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, June 26, 2018

St. John the Baptist - Rector's Rambling for June 24, 2018

As you read this on Sunday morning I will be getting ready to travel home today from my family holiday.  I am grateful to Fr. Lancaster and Fr. Kerr, fellow priests of the Society of the Holy Cross, and dear friends, for “holding down the fort” while I am away.  But I am sure also, that as you read this, I will be anxious to get back home and get back to the vocation that I love so much – being your parish priest.
Today we have one of those special Sundays that can occur during Trinitytide.  Major Prayer Book Holy Days (once called Red Letter Days because they were printed in red on the old Prayer Book Calendars) can be commemorated on Sunday instead of the “_____ Sunday after Trinity” by which we measure time between Trinity Sunday and Advent.
These special liturgical commemorations, with their appointed Collect (prayer) and Lections (readings) give us a chance to expand our understanding of Christ and His Church by looking at those holy people, the saints, who followed Jesus and proclaimed Him as Lord in their own particular ways and ministries.  And it breaks up what can be the monotony of the long green season ahead of us.
Whether or not a Feast Day can be commemorated on a Sunday, or can be transferred to a Sunday, is explained near the front of the Prayer Book on pages l and li.  This is where you find the Tables and Rules for the Moveable and Immovable Feasts.  At first it can seem confusing, but actually it, like our prayer book worship, is well ordered and defined for us right in the book.  When Easter Day occurs will determine things like the –gesima Sundays, Lent, Rogation, Ascension, Whitsunday, and Trinity Sunday since they are measured from that greatest of Feasts (how Easter is determined is an entirely different story, based on the lunar calendar and a golden number—see page lii for that).
Other Holy Days are set on a particular date, and if it occurs on Sunday and doesn’t overlap a day that takes precedence, then it can be celebrated.  Of course, one can also consult calendars printed by the church.

Ministry Complex update - Rector's Rambling for June 17, 2018

Construction continues on the ministry center to the rear of our complex.  Originally built in 1971, it is being rebuilt and reconfigured so that it can be more useful for our various ministries and for community groups, as well as a more attractive addition.
I have spent time discussing the original building with those who were members, and even Vestry members, when  it was originally constructed.  The former parish hall building, where our parking lot is now located, was derelict and in need of too many repairs to salvage it.  The parish was on a downward decline, as was the neighborhood.  The decision was made to demolish the old parish hall and build a new, smaller one.  Other plans for a freestanding building proved too costly, and what was settled upon was what they could prudently afford without spending down the endowment. 
Over the years it was reconfigured ‘on the cheap’ and a door added for handicapped access to the building.   But it continued to be oddly laid-out and quite frankly, unattractive.  I remember a conversation with the then provost of the Cathedral who mentioned that their office building was built to invite people in, but that our addition had been built to keep people out, with only two north-facing windows and solid, uninviting doors.  He was correct.
The inside of the building has now been gutted and the outside brick veneer removed.  The foundation for a 16 foot expansion to the south has been poured, as has the foundation for the new handicapped ramp and entrance foyer.  Soon holes will be punched in the walls for 14 windows, and interior construction will begin, which will include 3 distinct classrooms in the basement, a first floor entrance lobby large enough to host events and which will include a library and fireplace,   The exterior veneer will be of a stone to match and complement the church building, and there will be a peaked roof. 
Once completed (hopefully) in November we expect it will become the primary entrance to our complex, with parking in our garage to the east.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The long summer season - Rector's Rambling for June 10, 2018

The long summer season is now upon us and the neighborhood will be as busy as ever.  The picture here is a bit dated.  It was taken from Comerica Park before the parking garage was built.  On any given Tigers home game day, the neighborhood around us is bustling, as well as for shows at the Fox Theatre and concerts at the Little Caesars Arena.  Add to that the uptick in new housing available and occupied in the neighborhood, and this Piety Hill area (the old name for this neighborhood) has certainly come back to life with joggers, walkers with strollers and pets, and those coming and going on their bikes.  It is a big change from 10 years ago.
Here at St. John’s, I used to say that things slowed down for the summer.  But, in fact, the busyness just changes.  Instead of Sunday School and Guilds/Organizations meeting regularly, we have summer projects and programs.  In July we celebrate our nation’s birth, send students and staff to the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth, and end the month with a day in celebration of our founders.  Regular weekly Evening Prayer will also be scheduled mid-July onward at the Prayer Wall as a chance to be out and seen as the community is busy around us.
Summer is a time for travel and recreation.  My family will be taking a few days away this summer to refresh and regroup.  And as always, I implore you to take the opportunity to visit a church or two if you are away on holiday, and be sure to bring back a worship bulletin or other information about the church so we can see what others are doing in Jesus’ name.
But if Sunday morning finds you in the area, then I hope that you will make the effort to come down to Church to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.  Although the choir is only at quartet strength, the music is still wonderful, the Gospel powerful, the Sacrament Grace-filled, and the fellowship welcoming.
And I hope that while home, or while traveling, you will keep current on your pledge to the parish.  Although the parish income is never considered “straight line”, expecting the same amount each week, the bills expect to be paid regularly throughout the summer months.  In addition to dropping it in the collection plate on Sunday, if you are away, you can always put a stamp on your giving envelope and drop it in a mailbox, and it will get to us that way.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

"This is my Body" - Rector's Rambling for June 3, 2018

“This is my Body”. (Matthew 26:26)  These simple words of Jesus sum up the reason for today’s special celebration of Corpus Christi.  In fact, Corpus Christi means “The Body of Christ”.  Today we celebrate the great gift that Jesus gave to us – his very self under the species of bread and wine.
This feast actually falls on Thursday night for a good reason.  It mirrors the celebration of the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday, when Jesus with his apostles celebrated the Passover meal together and Jesus took the elements of that remembrance meal and gave it a new, more powerful Sacramental meaning.  Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday, and gets lost in the busyness of Holy Week.  So the church, in her wisdom, created this secondary feast to celebrate the occasion again.
I remember the first time I attended a Thursday evening celebration of Corpus Christi.  It was a Solemn High Mass at St. Clement’s Church in Philadelphia and several things stuck out that night that have stayed with me to this day.  First was that it was ridiculously hot and sweaty and I don’t think I had ever been so drenched in sweat outside of an exercise situation.  But more wonderfully, I remember the fantastic music (Shubert’s Mass in G), precise ancient liturgy, and amazing devotion to Jesus in the gift of the Blessed Sacrament.  Years later, after I was ordained, I got to participate in the liturgy  for this feast day at St. Clement’s and it may be the closest to heaven I think I have ever experienced.
Here at St. John’s we celebrate this Feast today, but we also have other opportunities to deepen one’s devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  On Thursdays, year-round, we have the service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament after the celebration of Holy Communion.  In Lent we also have Benediction on Fridays after Stations of the Cross.  And every time the Holy Communion is celebrated, we can draw nearer to Jesus in the way that He gave himself to us on that night before he died.
For more information on this devotion, both in the U.K. and in the U.S., please go to the St. John’s Web site page for the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament at www.StJohnsDetroit.org/cbs.htm.