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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Founders Day 2016 - Rector's Rambling for July 31, 2016

Welcome to our guests this week for St. John’s Founders’ Day.  Although the parish was founded in December of 1858, on St. John’s Day, having a summer celebration is more convenient for the parish, and recognizes in one day the many important milestones of the parish, such as the opening of the chapel (November 1858), laying of the church cornerstone (June 1860), opening of the church building (September 1861), and even the reopening of the church after the move to widen Woodward Ave (Easter 1937).
St. John’s has been blessed to be a part of so much of the history of Detroit, being placed smack dab in the middle of it!  Many of her members have played important roles in the city and state.  Parish founder Henry Porter Baldwin became Governor of Michigan and U.S. Senator, early Sunday School director James Vernor and his family are celebrating the anniversary of their famous concoction put together at the pharmacy soda fountain.  Other parishioners have been important in business, finance, medicine and city government.
Although some members past and present have had fame, many more have come and gone to greater life without a grand memorial or product bearing their name.  Yet all these members contributed to the life of the parish by their presence, contributions, and volunteer efforts in things such as our old community lunch room, hosting USO soldiers in the parish hall, and reaching out to minister to the many, in many ways, in our always changing neighborhood.
Those attributes continue to this day.  Opportunities for ministry come and go, but what remains unchanged is our faith in Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and formed by our Anglican Worship.  Today’s service, despite the funny spelling and a few reordered parts, shows us that how we worship today remains the same because He whom we worship remains the same: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
We give thanks for our founders and all those who have gone before us, and for all those who are here today and who God will bring to us in the months and years ahead.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Outreach Giving Sunday! - Rector's Rambling for July 24, 2016

Welcome today to our guests from the many organizations who are recipients of our Outreach Giving grants.
This has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know so many great works that are being done in our neighborhood and within the Detroit city limits.  We look forward to greeting you today as we distribute our giving to you, and to your return in September for our Outreach Committee Fair.  That day we look forward to hearing about your good work, and to the opportunity to sign up to come alongside of you as volunteers.
For 157 years St. John’s has been on this corner of Woodward and what is now I-75.  The neighborhood has gone from farmlands and orchards to the bustling metropolis we see around us.  There have been very good years, and very lean years as well.  Recent redevelopment of this neighborhood is already benefiting the parish with new neighbors, opportunities for ministry, and income, and we look forward to even more such advances as construction begins eventually for three apartment buildings with retail space between us and Central Methodist Church.
Throughout most of our history we have been a ministry outpost to others.  A lunchroom provided affordable meals in the old parish hall building, as well as housing for soldiers in World War II.  It also had a gymnasium to host neighborhood basketball games, and the YWCA of Detroit got its start in there.
Now, in our undercroft and office building, many groups, from Alcoholics Anonymous to local university alternative spring break teams, use our facilities to help others.  Over the years we have participated in community gardening events, local clean-up initiatives, and at one time we even had a harmonica club that performed for local nursing home residents (I kid you not!).  God places all sorts of interesting opportunities at our door step!
Today begins a new day in our outreach efforts to help those around us.  It is exciting to anticipate how God is making opportunities to not just support these ministries financially, but also to partner with them as volunteers to the greater glory of God.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Outreach Committee Grant Guidelines - St. John's Teaching Note for July 24, 2016

St. John’s Teaching Notes
The Outreach Committee

As we make our gift today to the 13 organizations receiving grants from St. John’s, you might be curious how we came to chose these groups, and what was our criteria for making grant decisions.

Having been charged by the vestry to compile a process and procedure, the outreach committee studied how other parishes processed grant requests for outreach giving, and adopted those procedures that we found helpful and expedient.

After several meetings we came up with the following criteria:
1) Does not have to be faith based.
2) No political agenda will be funded.
3) Any donations must be to registered non-profits, with a current Form 990.  (This federal form, filed yearly, details their finances, board of directors and top executives, along with their wages and current audited financial statements.)
4) They should have a brief description of their program(s) and those served.
5) The application should be made to fund a particular project or program.
6) General categories for giving include:
· Poverty, homeless, children, pregnancy help, refugees and mercy/justice ministries.
· Local common good organizations, urban restoration, urban farming/gardening, education, job training.
· Creation care and environmental groups.
· Local arts and music organizations specifically those concerned with beauty, restoration, and historical preservation.
· Disaster relief help.
7) Must be located in the city of Detroit.
8) The organization should allow/encourage  members of St. John’s to participate as volunteers, and recognize St. John’s in their donor mailing end-of-year report.

