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, March 22, 2019

Sin and Virtue - Rector's Rambling for March 24, 2019

As you  know by now, if you have attended St. John’s for any length of time, that I really do believe in sin, and that I find it helpful in particular to categorize what is known as The Seven Deadly Sins.  I am grateful to have learned the acronym PALEGAS (Pride Anger Lust Envy Gluttony Avarice Sloth) so that their listing is easy to recite.  It has been a mission to better understand them so that we can both be on guard against them to avoid their lure, or if we are tripped up by the temptations of the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, to be able then to repent quickly and return to the right path.
One of the better defenses is to have a good offense!  As you see on this page, there are not only Seven Deadlies, but also Seven Holy Virtues.  Each one is not only a remedy for the deadly counterpart, but when practiced for their own sake, they are a wonderful defense against the temptation to fall into sin.  If you are focusing on the positive of the virtues then the deadlies have an uphill battle to gain your attention or acquiescence.
If you haven’t attended the Adult Education Class in Lent, you are missing out on a series on Sin, and how to avoid it.  We are using two very good books as a reference: The Sinner’s Guide by Ven. Louis of Granada, O.P., and Manual for Conquering Deadly Sin by Fr.  Dennis Kolinski, SJC.  Both texts start by defining the sin, perhaps in ways that you hadn’t discerned, and explains why and how they damage you and your relationship with God.  But both books also explain their corresponding virtues, and how they are a powerful antidote (or better yet, a defense) against those things that would do so much damage.
Of course, in all of this, a good confession of sin is a great aid to your holiness.  There is a brochure in the tract rack about making a personal private confession to a priest, and Fr. Bedford and I would be honored to be of help in this way.
Today we have a powerful testimonial that will be shared at the 10:00 AM Service.  The Dreslinskis, leaders of our healing ministry, have themselves been witness in a personal way to the healing power of God.  Testimonies such as these are a wonderful encouragement to us all that God is at work in ways subtle and sublime, as well as sometimes outwardly miraculous.  Thanks be to God!

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Have a miserable Lent - Rector's Rambling for March 10, 2019

I saw a t-shirt for sale that said “have a miserable Lent”.  I chuckled and shared it on my Facebook wall, but with the caveat that I think quite the opposite.  I want people to have a “happy” Lent, and in fact have wished people just that.
It sounds like an oxymoron – “happy” and “Lent”, but if we remember that the word for happy comes from the same root word as “blessed”, then it certainly is the right greeting!
Lent is a great blessing, even if it is hard and time consuming.  It is supposed to be.  But even more so, it is an opportunity for us to be honest with ourselves about the state of our souls so that we can make inroads toward true blessedness.  True blessedness leads to holiness.  Lent is only miserable because sin doesn’t want us to let go of our habits, and also doesn’t like to be disciplined.  But knowing that it is good for us, and is making us better, can help us go into it and through it with a good attitude.
Please take advantage of the many extra opportunities at St. John’s this Lent, especially our Tuesday evenings and Friday lunchtime offerings.  Additionally, much of the Lenten discipline done by you in the secret of our house and heart.  Be sure to refer to our brochure The Observance of an Holy Lent.
Most popular, of course, is “giving something up for Lent”.  In recent years we have had a spate of “but Sunday’s don’t count as Lent” so they can have/do what they have given up.  But I promise you, giving it up from now until Easter, including Sundays, is the idea of the matter, not some sort of parsing of the law.  You will see the difference this sense of accomplishment achieves.
Also, remember that if it is something sinful in your life, you shouldn’t be “giving it up for Lent”, you should be giving it up altogether!  Remember that giving it up for Lent is about giving up something that you like or enjoy in order to be reminded that you can live without it, that you have control over your body and passions, and to give you a greater appreciation for what it is that you have and God has blessed for you.  The goal is to be reminded of your ability to say no to the good and the bad if it is for the glory of God.
Let us be serious about the training of our hearts and souls this Lent, that we may become the saints that Jesus wants us to be!

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Lenten Disciplines

1. Fasting  -  The weekdays of Lent are fast days, meaning that the amount of food is reduced.  A good (if modern) suggestion is no snacks, no seconds, no desserts, and no alcohol.  If you don’t normally eat snacks or drink, you may consider giving up some favorite food.  The idea is to undertake something sacrificial, yet not overwhelming.  Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are strict fast days: one full meal in the evening, a very light one in the afternoon and for some nothing before 3pm.  Those who are ill, elderly, pregnant or nursing are excused from this discipline. (Page li, 1928 B.C.P.)

