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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Starting over again - Rector's Rambling for November 27, 2016

Happy Church New Year!  We begin again the church calendar, being reminded of the cycle of our Lord’s promised coming, His birth, His making manifest of God’s revelation to Jew and Gentile (Epiphany), teaching about sin and repentance, His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the descent of the Holy Ghost, and then back to the long ordinary time of teaching about the nature of God.
Advent is a season that has us looking both forward (Jesus’ return) as well as backward (His birth in Bethlehem), and although not as strict or methodical as Lent, it is a penitential season none the less.
Borrowing from our Lenten discipline, can I suggest to you a few things to keep a Holy Advent?  I know that it is not usually on the forefront of our mind, but I promise that if you make an effort to make Advent more advent and penitential, Christmas will be sweeter.
My suggestion is to take on a special devotion for Advent.  A good discipline could include praying Morning and/or Evening Prayer every day for the season.  Instructions are found on page 4 of this Chronicle.  Or you could find an Advent Devotional Web site or booklet, and spend a few minute each day reading and mediating on the item presented to you for the day.  Take an opportunity to pray for someone in your life every single day – for God’s blessing on them this holiday season.  These are just a sampling of what you can do.
I do want to take a moment to thank everyone who participated in the Town Hall meeting last week.  It is exciting – all that is going to be happening around here, both at St. John’s and around us in the neighborhood.
And I also want to thank the many people who came to the Thanksgiving Day parade and helped with greeting guests, serving breakfast, and selling donuts and hot chocolate out the front door of the Church.  Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity for us to both celebrate with the community and welcome its members into our building!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Town Hall meeting today - Rector's Rambling for November 20, 2016

Today, after the 10:00 AM Service, we will have a town hall meeting.  What does this mean?
In September of 2014, we had our first town hall meeting to discuss Olympia’s approach to us about developing their, and our, property in the coming year.  We presented to the congregation what we had begun to speak about with Olympia, what their hopes were, and some of what our initial hopes are as well.  We then answered questions and took suggestions.
Since that meeting we completed a contract to lease our land to Olympia (with the Vestry and Parish Meeting’s permission).  In turn they agreed to our using the new parking lot now under construction behind the church, to developing a private park by expanding our garden to more than twice its size, building a drop-off and weekday parking area behind the church, along with handicapped accessibility to the narthex from the garden door, and a sum of money to help up to renovate the building, particularly the office building since it becomes our primary entrance with people parking in the new garage.
Today we gather together downstairs once more to make sure everyone is up to date on the information on these and other projects that will affect St. John’s in the coming months.  There is plenty of gossip and half-truths floating around, and we want to make sure everyone has good information.
Also, we will discuss the roughly estimated cost of renovations that will occur from the work.  Some is covered from that original lease payment, some from the surplus of the last two years.  There are financing options available, secured by the income guaranteed from Olympia’s lease.  We would like to begin to get a sense of what parishioners will be able to contribute to the project over the next five years, and to answer questions on the project.  We hope that we will walk away from that meeting satisfied and with a final plan in mind, so that we can move forward with the renovation in the near future.
Thank you all for your prayers and input as we move forward in the coming weeks and months.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Back in the habit - Rector's Rambling for November 13, 2016

Things continue to be busy at St. John’s.  In the past two months we have had four weddings, and now our fourth burial with the death of Edna Delaney.  In the mix we have also had Homecoming, our October Harvest Food Drive for Cross Roads, the Malawi Ingathering, two Cinema and the Spirit movie nights, Thursday night Bible studies, Sunday Adult Education and Sunday School, and meetings of the St. Catherine’s Guild and the Daughters of the King, just to name a few!  And, of course, we have had our share of services, both on weekdays with special Holy Days like All Souls, and of course our wonderfully sublime Sunday worship.
But there is no time to rest on our laurels.  Next week we have our town hall to discuss some proposed updates to the facilities, and the following week we have our Thanksgiving festivities.  Advent follows on the Sunday after Thanksgiving which means we start soup luncheons, the Giving Tree, a Women’s Advent Tea, and hosting of a wonderful concert to be given by the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings.
Most important, in all the busyness of the coming weeks, is our attendance at Sunday worship!  I know that it has been hard to get downtown with all the construction this past year.  Some have admitted to me that they just got out of the habit of coming regularly.
Now is the time to get back into the habit.  The spiritual life is one that takes some discipline.  Grace is free, as is Salvation.  But if we want to grow into the people God wants us to be (and we should want to please Him), we have to have the discipline of regular church attendance, regular prayer and study of scripture, and engagement in the life of the Church.

