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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Happy Birthday USA - Rector's Rambling for July 2, 2017

Today we anticipate, with thanksgiving, the independence of our country.  Although July 4 is marked as the holiday, in fact it was on July 2 that independence was formally declared by the Continental Congress, but not publicly announced until a few days later (some say it was so that the signers could get out of town and avoid being arrested for treason, but this is doubtful).  The formal copy of the Declaration of Independence, signed in large script by John Hancock, was actually signed on August 2 after an original document had been sent on its way to King George.
Although there is much debate about  the religious sensibilities of our country’s founders, there is no doubt that all of them were religious in one way or another.  From Thomas Jefferson’s Masonic deism to John Adams’ New England Puritanism turned Unitarian Congregationalism, a broad spectrum of religious belief was held by those who declared these colonies free from England’s rule.
Thirty-two of the 56 signers were members of the Church of England.  This means that 57% of the signers were members of a church that had clergy who took an oath of allegiance to the King of England at their ordination!  It took some time after the Revolution for what was left of the Church of England to organize themselves into what would become the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America.
To read the Declaration is to see an acknowledgement that our liberty comes from God:
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.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Extra-ordinary in Ordinary Time - Rector's Rambling for June 25, 2017

Last week I mentioned that the celebration of Corpus Christi on Sunday marked the last “hurrah” before we entered the long “green” period of the Ordinary Season, better known as Trinitytide.
But our start today in the green is anything but ordinary.  Before the sermon, we will induct two members into the Daughters of the King, and then after the sermon, we will make a new member of the Body of Christ through the waters of baptism.  You cannot top that for a start to this summer and fall church season.
Although the title “ordinary” time makes it appear that there is nothing special about these coming weeks, it actually is about being well-ordered with teaching about Jesus and the life of faith.  I promise you that it won’t be ordinary as in not special.
In addition to special events like the institution and baptism, we will have other special Sunday events in the coming weeks.  July 30 will be our Founders’ Sunday.  August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration (which is observed on a Sunday if they overlap).  We will also celebrate St. Michael and all Angels and the Feast of All Saints on Sundays because of their importance.  And a few more baptisms are being planned, God willing, during this time as well.
Whether a special Sunday, or seemingly ordinary, it is still our bounden duty to worship God every Sunday in His Church (Office of Instruction, p. 291, 1928 Book of Common Prayer).  I know that folks are away for portions of the summer, but if you are home, I hope that you will be here with us for worship.  Your absence is not only detrimental to your spiritual life, but diminishes us all as well, since we do not have you with us to worship and to encourage us by your presence.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Corpus Christi Sunday - Rector's Rambling for June 18, 2017

Today we celebrate, with great gratitude, the gift of Jesus Christ to us of His own Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  Corpus Christi (Latin for the Body of Christ) commemorates the institution of the Holy Communion, which occurred at the Last Supper the night before Jesus died on the Cross.  We commemorated this event in the context of Holy Week, connecting it to Jesus’ Great Commandment on Maundy Thursday to “Love one another as he has loved us”, which we also commemorated with the washing of feet.
Now, before we embark on the long Ordinary Season known as Trinitytide, we have one last hurrah to remember that which Jesus said to “do in remembrance” of Him.
As you noticed on your way into the church today, the fencing is up for the first phase of construction on our property.  A new drop off and parking area is being constructed behind the office building, which will then be connected to the newly renovated office building (in phase two, which we hope to begin later this fall).
We are also reconstructing the southwest narthex entrance, pictured above.  The awkwardness of having to step down immediately upon exiting, or having to step backward on the steps while opening the door from the outside, will be eliminated by building a porch at floor level, which will then have stairs and a handicapped ramp (faced with stone to match the building) down to the sidewalk.  This will then be temporarily landscaped until construction is completed on the new apartment building in our lot, and the garden is made 2.5 times larger and completely re-landscaped (date still to be determined).

Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we work around the work being done to improve our property

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pentecost Sunday - Rector's Rambling for June 4, 2017

A hearty welcome to all our guests today for our Tigers Baseball Sunday.  Having sold nearly 200 tickets to the game, we enjoy hosting our many friends and neighbors for this special day of worship, fellowship, and sport.
The neighborhood continues to change as new buildings are going up all around us.  In the next few weeks construction begins on the new handicapped entrance ramp directly into the church narthex (lobby), and the new office building drop-off area.  Then, God willing, by late fall we will begin renovations on the office building and its meeting spaces, followed by the undercroft (where we will be eating lunch today) which will include a new kitchen that has been donated to us by Google.
Once the new fences go up for the construction projects, in addition to our lot next to the church, we will be using more of the lot across Montcalm, and also the new “D” garage behind us, for parking on Sunday and for special events.  If you have questions on Sunday mornings about where to park, look for signage and our St. John’s attendants.
We have had a wonderful week-and-a-half at St. John’s as we have participated in the Thy Kingdom Come program with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and with our worldwide Anglican Communion.  Attendance at all events surpassed initial sign-ups, and we had the opportunity to hear the faith stories of parishioners and offer prayer for more and more people to come to know Jesus.  Each of the 6:00 PM services was broadcast live, and can be viewed at www.Facebook.com/stjohnsdetroit.
Finally, and most importantly, a blessed Feast of Pentecost to one and all.  May God bless us all with the gifts of the Holy Spirit (and may we cooperate with them) in order to be the church and people that God desires us to be!

Trinity Sunday - Rector's Rambling for June 11, 2017

I am still glowing from our Thy Kingdom Come activities that lead up to last Sunday’s Pentecost (and baseball outing) celebration.  We had a fantastic week of worship and introspection and hope for the coming of the Holy Ghost.  I am not alone in sensing that He is active among the people of this congregation.
This past week I had a chance to dash out to Philadelphia for two days before returning to St. John’s for our regular worship and routine.  And yet my heart yearned for the week before and its activity.  Would there be an interest in having a weekly weekday gathering at the Prayer Wall for Evening Prayer?  If so, let me know and we can pick a day and put it on the calendar for the coming months.
Today we get to try to decipher a great mystery – The Holy Trinity.  As the diagram above tries to describe, each person is unique, and all three are one and equally God as well.
Today we will read the Athansian Creed at the service, and I hope that you will try to pay special attention to its text.  Maybe even read it to yourself before or after we recite it together.  This longest, and most thorough of the creeds does its best in trying to explain the Trinity, and even then it falls short of the sublime glory that is God in Trinity.
In the end, we need to be like the Eastern Orthodox who believe it is more important that we just worship God in Trinity rather than try to fully comprehend it.  But as we know as western Christians, we believe that Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi – the Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief (or “what we pray is what we believe”).
We pray and ask God to help us to embrace the truth of God in Trinity even if we don’t understand it, and keep doing so until we meet Him/Them face to face.