All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Finding Hope, Together

September 3, 2017
Jeremiah 15:15-21

I’ve spent the past few days trying to get my home in order for the start of the school year. I’ve organized closets. I’ve been going through the kids’ clothes, setting aside those that no longer fit or are just worn out, and making lists of the new sizes to buy. Making lists of those last few, obscure school supplies to purchase. I’ve been stocking up on snacks for the kids to eat after school, or at sports practices, or share with new classmates and friends. I’ve been plotting on our family’s calendar who needs to be where and when, which is kind of like choreographing an intricate dance.

Meanwhile, my son’s name is already up on his new kindergarten wall. His birthday is already posted on their class calendar, ready to be celebrated, along with those of twenty-something kids he has yet to meet—we have yet to meet—whose families, like ours, are trying to get their act together, and then jump in.

As one mom I met at kindergarten orientation said, “Well, here we go. We’re all in this together.”

The newness is palpable. The newness is all around.

Although going back to school, especially starting at new schools as we are and finding new routines, is no small feat, I’m finding it humbling to do so while friends and so many fellow citizens around Houston are struggling to get through today. Who are not living in their homes because the water is still there, rotting everything; who are not living in their homes because there is no potable water, there is no power. Who may have lost their homes entirely, lost their cars, their livelihoods.

Going back to school with all of these important things intact takes extra work and extra time, but rebuilding after so much loss, while thousands and thousands around you are trying to do the same? That is beyond daunting.

The story of the Amofa family is not atypical. “They thought they would be safe,” reports a journalist. They “had a second floor…The government said [their area was at] ‘minimal hazard’…So they bought milk, eggs, loaves of bread, and hunkered down [last] weekend, joined by [a few relatives]. It had taken Kris and her husband Yaw [an immigrant from Ghana] six years of work to buy the house. Six years of saving up, fixing their credit, attending personal-finance classes, and debating whether they should invest so much money and risk into a single $180,000 purchase…When they moved in, they hung a sign on the living-room wall: ‘Home—where life begins.’”

Hurricane Harvey consumed their entire first floor and threatened the second. Yaw is already working on tearing out rotted drywall and cabinets, he is already “pulling up the floors, [and] throwing away the furniture.” Meanwhile, they are staying with relatives across town whose home remained dry, and Kris is making endless calls: she is calling Federal Emergency Management, she is calling her employer, the mortgage company, the car insurance company, the utility company, her friends from church.

“‘I have no control over anything right now!’” she cried. “‘I’ve never sat waiting for somebody to take care of me. I’ve always done it myself. Now, I have to wait all the time for somebody or something.’”

The book of Jeremiah is written during disaster—multiple disasters, in fact. The prophet is living and working in Judah, the southern part of Israel, in the sixth century BCE and he bears witness to three invasions in fifteen years by the Babylonians from the north. These invasions result famously in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 587 BCE, the capture of much land, and the exile and even death of thousands of people, leaving the survivors—not unlike those in Texas and amidst the horrific floods all around the world—displaced and disillusioned and asking questions like, “How did things go so terribly wrong?” “Has God left us?”

Earlier in the book, before the portion we heard today, Jeremiah and his people cry out, “We longed for relief, but received none. We longed for a time of healing, but we found only terror” (8:15). “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, yet we aren’t saved” (8:20). “If we took you to court, Lord, you would win, but we still have questions about your justice. Why are the guilty so successful? Why are the evil so happy” (12:1) and the innocent and vulnerable among us so destitute, at wit’s end?

Or, as we hear today, “Why is our pain unceasing? Why are our wounds incurable, refusing to be healed?” (15:18)

God responds to these cries by saying, “You are not healed, so I am not healed. Your heart is broken, so my heart is broken, too” (8:18). “Because my people are crushed, I, too, am crushed” (8:21). So the first thing to know about God in disaster or displacement is that God grieves with us. Our losses are God’s losses, too.

But that does not help all the way, does it.

The second thing that Jeremiah and his people bid us remember is that God is and has always been with people on the move, with people who lack a safe, secure home, with people who are changing. The story of our ancestors in faith begins with Abraham, and what is the first thing God tells Abraham? “Leave your home and go to the new land I am promising you” (Genesis 12:1). Abraham is like, “What?”

The story of our ancestors continues with Moses leading his people out of Egypt, where they were captive, into a new land that God again was promising them. God is always on the move with us, from what binds us and isolates us and weighs us down, to what frees us and liberates us and makes us whole. God is always gathering us home.

