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, April 24, 2023

Past and Present in the neighborhood - Rector's Rambling for April 30, 2023


God willing, in the next 18 months or so, they will be breaking ground for the new building that will be located in what is now our side parking lot.

We have entered into a lease agreement for the land, and in addition to lease payments, we have unlimited parking in the new garage that was build behind the ministry center—950 spaces!  Of course, we have to be sure we schedule things around Tigers and Lions games...which is something we do now anyway.

For more than 25 years we have gotten used to the wide open view down Woodward because of the surface parking lots in front of the stadium.  When St. John’s was built on land that was an apple orchard in the 1850s, the area was as wide open, but by the 1880s and through the 1980’s  Woodward became a very busy commercial block!  St. John’s was landlocked by a warehouse where our lot is now, and further down stood the Wolverine Hotel, Century and Gem Theatres (moved over to Madison Street in the 1990s), and many other commercial buildings. 

In the 1930’s Woodward was widened and buildings demolished on our side of the block (including the warehouse next door to us) but other commercial buildings replaced them until demolition for the building of Comerica Park.

The black and white picture is from 1931 looking up Woodward from Grand Circus Park.  You can hardly even see our bell tower behind the warehouse!  The initial designs of the new building that will be built in our lot will be lower than the warehouse and set back further from Woodward so that St. John’s will continue to be visible from up and down the street. 

The neighborhood continues to change...but St. John’s doesn’t change in her adherence to the faith!


Monday, April 17, 2023

The Paschal Candle - Rector's Rambling for April 16, 2023

     At every service between now and May 18, this large candle will be burning somewhere near the sanctuary.  It is known as The Paschal Candle.  The word Paschal comes from the greek for “passing over”.  Our Lord Jesus Christ “passed over” from death to life in His Resurrection, which we celebrated on Easter and continue for 40 days.  This candle symbolizes that passing over.

Like Christmas, Easter is not just an event and a day, but an entire church season, lasting 40 days until the Feast of the Ascension (although those using the new calendar pass over Ascension and make the season last for 50 days, until Pentecost).  Those 40 days represent the 40 days in which Jesus, after His Resurrection from the dead, continued to appear to the disciples to console, encourage, and teach them.

At the Easter Vigil service a week ago Saturday, we blessed this candle and prayed as it was lit for the first time, “May the light of Christ, gloriously rising, dispel the darkness of hearts and minds.  O Father in Heaven, pour forth we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy abundant blessings upon this lighted candle.”

At the Feast of the Ascension, after the reading of the story of our Lord’s Ascension at the Communion service, the candle is put out.  But it won’t stay out.  It will continue to be used for baptisms and funerals, two occasions when we particularly remember Christ’s death and resurrection (in baptism we die to sin and rise to newness of life, and at funerals we pass to eternal life with Jesus).

Take note of that Paschal Candle because it is a wonderful, tangible reminder that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death, and that through Him we rise to newness of life!


THANK YOU to the many people who made last Sunday’s Easter Day worship and coffee hour so special!  The Choir, Altar Guild, Servers, Readers, Ushers, and the many who pitched in to offer the hospitality after the worship in the Undercroft.


Friday, April 07, 2023

Easter Day - Rector's Rambling for April 9, 2023

 Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!

   The Lord is Risen Indeed!   Alleluia!

    After a long Lent of looking at our sins, and being reminded of God’s mercy and forgiveness, we come to the big day!   Jesus Christ, having been sacrificed on the Cross for our sins has now risen from the dead!  We rejoice with resounding Alleluia and celebration.

Sunday after Sunday, we look at the remarkable super-reredos in the church, that wonderful mosaic high above the altar, and see it for its beauty and artistic merit.  But more than that, it is a weekly reminder of today’s celebration.  There, recorded for us in gold leaf and colored stones is a mosaic re-creation of Ella Condi Lamb’s painting depicting the angel of the Lord greeting the three Mary’s who went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus.

But instead of finding Jesus, they came upon an empty tomb.  According to St. Matthew,

“And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.  His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.  And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.  He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28:2–6)

This wonderful depiction shows the angel resplendently arrayed, and the three women in surprise and awe.  In the hands of one of them is a container, and at the foot of another a jar, containing the spices to anoint the body of Jesus.  He had been hastily put in the tomb because he died at the opening of the high Sabbath day when bodies could not be properly prepared.

Their last act of love and responsibility was instead met with surprise and yes, awesome joy to the words of the angel, “he is risen, as he said.”

May we, in the weeks and months to come, look on this wonderful sight above the altar and be reminded of this grand day, and rejoice with them that Jesus is risen!


Monday, April 03, 2023

Palm Sunday and Holy Week - Rector's Rambling for April 2, 2023

 All glory, laud, and honor, to thee Redeemer, King!  To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

The Palm Sunday triumphal entry. It is a scene we re-create here at St. John’s at the 10:00 AM service as it is re-created in Jerusalem each year.  And although we won’t have quite as many people processing around St. John’s as they do there, we too will proclaim as does that crowd, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

Today begins the last, bittersweet week of our Lord’s earthly life and ministry.  Today there is rejoicing and celebration: Jesus has entered Jerusalem and is being proclaimed King!  The crowd erupts with joy, places palms at His feet, and join the happy throng as he enters into Jerusalem.

But before long in today’s service, the mood will change.  Although it took a few days before Jesus was betrayed, given up into the hands of wicked men, and crucified, we will commemorate that within the context of this same service.  Today we also hear the Passion Gospel, recounting Jesus’ last 24 hours on earth.

It is a stark juxtaposition of such a joyful welcome to, in a few days, a betrayal, conviction, and execution.  But the church bids us to look at both as a wonderful reminder of the reality that although many rejoice to see Jesus, and accept him gladly, there are many who do not and will seek to destroy Him if they get the chance.

I implore you to make this a fruitful Holy Week.  Attend Tenebræ (Wednesday 7:00 PM), Maundy Thursday (7:00 PM), Good Friday (Noon to 3:00 PM), and The Easter Vigil (Saturday 6:00 PM), in addition to the Easter Day celebration.  If you cannot attend all, attend a large number of them.  Today and the liturgies of Holy Week set up perfectly for us the celebration of Easter Day!  Take advantage of these opportunities for greater holiness!