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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Wearing black


Heat index over 100!

Wearing black....ugh.......

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Talking baseball

With all the talk of theology, General Convention, etc., one would think I have forgotten about my favorite 'pastime', Baseball!

Of course, we are still psyched about the Tigers, who have the best record in baseball, and are 8.5 games ahead of the White Sox and Twins in the division. While at St. Mike's the Tigers took 2 of 3 from the Sox, and then had a good weekend as well vs. Oakland. Interestingly, the Saturday game, scheduled for 7pm, was moved to 1pm to accommodate a national TV audience. THANK GOD we didn't have a wedding scheduled for that Saturday, as we did the Saturday before! Most of our Weddings on Saturday's are before 4pm if the Tigers are playing in the PM, after 5pm if they have a 1pm game in order to avoid the crowds and use our parking lot! The next two weddings on the schedule are August 26th (the Tigers are away), and September 30th (10:30am Wedding, so it won't be a problem no matter what time the game is).

Andrew's Second Season Little League got off to a slow start. Games were supposed to start last week, but got pushed back a week due to planning issues (which was good for us since Andrew away last week anyway). His first game yesterday was a rain out - although all the kids expected did show up from our team - only 2 from the other. Tonight's game is also looking tenuous since there is a further threat of thunderstorms.

Here is a picture of Andrew in the last regular season game back in June. The pitcher (actually, the kids don't pitch, the coaches do in Single A, but there is a kid by the pitcher to do the fielding) wears a helmet for safety sake.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In memory of Harper

Yesterday we had to put my dog to sleep. Harper was nearly 12. We got him 25 days after we got married in 1994, and he has been our constant companion and friend ever since.

While Jennifer and the kids were visiting Jennifer's parents in Sturgis, he had a second bout of The Bloat. After the surgery his recovery was rocky, and he developed a massive infection on Monday.

I drove out to Sturgis and we all said goodbye to him. He was so weak he had to be carried into the exam room, and only lifted his head twice...once as Jennifer and the kids were leaving....following them out with his head and eyes - a final good-bye.

I stayed with him as he passed away, and we buried him in the Cook's backyard.

He was a great dog, and we miss him.

These are some old photos of him with his favorite toy.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Not a political endorsement, but....

....it was cool to find in my mail an invite to a cocktail party to support the candidacy of one my Fraternity Brothers, Beau Biden, for Delaware Attorney General. Beau was a few years behind me at the Castle at Penn, and was a genuinely nice guy.

I won't be going to the party in NYC, but sent a note of congrats on his candidacy.

Should have guessed this was coming....

While away at St. Mike's the USA Today published an article about a woman who has published a fiction book, but also claims it is somewhat autobiographically, and that she is the blood relative of a union between Jesus and Mary Magdalen - ala The Da Vinci Code.

In the article we read this

So far, McGowan is offering only her word about her lineage and only hints at her proof. In addition to the visions, she says, she has discovered that her family is related to an ancient French lineage that traces its roots to Jesus and Mary Magdalene's descendants. Legend holds that Mary Magdalene settled in France after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. "That's all I'm prepared to say right now," McGowan says. Some members of her family, she explains, want her to respect their privacy and not discuss it.

Despite the lack of hard evidence, McGowan's supporters include her literary agent Larry Kirshbaum, who left his position as CEO of Time Warner Books in December to start his own literary agency. McGowan was one of his first clients and he helped her get a seven-figure, three-book deal with Simon & Schuster. (Her next two books pick up where The Expected One leaves off.)

Sure...we are supposed to just 'take her word' cause some family members don't want here to talk about it (they might discover she is crazy?). Of course, her agent is a 'believer' because he is poised to make lots of money from the gullible book buyers and potential movie deals.

The link to the article in the USA Today can be found at

A great week at St. Mike's!

We are back from the St. Michael's Conference for Youth! It went pretty well, with only a few glitches with the conference center itself. Other than that, I think that the Conference itself went pretty well.

