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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent IV/Christmas Eve - Rector's Rambling for December 24, 2017

After what was a shortened Advent because it started in December, and the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on Christmas Eve, we have felt rushed as we have gone along.  But I hope and pray that despite its brevity, this Advent has been a great opportunity to be refreshed and renewed in preparation of Jesus’ return in glorious majesty, as well as His birth in Bethlehem.
In some ways having Advent IV and Christmas Eve on the same day shows us the sharp contrast that God could become a child, and that the one who is Lord of Heaven and Earth would deign to be born to a poor family and in a manger, literally a feedbox, in a small village.  Although we believe when the Scriptures describe Jesus’ return with power and majesty, and we recite every time we say the Nicene Creed that His return will be to judge the quick and the dead, today we are also faced with the even more awesome reality that He loves us so much that He would come into the world as a little child to begin the work of our salvation.
How awesome it is when we think that the Lord of heaven and earth would become vulnerable enough to have to be cared for and raised by Mary and Joseph as he grew into physical adulthood, and did so in order to walk among us, minister to us, and ultimately die and rise again for us that we may have everlasting life.
Today we welcome our many friends who have made St. John’s their “high holy day” destination.  We are grateful that you consider us that special, go-to place for this wonderful service tonight.  And if you haven't been here since last Easter or Christmas, the changes to the neighborhood, the new church entryway from the garden, and being able to park in our new parking structure shared with the stadiums may have come as a surprise to you.  And in the coming months even more updates are in store!  Beginning in January the rear office building is being completely renovated into a fantastic ministry annex, and then the undercroft (basement) and kitchen will be updated to better equip us for ministry to the parish and to our growing neighborhood community.
This is a wonderful time to be at St. John’s in the midst of the renewal of Detroit.  I hope that you will feel at home tonight, come back again frequently, and even consider making this your regular parish home!  We would love to have you join our happy throng!

The neighborhood coming back to life! - Rector's Rambling for December 17, 2017

Yesterday was a VERY busy day at and around St. John’s!  It is a joy to be a part of our new reality in the surrounding neighborhood.
Back in the spring, a couple called inquiring about being married at St. John’s.  They are Episcopalians living in Boston, the woman being from the Metro Detroit area.  As we do with out of state inquiries, particularly those already Episcopalians, is to make sure they are connected to a good parish where they can do the pre-marriage preparation.
However, from the moment they inquired I warned them that because of the upcoming opening of the new arena, and because we were waiting on the Lions and Fox Theatre schedules, I couldn’t promise them parking availability.  We just didn’t know what might be happening in the neighborhood on December 16.  But they were able to make prior arrangements through their reception venue (the Colony Club, a block away on Montcalm and Park), and they prepaid for parking for their guests in the Fox Garage.
Since those initial inquiries, all the schedules converged into one very busy Saturday.  At Little Caesars Arena, the University of Michigan played the University of Detroit Mercy at noon, followed by Michigan State University playing Oakland University – a basketball doubleheader.  On this side of the freeway the Detroit Lions had a 4:30 PM game at Ford Field, bringing their tailgaters.  The City Theatre (in the Hockeytown Café) had a 3:00 PM show, and The Fox Theatre had Mannheim Steamroller later that evening.
In the middle of all of those events, Chris and Emily were united in Holy Matrimony here at St. John’s and have begun their new life together as husband and wife.
Thankfully, we don’t have too much overlap for our Sunday morning worship, with the exception of an occasional Fox Theatre Show, or early-arriving Lions fans five or six Sundays a year.  But as we schedule Holy Day services, speakers, quiet days, hymn sings, and other events, we are learning the new rhythm of the neighborhood to work within.
Thanks be to God for the beginning of the renewal of our neighborhood!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Learn, to be able to spread, the Good News - Rector's Rambling for December 10, 2017

In 1994 I had the grace to hear Bishop Michael Marshall speak at my seminary about Evangelism.  For many Episcopalians Evangelism sounds like a dirty word.  But Bishop Marshall, at one time the youngest bishop in the Church of England, drove home the imperative that Evangelism is a foundational principle for those in the church who identify as Anglo-catholic as well as Evangelical.  In fact, the church when she is functioning best is Evangelical Catholic.  She is catholic in keeping all the universal teaching of the church, particularly concerning Jesus in the Sacraments and how the church worships and glorifies Him in the liturgy.  But we do it to make Him known, the meaning of Evangelism.
We are to spread the Good News, and in order to do that we must know the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord, and be able to share the hope that is in us through His Holy Word.
One of the sessions Bishop Marshall led that week was on reading and learning the Bible, germane to today’s Collect of the Day.  In order to really know Jesus, we need to know Him as He has revealed himself in his Holy Word, as well as in the Sacrament, and in the hearts of His faithful people.
Bishop Marshall had a couple of interesting hints that I remember to this day:
1) Find a translation and an edition of the Bible that speaks to you, and buy several copies of it so when that edition goes out of print you will have a back-up.  My study Bible is The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, expanded edition, Revised Standard Version, copyright 1977 – I have three copies.  His point is that you will start remembering where things are in the Bible by left or right page, and column, if you consistently use one edition.  (For memorizing and worship, I use the King James Version).
2) Sing the Bible out loud.  Pick a simple tune and sing it.  Sung things are easier to memorize!  At one time you are reading it, singing it, and hearing it, thereby triple reinforcing the memorization of the Bible.

Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Hurry up and wait - Rector's Rambling for December 3, 2

And so we begin a new year with the celebration of Advent.  When the rest of the world shouts, “hurry up!”, “buy this!”, or “here is a deal”, the church says to slow down, to reflect, and to prepare internally and spiritually for those things with eternal consequences.
Advent is a season of the Already and the Not Yet.  We are preparing for that which has already happened – the birth of Jesus Christ, and for that which has not yet happened – His return in glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead.  It isn’t “pre-Christmas”, but an intentional time of preparation by looking at the state of one’s soul.
This year, however, we will feel a bit rushed about Advent because the 4th Sunday in Advent is also Christmas Eve.  We miss out on the days that we would usually have between the 4th Sunday and Christmas to reflect and prepare.
The first three weeks of Advent will be full of our regular busy activity of Soup Luncheons, Bazaar, Gift-Giving Tree, Warm Fuzzy Mitten Tree, and the Cookie Walk.  Be sure to patronize all these events.
This year, because of the Advent IV and Christmas Eve overlap, we will have to stagger our church decorating.  Instead of doing it all on the weekend of Advent IV, please plan on staying after church for 45 minutes on December 10 and or December 17 as we start to put up the pew candles, draping greens on the balcony, etc.
And, of course, now is the time to begin inviting friends, neighbors, and family to attend worship for Advent and to attend our Christmas Eve Services.  This is the time of year when people who may not be regular about church attendance are looking for a place to worship.  God may be using you to bring them to Himself through the ministry of this parish.  Don’t miss the opportunity to “talk up St. John’s” whenever you get the opportunity to do so, and offer to bring them down here for an Advent Sunday and Christmas Eve.
Prepare!  Reflect!  Christmas is coming, and Jesus is coming back.  Let us be ready by His grace.