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, March 27, 2014

Sneak peek - "From the Rector" for the Lent/Easter 2014 Edition of The Eagle (parish newsletter).

On March  23rd the Bishop of Michigan Confirmed seven members of  St. John’s Church.   Of  those seven one was an adult, Dennis Lennox.  Of the sixth teenagers, three were baptized here at St. John’s and three of them baptized by me as babies/young children. Congratulations and blessings to Dennis, Carissa and Micah Bracker, James and Robert Burton, Caleb Dagle, and William Kelly.  This is a big milestone for a Rector who has been at a parish for a long period of time; presenting for confirmation those whom you’ve baptized as a baby.  Now the milestone question is who will be the first teenager I presented 13 or 12 years ago for Confirmation to get married?
Looking forward, we have a busy time ahead of us in mid-April.  With a late start to Lent this year, Holy Week begins on April 13th with the celebration of Palm Sunday.  Then Wednesday through Sunday are busy with the great worship of Holy Week: Tenebrae, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Day.   It is a rigorous schedule, but one that is to Glorify God and is good for your soul’s health!  Take advantage of as many, if not all, of these opportunities to worship and to be built up in The Faith. 
This year’s baseball outing will be on May 11th, which is Mothers' Day.  I tried my best to avoid that day, but all other Sunday home games through mid-June (when the choir was available to sing the National Anthem) were either taken, sold out, or on Easter Day.  I am hoping that there will be lots of moms who will want to make a trip to the ballpark the beginning of their special day celebration (along with the 10am Service at St. John’s). 
The baseball outing to the Tigers game isn’t just a way to show off the choir and cheer on the team.  It is also a great opportunity for you to invite your neighbors and friends to join us for Church so that they can park in the lot, enjoy our hot dog luncheon, and then go over to the game with us.  John Barge frequently rounds up upwards of 100 friends and co-workers to join us each year.  Others invite 10 or 20, and some even buy  their tickets as an enticement to get friends to worship with us and experience St. John’s.
Finally, I know that 2014 started off with a string of snowy, icy, Sunday mornings.  I hope that those who have gotten out of the habit of regular Sunday attendance will get back into the habit ASAP!  God wills it, it is good for your soul, and we miss you!  And when people are absent it diminishes the experience of worship for others. A church with more people praying and singing is a great support and encouragement!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Private" prayer and meditation - A teaching note for March 23, 2014

Another oldie, but goodie - always appropriate, but especially for Lent.

Although it is called “private” prayer, because we do it alone, in fact no prayer is “private”.  All prayer is joined together with other’s prayers for the same intentions.  God hears each prayer individually, yet we know that even if we are kneeling down at the side of our bed or sitting quietly in a chair in our living room, those prayers are being joined to the great assembly of saints on earth and in heaven.
Fr. Martin Thornton, the late great writer about English Spirituality, said that our prayer lives have to be Trinitarian in nature.  In other words, it has to be balanced and equal, just as the Persons of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are equal.  He even assigns a Person of the Trinity to each type of prayer.
The Daily Office is like God the Father, with its great orderliness.  The Holy Communion is Jesus Christ Himself.  And Private Prayer is the Holy Ghost – giving some freedom and empowering that freedom in prayer to be directed to the Father, through the Son.
If we are “All Daily Office” at the expense of the other two, we risk becoming rigid or stale in our prayer life.  If we are “All Holy Communion” we risk missing out on the bigger picture of what Jesus’ saving act was for.  If we are “All Personal Prayer” we risk become too self-centered and self-indulgent in our prayer life, just as a charismatic who is only concentrated on the Holy Ghost is apt to be led off on tangents that lead to personal regard for some, and rejection of other Church doctrines.
There are many types of prayer that many Western Christians have felt helpful.  But best of all is to just start praying by speaking to our Heavenly Father as you would someone who loves you.  After all – He does!
Next week - Methods of  "private" prayer.

