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, October 26, 2020

Homecoming every Sunday - Rector's Rambling for October 25, 2020

      One of the things that has been put on hiatus for this year is our Homecoming Sunday.  Last year we augmented our 19-year tradition of holding a special Sunday with a luncheon by adding to it a bounce house for the kids.  Although I was about a month post-surgery last year on that big day, I may have had a bounce or two, just for fun.

But this year we are “on hold” for so much that we regularly do.  We are not allowed to host luncheons yet, and I am pretty sure it would be rather hard to social distance in a bounce house!

Yet I am so grateful that we are open for worship (week 17 today!) and that more and more parishioners, and some guests and visitors, are coming to St. John’s to worship and to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Right now our Average Sunday Attendance for all the services together is about half what it was for 2019.  I know of one parish in NYC that averaged 600 people on Sunday last year and they had 44 the other day.  And as of last week we are still the only Episcopal parish in the city open for public worship in our building.  I hope that before long we will not only be at last year’s average attendance (157), but that we will begin to grow beyond that!  With four Sunday Services (7:30, 8:00, & 10:00 AM, and 5:00 PM) we could have 450 people in the chapel/church on Sunday and still be able to social distance.

I hope that you are getting a chance to read and soak in Bishop Emrich’s writing about the renewal of the Church.  The booklets, with 28 short sections, are available in the back of both the chapel and church, and on-line via the St. John’s Web site at www.StJohnsDetroit.org, and at www.StJohnsRenewal.blogspot.com.

Bishop Emrich guided our diocese, which then encompassed all of the Dioceses of Michigan and Eastern Michigan, from 1948 to 1973, and 49 new congregations came into being during his tenure.  His writing reminds us that the Church is primarily to be about the mission of the Good News of Jesus Christ through worship, sound doctrine, and evangelism.  And St. John’s renewal will be based on exactly this.  Four-hundred-fifty people on Sunday should be possible if all of us dedicate our selves to a full-blooded faith in Jesus Christ, and to share His love for us with others.


Next Sunday is All Saints’ Day, November 1, which means that Monday, November 2, is All Souls’ Day.  We will have two public Requiem Masses on Monday: At 10:00 AM we will have a service in the chapel at Elmwood Cemetery, where our founders and many parishioners are buried.  At 12:15 PM we will gather in St. John’s chapel.  Be sure to submit your names of love ones you would like to be remembered at that time.


Monday, October 19, 2020

St. Luke's Day, and Stewardship - Rector's Rambling for October 21, 2020

         Today we take a deviation from the Sundays after Trinity in order to celebrate The Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.  This is considered a “Red Letter Day”, a type given to those holy days that in the printing of the Book of Common Prayer would be marked on the calendar in red letters.  This is one of those days that take precedence over the Sundays after Trinity so we can do something different this year on this Sunday.  For more information on what can be celebrated on Sunday instead of the regular weeks, check out the Table of Precedence on page li of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

This is also the beginning of our 2021 Stewardship Campaign.  Enclosed in this week’s Chronicle is a pledge card for the coming year.

First, I want to thank everyone who has supported St. John’s this year, especially during this Coronatide.  Even while we were shut down by the Dioceses in Michigan and prohibited from having public worship, every day in the mail would arrive envelopes from parishioners making their contribution in support of the parish, and once a month we get notice of who has made a contribution online.  We are grateful that so many faithfully contributed throughout our exile.

Over the summer the Vestry adjusted the budget for 2020 to face the reality of lowered contributions as well as some lowered expenses as well.  Since we have been allowed to have public worship our contributions have picked up, and we continue to be cautious about spending in order to keep ourselves financially responsible.

As I mentioned in last Monday’s Morning Meditation, we are asking that you fill out a pledge card for 2021 as a sign of your gratitude for God’s blessings in your life and as a sign of your faithfulness to him through the ministry of the church.

The Vestry has to begin setting a budget for 2021 and as we are focusing on becoming a parish that is made for mission, we do need your support for the work that God is setting out for us to do.

