Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 50 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 impending hockey arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"a vital Church is a missionary Church" - Rector's Rambling for Sunday, September 4, 2016

As you have noticed by now, I am away for the weekend and will be back next Sunday.  Recently I was re-reading some writings by the late Bishop of Michigan, Richard Emrich, and I wanted to share it, and challenge you with it.
“Remember that the vitality of a movement can always be gauged by its missionary zeal.  If people believe that something is true and bears salvation to men, they want to spread it.  The early Christians (and every missionary) had an experience which they wanted to share.  This point, of course, does not demonstrate the truth of a movement (Mohammedanism, Communism, and Christianity have all displayed missionary zeal): it merely reveals its vitality, that its followers believe it is true.  And, under this point, the immediate future of the world lies in the hands of vital movements.  We should remember that our faith is never sure unless it is fervent and that any group of people that has lost its sense of destiny is dying.
When, therefore, we come upon a person with no missionary interest, we should remind him of what his lack of interest really means.  It means that he does not believe the faith enough to want to spread it.  It means that he does not believe in a vital Church, but is willing to give the souls of men over to any dark faith that comes along.  His faith is not enlightened; it is degenerate.  The lack of missionary concern has been due to a watered-down version of Christianity which did not know the Gospel.  It was not an amiable and watered Christianity which stormed the darkness of this world, but a faith which knew the plight of mankind, the great facts of sin and redemption.
It is sobering to realize that the profundity of the faith of our parishes can be judged by the manner in which they grasp the missionary task.  A vital Church is a missionary Church.  A believing Church is a missionary Church.
The Rt. Rev. Richard S. Emrich, Seventh Bishop of Michigan, from 1948 to 1973.  From his tract Renewing the Church (1952)


Monday, August 29, 2016

Feast of St. Augustine - Rector's Rambling for August 28, 2016

August 28, if it does not occur on a Sunday, is the Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo.  He will be remembered at the altar, his Feast Day being transferred, on Tuesday at St. John’s.
This St. Augustine is best known for his book The Confessions.  Reportedly the first autobiography written in the first person narrative, St. Augustine goes into detail in this book about his early life, his desire for worldly honor and prestige, his belief in a false religious system, and his conversion to authentic Christianity.
Born in the year 354 in Thagaste, now a part of Algeria in northern Africa, St. Augustine grew up as Roman citizen after the Emperor Constantine had become a Christian and eventually converted the empire to Christianity.  However, various heretical sects continued, including the Manichaeans, which he joined.
But by God’s grace, the fervent persistent prayers of his mother (which he credits), and the mentoring of St. Ambrose of Milan, where Augustine was a professor of rhetoric, he repented of false doctrine and became a Christian.
He then went on to become a priest and then the bishop of Hippo in modern day Algeria.  He wrote prolifically on the scriptures and other theological disciplines.  His master work is The City of God, written after the fall of Rome to the Visagoths in 410.
Many Roman citizens began to say that the fall was a punishment from the gods for adopting Christianity as the official religion of the empire.  Augustine lays out in The City of God a rational explanation on how the ancient Roman false religion was originally built on the virtues of strength and sacrifice, but had morphed over time into one of self-justification for sinful personal vice as the empire got lazy and bloated with a focus on self.  Augustine then goes on to explain the truth of Christianity, and how it is that the City of God is the only thing that matters rather than the City of Man here on earth.
He died in 430, but his writing lives on today.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Construction update - Rector's Rambling for August 21, 2016