2. Abstinence - Abstaining from flesh meat on Fridays (as required by the Prayer Book) is a common discipline for Lent.  An ancient custom is to abstain from flesh meat on Wednesdays as well as Fridays.  Flesh meat includes all meat except fish.  Going vegetarian these days is also an option. (Page li, 1928 B.C.P.)

3. Holy Communion  - Lent is a good time to add a weekday Service to your usual Sunday attendance.  Weekday Services are about 30 minutes and are of a rather more intimate and quiet nature than those on Sunday.  The Wednesday Service also includes the Sacrament of Healing (Holy Unction). 

4. Daily Office  - If you do not now read Morning and/or Evening Prayer from the Prayer Book, Lent is a good time to begin doing so.  It takes some effort and discipline to get the habit established, but once accomplished, it can bear great fruit in your spiritual life.  Each Office takes 10-15 minutes a day.   Ask the Clergy if you need help in how to do it.

5. Spiritual Reading  - An ancient custom is to take a spiritual book for regular reading during Lent.  This can be a book on the Scriptures, or one of the spiritual classics.   Many are available in the parish library, and the clergy would be happy to make suggestions as well.

6. Confession  - A sacramental confession, in private to a priest, is not only an opportunity for a thorough self-examination, but also a powerful weapon against the temptations which come our way in Lent.   The Parish Clergy are available for this sacrament, as are other priests in the area.  Although the Anglican Communion does not require Sacramental Confession, it is permitted, and helpful.  More individuals should take advantage of this sacrament.

7.  Self-Denial  - You may want to give up some special pleasure or recreation for Lent (smoking, sweets, television), and perhaps give what you would have spent on it to charity.  This can be done in conjunction with other practices: if, for example, you give up an hour of TV every day, you might use it to read Evening Prayer and some Scripture. 
8. Service  - As well as “giving up” something in Lent, some wish to “take on” some special service, such as visiting a shut-in parishioner, volunteering at a hospital or nursing home, running errands for an elderly neighbor, or some special project at the church or in the community.

9. Scripture Reading  - Delving into the Word of God is never out of season.  Lent is a good time to establish (or re-establish) the discipline of a daily time of Scripture reading at home.  Using the lectionary (the appointed readings) for the daily office is a good starting point.

10. Educational Opportunities
Take the opportunity in Lent to join the Adult Ed. Class on Sundays at 9:05am or Thursday evening for bible study.

11. Corporate Special Devotions  - There are numerous opportunities for your spiritual growth throughout Lent.  In addition to Communion and Daily Offices, on Thursdays we have Adoration and Benediction, and on Fridays at noon the parish will gather at the Church for Stations of the Cross following Mass.   

12. Evangelism  - Lent is a good time to renew ones commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with friends and neighbors, and to invite them to worship with us here at St. John’s.

Brochure originally written by the late Ann Marie Shuster,
and revised periodically  by Fr. Steven J. Kelly.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

New staff member - Rector's Rambling for March 3, 2019

We have exciting news to announce.  St. John’s parishioner Cameron Walker will be joining the staff at St. John’s.
Over the past two years, Senior Warden Bruce Burton and I, with the consent of the vestry, have been formulating how to expand the staff at St. John’s to better serve our community of faith, as well as expand our ministry opportunities in our growing neighborhood.  It became apparent that we needed someone to help with planning and programming, as well as someone to help with administration.  But neither of those two positions were full-time in the near future, and it seemed inopportune to bring on another person while the office was in cramped temporary quarters in the undercroft.  So we committed it to prayer, looking for the Lord’s guidance.
Now, with the ministry center construction almost complete, the Lord has made clear an answer to the prayer.  In June Cameron moved to Detroit in anticipation of beginning law school.  He knew St. John’s through our social media presence while he was in college in Illinois, so he began worshipping with us, and was confirmed here by Bishop Gibbs this past September.
Before moving to Detroit, Cameron worked at the Washington National Cathedral in the Programming Department where he was thoroughly engulfed in all things Anglican.  It became clear to Bruce and me, and to the vestry when informed of our discernment, that Cameron would be a good fit for a hybrid position.  His programming experience is perfect for helping us to get our programming up and running, as well as programs that will reach out into our growing community surrounding us.  Additionally, he will be working with Harriett doing things administrative, and will be helping with our social media presence.  Over time, we expect that, as we grow, this will become two separate positions.
Be sure to welcome Cameron, and if you have a good idea, offer to help him get it up and running!