Our next cycle of applications will begin in the spring.  Please contact Cathy Morgan for more information about the program.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Outreach Giving FAQ - Rector's Rambling for July 17, 2016

Next Sunday we have a really big, and important, event happening at St. John’s.  On July 24, we will be issuing our first set of checks through the work of our recently formed Outreach Committee.  Thirteen organizations applied to the committee for grants, and are being issued checks ranging from $1,750 to $5,000.
Desiring to make some impact in our neighborhood, all organizations receiving grants do ministry here in Detroit, some of them as close as two blocks away from St. John’s.  The desire of the committee, which was commissioned and empowered by the vestry, was to find and support organizations doing work among the poor, with youth, in education, for the betterment of neighborhoods, and in the arts.  Most of the organizations receiving grants qualify on more than one of those goals.
There seems to be some confusion about the work of the committee, and the purpose of these grants, so I will attempt to address that here.

Q – Where is this money coming from?
A – In July 2015, we signed, with a subsidiary of Olympia Development, a long-term lease of part of our property on what is now our parking lot.  Eventually, a five-story apartment building will be built there, we will park in the garage now under construction behind the church, and we will have a greatly enlarged and re-designed garden next to the church for our use and enjoyment.  The income from that lease is greater than it was when we used it as a parking lot, and the vestry wanted to share a portion of that blessed increase with others.
Q – What do you mean by a portion?
A – We are giving away a TITHE of the income from the lease.  A tithe is the FIRST 10% of one’s income and is the biblical expectation for giving.  We hope that parishioners are working toward our Lord’s expectation to tithe of each person/family’s income, and the vestry is leading by example by also giving a tithe of this yearly windfall.
Q – Shouldn’t we fund our own projects around St. John’s first?
A – We have plenty of projects to do around St. John’s, and have gotten a good start on completing those.  But outreach giving is important because we need to learn to be generous with what God provides for us and allows us to have.  That is why God calls for the tithe of the FIRST 10%, not what is left over.  It is all too easy to be all inward looking.  But experience shows that those who are generous in giving reap greater rewards and blessings (not necessarily monetarily).
Q – Shouldn’t these people attend St. John’s?
A – We would love to have all people attend St. John’s, but we are not buying new members.  In fact, experience shows that those who are learning to be generous are also congregations that are growing.  The growth isn’t necessarily from those they are helping, but because they are learning to be generous, and loving, and faithful by giving, and that is a winning combination in attracting people into our fellowship.  Even if not a single person involved with these ministries ever joins St. John’s, it is okay.  God will be faithful to provide for us as he has in the past.
Q – Shouldn’t we help in another way instead of just writing a check?
A – This is not an either/or proposition.  We are doing BOTH.  We have received a financial windfall and it is our bounden duty to share of that bounty.  But we also are offered opportunities to come alongside these groups and volunteer!  On September 18, we will have an Outreach Opportunity Fair, where these organizations will be providing information on their work, and looking for people who might be interested in helping.  The commitment could be from as small as making sandwiches one day a month, to being trained to help with a weekly tutoring program.  Additionally, coming alongside these ministries we do not duplicate what is already being done by others, while we discern what external ministry God may be calling the parish to begin.
Q – What is the bottom line on all this?
A – The bottom line is that God loves a cheerful giver.  So let us be cheerful about giving of this financial windfall, as we learn to be generous in the giving of our time and talent as well.
Mother Teresa was once asked how she did such hard work, and she said she tried to see Jesus in every person to whom she ministered.  We are looking to see Jesus as we write these checks, and look forward to ministering WITH others in Jesus’ name.
A special thank you to Cathy Morgan for her motivating and organizing force behind this committee.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

"We hold these truths to be self-evident,,," - Rector's Rambling for July 3, 2016

Although on the liturgical calendar it is not Independence Day, we certainly find ourselves in the midst of the “Fourth of July” weekend.
Actually, it is the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, and we are well into our long “green” season of ordered teachings by Jesus about the nature of God, His love and mercy, and the fullness of the Godhead in Jesus Himself, as the second person of the Trinity.
During the other seasons of the year we look at different emphases, such as sin and repentance in Lent, Christ’s first and second coming in Advent, and the Manifestation of God in Jesus Christ in Epiphany.
In Trinity-tide, we look to answer the questions – “what is the nature of God”, and “now that we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, how would He have us live?”  This season is “ordinary” due to the ordered teachings, not because nothing special is going on.
But in the midst of this ordinary Sunday we do pay respect and homage to the birth of our nation by her Declaration of Independence in 1776 (certain colonies having already been at war with England since April of 1775).  As the document begins, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Thirty-two of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence (57%) worshipped in what would become after the Revolutionary War the Episcopal Church.  May God bless our country as we strive to be a people grateful for His providence, and working to be the country and people He intends.  And may we, as faithful Episcopalians, continue to pray for, and raise up leaders for, our country.