Friday, March 21, 2014

What kind of bat are you? - Rector's Rambling for March 23, 2014

There is an old joke among clergy involving the bell tower being infested with bats, and priests seeking a remedy.  One priest gives his solution, “I had them Confirmed, and I haven’t seen them since.”  This is, unfortunately, true in many church circles.  Confirmation is seen by many as a “Graduation” from the learning process rather than a sacrament of greater devotion, membership, and responsibility.
Last Sunday evening we had seven people Confirmed by our Diocesan Bishop and we thank God for their recognized commitment to Our Lord.
We have had seven Confirmation Services in the time that I have been Rector of St. John’s at which 95 people have been Confirmed, 5,144 since our founding.  Of those 95 people, 51 still attend St. John’s, 21 have moved out of state, six have joined the Roman Catholic or Presbyterian Churches, and two have died.  The other 15 have stopped attending for a variety of reasons, or for no reason at all.  The class of 2010 has the best “staying” power, with 15 of the 16 Confirmed that day still members of St. John’s.
All these numbers add up to 54% of those confirmed still at St. John’s, and 82% accounted for as still participating in the worship of Almighty God here on earth or hereafter.  Both of these numbers are, I would believe, above average.  But then God has blessed us in many ways to be so.
Confirmations and Baptisms (we have two scheduled at Eastertide) always give me a sense of renewed hope for The Church, and is a wonderful reminder of the promises I made (and were originally made for me by my godparents) in 1981 and 1966.  And I hope that this Lent we will find ourselves renewed in our commitment to The Faith.  Let us not be like those pesky bats who went away, but rather like all those in every generation who have continued in the Church in service to Our Lord.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fasting AND Eating - Rector's Rambling for March 16, 2014

Lent is off to a good start.  Attendance at all three Ash Wednesday Services was good.  Friday Stations and Benediction has also started and usually picks up as Lent moves on.  And I hope that you have been keeping your Lenten Fast.
As much as we may focus on the fasting and sacrificial disciplines in Lent, not only abstinence from flesh meat on Fridays, but also the sacrifice of “giving something up for Lent”, our Lenten devotion at St. John’s is deeply grounded in something that is eaten, The Holy Communion.
Although we have the service of Benediction after the Thursday Communion Service all year long, during Lent we add weekly adoration time on Thursday, an extra celebration of the Holy Communion on Friday, and Benediction after the Stations of the Cross. This all is in addition to our 12:15 Masses on Tuesday and Wednesday.  One of the greatest privileges of being a priest is the grace to say Mass, and it is a glorious privilege of every baptized Christian to receive the Blessed Sacrament daily if so desired.
There is no more efficacious way for us to interact with Jesus Christ than in the Blessed Sacrament.  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.  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”  (John 6:53–56)
Being regular about eating His flesh and drinking His Blood at Mass, we also take time to adore Him in His Sacramental presence with silent meditation before Him, and in worship through the hymns of the Benediction Service.  It is a good discipline for Lent, and a blessing all year long.

Praying the Holy Communion Service - Teaching Note for March 16, 2014

This is an oldie, but goodie....so it was reprinted in the Chronicle on March 16, 2014.

With our glorious Choir at the 10:00 AM service, as well as at our simpler 8:00 AM service, combined with the many things that take place up at the altar, it is easy to slip into “passive-parishioner” mode during the celebration of the Holy Communion.  Yet we are called to worship, not just sit and watch.  After all, liturgy is “the work of the people”, and it is how we as a body glorify God.
Just as each part of our body has different jobs, so too there are many and various “jobs” at our Divine Liturgy.  The Priest plays a sacerdotal role (priestly sacramental role) as he leads the liturgy, invoking the Lord’s presence, (especially at the altar during the Eucharistic Canon), offering our common prayers, and granting God’s absolution and blessing.  The Assisting Priests, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, and Acolytes do their part in helping to lead the liturgy, or to help others in their rolls.  The Altar Guild is active before and after with their duties, and the ushers have their assigned duties to help things go smoothly.
The Choir has an obvious roll in leading and presenting music, which is an offering of praise and prayer.  But let me remind you that everyone is expected to join in the singing of hymns and canticles!  This is one area where the whole body must join in, no matter what part of the liturgy they are fulfilling.  The Congregation should be able to drown out the Choir on most hymns – outnumbering them 10 to 1!  In addition, the hymns are great teaching tools; reading the texts through before the service is a good preparatory meditation.  Also, you should follow the text printed in the bulletin as the Choir sings the anthem and Minor Propers.
Those in the pews, in addition to hearty singing, should be following the liturgy in the Prayer Book to keep their minds alert.  We should be responding with joyous (and audible) “Amen” and “And with thy Spirit”.  We should also be, in our hearts, adding our own intentions (prayer requests) and thanksgivings during the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church and the Eucharistic Canon.  And of course, we should be actively listening during the readings and the sermon.
Although the 8:00 AM Sunday, and weekday services, are without music, parishioners still actively participate in the worship with their prayers and responses.
~ Fr. Kelly

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Flashback to last Spring - The Rector on the Radio

A friend sent me a link to my interview last year on Detroit Tigers Opening Day on WJR-AM 760.  I share the segment with Charlie Mancuso, also known as The Singing Hot Dog guy.  FYI - Charlie made good on a promise and came to St. John's for the Christmas Services. Click on the link.....
Fr. Kelly on WJR - Opening Day 2013

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Happy Lent - Rector's Rambling for March 9, 2014

“Have a happy Lent!”

