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, February 27, 2017

16 years and counting - Rector's Rambling for February 26, 2017

Yesterday I celebrated the 16th anniversary of my arrival as the rector of St. John’s.  Once again I am amazed at how time has flown, and yet it seems like I have been here forever.  When I arrived from the Diocese of Pittsburgh my sons were four years, three years, and six months old!
When I arrived, Comerica Park was in its second season, and Ford Field was not yet open.  And God willing by this fall we will have a new hockey/basketball arena to add to the list of neighborhood milestones.  Other local changes include the demolition of the old Cass Tech high school, Tiger Stadium, and the majestic Donovan building catty-corner across the freeway where the hockey arena is – all of which were once viewed from the church front steps.
In my first five years we did over $500,000 in repairs to the stone, roof, and windows, added our electronic signboard and awnings, and replanted the garden.  In addition to those projects, we have replaced the heating & cooling system in the office and installed new furnaces for the church/chapel/undercroft.  Two showers were installed in the undercroft for use by groups using the building for weekend/weekday retreats.  Lighting has been upgraded in the chapel, church sanctuary, and church narthex.  Brand new 1928 Prayer Books and 1940 Hymnals were donated for the chapel and church.  Countless repairs/restorations of pews and other wood items have been accomplished by able parishioners.  A new drop off driveway will be constructed soon to compliment our use of the new parking garage.  The front narthex doorway is being made handicapped accessible, and we look forward to renovations to the kitchen, undercroft, office building (a $1.5 million dollar project) and eventually the complete re-landscaping of the garden once Olympia builds their apartment building in what is our parking lot.
More exciting than the physical changes have been the many wonderful people who have graced us with their presence and participated in our life here.  Some have gone ahead to greater life to be with The Lord, others have come and gone for work related relocation.  And as happens in an urban parish, people pop in and out for a variety of reasons.  Thanks be to God for the many faithful who have come, and stayed, and contributed positively to our common life.  And we look forward to those who will join us in days, weeks, months and years ahead, God willing.
I consider it a great blessing to have been here these 16 years, and I pray that God will grant us many more together!

Monday, February 20, 2017

A tribute to a good neighbor - Rector's Rambling for February 19, 2017

This week the city of Detroit mourned the passing of Michael Ilitch, owner of the Tigers, Red Wings, The Fox Theatre, Little Caesar’s Pizza, and a myriad of other business interests.
Here in the neighborhood around St. John’s there were ways to express that mourning.  A large display was erected at Comerica Park with photos of Mr. Ilitch at various stages of his life, and a place for people to share their admiration and thanks for his life.  On Wednesday a public viewing was held in the lobby of the Fox Theatre, his first major city renovation project.  From noon past 8:00 PM, people filed past his casket to pay respects to a man who started out as a minor league baseball player, a door-to-door aluminum siding salesman, and then a pizza shop owner.
Here at St. John’s we have had a long-time business relationship with the Ilitch family.  Since the 1990s, their parking company has managed our parking lot, and in the last two years we have entered into a new development agreement for that land that not only helps the parish financially, but is part of a larger plan to develop the neighborhood with not only sports and commercial ventures, but also with much need residential buildings in which our future parishioners will live and from which they will walk to church.
On a personal, religious note, the Ilitches have also been supporters of St. John’s.  Macedonian Orthodox in faith, Mike and Marian Ilitch’s parents were founding members of their congregation, which met in our chapel until they could construct their own building.  They always remembered that to us by sending along offerings at Christmas and Easter in memory of their parents, and our several occasions to have them with us here at St. John’s have been filled with personal thanksgiving for what St. John’s did for their congregation, as we give thanks for the many things they have done to improve our neighborhood.
Mr. Ilitch noted to me that he looked out his office at our building, and it was a most pleasant sight to see.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The gesimas - Rector's Rambling for February 12, 2017

I love using big words that roll off the tongue, and their very pronunciation and mysterious sounding meaning makes them fun to say.  The next three Sundays, including today, have such fun sounding names.  Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima are just such words!
But more than just being fun to say, they are an important signal to us.  As we see those words appear on our service bulletin and the Chronicle, we know that Lent, and therefore Easter, are approaching!
These three Sundays are, as the prayer book calls them, the Pre-Lenten Season.  Things start to change liturgically (how we worship) as we begin to prepare for the coming of Lent.
For a few years we were a bit schizophrenic in how we kept this pre-Lenten season.  We were using the newer lectionary (readings) which did away with the “gesima” Sundays, and so we ended up keeping the old name, with new readings, new collects, and a new theme up until Lent actually started.  Occasionally someone would come up to me and say “didn’t these long named Sundays used to be purple, not green?”   And they were right.  The green went with the newer reading schedule, not the name.
So having restored, with the Bishop’s permission, the original lectionary intended to be used with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, we are back in the purple for Pre-Lent.  The “Glory be to God on High” has been put away until Easter, and the “Alleluias” have also disappeared.
Now is the time of year to begin thinking about what disciplines you intend to keep in the Lenten season to come, and perhaps start weaning yourself off whatever it is you might be giving up.
Ash Wednesday is late this year, being on March 1.  Between now and then, let us begin our preparations for the coming Lenten fast as we enjoy pronouncing the “gesimas” to our friends and family!
Pre-Lent, Lent, Passiontide, and Holy Week are an orderly path to the glory of Easter.  Let us follow the church’s lead toward that glory.

Monday, February 06, 2017

The Blessing of Throats - Rector's Rambling for February 5, 2017

Today we commemorate one of my favorite saints days – the Feast of St. Blase.  Yes, this is the saint where we have the Blessing of Throats.  We will bless throats after the 8:00 and 10:00 AM Masses in the chapel.  Why is he a favorite?  Perhaps it is the fond memories of being bundled up as a kid and brought to Church for a special weekday service in February to have my throat blessed – it made a deep impression on me!
According to the Anglican Breviary – “St. Blase is venerated as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers; which same are certain Saints reputed to have a special power of intercession in heaven on behalf of those in peril or suffering on earth.  According to the common tradition, they were all martyrs, except St. Giles.  The Seven Holy Helpers are Acaius (against false accusations), Barbara (fire and lightning), Blase (ailments of the throat), Catherine of Alexandria (learned peoples), Christopher (travelers), Cyriacus (for clergy), Denys (mental illness), Erasmus (intestinal problems), Eustace (hunters and those with dangerous jobs), George (soldiers), Giles (good workmen, beggars and cripples), Margaret (the fearful), Pantaleon (those who care for the sick), and Vitus (limb infirmities).
The following of St. Blase is widespread because of the blessing of throats on his feast day.  The legend is that on the eve of his martyrdom, Blase healed a young man who was dying from having a thorn lodged in his throat.  Blase died in the 316.” (The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Press, 1965, p. 1102)
The Blessing of Throats is a request for God’s healing power through the gift of healing intercession given to St. Blase.  Just as many people here on earth exhibit special graces given to them by God the Holy Ghost (healing, teaching, speaking in tongues), so too the Church teaches that some Saints continue that gift from heaven by His mercy toward us.
Please join is in the chapel after the services today to have your throat blessed.