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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Services @ St. John's

Christmas Eve
4:00 PM - Children's Pageant with Holy Communion
8:30 PM - Carol Prelude
9:00 PM - Candlelight Solemn High Mass

Christmas Day
11:00 AM - Low Mass with Carols (Chapel)

Christmas and St. John's Day - Rector's Rambling for December 25 & 27, 2015

What a wonderful event it is for the Church, to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The season of Advent helped to guide us through the past four weeks of preparation for the big day, by having us not only focus on the birth of Jesus, but also by remembering that he will return again in glorious majesty to judge the quick and the dead.  If you are preparing for that event, which no one knows when will happen, then your soul will also be prepared for the celebration of the Son of God in Bethlehem!

The Nativity helps is to remember the full humanity of Jesus Christ.  It is a wonderful mystery that God Himself would decide to send the second person of the Holy Trinity to redeem fallen humanity.  As God, he could have come down from the clouds, as he will do at the last day.  But instead he deigned to take human flesh, lived among us as a human being in every way except sin, and then takes our flesh with him as he has ascended into heaven after his resurrection… but that is getting ahead of ourselves in the story.

Helpless, and dependent upon Mary and Joseph, the Son of God has dwelt among us.  May we always appreciate the great gift that God has given us in His Son.

On Sunday we celebrate the Feast of St. John the Evangelist.  This is a big day for us at St. John’s because it is also the founding date of our parish.  In 1858 on St. John’s Day the parish was incorporated, a vestry and wardens elected, and the parish begun.  Eleven months later, the chapel would open, and 18 months after that the church building.  The first week the parish was open, 600 people applied for parish membership by trying to rent pews for the year!

We give thanks to God for those who have gone before us and have left us this wonderful edifice, as well as the goodly heritage that goes with it.  Like them, we will pass away in time, but by God’s grace this parish will continue beyond us as it has them, embracing the same faith that has been given to us by Jesus Christ.  May God continue to bless St. John’s.

Monday, December 21, 2015

So close you can almost taste it - Rector's Rambling for December 20, 2015

Now it is getting so close that we can almost taste it!  It is the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and on Thursday night we will gather here at St. John’s with friends, family, and visitors to celebrate, with great solemnity, the Nativity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord!

But we are still in full Advent mode!  We are in the somber penitential purple colors, and once again we are reminded of our continual need for repentance and conversion, so that we may be open to God’s Grace and renewed in heart and mind.  Today’s gospel reading is John the Baptist testifying that he is the one who has been sent to prepare the way of the Lord, the same Jesus “whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”  Yet it is because of that unworthiness (which we all share), and particularly when we, like John, admit our unworthiness, that we are able to be open to the free gift of salvation wrought for us ultimately in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Following the 10:00 AM Service, after you have grabbed a quick bowl of soup, come on back upstairs to the sanctuary to decorate the church for the Christmas Feast.  It is still Advent after the service too, but we are now “liturgically” done with our four Sundays of Advent, and the next big event in the church is the Christmas Eve Service.

Remember the old saying – many hands make for light work.  We can have our massive nave and sanctuary decked out in an hour if we all pitch in!

And, of course, between now and Christmas Day, we should remember to pray the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent – reminding us of our Advent preparation for the Feast, and for His coming again at the end of time!


Almighty God give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.


This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.


The Great "O" antiphons; Advent's final countdown - Rector's Rambling for December 13, 2015

Next week we are singing the classic Advent hymn – O come, O come, Emmanuel, number 2 in the 1940 Hymnal.  It sums up the hopes of the people of Israel that God would send a Saviour.  Each verse of the hymn is a paraphrase of a Latin antiphon to be said at Daily Evening Prayer before the first canticle, The Magnificat.  It is yet another wonderful way the Church is counting down to the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas).
Why am I writing about this hymn now when we are singing it next week?  Because the days assigned for each verse begin this Wednesday, December 16.
Listed below are the antiphons for the proper days, with the verses in the hymn to which they correspond:
12/16 – O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence. (v.2)
12/17 – O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearest in the bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sinai: come and redeem us with an outstreached arm. (v.3)
12/18 – O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shout their mouths, unto whom the Gentile shall seek: come and deliver us, and tarry not. (v.4)
12/19 – O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth: Come, and bring the prisoners out of the prison-house, them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. (v.5)
12/20 – O Day-spring, Brightness of the Light everlasting, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. (v. 6)
12/21 – O King of Nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone, who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay. (v. 7)
12/22 – O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, and Desire of all nations and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God. (v.1)
12/23 – O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any seen like thee, nor shall there be after.  Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?  The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Advent stuff - Rector's Rambling for December 6, 2015

As we continue our march through this relatively short Church season of Advent, we have several things of interest to note liturgically, as well as in the life of the parish.
First, the Teaching Note on page 4 points out the use of last Sunday’s Collect every day until Christmas.  Be sure to read that article.  That collect sums up the theme of the season, and repeating it daily helps to form our hearts and minds in preparation for His coming.
Secondly, the St. Catherine’s Guild of the Episcopal Church Women is especially busy this time of the year.  They host the Advent Soup Luncheons.  Please be sure to come downstairs to enjoy a bowl of soup, and while down there, please sign up to make soup for the coming weeks.  They also have a Holiday Bazaar for your shopping needs, and have organized the Giving Tree.  Your donations for the bowl of soup and your support of the Bazaar supports the outreach ministries of the Guild.  After you have returned your unwrapped gifts to the Giving Tree next week, and the items are taken to the shelter, it becomes the Mitten Tree for your donations of new or used hats, scarves, gloves and mittens.
Thirdly, the season of Advent has some great Holy Days interspersed in it.  Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, next Sunday it’s St. Lucy’s Day.  Other Feast Days celebrated will be St. Ambrose of Milan (December 7), the Conception of Mary (December 8), and St. Thomas’ Day (December 21).  Remember that Holy Communion continues to be celebrated Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for your deepening devotion.
Finally, NOW is the time to be inviting your friends and family to join us for Christmas Eve services!  The 4:00 PM Service has the children doing a Pageant instead of the readings, and the main service on Christmas Eve begins with Carols at 8:30 PM, followed by the grand Holy Communion service.  A simple Low Mass, at which we will sing some carols, is held on Christmas Day in the chapel at 11:00 AM.  Make your plans and invite others to join us!