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

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

St. Michael's Conference, and Robert Hart's Burial - Rector's Rambling for July 7, 2024

It is that time of the year when the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth, Midwest, meets at the Manresa Retreat Center in Bloomfield Hills.  This will be my 25th year on staff of the Midwest Conference, and 27th year overall after to years on staff at the east coast conference.  The conference begins this afternoon, and concludes at lunchtime on Saturday.

What is the St. Michael’s Conference?  It is a week of worship, learning, and fellowship for young churchman and churchwomen, between the ages of 12 and 20.  We are at full capacity this year, with 70 Michaelites, faculty, and staff. 

The weekday schedule is rigorous.  Morning Prayer is optional but all are in attendance for 8:00 AM Solemn High Mass with all the trappings.  Breakfast follows and then three classes on a variety of topics.  I am once again teaching the Survey Course, required for all first year Michaelites, and is an introduction to Jesus and Christianity.  I am also teaching a class for older Michaelites on World Religions.  Other classes offered by the faculty include The Bible, Church History, Meditation, Sever Virtues, The Saints, and more.

After lunch there is free time with the opportunity to play organized games, or unorganized time together.  We reconvene at 5 PM for Solemn Evensong and a faculty talk.  This year the talks are on the 10 Commandments.  After dinner there are discussion groups and an evening activity, which ranges from games, a square dance, and a talent show.  After Compline (night prayers) it is off to bed to recharge for the next day.

The Conference concludes on Saturday with the Michaelites offering a performance of The Pageant of Salvation for family and guests.  Then after a closing ceremony there are lots of hugs and tears as we conclude the week and begin looking foward to next year’s conference.  The overwhelming majority of  kids return every year they are eligible!

Perhaps most remarkable is that the conferes give up having cellphones and internet access for the week!  And most admit by Tuesday or Wednesday that is kind of nice to not have it, to have to check it all the time!


 On Wednesday, July 10th at 2 PM we will have the Burial Office for the repose of the soul of Mr. Robert Hart, who passed away on May 22nd.  Robert was our oldest parishioner who passed away at the age of 97.  He was regular about Sunday church attendance until about year before his passing.  Rest eternal grant unto him O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.



Sunday, June 30, 2024

A holiday week ahead - Rector's Rambling for June 30, 2024

     This week our country celebrates our Independence as a nation.  Although the date we celebrate has to do with our declaration that we are a people free from the English Crown, it would still be many years until that was won by military victory with the surrender at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.  After a failed attempt at a loose confederacy of states, our Constitution was written in 1787 and not completely ratified until 1791.  The new government was installed in 1789 with 11 of the 14 states had approved its use, with North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont adding their consent afterwards.

I am a history buff, particularly colonial history.  Having lived in Philadelphia for nine years, I was immersed in things colonial, not just for historical facts, but also for the observation of the human condition and human desires.  Although we know the squeaky clean version of our striving for independence, in fact it was quite messy.  Good men and women disagreed honestly and faithfully on whether or not the colonies should separate, and then after the war for independence had deeply held convictions that led to disagreements about how to form a new government “by and for” the people of this new country.

In recent years the wildly popular Broadway play HAMILTON has brought a new interest in this time period, through a rap music medium.  Although there are a few historical anomalies in the script, it lays out an intriguing look at the life of founder, and first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.  Our financial system still rests upon much of his work nearly 230 years ago.

In the play we are introduced to the first bishop of the Episcopal Church, Samuel Seabury (not identified as a priest in the musical) who disagrees with the push for independence, and we see deeply held disagreements between Hamilton and Jefferson about how this new federal government and financial system should work.  Backstabbing and skullduggery were not unusual then between disagreeing political groups.  Even George Washington’s campaign for re-election found the beloved founding father being slandered.  John Adams served only one term because opposition attacked him and the tight federal system promoted by some founders.  Other founders with contrary opinion came to leadership and found themselves attacked too.

And despite the back and forth of leadership style, opinion, and counter-opinion, and all the maliciousness that human beings have mustered throughout every generation, this Union and government continues, I believe, by God’s anointing.  And if you don’t agree with something, vote and work for change as we have since 1776.


