Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 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 160 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

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Treasure hunt - Rector's Rambling for September 24, 2023

       What a busy weekend this has been here at St. John’s with our Trash to Treasure Sale.  Thank you to Debbie Swain, Chris Golembiewski, and all the ladies who set up, priced and worked the sale days.  It is a remarkable labor of love (although in the middle of it they may not have used those words….).  Events like this not only provide funds for the various St. Catherine’s Guild ministries, but also builds comradery among the participants.  Kudos to everyone who pitched in.  The sale continues this morning downstairs in the Undercroft.

In addition to the treasures being sold, on Friday we had Food Trucks in the lot to attract people from the local offices and new housing in the area.  There has been some thought that this is something we should consider doing on something of a regular basis, having the Church open as well, perhaps an organist playing a concert of maybe a bounce house for the kids living nearby.  It is a challenge for us to get people who are around us to interact with the parish, as God opens their hearts join us in worship and faith.

Speaking of Faith….we are a little more than a week away from the beginning of The Alpha Course!  10 Tuesday nights of dinner and discussion on topics about our Lord and His Church.  This wonderful program out of Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, in London, is a God-send for the church at large to introduce inquirers to the faith, and to re--vitalize current members as well.  If you have not taken Alpha I would love to see you take it!  Sign up today and give it a few weeks try! 

The next few Sundays have the interment of Ronald and Patricia Pike’s cremated remains in our columbarium, a 50th Wedding Anniversary renewal of vows for The Monacos, and then our Homecoming Sunday Luncheon.  Mark your calendar and be sure you plan on being here to participate in the worship, to be fed in Word and Sacrament, and to be encouraged in the fellowship of the church...and to be an encouragement to others just by being here!


Sunday, September 17, 2023

A busy couple of Sundays upcoming - Rector's Rambling for September 17, 2023

     Thank you to the leadership of the St. Catherine’s Guild, our chapter of the Episcopal Church Women, for organizing the luncheon last Sunday.  A catered meal by  Edwin Smith, a relative of our own Harriett Mottley, was a big hit, and God willing we will see more of his good work with us in the future.  A meal together is always a great way to build the bonds of fellowship.

The fact that it is Sunday makes our gatherings for worship ‘special’.  But in the coming months we have other extra-special events happening on Sunday to add to the comradery and to welcome guests among us.

Next week the Trash to Treasure sale is Friday and Saturday as well as on Sunday morning.  Be sure to be here for the sale and food trucks on Friday, to shop on Sunday, and to worship and shop on Sunday as well.

On Sunday, October 1, after the 10 AM Service, we will repose to the columbarium in the chapel to inter the cremated remains of Patricia Pike who died this summer, as well as those of her late husband who died in 2008. Her son Jeff and his friends and extended family will be joining us that day.

Then on Sunday, October 8 will have a renewal of vows for the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Mike and Sally Monaco at the 10 AM Service.

Homecoming Sunday will be celebrated on October 15th with a wonderful potluck luncheon!

Of course, we need to be sure that we make attending worship on Sunday at St. John’s our #1 priority, and we should be inviting our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to join us as well!


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Having a routine/rule of life - Rector's Rambling for September 10, 2023

     Today we get back into the regular routine of life at St. John’s from September through May.  Worship (all year of course) but with the full choir, Sunday School, meetings of various organizations and guilds, and a full schedule of events.  Just this past week I put a deposit on our parish outing to the Tigers Baseball Game on April 28th.

I hope that you will take advantage of the special events AND the regular routine ones as well.

For those in the religious life (priests,  nuns, monks, friars, etc), one is expected to follow a Rule of Life.  The Rule is a set of expectations of activity, how you live, from day to day, week to week.  This usually involves the regular praying of the Daily Office, saying or attending Mass, studying scripture and doing other spiritual study and reading, and activities to build up the person and which contributes to the health and vitality of the community to which they belong.  Following the Rule helps to form you, and rather than being cumbersome or odious, it is actually freeing. 

