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.

My Photo
Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Where does the 'income' come from? - Rector's Rambling for September 26, 2021

     Today the St. Catherine’s Guild continues their Trash to Treasure sale in the undercroft.  Our chapter of the Episcopal Church Women always finds interesting ways to raise money for projects and outreach, and we are thankful for their work and your support.

As September comes to a close, it is time to start thinking about stewardship, aka Pledge Card time.  In the coming weeks we will have more information for you about the theology of stewardship, which is how we use what God has entrusted to us to His greater honor and glory.

But today I wanted to talk a little bit about where the money in our budget comes from.

The budget is set by the vestry and presented at the Annual Parish Meeting.  During the course of the year we have monthly financial reports and adjust as necessary.

We have three primary sources of income.  Your pledges and contributions are the most important part.  It is a sign of your faithfulness, and your gratitude for the blessings in your life.  We also have income from the lease of the property that is our parking lot.  Eventually, God willing, we will see a building on the parking lot next to the church and all our parking for St. John’s will take place in the 950 car garage behind us.  Third, we have a small dedicated endowment fund that pays the salary of the organ scholar.  The other endowment funds of the parish have not been used for the support of the operations of the parish in over 10 years now.

When I arrived here in 2001 the weekly collection didn’t always cover the cost of the weekly music program.  The parish was very small.  But God has blessed us with growth, and in gratitude your support has helped us to minister in this place in His name.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A tribute to a parishioner, moving away - Rector's Rambling for September 19, 2021

     In 1999 I was a parish priest in Charleroi, Pennsylvania.  On visit home to Detroit I stopped to visit my father’s office in Troy.  There I was greeted by another employee of that company, David Schafer.  My family and the Schafers lived in the same subdivision in Troy, my dad and Dave having overlapping advertising business relations.  Now David was working with my dad, and he greeted me with a cordial hello, and an intriguing invitation.  This downtown Episcopal Church was looking for a Rector, would I be interested in applying?

At that point I was still too new in my then current parish, and in fact St. John’s was not at the point of being ready to begin to interview candidates.  But every interaction thereafter included an invitation to keep that possibility in prayer.

In late October of 2000, I got the email from David, as well as an email from the St. John’s search committee chairman, Ralph Burton, with an invitation to apply to St. John’s, and in fact it was God’s time to do so.

This picture was from a series of pictures of parishioners that was sent to me after I was elected Rector.  David and his dear late wife Sharon, had invited me to Christmas Eve services in 1993, and now I was about to be their parish priest.

Now David has moved up north, and today we honor him for 50 years of ministry at St. John’s Church.  Parishioner, Acolyte, Lay Reader, Vestryman, Warden, Treasurer, Building Renovation “owners liaison”… is there a layman’s position that David has not done here in our parish?  Most likely not!

Now that the house in Troy has been sold and Dave is settling in in Beaverton, he has made the trip down for today’s festivities.  And although we think that the 2.25 hour trip to St. John’s on Sunday morning would be worth it, we understand that it is not feasible EVERY weekend.  But we do expect that you NOT be a stranger!

I want to thank you, David, for putting me on the Rector Search Radar, and for being persistent in prayer and reminder!  And I especially want to thank you for your faithfulness to Our Lord expressed through your ministry here among us!

Two years ago, we stood outside the church in the early evening and we marveled at all the people now living in the neighborhood, alive with activity.  And I thank God, David, for all you did to make sure St. John’s survived the hard, lean years so that we can be positioned as we are in a renewed Detroit!


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Beginnings and endings - Rector's Rambling for September 12, 2021

     Today we get back toward normalcy with the return of two things, and a hearty welcome to a third.

First, Sunday School is back in session, after an 18-month covid recess.  This is one of many places that we are in the rebuilding stage as some families with children have not returned to regular worship yet, and some others have walked away to other denominations that were open before we were.  But we start with the gift of the children that we do have, and in thanksgiving for those who have put up their hands to help coordinate and teach!

Second, we welcome back the choir.  Although we have had quartets and quintets on an off during Coronatide, this is the first assembling of a full(ish) choir.  Dr. Lewis is still working on adding a few more singers, and we are grateful for those who are with us today!

Third, we welcome Abe Wallace, our new Edwards Organ Scholar.  Abe comes to us from Oklahoma, via Yale University in Connecticut, and is continuing his studies at the University of Michigan.

In the midst of all these beginnings, we have also had some earthly endings.  Yesterday we had a memorial service for Joanne Biscorner who died in 2020 after a years-long struggle with lung issues.  When healthier, she was an active weekday Mass attender, as well as on Sundays.  Her prolonged 10 months on a ventilator became a cross she bore as her health deteriorated.  We are awaiting word on the burial of former Senior Warden Cindy Grimwade and her mother Nellie who died within a week of each other in North Carolina.  And on August 29, we interred the cremated remains of lifelong parishioner Marilyn Walker in our columbarium.

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.  May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Sunday, September 05, 2021

The devil distorting good intentions - Rector's Rambling for September 5, 2021

 With autumn upon us we are ready to begin our programming year. 

September gets us up and going with the return of a full choir.  We will begin Sunday School on September 12, as well as begin having nursery care during the 10 AM Service.  These things have been on hiatus since March of 2020, nearly 18 months ago.   It will be wonderful, God willing, to start to get back to ‘normal’ again with our worship and education for the children.

Other things that will be coming up to speed again include in-person gatherings of the Daughters of the King and Daughters of the British Empire. A luncheon to bid farewell to David Schafer, moving to the Midland area, is scheduled for September 19, and The St. Catherine’s Guild of the Episcopal Church Women will be hosting a Trash to Treasure sale September 25 and 26.

October brings us Homecoming Sunday on October 10, the beginning of the Alpha Course on October 12, and the Food Drive for Crossroads.

Before we know it we will be into November which brings us All Saints and All Souls, Fall Ingathering for Malawi,  and the return of the Thanksgiving Day Parade with  the Front Door Canteen and the Pancake Breakfast in the Undercroft.  Information on all these activities, and more, are found in this newsletter.

A positive  thing that has happened during all the Corona virus restrictions has been the expansion of broadcasting of our worship, and our daily Morning Meditation series.  In fact, on September 9th we will publish our 500th consecutive Morning Meditation.  Most days it receives about 100 views across the various platforms.  Sunday Services, Weekday Mass and Evening Prayer also have anywhere from 50 to 500 views either live or on replay.  We receive emails and phone calls from around the United States, Canada, and England thanking us for these video offerings.  The St. John’s YouTube channel itself now has over 2.5 million video views.

A negative thing that has happened during this Coronatide has been that many people have not returned back to public worship at St. John’s.  Some of that is because of the availability of the video worship.  But that is a poor substitute for being present, in person, to worship with others and to receive Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. 

But sadder still is that many have gotten ‘out of the habit’ of attending Church, I am afraid that the devil has used the best of intentions to keep each other healthy, and has turned it into fear, to  keep people away from receiving the Bread of Life and participating as a member of The Church . This absence can damage one’s faith in Christ.

I hope to see you in Church.