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, December 19, 2013

Ministry @ St. John's in review - Ministry Column for December 22, 2013

As we finish the year, it might be helpful to look at some of the many ministries in which we are involved, both directly and indirectly, here at St. John’s.
Ministries at St. John’s
· Acolytes, Altar Guild, Choir, Organ Scholar, Lectors, and Ushers to aid in Sunday worship.
· Coffee Hour Hosts, Episcopal Church Women, Daughters of the King, Order of St. Luke Healing Ministry, and Armitage Men’s Club for service and projects.
· Sunday School, Adult Education and Bible Study for Christian Education.
· Weekday Communion and Daily Office Prayers.
· Home and hospital visitation of the sick and shut-in.
Ministries to our neighbors nearby
· Episcopal Church Women projects to support Crossroads Social Service Ministry, and to support the social service work of the Salvation Army.  The Mitten Tree to collect hats, scarves, and mittens.
· Daughters of the King projects to support Crisis Pregnancy centers.
· Weekly canned food collection to “feed God’s sheep” through Crossroads Ministry.
· Parish support of Mariner’s Inn Rehab. Center.
· Hosting of meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, five days a week, for over 50 years.
· Hosting of Cursillo Weekends in our undercroft.
· Hosting of Alternative College Spring Breaks.
· The Door Ministry – opening the building during the week for prayer and reflection, and responding to needs as able.
Ministries to our neighbors further away
· St. Michael’s Conference for Youth.
· Support of Nashotah House Theological Seminary.
· American Commissary for St. Leonard’s Seminary in Malawi, Central Africa.
· Support of the ministries of Bishop Jackson Biggers to orphans and widows in Malawi.

Active invitation - Rector's Rambling for December 22, 2013

So close, so very close.  Tuesday we begin the grand celebration of the Feast of the Nativity, on the Eve as well as the Day following.  Be sure to check the schedule of services so you know when you will be here!
As you begin your last few days of Advent, a discipline I would encourage is for you to invite five families to the Christmas Eve service at St. John’s.  Think about who you know you would like to see come to Church at St. John’s: family, friends, neighbors, co-workers.  Those five (or more) are the ones you need to actively invite to Church this Christmas Eve.
What do I mean by actively invite?  Approach them, or call them, and say, “Hey, ______, I was just thinking of you and was wondering where are you going to attend a Christmas Eve service this year?”  If there is any hesitation of an answer, begin again, “We go to a great church downtown called St. John’s.  We love it there and go there because ___________ (fill in your reasons) and there is no place that has a more beautiful Christmas Eve service.  I would love to have you (and your family) come down to the 8:30/9:00 PM service” (or to see the Pageant at 4:00 PM if you are going then).  Offer them a ride if you have room, or have them follow you down in their own car.
There are many un-churched or nominally-churched people who look to attend a Christmas Eve service.  Take advantage of that desire and invite them to St. John’s.  There are a few “regulars” around here whose first experience of St. John’s was a Christmas Eve service.  You may be the person God is using to bring them into a deeper relationship with himself through St. John’s Church.
Some will say no, others will hesitate.  But pray for them and keep cheerfully offering and asking them to join us, even after Christmas.  God may be working on them through you.
If you will be traveling for Christmas, have a safe trip, and we look forward to seeing the church bulletin from where you worshipped.  We enjoy seeing what others are doing.

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Are we there yet?" - Rector's Rambling for December 15, 2013

“Are we there yet?”
How often have we heard a child say that in exasperation, particularly on a long trip?  And unless the answer is “yes”, no explanation of time left will be really satisfactory.  In my car, the answer is usually, “soon”, which is definitely not helpful.  Soon is never soon enough.
Well, guess what?  We are almost there!  Christmas is coming soon!  This is Gaudéte [Rejoice] Sunday, which means we are beginning our 3rd week of Advent (of four) and as the rose-colored vestments signify, we “lighten up” a bit from the deeper penitential purple.  And tomorrow we begin our “O” antiphons at Evening Prayer.  Before the Magnificat (after the First Lesson) there is an antiphon appointed for each day from December 16 through the 24th, giving us another way to mark time as we head towards the grand feast of the birth of Jesus.
And of course, let us remember that even though our eyes and hearts are mostly fixed on the upcoming Holy Day, we are also preparing our hearts for the other reality that Jesus Christ is coming back, and may do so today!  Just as we want to be ready with gifts wrapped and house decorated for December 25, so too we want our souls prepared in case Jesus returns to bring us home, or we go home to meet him in our own earthly death.  In either case, no one knows the day nor the hour.
At morning prayer is also an antiphon for every day in Advent – Our King and Saviour draweth nigh: O come let us adore him.  This is a wonderful reminder that even though the idea of the end of the world may sound at first terrifying, it is actually a great moment of joy and grace if we love Jesus Christ!  So let us love Him and serve Him more and more!