Sunday, June 23, 2024

DOK and GC81 - Rector's Rambling for June 23, 2024

     It’s another great Sunday at St. John’s, with the admission of a new member to the Daughters of the King, Elizabeth Savage.  We are blessed to have a healthy, robust chapter of the Daughters, the largest in the Diocese of Michigan.  The Mission of The Order is the extension of Christ’s Kingdom through Prayer, Service and Evangelism. 

Today Elizabeth will make promises to obey the two Rules of The Order: the Rule of Prayer and the Rule of Service,  to offer at all times loyal aid to our clergy and parish to spread Christ’s kingdom, to wear faithfully the cross of The Order, and to work for the purposes of The Order as God may give us the opportunity.         (www.doknational.org)                  

There is a period of training classes that members of The Order complete before  making these promises, and the chapter meets regularly for support, bible study, and prayer.  Some members are also involved at the diocesan, regional, and national organization levels as well..

As I have often stated, The Daughters are a vital part of the engine room of the parish, praying for us all, and for those who have asked prayers for specific needs.   I am so grateful for them and their ministry.

Congratulations to Elizabeth and thanks be to God for The Daughters.

Yes, there is a complementary men’s organization called The Brotherhood of St. Andrew.  Anyone interested in restarting The Brotherhood here at St .John’s, one of the organization’s original chapters?  See Fr. Kelly for information.

Today marks the official start of the 81st General Convention of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.  Every three years representatives, lay and ordained, elected by their diocesan conventions, and all the bishops, gather in a bi-cameral legislature to consider budget, staffing, mission and various resolutions setting policy for the next three years and beyond. 

Back in my Rector’s Rambling in 2015 I quoted the now retired Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, Dan Martins, from his blog about the General Convention that year.  He notes,  We could adopt astonishing cutbacks of program, staff, and infrastructure, and come out healthier, more vital, and with more human and financial resources to devote to mission and ministry”.  Although one positive change is that Convention has been cut back from 10+ days to 7, there is still much to be done to scale back bloated bureaucracy and to adapt a streamlined, gospel-centered, ministry-supportive focus.

And brace yourself for surprising or shocking news stories or social media posts about proposals and actions at Convention.  St. John’s is not like much of the Episcopal Church if you didn’t already know!  When you encounter something questionable - take a deep breath and wait until the dust settles, and in the next month or so we can sort out actions.  Remember that biblical truth does not change by majority vote of a convention and St. John’s remains steadfast in the faith once delivered to us.


Monday, June 17, 2024

Progress report - Rector's Rambling for June 16, 2024

     Last week in this column I wrote about the beginning of summer and the different ‘busy’ of events going on at and around St. John’s.  Although the regular programming of the various guilds and organizations goes on hiatus, we are busy with activities such as this week’s concert on Thursday, next week’s Daughters of the King institution, baptisms the following week, the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth in July and Founders Day.

Today I wanted to do a quick 2024 update of what has been done so far, and were we are on the budget.

In the Christian Education department Sunday School has begun its hiatus but added Melody Huffer to the team to play the piano at the beginning of class.  We finished our Sunday Alpha Course as well.  We experimented this time by having the Alpha Course on Sunday after the 10 AM Service. A key component of the evening session is the weekly dinner together at the beginning to build comradery, but we didn’t want to pull people away from Coffee Hour nor stay too late into the afternoon, so we did a light lunch while watching the video.  It was well attended, with people adding in as the weeks went on as well.  A decision will be made soon about the fall class schedule.

The long-awaited curb and historic fence restoration project on the freeway side of the building had been completed. The exterior doors were refinished and the Woodward fencing and handrails were repainted as well.  We still await the new Historic Building sign arrival. 

A bit of big news is that the loan for the construction of the Burton Ministry Center has now been paid in full, saving us the yearly interest and fees on the loan.  The renovation of the ministry center and undercroft began in January 2018 and was finished November 2019.

Thank you for your continued generosity in supporting the ministry of St, John’s Church.  Pledge and other donations continue slightly above projections, but summer tends to bring a slow down in giving.  If you are going to be away for a period of time this summer you can mail in your collection envelope, or donate online, to help keep us up to date.