In addition to the great Liturgy (nothing beats having about 60 people to worship with every day, Mass and Evensong), and the classes (I think my "Creeds" class went particularly well, and I was very proud of the 3 St. John's kids in my "Christmas and Easter" class - they were very alert and astute!) and discussion groups.

Primarily, we are there to instill in the Michaelites a love for our Lord and His Church, and build up a great army to fight the spiritual battle againsts the temptations of the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

Here are a few pictures, compliments of Michaelites Ashley Please. When I download my pictures at the office this week I will add them as well.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

St. Michael's Conference, Midwest

Friends - please pray for the Students and Staff of the St. Michael's Conference, Midwest, which begins Sunday afternoon, July 16th. It will be held at the St. Paul of the Cross Conference Center in Detroit.

St. Michael's Conference has been lovingly referred to as "Anglican Boot Camp". At this Midwest Conference the 12 to 20 year olds are immersed in the liturgy, study, and ethos of the Christian Faith as expressed in our Anglican Communion.

Daily Solemn High Mass and Choral Evensong are required.
Daily Morning Prayer and Compline are optional but well attended.

There are 3 classes a day, and an evening discussion group on various topics. There is 'structured' free time in the afternoon, and an evening activity such as a talent show or square dancing.

The children are told at the opening session, "you are not here to have fun, or make new best friends...you are here to be equipped to become soldiers for Christ, like St. Michael the Archangel. But if you do that first, then those other things will happen as well".

I worked two years at the conference out East (Massachusetts), where I met my wife, and now for 8 years here in the Midwest Conference. Most kids come back year after year.

Pray for us as we equip the children and inform them in The Faith, that they may claim it for their own and love our Lord as He loves them!

St. Swithin's Day today

Today's saint is one of those that has more 'legend' then fact, with a superstition about rain attached (ps...it rained here overnight). Many people have heard of St. Swithin because his name is invoked when talking about a hypothetical situation..."old St. Swithin's of the Swamp...." Yet he was a real person.

Here is the blurb from NewAdvent.org on him

St. Swithin
Bishop of Winchester; died 2 July, 862.
Very little is known of this saint's life, for his biographers constructed their "Lives" long after his death and there is hardly any mention of him in contemporary documents. Swithin was one of the two trusted counsellors of Egbert, King of the West Saxons (d. 839), helping him in ecclesiastical matters, while Ealstan of Sherborne was his chief advisor He probably entrusted Swithin with the education of his son Ethelwulf and caused the saint to be elected to the Bishopric of Winchester in succession to Helmstan. His consecration by Ceolnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury, seems to have taken place on 30 October, 852. On his deathbed Swithin begged that he should be buried outside the north wall of his cathedral where passers-by should pass over his grave and raindrops from the eaves drop upon it.
More than a century later (931) his body was translated with great pomp to a shrine within the new church erected by Bishop Ethelwulf (d. 984). A number of miraculous cures took place and Swithin was canonized by popular acclamation. In 1093 his remains were again translated to the new church built by Bishop Walkelin. The shrine was destroyed and the relics scattered in 1538.
It has often been said that the saint was a Benedictine monk and even Prior of Winchester but there is no evidence for this statement. From the first translation of his relics in 984 till the destruction of the shrine St. Swithin was the patron of Winchester Cathedral. He is best known from the popular superstition attached to his name and expressed in the following rhyme:

St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.

There have been many attempts to explain the origin of this belief, but none have proved generally satisfactory. A similar belief attaches in France to 8 June, the feast of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius, and to other feasts in different countries (see Notes and Queries, 1885, XII, 137, 253). St. Swithin's feast is kept on 15 July, the date of his first translation, and is retained in the Anglican Calendar.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Congrats Dr. Sam!

When I was in college we had a faculty advisor to my Fraternity, Psi Upsilon www.castlealumni.com , Dr. Sam Fager. A medical doctor (former head of student health at the University of Pennsylvania), he was a great friend to all, and was even initiated in the fraternity itself (he went to an inferior college in New Jersey, one without fraternities, so he could not pledge one at Princeton). Penn and Princeton are Ivy League rivals, FYI.

