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, June 27, 2016

Seeking a sign? - Rector's Rambling for June 26, 2016

The St. John’s electronic signboard was installed in 2007, replacing an old, manually changed letter sign that had deteriorated with age.  This new sign is larger, more prominent, and has an angled, two-sided face to make the messages viewable from both directions on Woodward, as well as when you are stopped at the traffic light on Montcalm and the Fisher Freeway Service Drive.
Among the regular rotation of signs are our Sunday Service Schedule, Web site, and invitations to come to weekday services on the appropriate days.
At other times, we run signs for Holy Day special services, events, and guests.  Other signs include an invitation to “Pray Here for the Tigers” as was once proclaimed on a banner on the side of the church.
Occasionally we run a series of one-week teaching signs, including our “Deadly Sins? Grace wins!” series running right now, with a short explanation of a deadly sin, and its remedy.
It has been interesting to see reaction to it.  When “Pride” was on there, someone called the office to complain that it was a slight against them (ironic since the sin of pride would have you think everything is about you anyway).  No one called about “Envy”, and this past week if “Sloth” offended anyone, they were too lazy to call to voice that concern.  “Gluttony”, “Lust”, “Anger” and “Greed” will appear in the coming weeks.
For every deadly sin listed there is a positive remedy posted as well.  But as the master series sign points out, even though we have Deadly Sins, Grace wins!  Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death, and by His merits we can begin to live lives worthy of our calling.
The sign board is a fun teaching tool, which also lets the world know we are here and open.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Calling it by the proper name. EVIL - Rector's Rambling for June 19, 2016

With our editing and publishing deadline, I write this column on Monday morning for you to read on Sunday.  I do get a quick chance to make any last minute corrections Wednesday morning when it comes back from our ‘extra set of eyes’ (Chris Sayers is good enough to look over the completed chronicle for obvious or subtle errors) and before it is sent off to the publishing company.
This lag in time means that that which is on my heart on Monday (or Wednesday for that matter) may in fact be ‘old news’.  The instant gratification, 24/7 news cacophony makes a topic HOT, but like a meteor streaking across the night sky, it frequently also burns out quickly and is forgotten for the latest, scariest thing.
Today (Monday) I sit at my desk with a heavy heart over the news of the shooting in Orlando, Florida.  Even though it happened overnight Saturday/Sunday, I hadn’t heard the news on my drive in that morning - quiet time praying on my way to church on Sunday is the preferred drive method.  A parishioner asked between services if I had heard about the shooting in Orlando and I thought they were referring to the shooting of the woman singer who had been on one of the television voice competitions, which had happened on Friday night.
It was only after I got into my car to go to the 1:30 Mass at Independence Village retirement home was I bombarded with the details of this gruesome incident via satellite and AM news radio.  The 35 minute drive was filled with latest breaking news and contradictions, and when I got to the location earlier than usual, I then perused Facebook and Twitter quickly to see what other details were unfolding there.
Before stepping out of the car and trying to regroup spiritually for the upcoming celebration of the Holy Communion, I posted to Facebook and Twitter -
Terrorism?  Hate Crime?  Actually, it is EVIL, a DEMONIC ASSAULT on human life.  Lord have mercy upon us all
     It did not take long, by the end of the 1:30 Mass, for the tenor of the radio broadcasts to have changed from one of shock and compassion to rancor, politics, and blame.  Within 12 hours people were looking to point fingers, try to assign blame (perhaps sometimes correctly, but not always), and demonize each other.  This was evident not only on the radio broadcasts, but the darkening of the tone of posts on Facebook and Twitter as well. 
             “If you don’t believe _______ then you are a part of the problem” was thrown about by all sides, with pat, political blame and suggested political solutions immediate thrown about from elected official to the common caller to the radio talk show.  By 5 PM I was burned out on it all, and with the exception of a brief time to get updates this morning (and interesting to hear the contradictions form the day before’s reporting) I have tried to absent myself from the furor and noise. 
     Two notable exceptions today was when I responded to a priest who suggested “the time for prayer is over, and _______” suggesting a political solution.   I asserted that the time for prayer is NEVER over.  And I also was queried by someone about my belief that pride is a sin - they assumed it was a bash at this past weekend’s gathering in Detroit and elsewhere, rather than a basic, true, theological statement in general.  Pride is not only still a sin, it is still the foundation of ALL the deadly sins.
   By the time you read this the incident will be a week old - ancient news for our 24/7 instant late-breaking information-saturated media.   And I am sure the facts of the entire tragedy will continue to be fleshed out and re-hashed.
   But behind all this is the reality I stated before -  it is EVIL.  It is the devil, preying on our fallen, sin sick nature to try to draw us away from love and forgiveness and ultimately from Our Lord.  And trampled in it all is the pain of real people mourning the loss of loved ones.  Sorry Fr. ________, but now more than ever it is time to pray.  Because prayer changes us, changes others, and by God’s grace makes the world better one person, one moment at a time.  Life on earth will be hard and at times awful and tragic.  But Jesus Christ has ultimately conquered sin and death, and it is He whom we seek in prayer for comfort, solace, direction, and hope.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Retirement Village Services - Rector's Rambling for June 12, 2016

