensong, and the hymns are all the old favorites which the clergy tends to over-sing (you can almost see Dr. Lewis’ head nodding as I write this about clergy in general).
But, I am sure I am also excited about having spent such a great week at the Conference, teaching the children and being a part of their growing in faith!
The other great thing about the St. Michael’s Conference this week is that the students are away from their cell phones, and the clergy use them at a minimum.  This is a welcome break from the madness of trying to keep up with e-mail and various social networking Web sites.  As much fun and as informative as they can be, it is always nice to step away from them for a welcome break.
Next week we have our seventh annual Founders’ Day celebration.  We will sing appropriate hymns from the period of the founding of St. John’s, and will use the original liturgy used during the first 30 years of this parish.  Afterwards we will have an ice cream social in the garden, weather permitting.
It is hard to believe, but 154 years ago this summer, this church building was opened two years after the founding of the parish.  Within a week after the opening of the chapel in November of 1859, the vestry began making plans to build the church because the chapel was already too small for our growing congregation.  When this building opened, the United States was just beginning her Civil War!
Bishop Biggers will be with us on Sunday, August 9, so be sure to mark your calendar.


Daily Office - not just for clergy! Rector's Rambling for July 12, 2015

Over the years that I have been rector at St. John’s (I am in my 15th year now) I have grown to deeply appreciate our second and fifth Sunday services of Morning Prayer with Holy Communion at 10:00 AM.
I pray Morning Prayer every day.  It is a minimum expectation as a member of the clergy to do so.  When I arrived here at St. John’s I added the 7:30 AM Sunday morning recitation of Morning Prayer before the 8:00 AM Holy Communion.  After all, if I am going to pray it, I may as well invite others to join me.  I have had at least two (and sometimes upwards of eight or 10) every Sunday since.
Morning Prayer, and its companion Evening Prayer, are not just for the clergy.  They are intended for all members of the church to be able to pray regularly.  Known as the Daily Office, the Prayer Book provides the form for these twice-a-day times of prayer.  Said alone, it takes about 20 minutes.
There are many advantages to using these Prayer Book forms for prayer.  First, it is Scripture and proper theology in prayer form, which then forms you by that Scripture and theology.  Secondly, using the Psalms and Scripture readings assigned for each day, you get a broad exposure to the Bible and its teachings.  Thirdly, even if you don’t feel like praying, you should pray anyway, and the forms of the Daily Office provide the platform to do that even if you don’t “feel it” on one day or another.
One should certainly also have time of private, personal prayer in which you use your own words in conversation with Our Lord.  In seminary we were warned by a wise priest that those who stop praying the Daily Office will find themselves doing the other less often as well.  The Daily Office primes the well to bring up that wellspring of prayer within you.
I highly recommend that if you do not make a habit of the Daily Office, you begin now.


Monday, July 06, 2015

General Convention Postscript

I did not go to the General Convention, but those who did, whose opinions I trust, have summed up the work.  As a traditional Anglican, holding to the biblical doctrines of the church, I found the results disappointing.  But I defer to someone who was there, a bishop.  His blog is found here
Confessions of a Caricoa
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General Convention Postscript

Back at home now, the miasma of General Convention seems surreal, like a bad dream. But I'm fairly convinced that it did actually happen. It seems appropriate to pass along a few parting thoughts.

The real surprise concerns the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church. Most people probably expected--I certainly did--that A Great Cloud of Witnesses would be adopted as the reincarnation of Holy Women, Holy Men, and continue on the glide path toward officially and finally succeeding Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Thanks to some attentive work by a handful of Deputies, GCW has been merely "made available," and will be published as a catechetical resource that may, by local option, be used liturgically, and not a liturgical document in its own right. The upshot of this is that, at least for the next triennium, Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) remains the official liturgical calendar that coordinates with the Book of Common Prayer. The SCLM's remit to revise LF&F has been executed, only they failed to do so. Of course, one can only speculate what they will do with this morass, given everything else that's on their plate (planning for revising BCP79 and Hymnal82, as well as the Book of Occasional Services). A whole list of names--pretty much every angel, archangel, and individual member of the company of heaven, and doubtless a few who may not even be there yet--have been forwarded to the SCLM's inbox with instructions to vet them against revised criteria that no longer pretend to pertain to a sanctoral calendar. So, the ones that survive the screening will be added to ... what? GCW? LF&F? Something we don't have yet? It's confusing.

