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, 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?