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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rector's Rambling - July 7, 2013

Becoming familiar with the Book of Common Prayer is a great aid to the life of the Anglican/Episcopal Christian.  Beginning on page 273 we have what is known as The Pastoral Offices.  These offices (Baptism, Instruction, Confirmation, Matrimony, Thanksgiving for Childbirth, Visitation/Communion of the Sick, and Burial of the Dead) are those occasional services for use by the Church.
Baptism is the primary of these offices because it is through the waters of baptism that a person is grafted into the Body of Christ, the Church.
A recent reclamation of the tradition of the Church is to have the baptism service as a part of the primary worship of the parish (in our case the 10:00 AM service), although we do still have some baptisms before or after the service, or on a day other than Sunday.  The rubrics (instructions for the service, written in italics) suggests it happen on Sunday after the second lesson of Morning or Evening Prayer, or “at such other time as the Minister shall appoint”.  Although it strongly discourages baptisms in peoples homes, except in extreme circumstances, it does allow for it.
The theology of baptism is plainly stated in the liturgy as we pray, “Give thy Holy Spirit to this Child, that he may be born again, and be made an heir of everlasting salvation” (see John 3:5).  As Fr. Louis Tarsitano points out in his book An Outline of an Anglican Life, we are born into the Body of Adam, which is original sin, but grafted into the Body of Christ by virtue of the waters of baptism. (Lesson Four).  We have been taken out of a bad family and adopted by Grace into the family of God.  Baptism is the vehicle given to us to facilitate that grace-filled transition.  And membership in the Church is an outward manifestation of the fellowship and new life into which the newly baptized has been placed.
If you do not have a copy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer we have used copies available (free) in the parish office, or they can be ordered new on-line from www.AnglicanBooks.com (the edition we have in our pews) or www.AnglicanMarketplace.com for a deluxe hardcover or leather-bound edition.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Exploring the Prayer Book - Rector's Rambling - June 23, 2013

On the first day of my Liturgical Theology class in seminary (the study of worship), the instructor handed out a take home assignment, due before the end of the semester.  It was at least seven pages of questions if I remember correctly, maybe more.  The answer to every question could be found in the Book of Common Prayer.  Of course, this meant that we had to spend an extraordinary amount of time in the Prayer Book, looking for those answers.  That was the point of the assignment.  The old adage about Episcopalians is that “what we pray is what we believe.”  The Book of Common Prayer is our life of prayer and that life forms our belief and who we are as members of the Body of Christ.
Most of us know the first section of the Prayer Book: Morning Prayer (and maybe Evening Prayer), and the Holy Communion, along with the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels for Sundays, holy days, and special occasions.  This is the primary worship of the Church.
But there is a a rich treasure-trove of material that follows these services which helps to keep us pointed toward our Lord and aids in our holiness from birth until death.
Beginning on page 273 we have what is known as The Pastoral Offices: The Ministration of Holy Baptism, Offices of Instruction, The Order of Confirmation, The Solemnization of Matrimony, The Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth, The Order for the Visitation of the Sick, The Communion of the Sick, and The Order for the Burial of the Dead.  These all mark milestones (or prepare us for milestones) in our life in Christ.
Over the summer we will look at these offices, and see how the theology of each office/order/milestone helps us to understand that our entire life is infused with Divine Grace and intertwined with our Lord’s desire to guide and govern us with His good Spirit.
If you do not have a copy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer we have used copies available (free) in the parish office, or they can be ordered new on-line from www.AnglicanBooks.com (the edition we have in our pews) or www.AnglicanMarketplace.com for a deluxe hardcover or leather-bound edition.

Monday, June 17, 2013

God as Father - Rector's Rambling, June 16, 2013

A blessed Father’s Day to the fathers in the congregation.  Although it is not a “Church” holiday, it is always good to be thankful for those who gave us life, and for those fathers (and father figures) who helped to raise us.
One of the names that we have for the first person of the Holy Trinity is Father.  It is how He has been revealed to us.  Jesus refers to Him as His father, and tells us we should even call him Abba – “Daddy”.
Some within the Church have tried to get away from the use of the male names and pronouns to refer to God.  Father and Son have been replaced with “Creator” and “Redeemer”.  The problem is that these are attributes of God (and can refer to all three persons individually as well).  It even leans toward the old heresy of Modalism – identifying God by his attributes or “modes” rather than Persons.  God is not an “it”, rather is three persons in one God.
One reason for the drive for this change is that not all of us have had positive role models for fathers.  But one should not be projecting our own father’s failings (or perceived failings) on our God, but rather realize that our Heavenly Father is the ultimate example of “Father”, not our own fathers who were certainly affected by Original Sin (everyone is) and perhaps tainted by Actual Sin.
Many years ago there was a movement in the Church for men called Promise Keepers.  An Evangelical para-church organization, one of the promises that a promise keeper made was to try to heal any relationship failings with their own fathers and sons.  This was cathartic and helpful to begin to grow in the spiritual life.
Interestingly, the media picked up on another attribute of the movement, and that was men being responsible heads of households.  Those outside the church saw it as oppression of women.  But those inside the life of faith saw it as men taking up their spiritual responsibilities within their families that so many had abdicated.  Mocked by the world, I know the women in my parish really wanted their husbands involved in this movement to be better dads and husbands!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ordinary time - Rector's Rambling - June 9, 2013

