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, June 22, 2015

Ordinary Time - Rector's Rambling for June 21, 2015

We are now into the green season of Trinity-tide.  From now until November 29, with only three exceptions for St. Michael and All Angels, St. Luke the Physician, and All Saints Day, we will be wearing the green vestments for Sundays.  Each week is numbered as Sundays after Trinity Sunday.
This season is also known as Ordinary time.  When we say “ordinary” we don’t mean there is nothing special about it, but rather that it is a time of ordered teaching by and about our Lord.  This is a time to look deeper into the various teachings of the Church not touched upon in those other shorter seasons (Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, etc.) that have specific themes.
We are people who are confined to time and space, and the church calendar helps us to mark time with our Lord’s life and teaching.
Additionally, we have a schedule here during the week.  We celebrate the Holy Communion Services on Sunday and Weekdays as well as the Daily Office of Evening Prayer.  The readings and theme of each weekday service is set not only by the Sunday previous, but the various Feast Days that occur on those days.  This helps us to mark time as well as be regular about the life of prayer.
And let us not forget that even our “regular” Sundays have a rotating schedule.  First Sunday has the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), Second and Fifth Sundays are Morning Prayer with Communion, Third Sunday begins with the Litany before the Service and includes Healing Prayers by members of the Order of St. Luke.
How we worship on Sunday (the Order for the Service of Holy Communion) is set for us, but we have variations of readings for each week, known as The Lectionary.  The hymns are selected for the theme of the readings for the week and therefore vary as well.  So although the Communion Service from the Prayer Book does not change in substance or text, the teaching (lessons) and worship (hymns) does vary, giving us both stability as well as variety.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Praying for The General Convention

This week (beginning on Thursday) our denomination meets in its 'once every three year' legislative gathering, called The General Convention. Each diocese is represented by lay and clergy members in a House of Deputies, and the Bishops assemble in their own House, a bi-cameral legislative body roughly based on the US Constitution model (the founders of both had some overlap). 

Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield, Illinois, writes recently "that we are infested with a morass of systemic complexity and bureaucracy that is choking out our institutional life. 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". It most likely won't happen this cycle. 
As I mention to the parish every three years 1) No, I am not going to General Convention - I wouldn't be elected by the diocese, wouldn't want to go as a visitor anyway, 2) you will hear only the most sensational, scandalous things in the media (secular and church media) and 3) whatever you read/hear/see about General Convention, next Sunday the Gospel will continue to be preached at St. John's Church Detroit as it has been since 1859.

Today is a good day to start praying for The Church, and please continue praying throughout the 10 days of General Assembly beginning June 25.
Almighty and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world; We beseech thee to be with the Council of thy Church assembled in thy Name and Presence. Save us from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe, we beseech thee, so to direct, sanctify, and govern us in our work, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that the comfortable Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed, in all places, to the breaking down the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death; till at length the whole of thy dispersed sheep, being gathered into one fold, shall become partakers of everlasting life; through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen. 

---- A Prayer to be used at the meetings of Convention (1928 Book of Common Prayer)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lessons in hard things - Rector's Rambling for Sunday, June 14, 2015

The past two weeks I have been spending time getting an education in a subject I would have rather not.
On Sunday, May 31, we had storm water back up our basement drains, and within a few minutes we were ankle deep.  We raced around the basement as the water was coming in, moving things upstairs (or at least up high), and felt otherwise helpless as the basement filled.
The education began a few hours later when the plumber showed up to try to snake our drain (his snake only went 100 feet and we discovered it was 140 to the city storm so he had to come back).  We learned how to use a pump to empty the basement, which then had to be turned on and off through the night as water receded and then rose again until 3:00 AM.
Then the education was ramped up as we had an emergency restoration company come in to remove the rugs in the play area, dry it out with dehumidifiers and fans, and then sanitize everything that was touched by water.
Our final exam, however, seems to be convincing the insurance company, through the adjustor, to pay for what was damaged such as furniture and the paneling on the wall.  The adjustor and emergency service manager, as well as yours truly, had a 2+ hour heart to heart combined with photos and measuring.  As of this writing we are waiting for the results.
Three highlights in all this?  One is that when we read about flooding in neighbor’s basements the last two years, we bought an insurance rider to cover this damage (it is not standard coverage).  Second, we had put many things in the basement up on shelves and in plastic bins just in case this might happen.  It helped to be prepared.  But the third highlight is that the adjustor, here from Wisconsin, was a devout Christian, and he and I spent and additional 45 minutes witnessing and praying for and with each other.
The flood was a bad thing.  But I met a fellow faithful member of the Body of Christ, was encouraged in hearing his story of conversion and new life in Christ, and for that I am grateful.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Corpus Christi Sunday - Rector's Rambling for June 7, 2015

In the fall of 2001, eight months after I arrived, a man from the first parish I worked in came for a visit from Philadelphia.  Woody was a wonderful churchman who attended the early Sunday service at The Church of the Good Shepherd to make his Communion, and then had to rush back downtown to be the audio engineer at a Presbyterian church.  He has a long, interesting spiritual journey that was deeply grounded in the Sacramental Theology of the Church.
A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive this grace, and a pledge to assure us thereof” (Second Office of Instruction from the Book of Common prayer, p. 292).  Baptism and Holy Communion are the two primary sacraments among the seven generally recognized by the Church.  Last week we were graced to have a baptism, and today we are celebrating in a special way the gift of Our Lord giving Himself to us under the species of Bread and Wine.
After some time in prayer in our chapel, Woody said to me, “what a perfect place, with the decoration behind the cross, for the Service of Benediction.”  I had to break it to him that although St. John’s was quite advanced in her Churchmanship we did not have a Monstrance, the device to adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, in order to have that service.
Two weeks later this arrived in the mail, a sacrificial gift from a friend living far away geographically, but close in heart every time we have Benediction (scheduled Thursdays after the 10:30 service, and on special Holy Days).
Jesus Christ is present in His the Holy Sacrament.  Let us “eat His flesh and drink His blood” (John 6), and adore and give thanks for that blessing given to us.

Trinity Sunday - Rector's Rambling for May 31, 2015

Last week we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, better known to traditional Anglicans as Whitsunday.  On that day we celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples to empower them for ministry. 
We had a large congregation last week because it was also our Tiger Baseball Outing Sunday.  With all the guests and occasional visitors present I quipped in my sermon that they were hearing about the third person of the Holy Trinity but that if they came back today I would be explain everything about the Holy Trinity in today’s sermon.
Those ‘in the know’ laughed at my glib comment, meant as both and enticement and a joke as well, because NOBODY can explain the entire mystery, or even close to all of it, in 15 hours, no less 15 minutes.  And I would venture to state that even with 15 hours or more one would not be able to fully explain that mystery, because in the end, it is a mystery.
In my last parish near Pittsburgh I became friends with the Russian Orthodox priest in town.  We spoke frequently about ministry and theology.  And I remember that at one time we had quite the discussion about God the Holy Trinity (and not just the problem of the absence of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed in the Eastern churches - that is a topic for another day’s Rambling).  In the end I think that he had the more profound statement.  Rather than arguing the Trinity, he found it more advantageous to “worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity…” (from the Athanasian Creed).  And he was right! 
God willing, I will preach today and inform rather and confuse. But more importantly let us Worship God in Trinity that He may be gloried now and forever!  Amen.