It is my hope that everyone who pledged to support the parish in 2020 will pledge again for 2021.  And I also hope that you will be able to not only increase your pledge payment for 2021, but begin the higher giving for these last months of 2020 in thanksgiving for our being able to re-open.  And if you have not submitted a pledge card in the past I hope you will do so this year.  Let us work together for Him by supporting His Church.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Mission and renewal - Rector's Rambling for October 11, 2020

 Quick question…  What is the mission of St. John’s Church?  Our Mission Statement will suffice since it is our mission.

The Vestry over the summer read and discussed a book called Made for Mission: Renewing your parish culture by Tim Glemkowski.  As recommended by this book we recommitted to being a parish that is focused on mission.  What is that mission?  Simply stated, it is To know Christ, and to make Him known.  This has been our published mission statement, and Mr. Glemkowski’s book has started us thinking about how we can become more deeply focused on the primary work of the parish.

I asked if you know our mission statement because it is vital to the identity of who we should be.  People of mission.  As Mr. Glemkowski states “The first battle we have to fight in cultural renewal will be for how those in our pews conceive of and understand the purpose of our parish” and “this is not going to be accomplished by one or two people acting alone; it must be a collective movement of committed parishioners moving in this new direction together.” (p. 63)

Last week we began distributing a booklet called Becoming a Parish Made for Mission Through the Renewal of the Church: preparing for growth through and beyond COVID-19.  It is 28 daily readings from a series of meditations given by the late Bishop Richard Emrich, bishop of Michigan from 1949 to 1973.

In this booklet Bishop Emrich lays out the focus of missionary work in the church by being committed to believing the Gospel, worship, and evangelism.  He gets to the core of the identity of the church as a missionary outpost.  And it is here that we will start our work helping to re-form how we operate as a parish focused on Jesus and bringing others to him.

The booklet is available today if you have not gotten a copy of it yet, and also now on-line at stjohnsrenewal.blogspot.com.

Take a few minutes every day to work your way through each section (it is not a long read) and pray about how God may be calling us, and you, to renewal.

As an aside – during Bishop Emrich’s tenure in our Diocese (which then included The Diocese of Michigan and The Diocese of Eastern Mission), 49 parishes and missions were started.  He took these lessons to heart.  May God grant us the momentum to also have a missionary spirit to share the gospel as we come to know Jesus better so that we can make Him known.


Monday, October 05, 2020

St. Michael and the Conference - Rector's Rambling for October 4, 2020


    Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of St. Michael the Archangel, a feast day that occurred back on September 29 (Tuesday).  It is a most important Feast Day and because of that it is fitting that it can be commemorated with an Octave – eight days of celebration.  And no matter what day of the week a feast occurs, eight days allow for a Sunday to occur during that period!

The photo above is one of the group shots for this past summer’s St. Michael’s Conference for Youth.  Of the four regional St. Mike’s (East, Southwest, Springfield, and Midwest) ours was the only one that met this year, and it was accomplished with all the COVID-19 precautions including social distancing, as you see pictured.

St. Michael was chosen as the patron for our youth/young adult conference when it morphed from the former Valley Forge Conference in the early 1970s because he is a warrior.  As we hear in the reading from The Book of Revelation, St. Michael, whose name means “one who is like unto God”, defeats the rebellious angels led by Satan.

So the St. Michael’s Conference is a boot camp for warriors for the Kingdom of God.  This warfare isn’t physical but spiritual – against principalities and powers that seek to deceive us and draw us away from the love of God.  We are training an army of the next generation of soldiers fighting against the snares and deceptions that the evil one uses, through the temptations of the world and the flesh.

Like military boot camp, there is lots of time of instruction with classes and lectures, and training which is done through the form of worship with Morning Prayer, Mass, Evening Prayer, Compline (nighttime prayer) and lots of other things in between.

Add to classes and worship a wonderful time of fellowship and games, and you have a winning combination to implant into the hearts of the Michaelites a love of Jesus and His Church.

Worship, Instruction, and Fellowship isn’t just for a week at St. Michael’s Conference for Youth, but a foundation for the Church at large, and I hope that all the people of St. John’s will adopt a similar rule of life!  Worship and pray more, learn more about Jesus in Scripture and Holy Reading, and spend time with others in the Church.

St. Michael, pray for us!