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

Monday, October 24, 2016

God doesn't need your money.... - Rector's Rambling for October 23, 2016

October is the time of year when once again the Church addresses the issue of pledging and stewardship.
I wish that I didn’t ever have to talk about money or giving, but it is actually a vital part of the teaching of the Church.  To NOT talk about money, possessions, and giving would be to leave out a portion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, it is an error to think that God wants nothing to do with your budget and what you do with your money.
Does God need your money?  Of course not, but you need to learn to give your money, and God desires that the money you have doesn’t become an idol (your end-all and be-all) or that your zeal for possessions doesn’t start to possess you.
You can be rich and love God, and poor and love Him too.  You can also be rich and disregard God or poor and do so.  Wealth or poverty both have their attributes that can draw you toward or away from serving Him, and what we need to do is learn GRATITUDE, HUMILITY, AND GENEROUSITY to keep from having money be an issue.  Gratitude says that we understand that all that we have is a gift from God, humility reminds us that we are His servants, and in relationship with others, and generosity helps us not only help others, but it helps us to not be too attached to “things”.  Generosity is intermingled with the word charity; both come from the Latin word caritas which means love.  To love is to be generous of self and possessions for the greater glory of God and for the good other people.
Enclosed in the Order of Service is a brochure about stewardship, a pamphlet on tithing, and a pledge card.  Please take some time later today to read this material and discuss it with those in your household, and then make a pledge in support of St. John’s for 2017.
God continues to bless St. John’s in many ways: wonderful people, financial support from parishioners, and with amazing opportunities to minister in our neighborhood and beyond.  Let us pledge toward the support of the parish for the parish’s good and for our own good as well.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Playing building catch-up - Rector's Rambling for October 16, 2016

For another week we have the proposed plans available for your perusal and comment after the 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM services.  This is for the project to renovate the undercroft (the area underneath the church) and the 1971 office building attached to the back of the chapel and church.
So far we have gotten some great feedback and ideas from parishioners about the proposed projects.  Although some are beyond the scope of this particular project (air conditioning the church sounds great, and we are getting some bids to see if it is plausible, but it is not a part of this project), most of the thoughts shared are helping the vestry and building committee to see clearly how we may move forward.
Meetings are being held with members of the vestry and committees to look at the particular financial aspects concerning a possible project.  Decisions are being made to be mission oriented with prudent financial stewardship in mind.
In many ways we are playing “catch up” for maintenance deferred.  When I arrived in 2001 we had $380,000 worth of stone and roof repairs to do urgently, and had 60 people in the pews.  We had several large gifts to start the project and then managed to pay off a $150,000 loan within five years.
Now we are dealing with a building (office) and undercroft that were built/last updated in 1971 and are now desperately in need of major work.  This is not just cosmetic work (which is also overdue), but structural as well as functional.
The office building leaks every time it rains, despite having had roofers out a dozen times to fix what is a flat roof engineering problem.  Plumbers are working on fixing the rainwater back up into the undercroft hallway, and waterproofing of the exterior walls is being addressed.
But in addition to these necessary fixes to preserve the fabric of the buildings, we are looking to find ways to better utilize them for mission and ministry, our primary function, which will involve renovations and updates.  The question we are pondering is just what work we should do to glorify God, and how we should pay for that work.
This is worthy of our prayers as St. John’s moves forward in faith, seeking the Lord’s guidance for these projects and beyond.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Buildings as a part of Mission and Ministry - Rector's Rambling for October 9, 2016