Speaking of BCP revision, I have to admit that I didn't see that one coming. Yes, the Presiding Bishop has been calling for it, but my assumption was that most were politely applauding while inwardly rolling their eyes and sighing, "Not in my lifetime, please." I was wrong. There is obviously a critical mass of support for the idea. It rolled through committee and the HOB with only token opposition (mine!). I'm given to understand that there was some significant pushback in the HOD, but not enough to derail it. The driving force, of course, is the desire to cleanse the Prayer Book of masculine pronouns for God, and words like "Lord" and "Kingdom" that are redolent of masculinity. This is a subject on which I have an opinion or two, and will probably develop those thoughts in this venue as time goes on. But, for now, let me go on record that I hope the powers-that-be will give consideration to the Church of England model. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is, for the most part, used only by cathedrals and collegiate chapels for Choral Evensong. In most places, the recently published collections that make up Common Worship constitute what is actually used. Yet, BCP1662 enjoys privileged status as the official liturgical formulary of the Church. I'll be honest: I would not trust a new Book of Common Prayer that the Episcopal Church would write in this day and age. But I would be a great deal less anxious about the prospect of liturgical revision if all the new stuff were going into its own silo--available to be used, either wholly or selectively--while BCP79 remains the official liturgical formulary of the Episcopal Church. I can anticipate the argument that this would violate the principal of "common prayer," That's a nice idea, but the only time it actually inured was in the Roman Church between the Council of Trent and Vatican II. Despite Cranmer's proleptic ideal, it has always been more of an aspiration than a reality in Anglicanism, and is even now only a chimera in the Episcopal Church. For the sake of unity, we will need to up our tolerance for institutionalized liturgical diversity.

We did some fairly extensive work around structure. Not as extensive as some may have hoped, no doubt, but nonetheless significant. The elimination of all standing commissions, save for Constitution & Canons and Liturgy & Music, is for us, a pretty bold move. Personally, I would have liked to put the SCLM on the chopping block as well. They need to be reined in from their proven propensity to create their own work by proposing resolutions to General Convention that tell them to do stuff. I tried to fix that canonically during floor debate, but my amendment didn't make it though the sausage maker. I plan to give it another try in 2018. But what we accomplished will all be for nought if we are not vigilant. You can chop bureaucratic infrastructure back in a fashion that seems refreshingly merciless, but it has an inexorable tendency to come back like kudzu in a southern forest or blackberries on an Oregon roadside. I can't say that I'm sanguine about our collective resolve to keep our shears sharp and at the ready.

Finally, we elected a new Presiding Bishop. I like Michael Curry. He's already been immensely helpful to the Diocese of Springfield. A couple of years ago I had an airport food court conversation with him about an unusual sort of vacancy in the diocese, and he pointed me in a direction that led eventually to a very fine priest who is now with us and doing a great job. I'm excited about Bishop Curry's heart for evangelism and the ease with which he talks about Jesus. Those will both be immensely refreshing changes in what we hear from our Primate and chief public face. I am with him about 95% of the way, and I hope he and I have the opportunity sometime to converse about the other 5%, about which I wrote here last September. I shall endeavor to pray for him daily.

Just so you know, I'm not intentionally neglecting the Big Kahuna--marriage. But I need to say something pastorally within my own diocese before opining more broadly. That's a work in progress. I will get to it, probably within the next couple of weeks.