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, May 28, 2019

Bishop Election on Saturday - Rector's Rambling for May 26, 2019

Next Saturday, an important event in the life of the Diocese of Michigan takes place.  Assembling at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, just 1.5 miles up Woodward Avenue, lay representatives of each parish, and the clergy, will cast their votes for the next bishop of the diocese.
Having been a member of the clergy 25 years tomorrow (when I was ordained a transitional deacon), I have never been able to vote for a bishop.  Every diocese I have been affiliated with has either elected a new bishop right after I left, or right before I arrived.  Bishop Gibbs, our current diocesan bishop, was consecrated in 2000, and took office a few weeks before I interviewed here.  Despite our theological differences, I am most grateful that he has been a good pastor to me and to our parish.  In many ways, we have agreed to disagree, because we have been able to agree on the essence of our common life – Jesus Christ is Lord!  He will be greatly missed as he heads into retirement at the end of 2019.
The process to select his successor has been long and arduous, and not without some disagreement about the how the process was done and the choice of final candidates.  But we now stand at the point where ballots will be cast on Saturday, and most likely one of the four candidates will be chosen to replace Bishop Gibbs in February of 2020.
Previous to the year 2000, St. John’s had an antagonistic relationship with the two diocesan bishops before Bishop Gibbs, and entrenched positions and animosity toward each other only caused resentments and fighting.  Since Bishop Gibbs’ and my arrival here in Detroit, we have worked to have a positive relationship with each other as we together proclaim the changeless truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.  We look forward to this relationship continuing with the new diocesan, providing us with the pastoral care appropriate to our traditional Anglican faith and practice.
Your lay representatives are Bruce Burton, Harriett Mottley, and David Schafer, with Brian Campbell and Rod Gillespie as alternates.  Fr. Bedford and I will also be present on Saturday for this momentous occasion.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Working with and in the community - Rector's Rambling for May 19, 2019

Today we welcome representatives from area charitable organizations that are doing good work for others.
In 2014, when we signed our new lease arrangement with Olympia, there was a strong feeling that just as we as individuals are expected to tithe of God’s provision to us, so too the parish should be tithing of the provision of God’s blessing to the parish through the new lease arrangement.
Former parish treasurer Cathy Morgan took the lead in our newly formed Outreach Committee.  Basing it on a program in her daughter’s parish in New Jersey (where Cathy has since moved), we solicited various organizations in the neighborhood, asking them to apply for program specific grant requests.  We have had some sort of parish affiliation with some of these organizations over the years, such as the Episcopal Diocese-related Crossroads and Mariners Inn.  Other organizations were recommended to us by parishioners with whom they had an affiliation and where they volunteered their time.
Over the years, and along with today’s groups, we have given money to support hunger abatement initiatives, which include feeding and community gardening, job training and computer support, community social work, autism awareness and support, crisis pregnancy, human trafficking rescue, educational initiatives, the arts, youth ministry, and a seminary of the Episcopal Church.
Today we award this year’s grants to Cass Community Services, Crossroads of Michigan, Detroit Children’s Choir, Georgia Street Community Collective, H.I.G.H., Jack’s Place for Autism, Keep Growing Detroit, Positive Images, Pregnancy Aid, Vista Maria, Youth Works, and Nashotah House Theological Seminary.  Be sure to join us at coffee hour after the 10:00 AM Service to greet the representatives of these organizations.
Finally, a hearty thank you to Debbie Swain, who took up the mantle of leadership of the Outreach Committee when Cathy left, and now passes it on to John Barge and Anne Ruffley.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Coming soon - Thy Kingdom Come! - Rector's Rambling for May 12, 2019

Now that we are deeply into our Easter Season, we are beginning our preparation for our important participation in what is known as Thy Kingdom Come.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for Christians to spend an intentional time praying for the conversion of the world to Jesus Christ.  Although this is a part of the mission of the Church year round, we set aside the days between the Ascension of our Lord into heaven (the 40th Day after Easter) until the celebration of the coming of the Holy Ghost, known as Whitsunday or Pentecost.
From Thursday, May 30 (Ascension Day), until Saturday, June 8 (eve of Pentecost), we will gather every day at the Prayer Wall next to St. John’s at 6:00 PM.  We will pray Evening Prayer, with an opening and closing hymn, and will have a chance for someone to give a five-minute testimonial to their faith in Jesus Christ.  Of course, the primary focus of our prayer will be for the world to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord, and we will be praying with special intention for conversion of our friends, family, and neighbors, both here in the city, and where we live.
And doing this out at the Prayer Wall gives those in the neighborhood the chance to see The Church (the people of God) at work!  And occasionally folks even join us for a portion of the worship.
The primary work of the Church is to glorify God through worship, and to lead people to Christ.  All the rest of what we do must support and encourage that primary work; whether it be through education to equip us for ministry (to know Christ), or service work to others to extend to them the love of Jesus Christ that we have freely received (to make Him known).
In the ministry center there will be a board to sign up to promise to be present at least one of the days during Thy Kingdom Come.  At a minimum, we need 10 people to sign up to be there every day.  I promise you this will be worth the effort!
And the time to begin praying that God will bless Thy Kingdom Come is now!

Monday, May 06, 2019

Another Baseball Sunday - Rector's Rambling for May 5, 2019

Welcome to our many friends joining us on our 19th Annual Tiger Baseball Sunday.  This is a great opportunity to gather together with our friends and family; to worship the Lord, have some lunch together, and head over to the ballpark.  This is the 17th year the Choir is singing the National Anthem – one year we couldn’t schedule an available Sunday, and the first year I threw out a first pitch.
Our location is a wonderful asset, something that people might not have said 30 years ago.  Many of us remember when this was a less than desirable neighborhood of derelict warehouses, theatres, and other buildings.  When St. John’s was built, this neighborhood was farmlands and orchards, with a few country houses dotting the landscape.  The area eventually was built up with fine Victorian housing, which eventually became boarding houses as the rest of the neighborhood, particularly Woodward Avenue, filled with commercial and retail buildings.  And the slow decline occurred until the 1990s, when the Fox Theatre was renovated, and Comerica Park was completed in 2000.  A few fits and starts occurred with housing and retail, but it has really taken off with the District Detroit development of Little Caesars Arena and its ancillary buildings.  A home that could be purchased for $65,000 ten years ago is now worth over $650,000!
But with all the changes and challenges in the neighborhood, one thing has remained unchanged…for the better!  That is the faith in Jesus Christ for which this building was built to nurture, promote, and spread!
If you are visiting with us today, I hope you will consider making this your downtown church home.  If you have a church nearer your house, join us regularly for special events and other reasons to come downtown.  And if you don’t have a church home I hope you will consider making this that place for you.