Anyway, Sam was the best man at my wedding, and has stayed involved guiding the undergraduates and even the alumni at times. He is the central point for all info on alumni since so many of us keep in touch with him. In addition to an undergrad degree from Princeton, he has a Masters from Stanford, MD from Hanahman Med School (Philadelphia), Masters in Health Care Admin from Wharton at Penn, and a law degree from Georgetown. He is a pediatrician by training and works in the ER at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and works for the Joint Commission on Hospitals, an accredation agency.

Recently the national fraternity held its yearly convention in Philadelphia and Dr. Sam received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award. Congrats to Dr. Sam!

S. Bonventura - ora pro nobis

Okay, so his feast day isn't until Friday, but we kept it today, a ferial day, since we don't have Mass on Friday. Being a Third Order Franciscan gives me an affinity for franciscan saints! To the left is a statue of S. Bonaventure from St. Bonaventure's Monastery in Detroit, home of the late venerable Solanus Casey. www.solanuscenter.org/

Bonaventure was born around 1221, and having been healed from a childhood disease by St. Francis, this baby baptised John was blessed by Francis with the name "Good Luck" - Bona Ventura. He entered the Franciscans, and studied in Paris, receiving his Doctorate with his friend and fellow founder of Scholastic Theology, S. Thomas Aquinas of the Dominican Order.

He became Minister General of the Franciscan Order at the age of 36, wrote the official biography of S. Francis, and codified the rule and constitution at a time when the Order was very divided on the interpretation of both.

The Anglican Breviary records this interesting story about him, as witness to his humility in devotion to even the most menial tasks. "It is said that when the Cardinal's Hat was brought to him by papal envoys, he was washing dishes, and therefore asked them to hang it on a bush outside the kitchen door" p.1318.

He died in 1274 at 53 years of age.

More detailed information can be found at

Spell Check?

I spotted this sign on Mack Avenue, near Vernier, in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Either it is a new French word I don't know, or someone lost an "R" somewhere.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Blessing the new sign...waiting to be reimbursed

On July 2nd, after the 10am service, we went outside and blessed our new sign. We prayed that it would be a beacon light to all those coming downtown, and an opportunity to bring people to Jesus!

All the paperwork has been completed for our 50% reimbursement for the new safety glass, parking lot edge garden improvements, retaining wall repairs, awnings, and new sign. This is now delayed because a group of atheists are suing the quasi-governmental agency that we have a contract with, so it might be some time before we see any reimbursement. Meanwhile we continue our fundraising for our half, as well as the anticipated repairs to the furnace this fall.

Some lighter fare

Having to try to digest all the doings of General Convention and The General Synod of the Church of England, and what is generally depressing news for traditionalists, makes one weary of all things churchy (but not weary of The Faith concerning our Lord, of course). Even the hot, humid weather combined with lower Church attendance (8am being up, but not making up for the lower 10am service attendance) adds to the sluggishness of mid-July in Metro Detroit.

But as a diversion, I had a nice week of from work this past week. Actually, the diversion began last week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) when I went with Sam and Andrew and my father-in-law to Grandparents University at Michigan State. Of course my mother-in-law was supposed to go, but Laura had her baby down in Georgia, and she was down there. We lived in the dorms, ate in the cafeteria, and went to classes. I escorted Sam, and enjoyed classes in Chemistry, Astronomy, Archery, Air-rifle, and the care and management of horses. Andrew took astronomy, personal economics (budgeting), a class on bugs, crime scene investigations, and two other classes. We also had time to explore the nearby woods, and hang out on campus.

This past week we went to Chatham, Ontario to a place called Wheels Inn ( http://www.wheelsinn.com/ ). It is a hotel with an indoor amusement park, go-karts, pool with a huge slide, putt-putt, etc. We enjoyed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday there. Thursday, Friday and Saturday we enjoyed some time around the house, a shopping trip to the new IKEA store here in Metro Detroit, doing overdue projects (thorough cleaning of the bbq, replace leaking garden hose, weeding the brick patio, etc.). I also had a chance to do my lap swimming as Andrew had his swim team practice.