Following a Rule helps one to be disciplined in the growth of the spiritual life, even when one doesn’t ‘feel’ like it, in the same way one brushes their teeth and showers regularly for their health, even if you don’t ‘feel’ like it.

Being in a routine is like following a Rule, if you have as a part of that routine things that build you up in the spiritual life!  Prayer, Study, attending Mass, and helping the community around you (at St. John’s and around your home) can all help you to grow in grace and virtue.  One doesn’t have to be in a religious habit (monks or nuns robes) to have the good habit of a Rule of Life.    Set up some minimum standards like those listed above, and make it a GOOD habit.


Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Eagle Article for Autumn 2023 - Rector's Rambling for September 3, 2023

         With the coming of Labor Day Weekend we have the psychological start of Fall.  School gets back in session, summer vacations are in the rearview mirror, and life gets busier at home in in our jobs. 

And here at St. John’s the programming year goes into full effect with the return of the full choir, Sunday School, Daughters of the King meetings, St. Catherine’s Guild activities, and our full schedule of weekday and Sunday worship.  There are plenty of opportunities to get involved here at St. John’s for your spiritual benefit and for the good of the parish.  See inside this newsletter for more details.

As you see above, we will be once again offering the Alpha Course, with the first session beginning October 3rd and continuing for 10 Tuesday nights (except for 10/31).  It is important that if you have NOT taken the Alpha Course, you do so!  It is Christian Fundamentals for the newcomer AND a powerful refresher for those who are already a member of the church - so that we are all standing upon the same foundational teaching about Jesus Christ and His Church!

What is Alpha?  It is a space for honest conversations about life, faith, and meaning.  We begin at 6:30 with dinner, watch a short video teaching, and have an open and honest discussion on a variety of topics about the faith.

Last week on Sunday afternoon I was praying about the Alpha Course and doing some planning.  When we were then preparing for Sunday Evening Prayer, I looked up to see a priest walking in to join us.  I introduced myself and discovered that it was Fr. Nick Perryman, the Global Chief Executive Officer of the Alpha Course, and a staff member at Holy Trinity Brompton (London), the originating Church.  What a Spirit filled opportunity that was to discuss Alpha and what God is doing in His Churches that are reaching out those who do not know Jesus.  That is our Mission!  To know Christ and to Make Him Known (parish motto) - and The Alpha Course helps us to do both of those things in a wonderful way. Email me to sign up today!


Monday, August 21, 2023

Prayer is not just for Sunday - Rector's Rambling for August 20, 2023

Prayer – it’s not just for Sunday!  I know that sounds simplistic, but I would venture a guess that for many in the Church, Sunday is the only time of the week spent earnestly in prayer.  And even then, I fear that the 75 minutes at St. John’s is all that many are getting in, if at all.

The late bishop of the Diocese of Michigan, Richard Emrich, wrote that any renewal that could happen in the church must start in prayer and worship, and he is exactly right.  A praying church is a growing church.  In fact, during his tenure as Diocesan bishop (which then included all of the eastern half of the lower peninsula) there were 49 missions and parishes established.

As Anglicans, we have as a great gift in The Book of Common Prayer.  We use it on Sunday for our worship: Holy Communion and Morning Prayer.  And during the week, Holy Communion and Evening Prayer are prayed in community as well.  They are great opportunities to gather together in His name, to worship, to hear scripture read, and to put ourselves for 20 to 30 minutes fully into His presence.

And YOU can use the Book of Common Prayer every day of the week.  We have free, used copies in the parish library if you want a copy.  You can pray Morning and Evening Prayer at home, or, if you are not ready to commit yet to that much formality, then there is also a section called “Forms of Prayer to be used in Families” (p. 587 to 593).  This is a collection of prayers to begin and end the day in prayer.  Plus, there are lots of other prayers and thanksgivings for all sorts of occasions on pages 594 to 600, as well as pages 35 to 53.  These prayers are time-tested and very helpful.

