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

Monday, January 29, 2018

Gesimas begin - Rector's Rambling for January 28, 2018

As we begin a new season, the pre-Lenten season known as the “Gesima” Sundays, I am reminded of the start of a poem by John Betjeman:

Septuagesima – seventy days
To Easter’s primrose tide of praise;
The Gesimas – Septua, Sexa, Quinc
Mean Lent is near, which makes you think.
Septuagesima – when we’re told
To “run the race”, to “keep our hold”,
Eschew injustice, not give in,
And practise stern self-discipline;
A somewhat unattractive time
Which hardly lends itself to rhyme.

We are now making a start toward Lent, hence the appearance of the purple vestments and the disappearance of the “Alleluia”.  And yet, we still have flowers on the altar and weekday Masses are kept in the “color of the day” rather than the strict purple-only of Lenten weekday Masses.  It isn’t quite the heaviness of the full penitential season, but it is a three week reminder that they time is coming, and that you should be thinking of the disciplines you will be taking on, and that which you will be “giving up for Lent”.  Don’t let Ash Wednesday, on February 14, sneak up on you unprepared!

Today, after the 10:00 AM service, we will hold our Annual Parish Meeting in the Undercroft.  I hope that you will come downstairs for a bite to eat and to stay for the meeting.  Generally, the meeting is less than an hour long and is a wonderful way to stay informed of what is going on around the parish.  We find ourselves overwhelmed with blessings here at St. John’s, and the Annual Parish Meeting is a wonderful way for us to not only give thanks to God for these blessings, but an opportunity to look forward to what God may be calling us to do in the year (and years) ahead.

Finally, as of this morning, we are moved out of the 1971 office building, and demolition and reconstruction is ready to start.  The weekday office entrance will be the new Southwest Narthex door in the garden near Woodward.  Phone numbers and e-mail addresses remain the same.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Bishop announced his retirement - Rector's Rambling for January 21, 2018

As we heard announced last Sunday, the Bishop of the Diocese of Michigan has announced his retirement, effective December of 2019.
Why such a long lag time between the announcement and his retirement?  This is generally done so that the diocese can have a smooth transition to a new bishop.  Much needs to be done before the new bishop can be consecrated, God willing, in February of 2020.
It is hard to believe that Bishop Gibbs, at his retirement, will have served nearly 20 years as diocesan.  He was consecrated in February of 2000 and became diocesan bishop upon the retirement of Bishop Wood in November 2000.  Shortly after he assumed the post, a young 34 year-old priest called his office to ask for an appointment to meet him because he was interviewing at St. John’s Church.  This came as a surprise to the bishop because despite St. John’s long vacancy, due to the former bishop’s desire to change the traditionalism of the parish, the Vestry had gone ahead and started seeking candidates to interview without the dioceses’ help (perfectly within it’s canonical rights).
Thankfully, Bishop Gibbs was willing to take a chance to meet this cheeky priest, and the two agreed that day, if God was willing to call him to Detroit, to work together to Glorify God and edify His people.
Three months later I arrived as Rector at St. John’s and I am grateful to the Bishop for his willingness to let this happen.  We have not always seen eye to eye on things within the Church, but we have sought to find ways to work together and let God sort it out.  Start praying now that his successor has a similar heart for Jesus and respect for St. John’s Church.
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A reminder that next Sunday the Annual Parish Meeting of St. John’s Church will be held after the 10:00 AM Service.  All members are encouraged to attend.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

And so it begins... - Rector's Rambling for January 14, 2018

The next phases of the renovation project are getting underway this month.
Pictured is our electronic signboard, which was sent out to be updated.  After the new QLine station was built blocking the sight-line for the sign, the private corporation that built the new trolley offered to pay for us to elevate the sign so it can be seen over station.  While we were getting estimates to do that, we also entered into an agreement to have it updated with newer electronics (the electronic sign panels were failing and replacements no longer being made) which will allow for a higher quality resolution.  The face of the sign is also being expanded to allow the changeable electronic portion to be a larger square, rather than rectangular.  The restored sign should be installed in the next few weeks.
The next project is the 1971 Office building.  Thanks to parishioner Terri Palmer Burton, Palmer Moving came last Thursday and took away furniture and boxes to be put into storage.  In the next week or two the Office Manager and the Treasurer will move into the classroom in the undercroft and phone/Internet connected in there.  My office will be in the acolyte sacristy next to the chapel entrance.
Also, last week a key lock was installed on the garden narthex door to the church, where the new handicapped ramp is located.  This will allow us keyed access to the building during construction.  Until this, the only way to get into the building with a key from the outside was through the office building.
Demolition work on the interior of the office building will begin shortly thereafter so that the entire upstairs and downstairs will be renovated into useable and attractive space for ministry.
I hope everyone will be patient as we will all be inconvenienced in one way or another with this construction.  Hopefully we can keep focused on how great the results will be… well worth the occasional trouble of using a different entrance or finding/not finding something we thought we had stored for use during this project.
If you have questions or concerns, please speak with Dave Schafer (project coordinator), or with me, so as to avoid rumor and gossip, causing unhappiness.