I ended a good vacation Saturday night by slipping on the stairwell to the basement while carrying a load of laundry, jamming my left shoulder. It is a close draw between the pain of my shoulder, and the pain of the bruised ego for doing something so stupid! It looks like I won't be swimming freestyle, or throwing the baseball the next few days!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Archbishop gives some further clarification

Archbishop Rowan Williams addressed the General Synod of the Church of England yesterday, concerning the American Church situation and its impact on worldwide Anglicanism. He tried to clear up some inaccuracies that others have projected upon his pastoral letter. Re-asserting that as a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (as we claim in the Creed) we are not free to change the fundamentals of the faith.
Most interesting in his talk was this section.

We have claimed to be Catholic, to have a ministry that is capable of being universally recognised (even where in practice it does not have that recognition) because of its theological and institutional continuity; to hold a faith that is not locally determined but shared through time and space with the fellowship of the baptised; to celebrate sacraments that express the reality of a community which is more than the people present at any one moment with any one set of concerns. So at the very least we must recognise that Anglicanism as we have experienced it has never been just a loose grouping of people who care to describe themselves as Anglicans but enjoy unconfined local liberties. Argue for this if you will, but recognise that it represents something other than the tradition we have received and been nourished by in God's providence. And only if we can articulate some coherent core for this tradition in present practice can we continue to engage plausibly in any kind of ecumenical endeavour, local or international.
I make no secret of the fact that my commitment and conviction are given to the ideal of the Church Catholic. I know that its embodiment in Anglicanism has always been debated, yet I believe that the vision of Catholic sacramental unity without centralisation or coercion is one that we have witnessed to at our best and still need to work at.

Yet despite this talk, stressing our inability to go beyond the traditions we have received, the same Synod today voted to admit women as bishops in the C of E - certainly NOT something in the deposit of faith and quite contrary to it.

Kyrie Eleison

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit!

In a lot of talk and writing about the last General Convention, I am surprised to see how many people, certainly not folks you would associate with anything Pentecostal, are claiming the work and leading of the Holy Spirit in the deviations from unbroken Church teachings. One pertinent thing I remember from my Theology studies from S. Thomas Aquinas is that there is "no contradiction in God" - ie...One person of the Holy Trinity will not contradict another and if was revealed as true, good, or evil, then God does not contradict himself (I will have to look up the citation from the Summa at another time). He also says that God is Pure Act, that He has no potential...He is always perfect and perfected, and to say God has learned something new is a heresy. All these claims about the Holy Spirit doing these contradictions is dangerous business, because if wrong and found blaspheming the Holy Spirit, it is the one unpardonable sin! (Matthew 12:31)

Fr. Leander Harding made a list of observations from General Convention and what he sees as the teachings coming out of GCO6. Below are the last four, which play into my own thoughts about what GC06 has said about the Holy Spirit, particularly the arrogance of ECUSA to think what they are doing is right, and the rest of the Christian Church today and back through time has been wrong. The entire list can be found on Fr. Hardings blog at http://leanderharding.classicalanglican.net/
18. What the Holy Spirit is demanding must be determined provincially. Those dioceses which are members of the Episcopal Church and which resist the new teaching cannot legitimately be thought to be led by the Holy Spirit and must be resisted with all the canonical and legal means available.
19. A variety of interpretations of scripture can be tolerated in the church. The canons of the church especially with regard to the territorial integrity of Episcopal jurisdiction allow for no variation in interpretation.
20. The proposal of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a new Anglican covenant and for churches to choose constituent or associate status in the communion represents a dire threat to capacity of the church to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It represents the prospect of a quenching of the Spirit.
21. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has been uniquely privileged to hear from the Holy Spirit in a way that has been denied to the rest of world wide Anglicanism, The Roman Catholic Church, The Orthodox Churches and Protestant Evangelicalism. The Episcopal Church must at all costs maintain its witness to the unique agency of the Holy Spirit in its midst. Those who oppose the new teaching are enemies of the Holy Spirit who are making an idol of the past at the expense of the future to which God is calling us.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Starting to 'sort it all out'?