Monday, November 07, 2016

All Saints and Town Hall - Rector's Rambling for November 6, 2016

Today we deviate once again from the “Sundays after Trinity” in order to celebrate a grand holy day, the Feast of All Saints.  On this day we celebrate with great liturgical and musical solemnity all those holy women and men who have gone before us and are now in the presence of God.
The Anglican Church, particularly our American Episcopal Church, recognizes those early saints of the church, as well as those recognized by the East and West in more recent times.   We also have a “process” to add someone to our calendar to be remembered, usually on the anniversary of their death (their heavenly birthday).  This roll of people is commemorated in the Book Lesser Feasts and Fasts.  The deceased  are proposed to a committee established by the General Convention for investigation, possibly added to the calendar for trial use, and then approved by the Convention itself.  Some additions in recent years have, unfortunately, been added for political motivation, rather than the person’s holiness of life.  God is sorting that out.
It may be of interest to note that in our register of services we have the signatures of several American Episcopal “saints”.  Bishop Jackson Kemper of Wisconsin consecrated our first Rector here at St. John’s to be his successor.  Fr. James Lloyd Breck, founder of three seminaries (only Nashotah House remains) and countless parishes, preached and celebrated here, and Fr. James DeKoven, twice elected and then overturned to be a bishop (for being too traditional), preached our first rector’s funeral here as well.  And I would also guess, known to God alone, that many saints have sat in our pews this past 150 years and some are sitting here now.

Looking forward – please note that on November 20, after the 10:00 AM Service, we will have a TOWN HALL MEETING in the undercroft to discuss the proposed plans for renovating that space and office building.  We will be discussing the plans and we ask you to begin praying now what you might be willing to contribute over the next five years to a special fund to help complete this work.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Where does it come from, where does it go? - Rector's Rambling for October 30, 2016

As we continue our yearly Stewardship Drive, I frequently get asked some questions: how are we doing, and where does the money come from/go?
First of all, as of the end of September, with 75% of the year completed, we find ourselves in a good position.  Compared to the 75% mark, our pledge income is at nearly 76%.  Generally we are behind at this point, still playing catch up from the summer slow down.  But we have managed to keep up throughout the year, and for that I am thankful.  Combining the pledge income with other income (lease payments, building use, occasional gifts, etc.) we find ourselves at 89.7% of our expected budgeted income.  Thank you all for your faithfulness and generosity.  On the spending (expenses side) we have continued to be cautious and prudent, and are only at 65% of the expected expense compared to the 75% mark.  In the summer expenses also decrease, but we will most likely catch up as we do things like turn on the furnace for the fall and winter.
In round numbers for 2016 we have budgeted for salaries, taxes, insurance, etc. for 24 employees or subcontractors approximately 63% of the budget.  Support and supplies such as copier lease, postage, regular maintenance of the facility, and utilities comes to about 23% of the budget.  Our outreach budget to Malawi, the diocese, and our new Outreach Ministry partnerships, totals just about 14% of the total budget for 2016.
Our three primary sources of income are pledges and donations (by parishioners, friends and visitors), income from special events and donations for building use by various groups, and a portion of the lease payment for the use of our property to be developed in the near future.  After over 80 years of having to do so, we have not used income or principle from our endowments in over 6 years.
As I mentioned last week, God doesn’t need your money.  The parish needs it to fund its work of ministry.  But more importantly, you need to give it to reinforce lessons in gratitude and trust.