Having had several weeks of “unique” Sundays (Baseball Sunday and Corpus Christi Sunday) to cap off our spring, we now are into our Trinitytide season.
Trinitytide, or the “ordinary” season encompasses the Sundays between now and Advent (which begins in December).  That is a lot of Sundays!  It is considered “ordinary” not in the sense that they are nothing special, but because they are “ordered” toward the growth in the Spiritual life as we spend weeks at a time delving into the teachings and miracles of Jesus.
The most noticeable thing about Trinitytide is that we will be in green vestments for most Sundays between now and December, with the exception of September 29 (Feast of St. Michael and all Angels) and November 3 (External Solemnity of All Saints).  Green is the color of growth and life, and it is a tangible reminder that we are to continue to grow in faith and grace during this long season.
More immediately though, things actually slow down a bit around St. John’s for the summer.  Sunday school and Adult Education are on hiatus until fall.  The groups, such as the St. Catherine’s Guild, the Daughters of the King, and the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, all take time off from their regular meeting schedules.
It does not mean that all things come to a screeching halt.  There is a Social Fellowship Outing today, and others are in the planning.  The youth and Fr. Kelly head off to the St. Michael’s Conference on June 30 for a week, on July 28 we will have our Founders Sunday, and the 20/30s group is in its reorganizing stage.
Most importantly, there is no hiatus from our obligation to worship the Good God every Sunday in His Church!  Whether at home or away be sure to make attending worship a #1 priority!
And if you are travelling, I hope that you will continue in your financial support of the parish over the summer months.  Unfortunately, our expenses do not take a vacation!  Your weekly contribution can be mailed to the office in your collection envelope just by adding a stamp to it and dropping it in a mailbox.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Yet ANOTHER unique Sunday - Rector's Rambling - June 2, 2013

Another unique Sunday at St. John’s.  After last week’s amazing crowd for worship before going over to the Tigers game, this week we have another unique situation – country music festival destination!
As you noticed when you drove in today, the Downtown Hoedown surrounds St. John’s this morning.  Until two years ago this event occurred down at Hart Plaza on the river, but the organizers’ desire to charge admission and make for a more secure event drove them up Woodward to our parking lot.
We own a portion of the lot next to, and behind, the church.  We have a contract with Olympia Parking who manages and staffs the lot, and also works with the other portions of Olympia Entertainment to use the lot for various events.
Our parking lot has been Super Bowl security perimeter, Major League Baseball All-star Game fan zone, and the staging area for movies and television commercials.  When Jimmy Buffet plays at Comerica Park portions of the lot are filled with sand and a beach party is thrown by the organizers.  The lot has been used for The Vans Warped Tour and the Molson Ice Jam (one day themed music festivals), Cornerstone Schools “Be A Tiger for Kids” fundraiser, as well as various walks, races, and health fairs.  And of course we use it for parking on Sundays as well as for weekday events.
Sometimes we overlap with parking needs.  Newly engaged couples are encouraged to be flexible about the time of their service until the Detroit Tigers schedule is published for the next year.  And last Thursday’s Corpus Christi service had some outside clambering as they set up for the event this weekend.
Last year was the first time there has been an event that overlapped onto a Sunday.  The parking company made the arrangements then and they went off without a hitch, so we have repeated them this year.
Our flexibility on Summer Sundays also has a financial reward for the parish, and I thank you for your patience if you were inconvenienced.

A unique Sunday - Rector's Rambling - May 26, 2013

Many things about St. John’s are unique.  The use of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer combined with a top notch music program makes us unique in the Diocese of Michigan.  Although the original blueprint of the main church is duplicated in Fort Street Presbyterian Church, the changes to our building in 1937 now make it unique.  And the mix of people who are members of the congregation, ethnically as well as financially, make it unique as well.
But perhaps what makes St. John’s stand out to most is our “next to Comerica Park” location.  Telling people which church I am at is easy!  “We are on the corner of I-75 and Woodward Avenue, next to Comerica Park!”  Any of the three-million attendees a year at a Tigers game, 600,000 attendees at Lions games, and all those who have attended shows at the Fox, or other events at Comerica Park and Ford Field can identify that church.  As an aside, we also were known for a time as the “Church with the Banner” because of the “Pray Here for the Tigers” banner we had on the church from 2001 to 2006 or so.
But today may make us the most unique parish around.  It is unique that we are next to a baseball stadium and have a great choir that sings the National Anthem at a baseball game.  But what is perhaps even more unique is that for a parish that gets good attendance on Christmas and Easter, we will have a Sunday in May (a holiday weekend to boot) with better attendance than either of those two feasts.  And we could do in one service (10:00 AM) today what we do in three for Christmas and three for Easter!  Considering, as of the writing of this Rambling on Tuesday, we have sold 346 tickets to the game, and have parishioners who are not going to baseball but are coming to Church, we should have more here today than on those two holidays!
How great would it be to have big events like this even more frequently?  Or better yet, having a parish that continues to grow so that this sized crowd is the “normal” and baseball Sunday is even bigger!  Now that would be great.
God, grant us the grace to be that parish, by our cooperation with your Holy Spirit, to accomplish your will!