In the coming weeks and months there will be lots of opinions published or e-published about what should be done in and to the Episcopal Church as a result of the General Convention. Already 5 dioceses have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for some sort of alternative oversight, finding the choice of the new Presiding Bishop-elect unacceptable on theological grounds, following the implied suggestion in the Archbishop's report that such a change might be needed (see below).

Here is an article by Canon John Heidt, Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Fort Worth, which he has asked to be distributed freely. It is reprinted in its entirety here. Canon Heidt was a part of our Festival of Faith at St. John's in May, 2003.
The Meaning of Alternative Primatial Oversight and Pastoral Care in a Broken Communion

In his latest statement following the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, “’Challenge and hope’ for the Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Rowan Williams has defined the Anglican meaning of Communion:

“The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with,” he states, “is because it has tried
to find a way of being a Church that is neither tightly centralized nor just a loose federation of essentially independent bodies - a Church that is seeking to be a coherent family of communities meeting to hear the Bible read, to break bread and share wine as guests of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate a unity in worldwide mission and ministry. That,” he says, “is what the word 'Communion' means for Anglicans, and it is a vision that has taken clearer shape in many of our ecumenical dialogues.” In other words, Communion is both biblical and sacramental.

By the actions of our latest General Convention, this biblical and sacramental basis of Communion has not just been impaired but broken. The convention broke Communion biblically by refusing to vote on the resolution affirming the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and by encouraging same sex partnerships. It broke Communion sacramentally by choosing a Presiding Bishop whose Orders cannot be accepted by many Episcopalians, including those in the Diocese of Fort Worth, nor by the majority of world wide Anglican provinces, nor by our chief ecumenical partners – the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Both aspects of this Broken Communion are embodied in our new Presiding Bishop-elect. By her actions as Bishop of Nevada, in her statements during General Convention, and in her first sermon after her election, she has made it pointedly clear that she intends to pursue an agenda that patently ignores the authority of Scripture, is contrary to its plain teaching regarding overt homosexual relationships, and affronts the church’s Trinitarian doctrine and biblical witness by turning Our Lord into “Mother Jesus.”

As a bishop whose Orders several of us in the Episcopal Church and throughout the world cannot accept, she breaks the unity of the world-wide episcopate which she is supposed to represent and destroys that interchangeability of ministers essential for the sacramental unity of any particular community of Christians. In spite of her election as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, she cannot be chief pastor to those who believe she is neither obedient to scripture nor an apostolic bishop. For them some sort of alternative arrangement is now necessary.

In the Diocese of Fort Worth, the bishop and standing committee have therefore appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for “alternative primatial oversight and pastoral care.” As of now at least five other dioceses have followed suit. These appeals in no way affect our membership in The Episcopal Church, but simply recognize that someone who is instrumental in breaking the Communion of its bishops, both biblically and sacramentally, cannot be our chief pastor. We have therefore had to look elsewhere.

Alternative primatial oversight and pastoral care will not affect our legal relationship to the rest of The Episcopal Church nor the juridical authority of its future Presiding Bishop as granted her by our constitution and canons. But it will enable those bishops and dioceses who uphold the biblical and sacramental understanding of communion to appeal to a designated primate or chief pastor in sympathy with their position for pastoral guidance and leadership in mission. Also, through an alternative primatial oversight, the relationship between a particular bishop and his diocese with the rest of the Anglican Communion will be enhanced and solidified.

Finally, it is hoped that priests and parishes in unsympathetic dioceses may also benefit from alternative primatial oversight by affiliating with those dioceses where such oversight has been granted.

The Rev Canon John H Heidt,. SSC, D.Phil. (Oxon)
Canon Theologian to the Bishop of Fort Worth