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, July 31, 2017

Founders Day 2017 - Rector's Rambling for July 30, 2017

It is nice to look backwards occasionally to be reminded of your heritage.  That is a goal of this Sunday’s Founders’ Day.  We not only worship  today with the original Prayer Book in use when the parish opened for worship (November 10, 1859), but we are reminded again of the hundreds of people who were instrumental in the building of the chapel (1859) and church (1861) and the thousands who have gone before us.  These many people have supported this parish with their prayers, time, and financial contributions.
We are here today on this corner of Woodward and High Street (now Fisher Freeway) to worship the same Almighty God, using the same Anglican formularies of faith and liturgy.  Although the “ ſ ” now looks like an “ s ” in the prayer book, the form for our worship in the 1928 Prayer Book differs in only the smallest ways of reordering and reprioritizing.  The Faith for which our worship is ordered has not changed because it is grounded in Scripture.  This Faith has continued to be expressed in our worldwide Anglican Communion since the 16th century, and since the Good News of Jesus Christ was brought to England (home of our mother church) shortly after the Resurrection.
Henry Porter Baldwin is our parish founder, having bought this land and donated it, along with architectural designs for these buildings, and some cash to get it started.  It is for his leadership in organizing his neighbors in a meeting in the house pictured above to form this parish, his leadership as Senior Warden of the parish for 34 years while also serving as State Senator, U.S. Senator, and Governor of Michigan, and as a leader in banking and industry, that we celebrate Founders’ Day, and we give thanks to God for him, and for all those who have sat in these pews since 1859.

Monday, July 24, 2017

My turning point in understanding the faith - Rector's Rambling for July 23, 2017

It was a hot, muggy weekday Mass at St. Mary’s Hamilton Village (West Philadelphia) on July 24, 1989.  As it often was, there were only three of us at the service, including the priest.
At sermon time he read the hagiography (saint’s biography) for the saint of day, St. Thomas a Kempis.  “The Imitation of Christ, which he composed or compiled, has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Holy Scriptures”.  The priest then quipped, “I think I read that in seminary, but I don’t think it applies to the church anymore.”
During the rest of Mass the words of that priest churned through my brain.  How could this book, the most translated work besides the Bible, not be relevant any longer?
After the service I went to the used bookstore four blocks away and purchased a copy of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.  It is not a particularly long book, but rather is written in a format that is intended for reading in small sections and meditating on them.
Having recently come back to the practice of the faith six months previously, I devoured the book like a man finding water after days in the desert.  I read it completely in one sitting.  Thomas’ explanation of the Scriptures, the new life in Christ, and how we apply them to our daily living were a welcome aid to my spiritual life.  It was also a realization that not only does this devotional book still apply to the church, but it was absolutely necessary and needed!
That day was a turning point for me to see the Scriptures as real and relevant, interpreting and shaping the culture, and not the other way around.  Thank you St. Thomas a Kempis for writing such a wonderful work, and thank you Fr. John Scott for inadvertently getting me pointed in the right direction!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Post-St. Michael's Conference for Youth - Rector's Rambling for July 16, 2017

Thank you to all of you who contributed of your prayers and treasure in support of the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth.
Every year I return from the Conference exhausted (I am not as young as I was when I started working at this conference 19 years ago) and yet I am also revitalized.  And I know from conversations with other clergy that they share my feelings.  It is a long week of worship, classes, activities, and fun.
Three highlights stand out for me.  One highlight for this week is getting to spend time with fellow priests, many of them also members of the Society of the Holy Cross.  We share experience, strength, and hope with each other as we compare stories from our adventures in ministry.
Another highlight is having a community of people to pray Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Compline, and The Holy Communion every day of the week.  The chapel becomes the central focus of the Conference.
The final, and most important highlight is seeing the young people begin to “get it” as they are worshipping, learning, and having fun.  Although some will stray from the practice of the faith, I have been with this conference long enough to not only see many of those old-time teens return back to the practice of the faith, but we are now seeing some of their children attend St. Michael’s Conference!
The challenge for the young people, as well as for the staff and clergy, is to keep the memory of those highlights fresh as we pray often by our selves, but for each other, until we gather again.

At the end of the Conference inevitably someone says, “the Conference should be two weeks long,” and we just smile, exhaustedly.  But then we think secretly to ourselves, "perhaps...."