Monday, January 08, 2018

Spiritual Resolutions for 2018 - Rector's Rambling for January 7, 2018

After finishing the 12 days of Christmas we began yesterday a new Church season with the celebration of The Epiphany.  Epiphanytide is a season whose length varies from year to year based on when Easter is celebrated (calculated from a lunar formula which results in April 1 for 2018).  This year we get three Sundays in Epiphanytide before we begin the pre-Lenten “-gesima” Sundays.
The emphasis of this short season is the “epiphany” (a moment of sudden revelation or insight.) that God has come to dwell among us, and that Jesus Christ is in fact the second person of the Holy Trinity.  In the case of the story in scripture, it is three wise men, sometimes referred to as three kings or magi, who are not Jews, but realize astronomically that a great potentate has been born, and so they come to pay homage, to worship the newborn king, as depicted above in the Rubens painting.
In the secular world, this is the first Sunday of 2018.  I pray we all have a good year and that we are open to the many blessings that God is showering upon us by His Grace.
By now, about a week into the new year, many well-intentioned resolutions have already fallen by the wayside.  Fear not, because the good news about our having free will is that we can repent and restart at any time (not that breaking a resolution is necessarily a sin).  Although we are confined to time and space, and the “calendar” is a reality, we can at any time make a decision to grow closer to Jesus and allow him to impact our life in a new and/or deeper way.
Need some ideas for some spiritual resolutions?  Here is a helpful list:
1) Attend Holy Communion EVERY Sunday, and on weekdays when possible.  Nothing better then the grace of receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and being obedient in keeping holy the Sabbath by coming to church.
2) Pray EVERY day.  Whether it is the full prayer book daily office, or 10 minutes set aside to talk to God (preferably both), checking in with the Lord we love is vital!
3) Read the Bible EVERY day.
4) Ask Jesus EVERY day how He would have you live.


Monday, January 01, 2018

125th anniversary of the death of our founder - Rector's Rambling for December 31, 2017

Today we continue our celebration of the Nativity, better known as Christmas.  The 12 Days of Christmas started on December 25 (or for many of us on Christmas Eve) and continues until January 5, when we get ready to celebrate another great Feast, the Epiphany, on January 6.  On that day we commemorate the Magi, the Three Wise Men, arriving to worship the newborn King.
And today, here at St. John’s, we are also having an additional celebration – it is the 125th Anniversary of the death of our founder, Henry Porter Baldwin.  After the 10:00AM service and coffee hour, we will head over to Elmwood Cemetery (maps will be available) to lay a wreath at his monument.
Pictured is Governor Baldwin, his monument, and the house which was at one time located across Woodward Avenue where the freeway now stands.  It was in that house that he met, on December 6 and 13, to discuss the possibility of starting a parish, and on December 27, that the incorporation papers were signed and Vestry elected.  That day, in 1858, Henry Porter Baldwin was elected Senior Warden, a position that he held until his death on December 31, 1892.
A merchant turned banker, Governor Baldwin was a founder of the Republican Party, campaigned for Abraham Lincoln, was elected Governor of Michigan, and then appointed by the state legislature to be the US Senator from Michigan (Senators were not directly elected back then).
He was a great civic leader for Detroit, as well as a luminary in the Episcopal Church.  He was a member of the Diocese Standing Committee for 48 years, and for nearly 50 years represented the Diocese of Michigan as a delegate to The General Convention.
The Vestry published a book of remembrances shortly after his death, which was unknown to me until recently when a copy from the University of Michigan Library appeared on Google Books.  In it are tributes from the business, government, and church community, reprints of his newspaper obituaries, and his funeral sermon.
The Rev. William Prall, the Rector of St. John’s in 1892, wrote this of Henry Porter Baldwin’s commitment to the work of the Church as One, Holy, and Catholic – a true High Churchman:

It must not be doubted, as a layman, he believed in the apostolicity of the Episcopal Church; he believed that the Bishops are the true successors of the Apostles.  He felt that  we have a treasure, the treasure of true catholicity, which we, the rightful trustees, hold for the use of the American people.  He did his best, and that best was always excellent, to augment the Episcopate, to make the apostolicity of our Communion known to all; to broaden men’s ideas of the scope of Catholic truth; to deepen their love for the love of God.
In addition to his diocesan involvement and work with the General Convention, he also served on many church related boards which required him to travel to New York several times a year, not an easy task in the 19th century.  In his funeral panegyric, Fr. Prall notes that the founding of St. John’s was motivated by Baldwin’s desire to serve all mankind.  While Senior Warden of another parish in the city someone said, “The Episcopal Church is a church only for the wealthy and ambitious; there is no room for the poor and the humble in it,”  He replied, “It is not so; if it were, I would leave it at once.”  We all know this is not so, and one of the proofs that it is not, is the action that Henry Porter Baldwin then took.  He went home and thought the matter over.  It occurred to him that there was room for another parish north of the Campus Martius, and that there were many people there, some of them plain and simple, who were unchurched; so he resolved that a new parish should be formed.  And so he set in motion the founding of St. John’s.
In a copy of his Will we have in our possession, we find that he not only left money to his family and St. John’s ($5,000, the equivalent of $130,000 now), but to the Diocese, the National Church, the former St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Home, and Orphanage in Detroit (now Canterbury on the Lake in Waterford), The Protestant Asylum, the Women’s Hospital, the Children’s Free Hospital, Elmwood Cemetery (where he is buried), the University of Michigan (where he served as a trustee and gave a building on campus while living) and most of his art to the Detroit Museum of Art.
Today we honor his memory.  Unlike the men who followed him and are remembered with public statuary, such as Hazen Pingree who sits in Grand Circus Park looking towards St. John’s – he bought H.P. Baldwin’s shoe store from him – there are two grand edifices on which his memory rests.  One is the State Capital building, which he proposed and convinced the legislature to build and for which he laid the cornerstone, and the other is this parish church.  We give thanks to God for Henry Porter Baldwin’s vision, faithfulness, and generosity.