The Great "O" Antiphons

Perhaps the most familiar of all Advent Hymns is “O come, O come Emmanuel”, hymn number 2 in the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal.  Each verse, describing a title for the expected Messiah, ends with the refrain – “Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”
What most people do not know is that this hymn is based on an Antiphon for the Evening Prayer Canticle, the Magnificat. (p.26 in the 1928 Prayer Book).  Antiphons are appointed for special occasions, to be said at the beginning and end of the canticle.  The hymn O come, O come Emmanuel is based on the Great “O” Antiphons, said from December 16 through December 23 in preparation for Christmas Eve.
Listed below are the antiphons for the proper days, with the verses in the hymn to which they correspond:
12/16 – O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence. (v.2)
12/17 – O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearest in the bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sianai: come and redeem us with an outstreached arm. (v.3)
12/18 – O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shout their mouths, unto whom the Gentile shall seek: come and deliver us, and tarry not. (v.4)
12/19 – O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth: Come, and bring the prisoners out of the prison-house, them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. (v.5)
12/20 – O Day-spring, Brightness of the Light everlasting, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. (v. 6)
12/21 – O King of Nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone, who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay. (v. 7)
12/22 – O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, and Desire of all nations and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God. (v.1)
12/23 – O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any seen like thee, nor shall there be after.  Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Advent Collect - Rector's Rambling for December 8, 2013

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever.  Amen.

This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.

The “Collects” are those collected prayers of the Church, gathered and ordered over the centuries, that express the intentions of the people to God.  Some Collects, such as the Collect for Purity said at the beginning of every Communion Service (“Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known…”) are very ancient.  The Collects appointed for each Sunday of the year in the propers (the appointed prayers and readings for Sundays and Holy Days) in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer are English translations of those of the ancient Western Liturgies codified in the old Latin Mass.  Other newer Collects are added and supplemented as necessary.  The Collects appointed for the day set the theme or tone for the worship of that day.
Some Collects not only set the tone for the day, but for an “octave” – that day and the seven days following for major Feasts such as All Saints’ Day.  Other collects set the tone for an entire season.
The Collect for the First Sunday in Advent is one of those “All Season” Collects.  It is intended to be said daily between that first Sunday and until Christmas (the next season).  At Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Communion services, this Collect is said after the collect that might be appointed for that day.  It is a daily reminder that, for the Season of Advent, we are to put away darkness (sin) and put on the armor of light (God’s righteousness), in preparation for the upcoming celebration of his Nativity (Christmas), and we are to do this in anticipation of his return in glorious majesty to judge the quick (the living) and the dead.
Even if you do not pray Morning and/or Evening Prayer every day from the prayer book (you can and are encouraged to do so) you may still recite this Collect every day in your own personal moments of prayer.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Happy (Church) New Year - Rector's Rambling for December 1, 2013

Happy New Church Year!
This Sunday begins the season of Advent, which means that we start the liturgical year once more.  In the course of the year we have gone through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity.  Today we begin again.
One criticism some churches have of Anglican/Episcopal Churches is the rigidity of the liturgical calendar.  Some even berate the celebration of things like Christmas at all (not the birth of Jesus, but setting a date to celebrate it).
However, as human beings, we live in this space and time, and the cycles of the year (winter, spring, summer, and fall) are a reality.  So too is the reality that the Church calendar takes this into account and helps us to order our year around different aspects of the story of our salvation through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Those without a set calendar or lectionary find themselves stuck with the whim and whimsy of the pastor’s preaching choices.  Having a set year, which has remained mostly unchanged for about 1900 years of Church history, frees us to cover multiple aspects of our Lord’s life and ministry.  And in our unhappy sinful divisions, it is a comfort to know that we follow a very similar calendar with the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic, along with many Reformed Churches.
So bring on the purple vestments and hangings!  It is time for us to begin by looking at the end (of time that is … our Lord’s return) as well as the preparation of the people of the original covenant for the fulfillment of the coming of their Messiah in the birth of Jesus.
And just as we make resolutions at the secular New Year, perhaps the Church New Year is a good time to make some as well.  Here are a few suggestions:
1] Attend Church every Sunday (great for your spiritual health and God wills it).
2] Pray every day.
3] Read the Bible every day (you may use as a guide the lectionary for the Daily Office at the front of the Prayer Book, which is also reprinted on page 3).
4] If you do not already belong to one, choose a Church ministry or organization in which to become involved (Adult Education, Altar Guild, Ushers, Acolytes, Lay Readers, Episcopal Church Women, Daughters of the King, Armitage Men’s Club, Brotherhood of St. Andrew, Sunday School teacher, Home Bible Study/Prayer Group, Coffee Hour host, etc.)
5] Help with the outreach ministries of the parish (“A can a week”, Christmas gift program, mitten tree, toiletry collection, baby clothes and supplies) just to name a few.
~ Reprinted from 11/29/2009