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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Passion Sunday - Rector's Rambling for April 2, 2017

As you may have noticed, the crosses on the altars and around the church are now veiled.  Although most Episcopal churches follow the modern Roman Catholic form for veiling the crosses on all the Sundays of Lent, we keep to the old tradition of doing so from Passion Sunday onwards.  Dr. Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopal priest, writes on his blog Canterbury Tales, “In the old days, Passion Sunday (5th Sunday) ‘ramped up’ the Lenten season.  Passion Sunday (also called Judica Sunday from the opening Introit) is the traditional day for veiling the crucifixes and statues in the churches.  The practice allegedly derives from Bavaria (though I’d love for someone more knowledgeable to shed light on the origin of this custom).  The crosses and images remain veiled and add to the dramatic effect of the Paschal Vigil when they are unveiled for the glory and wonder of our Lord’s resurrection.  The famous medieval triptychs that opened and closed were constructed for the purpose of closing them for this season.”
In today’s Chronicle you will find several copies of an invitation to our Holy Week services, which begin next Sunday with Palm Sunday.  Write the dates on your calendar and plan on attending as many of them as you can!  Your attendance will be good for you, and an encouragement to the others who attend as well, especially guests.

      And once you have written down the dates, share the invite with a friend or neighbor.  Offer them a ride to church with you, and pray they find a home here

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Construction happenings - Rector's Rambling for March 19, 2017

I have been surprised recently at what people have told me they have heard from others about the upcoming building projects.  Half-truths, personal preferences, and doubts, are being passed around as gospel truth about the work to be done.  I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight again about what the vestry and parish have agreed to, what is still being worked on, and a best estimate of a time-table.
The next project that will be started, probably mid-May, will be the new driveway and drop off area behind the church office building.  The basic design for this was included in the original contract negotiations with Olympia over two and a half years ago, and the details have been worked out.  This will include a gated entrance from the new Wetherell street between the church and the new parking garage, a drop-off area, several parking spaces, and handicapped entrance into the office building.  Electrical conduit is being run to each parking space for the future charging of electric cars.  A gated exit will be directly across from the entrance to the parking garage so that when the garage becomes our primary parking, it will be easy to cross the street and enter into it.  We will be able to park in the garage starting in mid-April, but our current lot will continue to be available for our parking until Olympia starts building their new structure on it.  They have not given us a date when that may happen.
Concurrent with the drop-off area in the back, Olympia will also be rebuilding our church narthex side entrance, in the southwest corner of the church.  Our most used entrance will become handicapped accessible by the building of a porch, new steps, and a handicapped accessible ramp.  The ramp will be faced to match the stonework on the church.  Both the drop-off area and this newly rebuilt ramp will be paid for by Olympia as a part of our original lease negotiations with them.
The building committee, made up of members of the vestry and other members of the parish with both building expertise and/or long-time use of the space, have been meeting with the architects to develop the plans for reconstruction of the kitchen, undercroft, and parish office building.  It was the consensus of both the Parish Town Hall Meeting, as well as the many meetings of the vestry, to be both forward looking in how the building can be used in the future, but prudent in the expenditure of money in order to  avoid becoming indebted for the project.

     When Google decided to move to a new building in Ann Arbor, two-year-old commercial grade kitchen equipment from their old building was donated to us.  We have hired the architecture firm that built the old and new Google kitchens to help us with the design process that will both expand and make more efficient our kitchen space.  The kitchen committee has agreed to a plan, and the vestry will consider it at the next meeting.
Although we had three general plans to consider in deciding at the Town Hall meeting the scale of work to be done with the undercroft and office building, the committee saw the first set of detailed plans for both spaces this past week.  The committee is making suggestions to the architects for changes.  Once a plan is decided upon, the vestry will also consider it for approval.
The time table is the tricky part.  Once we come to a consensus we have to put it out for bid to several contractors, and also get permits from the City of Detroit.  The Diocese will also be informed and will have to give approval for financing that the parish might need during the building process.
A most likely start date for undercroft/kitchen/office construction will not be until the end of July at the earliest.  The trailer now in the back of the lot, being used by the company constructing the garage, will become the temporary parish office space during the rebuilding.  When we decide on a timetable for when which part of the building will be reconstructed we will let everyone know.
Initial estimates for our portion of the work, not including the kitchen, is $1.5 million dollars.  With the addition of the kitchen this will certainly rise.  As of the end of July we will have approximately $850,000 in the bank from several years past payments on the lease and other deposits saved for this project.  Another $500,000 of the pledged $1.2 million dollars from parishioners should be on deposit by then as well.  Depending on final price and the pace of both construction and fulfillment of pledges for the project, we may be able to do all of this without any financing from the bank, or as little as possible.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Hurrah for Lent - Rector's Rambling for March 5, 2017

Welcome to my favorite time of the year – Lent!  I know it sounds funny, but I really enjoy this ecclesiastical season of prayer, devotion, discipline, and penance.  It is good for my soul, and I know that I need it!
I remember in college hearing a quote from Sigmund Freud that one only really enjoys something if they suffered to get it.  Others point out that the best things are those things that one has to work hard to earn.  At first glance both of these statements “work” for Lent.  We both work hard, and make sacrifices (a little suffering) in order to enjoy the coming celebration of Easter.
But we do Lent not just to enjoy Easter.  We do Lent because we need it.  We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and we should be in a state of repentance and contrition at all times.  But the church has found it most efficacious to spend a long period of time (in this case 40 days) concentrating on sin and repentance.  Just as Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness, so too the Church calls us to fast and pray for 40 days with special intention for the cleansing of our souls.
Please be sure to check out our brochure, “How to keep an Holy Lent”.  This was written by Anne Marie Shuster, the late parish secretary at The Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, PA, while I was the curate there.  She thought it would be handy to have a brochure explaining the various ways that one can “keep Lent”.
Most people know about “giving something up for Lent” (I miss coffee already).  Remember, if what you decided to give up is sinful (smoking, too much drink, fornication) then it isn’t a Lenten devotion – it should be given up for good.  Rather, in Lent we give up something nice, but not sinful, in order to practice self-denial and patience.  Both these virtues are helpful in our year-round fight against vice.
But we also should try to take on some extra disciplines and devotions (Weekday Mass, Daily Office, Stations of the Cross, Bible reading, prayer time, charity work) to help to train us up in the practice of the faith.
I promise you that a hard Lent will make for a sweeter Easter.  But a well thought out, disciplined Lent will help us not only to enjoy the celebration of the Resurrection, but also help us to be better daily Christians throughout the rest of the year by laying a good foundation for these practices outside of Lent as well.