Sunday, June 09, 2024

Summer is underway - Rector's Rambling for June 9, 2024

     The long summer season is now upon us and the neighborhood will be as busy as ever.  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 area 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 20 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. 

This month we have Fathers Day on June 16 - be sure to bring dad to church or come with him to church.  We also have a free concert on Thursday, June 20 of the Singing Sergeants with the Air Force Band  On June 23 we will have the installation of a new member of the Daughters of the King, Elizabeth Savage. And on June 30th after the 10 AM Service we have the baptisms.

 In July we celebrate our nation’s birth and the next week send students and staff to the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth. On Sunday, July 14 we will have the interment of the cremated remains of  Eleanor Tuttle, the daughter of former St. John’s Rector I.C. Johnson (1934 to 1962).  Ms. Tuttle died on the west coast in 2021, and the family is gathering with us that day to lay her to rest.  At the end  of the month we will have a day in celebration of our founders.  Regular Sunday worship continues throughout the summer, as well as weekday Communion and Evening Prayer.  Check the weekly calendar online for any changes or glitches.

Summer is a time for travel and recreation.  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 if your schedule encroaches on your Sunday morning remember we also have a 5:30 PM Sunday Service as well.

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 any mailbox.


Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Corpus Christi and Outreach Sunday - Rectors Rambling for June 2, 2024

     Today’s Feast Day actually occurred on Thursday, and was celebrated at the 9 AM Mass.  But it is so important, and wonderful, that it is also celebrated today on Sunday.  But in actuality, it is here a sort of ‘make up’ because it is a re-celebration of the institution of the Sacrament of the Blessed Sacrament, the Body of Christ.  That event happened during Holy Week on Maundy Thursday.  But the importance of Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Day overwhelms this celebration.  Now before we begin on our long season of Trinitytide, with the green vestments and hangings, we have this great celebration of the gift of Jesus’ own Body and Blood, given to us in the species of bread and wine.  As Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:53-54)  And so we do!

Today we also welcome our guests from the various organizations that we are supporting this year through our Outreach Committee.  When the Vestry was praying about entering into a development contract for our parking lot, it was strongly sensed that any money that we get for a lease for the land purchased in 1858 for this Church should be tithed to organizations such as these in the community.  There is a listing of the organizations in the Order of Service. Looking for a volunteer opportunity?  I am sure they would welcome your inquiry!

This week we begin our Summer Choir season, with quartets or quintets from the choir leading us in singing hymns, and offering the minor propers and anthem.  We are most grateful for the full choir’s contributions during the regular season.  And summer is a great time for the congregation to be active in participating by singing along the hymns and mass setting!  The choir isn’t here to perform for us, but to lead us and assist us in worship.  We are to participate by singing as well!

On a personal note - God willing my daughter Meg graduates from high school this week, and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall .  We are excited for her and grateful to Almighty God for this opportunity.


Sunday, May 26, 2024

Athanasian Creed - Rector's Rambling for May 26, 2024

     Today we get to recite one of the great statements of belief.  In addition to the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed, there is the Athanasian Creed, also known as the Quicunque Vult (the opening phrase in Latin).

Ultimately, the great mystery of God is unknowable on this side of heaven.  We will only fully understand Him in eternal life.  But God has revealed what we need to know about Himself to us through the Scriptures, particularly in the teachings of Jesus (second person of the Trinity).  By the guidance of the Holy Ghost (third person of the Trinity) the scriptures were written and compiled for us, and the Church, meeting in Councils, have “separated the wheat from the chaff” when it comes to the teachings of who God is in Trinity.

We have three creeds because each successive one (Apostles, then Nicene, then Athanasian) were compiled to answer questions arising from previous creeds, or from honest inquiry by the Church.  While the Apostles Creed (also known as the Baptismal Creed) is recited during Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Nicene Creed during celebrations of The Holy Communion, the Athanasian Creed has generally been reserved for public recitation on major Holy Days.

Interestingly, the Episcopal Church is the only branch of our world-wide Anglican Communion that has not included the Athanasian Creed in our locally adapted version of the 39 Articles of Religion, or Prayer Books until 1979.  But as members of the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” in Communion with Anglicans worldwide, we recite it today with thanksgiving for the gift of this knowledge of God in Trinity!