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, July 24, 2017

My turning point in understanding the faith - Rector's Rambling for July 23, 2017

It was a hot, muggy weekday Mass at St. Mary’s Hamilton Village (West Philadelphia) on July 24, 1989.  As it often was, there were only three of us at the service, including the priest.
At sermon time he read the hagiography (saint’s biography) for the saint of day, St. Thomas a Kempis.  “The Imitation of Christ, which he composed or compiled, has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Holy Scriptures”.  The priest then quipped, “I think I read that in seminary, but I don’t think it applies to the church anymore.”
During the rest of Mass the words of that priest churned through my brain.  How could this book, the most translated work besides the Bible, not be relevant any longer?
After the service I went to the used bookstore four blocks away and purchased a copy of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.  It is not a particularly long book, but rather is written in a format that is intended for reading in small sections and meditating on them.
Having recently come back to the practice of the faith six months previously, I devoured the book like a man finding water after days in the desert.  I read it completely in one sitting.  Thomas’ explanation of the Scriptures, the new life in Christ, and how we apply them to our daily living were a welcome aid to my spiritual life.  It was also a realization that not only does this devotional book still apply to the church, but it was absolutely necessary and needed!
That day was a turning point for me to see the Scriptures as real and relevant, interpreting and shaping the culture, and not the other way around.  Thank you St. Thomas a Kempis for writing such a wonderful work, and thank you Fr. John Scott for inadvertently getting me pointed in the right direction!