As we move deeper into summer with fall just around the corner, I wanted to give an update on the construction situation in and around St. John’s.
As you can see behind the church, construction continues on the parking garage.  The foundations are mostly set, and soon the remaining asphalt will be removed and a cement base floor poured.  Once that is done, three important aspects of that project will get underway. The garage will start to go up as pre-fabricated portions are delivered via flatbed truck, and then put in place with cranes.  This “erector set”-style build will begin at the end closest to us, moving backward toward John R. Street.  Also, what was Witherell Street, will be rebuilt and eventually re-opened between Montcalm and the freeway service drive.  This street will become the access to our drop-off and weekday parking area, as well as the access to the parking garage for Sunday services.  And by the end of September, construction will begin on that turn-around/drop-off/weekday parking area directly behind the office building.  Throughout all this project activity, access to our parking lot will be maintained via Montcalm Street.
Even closer to home, construction will soon begin on a new entrance design to the area that is referred to as the “garden door”.  This is the door on the southwest corner of the building, in the garden, closer to Woodward, that goes right into the narthex (church lobby).  As of now, when you step out of the door, you step down immediately.  The new entry will have you step out onto a porch at church level, which will then give the option of stairs down to the sidewalk, or a handicapped ramp running along the side of the building.  This work will give us direct handicapped access to the church building, which will be especially helpful as we consider renovations to the office building that may temporarily remove that accessibility.  Plans will be posted in the undercroft.
These are exciting times at St. John’s, and we want to keep you abreast of pending construction as plans are finalized.


Monday, August 15, 2016

St. Mary the Virgin - Rector's Rambling for August 14, 2016

As we continue our way through August, the church has put a Feast Day smack-dab in the middle for our edification, as well as a good sweat in our not air conditioned church.
August 15 is known as the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin in the Episcopal Church and much of the Anglican Communion.  In the Eastern Orthodox Churches it is call the Feast of the Dormition (or the falling asleep of Mary) and in the Roman Catholic Church it is celebrated at the Feast of the Assumption.
Although the Roman Catholic feast day contains theological and historical assertions that are not expressly contained in scripture (the story of Mary’s death was not included in the collection of writings we now call The Bible), the Orthodox and Anglican commemorations stress the truths that 1) Mary died, and 2) She is the Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ.  The truth is done by observation (we all die, and Mary is not alive in the earthly form that she was 2000 years ago), and that she conceived the Second Person of the Holy Trinity in her womb without the natural means of procreation between man and woman as is recorded for us in Scripture (Luke Chapter 1).  Both of these truths are also a part of the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
Why is belief about Mary important?  There are many reasons.  She plays a prominent role, as recorded for us in Scripture, in the story of our Salvation.  She is Jesus’ mother, uniquely chosen and prepared by God to bare His only begotten Son.  And that preparation is summarized in her willingness to be his mother when the Angel announces God’s plan and Mary acquiesces to it – ”be it unto me according to thy word”.  Mary is present and faithful to Jesus throughout all of his public ministry, death, and resurrection.  And the Virgin Birth has theological implications in the relationship of Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity, as well as the uniqueness of being both God and Man.  A correct understanding of doctrines about Mary helps to avoid heresies about Jesus such as Nestorianism (go ahead and look that up), and other Christological deficiencies.


Monday, August 08, 2016

August at St. John's - Rector's Rambling for August 7, 2016

During the month of August, the Church celebrates many great saints and Holy Days but it is also a month of planning and preparation for the reinstitution of the programming year, generally beginning in mid-September.
Many of our regular ministries take a break during the summer because of family travel, as well as our lack of air conditioning in our undercroft.  But the upcoming coolness of September beckons us to get busy again.
Sunday School and Adult Education resume September 18, and we can always use additional teachers to step forward to help (see Fr. Kelly if you are able and willing).  The Sunday Adult Education Series will continue its study on the Book of Revelation.
“Thursday Evenings at St. John’s” resumes September 8 with our monthly Cinema and the Spirit offering.  That month will be presented the movie War Room.  The film, popcorn, and discussion are all free.  The other Thursday evenings the Bible study group will gather in the undercroft.  Contact Brian Campbell for more information.
The Daughters of the King resume on September 10, and they will be busy, not only with their regular meetings, but also in the planning of a special tea to be held in December.  The Armitage Men’s Club continues it’s Tuesday morning breakfast gatherings in Harper Woods.
On September 18 we will have our Outreach Ministry Fair.  The 13 organizations supported by the parish will be present with materials about their work and how we can volunteer.
The big question for us is not only how we can be involved in these groups, but what might be the next thing in which we are called to offer and participate.  Whether it be a one day hosting of a social event (organizing a group outing somewhere) or a new ministry that you want to help with here, we need your input and enthusiasm.
Let us pray for God’s guidance, that we may continue to be the Church He desires us to be.