Formal, written prayers are a great way to “prime the pump” and direct us in right doctrine as we pray.  But we should also be regular in praying from the heart, speaking comfortably and relationally to the Lord.  The formal prayer is a good start, but be sure also to check in in personal prayer as well to stay close and intimate with Jesus.


Monday, August 14, 2023

St. Mary's August Feast Day - Rector's Rambling for August 13, 2023

      On Tuesday, August 15th we are celebrating in the Episcopal Church the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin.

August 15 has long been kept as a feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Christianity, and many Anglican Parishes kept it as a Holy Day before the reform of the calendar in the 1970s formally added it.

The Roman Catholic Church keeps this day as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and the Eastern Orthodox Churches commemorate it as the Feast of the Dormition.  Both titles have to do with end of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s earthly life.  Tradition has it that when Mary died her body was taken into heaven just as the Jewish tradition says Moses’ was and the scripture attests that Elijah’s was (without his dying first).  The Episcopal Church has not been formal about declaring this as a doctrine of the Church because it occurs after the recording of Scripture.

As Episcopalians we remember that we can require nothing as necessary for belief concerning salvation that is not contained in Scripture.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things which are true and happened, but not recorded for us in Scripture.  They just cannot be required for belief.

The teaching of the Church concerning the death and assumption into heaven is one of those doctrines that cannot be required for salvation, but can be taken for truth on solid tradition of the contemporary writers of that time who attest to this reality.

I know that for me the biggest proof is the reality that the early church venerated and held dear the bodies of the early saints.  The Apostles and others we hear about in scripture have their physical remains venerated (held in high esteem) as what are called relics.  Yet the one body from which Jesus Christ took his earthly flesh has no physical remains held as relics.  Wouldn’t the early church in its zeal to do such things with the saints do so with Jesus’ own mother if her body remained here on earth?

The Anglican compromise is to make it a general feast day in thanksgiving for the life of Mary, and on that we can certainly agree!


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Transfiguration and new organ scholar - Rector's Rambling for August 6, 2023

     Last week we got a chance to have a special celebration by having our Founders’ Day.  This week it is the Church Calendar that gives us the opportunity to have a special celebration.

August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and because it falls on a Sunday this year, we get to celebrate it instead of the 9th Sunday after Trinity.  All Feasts of Our Lord have “Precedence” over most regularly appointed Sundays, such as Sundays after Trinity.  If you want to see which special days have priority then you can turn to pages l and li in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for the Tables and Rules for the Movable and Immovable Feasts.

On the top of Mount Tabor in Israel, where this happened, is a lovely 1920s church that replaced a destroyed 12th century Crusader-built church built over the ruins of a destroyed 4th century Byzantine church.  But it is around back, in the gardens, that one gets a sense of what it may have been like in Jesus’ time, to see Him as His divinity shined through his human flesh.  Jesus is alone with the core group of disciples who get a glimpse of what has been called a pre-Resurrection Resurrection appearance.  Even if Peter gets it wrong (again) they did figure out eventually that it is Jesus alone who is worthy of worship, and so we do today.


Today we welcome our new Edwards Organ Scholar, Grace Jackson.  According to her bio Grace “is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts with a concentration in organ and sacred music from the University of Michigan studying with Professor Nicole Keller. In May of 2023, Grace received a Master of Sacred Music from the University of Notre Dame with a concentration in organ having studied with Dr. Kola Owolabi. During her time at Notre Dame, she served as organist and graduate assistant for the Liturgical Choir at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. A native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Grace completed a Bachelor of Music in organ and piano performance from Oklahoma City University (OCU) under the direction of Dr. Melissa Plamann and Dr. Sergio Monteiro. During her time at OCU, she was a music assistant for Bishop W. Angie Smith Chapel, served Westminster Presbyterian Church as organ scholar, and from 2020-2021 she was Director of Music and organist at St. Joseph Old Cathedral in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Grace is excited to join the music ministry at St. John’s and looks forward to learning from and serving alongside Dr. Huw Lewis to aid in a prayerful liturgy.”