Does that sound funny to you?  Combining “Happy” and “Lent” seems strange to most of us.  But I know I am happy to start this church season for several reasons.
First, it is my favorite season.  I like the extra devotions, the extra effort put in by many parishioners, and even the discipline itself.  And on top of that, I know that it is only six weeks until the celebration of Easter.  It also means SPRING is coming (especially anticipated this cold & snowy winter) and so is baseball season!
Secondly, I need Lent!  I know on all sorts of cerebral levels that I need the extra discipline and devotion in my life, and Lent not only reminds me of this, but helps me to jump in with two feet.  As winter wears on, I find myself wearing out as well, and Lent is, for me, a real revival of spirit.  My fallen nature tends towards the easier, softer way.  I need to be reminded of how I should, and can, live.
But perhaps the most poignant reason that it is appropriate to wish someone a “Happy Lent” is because the root of the word “Happy” is from the same word as “Blessedness”.
Too often we are chasing after happiness as just a feeling.  I was struck by a scene in a popular television show a few years ago where the guilty-feeling actress, trying to justify her actions, says to the priest, “I just want to be happy”, to which he replies, “That is the cry of a spoiled child.”  He was exactly right.
If we chase after happiness (the feeling) then we will never be satisfied.  But if we strive for blessedness, then we will begin to have satisfaction in becoming who HE wants us to be and then be really happy!
This Collect is to be said every day in Lent, after the
Collect appointed for the day, until Palm Sunday.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany - a Teaching Note for March 9, 2014

Written by me a few years ago, it is reprinted here as a reminder of what we do on the First Sunday in Lent - SJK+
One of the gems of our Anglican Heritage is the Litany.  Having fallen into disuse in most places this “general supplication” has roots in the ancient liturgies of the Church (as far back as the 6th century).  Archbishop Thomas Cranmer included it in the first Book of Common Prayer, and it has been included in every subsequent edition.  However, Archbishop Cranmer removed the first three supplications after the invocation of the Holy Trinity; for St. Mary, the Holy Angels and Archangels, and all the Saints, which were contained in the ancient Western Rite.
The rubrics of the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer (which is still the official prayer book in England) orders that the Litany “ be sung or said after Morning Prayer upon Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and at other times when it shall be commanded by the Ordinary.”
The American Church, until the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, assumed that every Sunday the primary services of the parish church would be Morning Prayer AND the Litany AND the Holy Communion…back-to-back-to-back.  Further proof is that nowhere is there a rubric in Morning Prayer for the preaching of a sermon, since the assumption is that the sermon would be included in the Holy Communion service following Morning Prayer and the Litany.  The 1928 Prayer Book assumes some separation of the services, instructing that the Litany be used “after the Third Collect at Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer; or before the Holy Communion; or separately.”
We will be chanting the Litany, with the altar party and choir solemnly processing about the chancel, on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays in Lent.  The congregation is encouraged to join in the responses while kneeling.  This is the ancient way it was done in the Church, just as we have processions for Palm Sunday, Rogation Day, Corpus Christi, and other festive or intercessory occasions.  The Christian Life is one of forward movement, and a procession is an outward symbolic action representing the movement toward the goal of sanctity here on earth and eternal life with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
~ Fr. Kelly

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A late start for Lent - Rector's Rambling for March 2, 2014

This year we will be getting a late start on Lent.  By the first Sunday in March last year we were already three weeks into Lent!
But we aren’t even in Lent yet.  We begin our season of fasting and penance this Wednesday, better known as Ash Wednesday.  We will have two celebrations of the Holy Communion with the imposition of ashes, at 12:15 and 6:00 PM.  Additionally, ashes will be available at Evening Prayer at 4:00 PM that day.
If you haven’t by now, I hope that you will take the opportunity to look through the brochures, “The Observance of an Holy Lent” and “Opportunities for Worship, Education, and Fellowship – Lent and Holy Week 2014”.  Both brochures are chock full of information to get you ready for this season, and to help you to make plans for the next seven weeks.
Lent is one of my favorite seasons, primarily because I need it.  I need it not only because I need to be aware of my sins and failings and to deepen my repentance of them, but also because it is a season that is full of hope.
We don’t “do Lent” in order to make ourselves feel bad, but we do it as a type of Spring Training.  This renewed discipline helps us to get into spiritual condition, and prepares us for the coming joy of the celebration of the Resurrection (which is far better than baseball Opening Day).
Yes, we are to be aware of our sins and to repent of them all year long.  Lent is a time of particular training and discipline in preparation for Easter, and this training equips us for living the rest of the church year.
This Church season is at a time when the long cold darkness of winter is waning and the light and warmth of spring approaches.  Let us be prepared and trained as we are strengthened to live the new life of Grace that has been freely given us.