To Jeremiah and his people, God says, “You who have survived have found grace in the wilderness. You who search for rest—I have been with you! I love you with a love that lasts forever, and with this love, I draw you to myself. I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt” (31:2-4). And today we hear, “I am with you to save you, to deliver you, to rescue you” (15:20).

But what does that rescue look like? I have not yet seen God prance down from heaven on chariots or something, or wave a magic wand to make things all Technicolor like in The Wizard of Oz—but this week I have seen rescue, as have some of you, in stories of the Cajun Navy showing up at flooded homes to pick people up in boats or jet skis. Kris, whose story we heard earlier, has seen rescue and blessing, too—when her friends drove her to Walmart, since she lost her car, and there her friends paid for two whole carts full of clothes and food. And then they went to the grocery store and waited in a line that went around the store’s perimeter just to get in—and in the checkout line, three different strangers paid for her groceries. She also sees blessing in her sister’s assurance that she and her family can stay as long as they need, and that her kids and her sister’s kids are finding this whole ordeal to be like an “extended slumber party,” God bless them.

I see rescue in stories and photos from my friends’ churches around Houston, where people are flooding the doors in search of relief, and just as many people are flooding the doors to help. They’re gathering and organizing supplies. They’re bringing in food and cooking for maybe fifty people, they guess—and then, again as in our stories of faith, it goes on to feed hundreds. Because we’re all in this together.

If the book of Jeremiah is a story of disaster, then it is also one of survival. When we name our pain and cry out to God, we can trust that God hears us and hurts with us. When we refuse to let death or displacement have the final word—because they do not—we can begin to imagine with God a future, and we can find hope, together.

We are in this together. God has not left us. Indeed, God is making all things new.


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Weekly Message for December 17

Weekly Message for December 17

Dear Friends,    

Tomorrow is our long awaited and much anticipated #HamiltonMeetsJesus Christmas pageant. As I write this note, I remember Fonzi and the writers’ of that beloved 70s TV show, Happy Days, and conclude that this year’s pageant may truly have "jumped the shark." That said, our young people have spent an inordinate amount of time working on this year’s production. Tomorrow you will see that the camel and sheep legislators are busy amending the celestial republic’s founding documents, the shepherds are trying to figure out their new tax bills, the innkeeper offers Joseph some sage advice, “Smile more, talk less,” Mary is adjusting to a new donkey, the archangels have an opening rap that really puts some flesh on the notion of the virgin birth, and King Herod is quite sure that the immigrant Wise Men will be back. All of which is to say, it’s pretty much business as usual for the All Saints’ Christmas Pageant which will be premiering at the 9 and 11 o’clock worship services. 

In the midst of the Hamilton hoopla one truth I hope to offer to all of us is that God, in the infant Jesus, came into this world to show each of us the unending power of love. While Alexander Hamilton and the founding parents of our republic took a step toward liberty and justice, I invite you to remember and hold dear that the real revolution, the true up-ending of our world, comes not through government policy, but through our ability to live our lives in such a way that the love of God is made real in all we do. Please let that revolution begin.

To avoid donkeys, camels, and chaos, attend the 8:00 service and then return for the absolutely amazing Advent and Christmas Lessons and Carols that our choir will be offering at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. To end a long day at 5:30 we’ll all journey to the back room of O’Shaughnessy’s Pub for Beer and Caroling! At noon—we’ll be serving a light lunch and transforming our sanctuary from Advent austerity to Christmas greenery. Please come and join in any or all the activities that may feed your soul in this season of expectation and birth. 

All my very best to you on this my MOST FAVORITE WEEKEND of the year,


Working Against the Virus of Racism

Working Against the Virus of Racism

kellybdWe are very excited that the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be spending a weekend with us this fall, September 23 and 24. Kelly was formerly the Canon Theologian at our National Cathedral. In the fall she will become the first Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, now located at Union Theological Seminary. We've invited Kelly to spend the weekend with us so that we might again return to our work on confronting racism. Kelly is an amazing preacher and theologian and we are beyond honored that she is making time in her incredibly busy schedule to be with us. Look for more details in the next few weeks on the spirituality and theology that we will be exploring together. 

In the event that you find yourself looking for some interesting summer reading, here are some books she has suggested we investigate: HomecomingThe Color of Law, and one by Kelly called Stand Your Ground. She also suggested that watching 13th on Netflix would be helpful.