Last week we got a first chance to take a look at some of the plans that have been proposed for the renovation of the undercroft, and for the renovation and possible expansion of the office building.  The plans were well-received and many people made good suggestions about what they would like to see happen with the physical plant of the building.
This week, in addition to the proposed rough sketches for the undercroft and office building, we will also have posted the plan already negotiated last year for the new drop off/parking area directly behind the church, and for the proposed handicapped entrance for the southwest door to the church, in the garden nearest Woodward Ave.  I want to thank the many people of St. John’s who were involved in those other plans, helping to make it an oncoming reality.
But as I mentioned at the end of last week’s Rector’s Rambling, and as I challenged the congregation during announcements on Sunday, the decisions we are making are not just about preference in building style, or even completely a financial decision (although the Vestry will be quite prudent in keeping the financial component of the decision).  “We are making decisions on how we can best use these buildings to further the mission of Christ and His Church.  Our mission statement is to know Christ and to make Him known, and what we do with these buildings must help us to stretch forward to do that work.  If we don’t do it for the sake of Jesus and His Kingdom, then we shouldn’t do it at all.”
So we are given the task to not only look at blueprints, but also to think about how we can better minister in our neighborhood and beyond, so that the facilities are a vehicle for this good work, and not a hindrance.  Already, those forward-looking are talking about a newly ordained priest on staff, one who knows what is means to be thoroughly Anglican, to help with youth and young adult ministry, programming, and assist in the Sacramental work of the Church.  The primary thing that the Church does is worship, and having another priest on staff will assist with our already rigorous schedule, and add opportunities for additional services as well.
Other thoughts concern how we can expand the weekday ministries as more and more people are moving downtown, and living in the neighborhood.  Classes, seminars, speakers, and social events all have different requirements for space.  One goal for the renovation of both the undercroft, as well as the office building, is to provide what is known as “flexible space”.  In other words, the space can be used for larger assemblies, such as a potluck supper, or divided with glass partitions so that break-out space for smaller groups can be delineated.  There also needs to be some smaller, cozier space for gatherings requiring that.
And remember that this space will not just be used by St. John’s but will continue to be made available to groups in the community.  Already we have six Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at St. John’s, a cooking class, events for Jack’s Place for Autism, and we host a variety of Alternative Spring Break groups from local and far-flung colleges who use the space for housing while doing good in the community.  And now, with our new relationship through the Outreach Committee with 13 more groups in the area, there are already discussions about how we can use our space to aid them in these good works.
Other suggestions are that we could perhaps host a nursery school as more people move into the neighborhood, or a homeschool co-op (which we have done in the past).  Of course, there are a myriad of opportunities we haven’t thought of yet, but will present themselves to us in the near future.
So we go back to the original question – how can we renovate/expand our facilities to the furtherance of the Kingdom of God: to know Christ and to make Him known?  Using the opportunity for mission and ministry, how should we best invest in the infrastructure to support the current and future ministries that God will present to us?

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

First peek at the plans - Rector's Rambling for October 2, 2016

Welcome home!  There are few sweeter sounding words next to “I love you” and “Jesus is Lord”.  Our hearts and feet may wander, out of desire and/or necessity, but they yearn to return home eventually because, as the expression goes, “home is where the heart is”.
Today we welcome our parishioners, friends and guests, and welcome them home because the Church is just that.  It is our spiritual home, and one that is open to all who come seeking to be nourished in Word and Sacrament.  Just as we look forward to a loving welcome and a nourishing meal when we return to our abode, so too when we come to the Church we are welcomed by the Good News of Jesus Christ’s transforming power and fed with the best meal of Jesus’ own Body and Blood.
Today we have an opportunity to take a first public look at some of the initial drawings of potential building projects.  The “drop off area” design, which will be located at the back of the office building, was primarily negotiated last year as a part of the lease agreement we have with Olympia.  The new handicapped access to the church narthex (garden door nearest Woodward) is also being paid for by Olympia as a part of the original lease.
On the stage today, and for the next two weeks, are three plans to renovate the undercroft and office building, two of which add a second floor to the office building.  Having gotten input from many parishioners before the plans were formulated, we welcome and need input from everyone so that all are included in making the best decision for St. John’s.  Each one of these plans comes with a budget, so that will also be an important factor in deciding which project to undertake.
Members of the Building Committee and other vestry members will be available these three weeks to get your input, using it to discern our best course of action and to create a final plan and budget.  Everyone interested in the project will have a say in its outcome.  Most of all, we pray that these decisions fulfill our mission of “Knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known.”