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

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Advent Eagle Column - November 27, 2022

     A new church year has begun as we enter Advent!  We reset the liturgical calendar, and begin once again not with the birth of Jesus, but with the PREPARATION for His birth AND for His return in glorious majesty to judge the world! 

I once saw a bumper sticker on a car on I-75 that said “Jesus is coming back - look busy”.  Funny, but terrible theology!  Looking busy won’t cut it with Jesus.  A better theological statement would be “Jesus is coming back - be faithful” since it is by grace through faith that we are saved.  But the Christian life can be busy, and there are plenty of opportunities for that here at St. John’s in Advent.

Detailed in this Eagle are lots of opportunities for participating in the life of St. John’s, and to grow in the spiritual life.  Please take advantage of as many of the things that you can!.  These things are not only good for you, but your participation in them is an encouragement to the others in the parish who are attending, fort those who have organized the events, and for those guests who are joining us for them.  As they say, the more the merrier.

Primary to our participation is attendance at Sunday worship.  Although we continue to see more people each week at Services, there are still some who have not returned from the pandemic layoff, and others who have not become ‘regular’ about attending.  We need everyone to make worship attendance the #1 priority - for the sake of our own souls, and an encouragement to others who are also there.

Finally, as the calendar year draws to a close I hope that you will continue to be generous in your financial support of St. John’s.  There may be tax advantages to an end of the year donation, so speak to your financial advisor how you can both help yourself and St. John’s with a cash, stock, or other offering before the end of the calendar year.


Thursday, November 10, 2022

Health update, and Malawi Ingathering - Rector's Rambling for November 13, 2022

     In order to meet the printer’s deadline, The Chronicle has to be sent electronically by Wednesday at lunchtime, although we aim to submit it by Tuesday evening.  Last week I wrote my column before what was supposed to be a ‘quick one hour surgery’ to repair a hernia in the incision from my big surgery in Finland in 2019. The expectation was that I would be back on my feet and at the altar on Sunday.

Things didn’t quite go as planned.  Thursday’s 1 hour surgery took 2.25 hours, and a simple repair ended up being much more complicated than anticipated.  And then after a few days at home beginning to recover, my intestines decided to shut down  which sent me to the ER and then being readmitted to the hospital.

So here I am a week later, writing this week’s column on Tuesday just a few hours after being discharged from the hospital again and hoping that, God willing, I will be back at the altar today as you read this.

A hearty thank you to everyone who pitched in to offer worship last week at the last minute (I started texting/messaging people from the ER at 2:30 Sunday morning) and for the outpouring of prayer for me.

Today we have our Malawi Ingathering - please be generous in you support of the Church in Malawi and Bishop Jackson Biggers.

Also, we have lots of things coming up in the next few weeks at St. John’s including our Thanksgiving Eve and Day festivities.  We will need volunteers to help at the Front Door Canteen selling donuts/hot chocolate/coffee, as well as help in the undercroft  for the Pancake Breakfast. 

And be sure to invite your family,  friends, and neighbors to attend!


Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Death as Equilizer - Rector's Rambling for November 6, 2022

     It is the time of the year that we think about death.  On November 1, and again today, we celebrate the lives of the saints, those holy women and men who glorified God in their earthly lives, died, and now are with Jesus in heaven.  On November 2, we celebrated a special Requiem Mass in the Chapel of Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, the resting place of the earthly remains of the overwhelming majority of our parishioners who died in the first 70 years of our parish history.  On All Souls’ Day we remember all the faithful departed, including our own loved ones.

Shortly after I arrived at St. John’s, we received a bill for plot upkeep from Elmwood.  No one in the office knew why.  Stopped by the cemetery and discovered that the plot for our first Rector, William Armitage, was entrusted to our care by the last living relative in the 1980s.  I also then discovered the monument to our parish founder, Henry Porter Baldwin (pictured here).  Since then I have become a member of the Historic Elmwood Cemetery Foundation which develops educational projects such as history tours, establishing the property as an arboretum, and restoring things such as the chapel (designed and built by the same firm that designed and built St. John’s).

One thing confounded me as I studied our burial register from those early years.  Those not buried at Elmwood were usually buried at the “City Cemetery”, but I could find no location for it.  I later discovered it was the pauper’s cemetery for those who could not afford a plot at Elmwood.  It was located where Eastern Market now operates.

From 1880 to 1882 over 4500 bodies were disinterred from that former burial spot and reinterred in common grave at Elmwood Cemetery.  What a wonderful irony that even those who could not afford Elmwood, were now buried there as well.

Death is a great equalizer.  Not all will have the grand monuments or the above-ground mausoleums of the wealthy, but at the General Resurrection, when the earth and the sea shall give up their dead (Book of Common Prayer, p. 333), it will not be how and where one is buried that will determine our eternal habitation, but our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.


Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Hallows Eve, All Saints, All Souls - Rector's Rambling for October 30, 2022

     This weekend the world is celebrating Halloween, and we give thanks to God for the opportunity to celebrate and have fun. 

For those who do not know, Halloween is derivation of the phrase All Hallows Eve.  Hallows is a form of the word for Saint.  It is the Eve of All Saints Day.  The Church celebrates the lives of the saints, those who have gone before us and have had a life of heroic virtue in the faith. 

All Saints Day is November 1st, and we will celebrate that on Tuesday at the 12:15 Holy Communion Service.  It will also be celebrated again on Sunday within the Octave, on November 6.   It is an important enough feast day that it is celebrated twice!

On November 2nd, we also will be celebrating All Souls Day, also known as the Feast of All the Faithful Departed.  On this day, we will remember at the altar all those who are near and dear to us who have died.  On Wednesday, we will have two Requiem Masses.  At 10 AM we will do so in the chapel at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.  It is here that the overwhelming majority of our members who died in the first 50 or 60 years of the parish (founded 1858) are buried.  Then at 12:15, we will have a Requiem Mass in our Chapel where another set of parishioners are interred in our columbarium.  Be sure to submit the names of your beloved dead that you would like to have remembered by name at the 12:15 Mass.

By now you have noticed, I hope, that I am away this weekend.  During the pandemic I resumed a former hobby and started rowing again.  This weekend I am in Philadelphia where yesterday I was scheduled to race twice; in a single, and in an eight person boat with a group of men I rowed with in college in the late 1980s.  This morning I will be attending Mass in Philadelphia  where I began my ministry and then will be driving back to Detroit. 

A great thing about being this traditional Anglican parish of the Episcopal Church is that we have continued the tradition of corporate Choral Morning Prayer on the 2nd and 5th Sundays, and because of that, many pray the Daily Office at home, and we can do it here on Sunday when I am away as well.