Today after the 10:00 AM Service I will go down to coffee hour, as I do most Sundays, to socialize and catch up with parishioners.  But today, as I do on 2nd and 4th Sundays, I have to be aware of the time because I have one more Mass to say.
Many years ago, a priest friend started an Anglican congregation in a retirement community, where he, and a group of laity faithfully, offered Mass to the greater glory of God, for both the residents of the retirement home, and all those from the surrounding community looking for a service with traditional Anglican Liturgy and Biblical teaching.  That priest eventually moved on to another assignment, as did another priest.
I was contacted by the coordinator of the service, the former priest of the parish and the nephew of the organist at the service (who happens to be St. John’s Vestryman Dennis Lennox), asking if I would be interested and willing to make this Service a ministry of St. John’s.
We were able to change the Service to the afternoon, and work it into the schedule of the retirement village on the 2nd and 4th Sundays.  Attendance averages anywhere from 25 to 40, and it is a diverse array of denominations represented.  It is a 1928 Service, with hymns from the 1940 Hymnal.
You are most welcome to attend this service as well, either to volunteer to help set up and clean up, or come and worship if you have missed the morning services at St. John’s.  The service takes place in the 3rd floor dining room (the person at the front desk can point you to the correct elevator).  We start worship at 1:30 PM.
Independence Village of Plymouth is located at 14707 Northville Rd, Plymouth, MI 48170.  From St. John’s, you take I-96 almost to I-275.  Plug the address into your GPS for the most accurate route to the residence and if the parking in front is full, there is parking in the rear.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Ordinary-tide has begun - Rector's Rambling for June 5, 2016

Welcome back to the long season of Trinity-tide, or Ordinary Season.  We are back into the green vestments and the lectern and pulpit are adorned with the green hangings.
Green is the color of growth and life, and is a good symbol for this season that lasts until the end of November.  Week by week, with only a few exceptions for special feast days that are observed on Sundays, we will be working our way through the teachings of Jesus Christ so that we can grow in the faith, by God’s Grace.  The green is a reminder of growth – our growth in the spiritual life.
This season is also called Ordinary Time not because it isn’t special (i.e., ordinary), but rather because it is ordered teaching for church doctrine in Christian Living.
I know that summer holidays will be calling many of us away for a period of time, and I cannot stress strongly enough that although school is out for summer, our attendance at weekly worship is not on hiatus.  Our Lord does expect us to worship him every Sunday in His Church!  Of course, if you are at home, then it is here at St. John’s we look forward to having you in the pews.  And if you are traveling, I hope you will take the opportunity to worship elsewhere.  Be sure to bring back a service bulletin from that church – I find it interesting to see what other parishes are doing on Sunday!
Besides the expectation by Our Lord that we worship Him on Sunday even if we are away, I find from experience that visiting another parish also is a nice reminder of what a blessing St. John’s is.  We tend to take her for granted because she is always here, always glorifying God in her worship.  Being elsewhere can be a wonderful reminder of what we have here.
Finally, if absolutely unable to attend on Sunday, check the weekly Chronicle or call the parish office for the scheduled weekday Holy Communion Services.