Racism is an issue that we are called to confront and challenge and end. It is not something that will just die a gentle death. Our hope is that with our time with Kelly and one another, we may again return to this important work. 

All Saints' Book Club

All Saints' Book Club

midnightFall Reading List Selected

The All Saints Book Club has defined its reading list through the fall. The meetings start at 7:30 PM usually at the home of a member. The locations and further details are on our Facebook page. Here is the schedule for the next several months:

  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe (meet in the Reading Room at the church)
  • October 12 - "Saints and Villains" by Denise Giardina
  • November 9 - "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson
  • December 14 - Pick your own poetry book and share favorite poem(s)

For additional information, contact Mike Burke (

Bags for RCS

Bags for RCS

We're running low on paper and reusable bags for our Tuesday night pantry. Please bring us your extras! 
We will be taking donations on Tuesday evenings, M-F 9am-4pm, and on Sundays during church services. Look for the bins by the doors. Thanks for your help!

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

 Sundays at 2pm

breakersbibleWe are very excited to announce that every Sunday at 2:00 pm, All Saints' offers something new at the Breakers - An Evening Prayer Service! Our first event was Sunday, December 4th, and went marvelously well - we had 13 attendees! Folks are very pleased that there's a Protestant service being offered in addition to the current choices (which are Catholic and Moody Bible.) The Prayer Service itself is printed in large print and in bulletin style with scripture taken each week from the Common Lectionary.

The weekly service starts at 2:00 pm, upstairs on the second floor Meditation Room, and lasts about 15 minutes. Please contact Paul Mallatt if you have questions, or comments at 773-860-4649. When you can, stop by the Breakers (5333 N Sheridan Rd) where the parking is free (for 2 hours), the coffee is hot, and the folks are friendly!


Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

Tuesdays 6:15-8:00pm 

RCS is looking for help serving and cleaning up after dinner on Tuesdays from 6:15-8:00pm.

If you're able to volunteer, contact Emily or Operations Manager Parker Callahan, or call 773-769-0282.

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

helloDo you feel called to create an open, welcoming, hospitable environment at All Saints? Do you like meeting and connecting with people? Join the new Hospitality Ministry! Members of the Hospitality Ministry will help the clergy and vestry create a welcoming culture by greeting new members, engaging new faces at coffee hour, and helping connect new members of All Saints with our various programs.

Interested? Contact Diane Doran or Michelle Mayes. Include "Hospitality Ministry" in the subject line.

Join Our Member Directory!

Join Our Member Directory!

Our new Associate Rector, Emily Williams Guffey, is enjoying getting to know everyone in our congregation. Help her put names and faces together by adding yourself to our online directory!

If you are a member of All Saints' and haven't already registered for the directory, please contact our resident web guru Jim Crandall at and he will send a user name, password, and instructions.

Love on a Plate

Love on a Plate

Join the All Saints' Care Ministry! 

casseroleThe Care Ministry at All Saints' is a quiet one, simply providing meals after a new baby arrives, after surgery, during an illness. Because when life gets complicated, dinner is often the last thing on our minds--but sometimes a meal and visit from a friend is exactly what we need!

If you can provide a meal, give someone a ride, or run an errand once in awhile, please email You'll be contacted when a need arises and you can sign up to help at your convenience.


Donate to The 1883 Project

Donate to The 1883 Project

Please consider supporting the restoration project of our historic building. To make a donation, click here

1883 Construction web 

This OLD Church

This OLD Church

This week’s stories of the bell tower: The beams and posts in the bell tower are being filled with epoxy and fungicide to prevent future insect damage and to restore their strength and integrity. Here are some photos of the work currently taking place. Everywhere you see white is where the post or beam is being rebuilt, restored and protected.
The blue hue in the photo is from the tarp surrounding the bell tower enabling Ron Young and his crew to continue working in the dropping temperatures.
Fixing This Old Church

Fixing This Old Church

Here is a collection of photos of the progress of our 1883 Project. Here is a collection of bell tower photos. Check back often for updates.

Sunday Service Times

8:00 am Inclusive Language Eucharist
9:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir
10:00 am Children's Church School
10:00 am Coffee Hour
11:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir


Contact Us

4550 N. Hermitage in Chicago, IL 60640 (Directions)

Phone (773) 561-0111


Information about pastoral care.



Bonnie on Huffington Post

Occasionally Bonnie's sermons are published on the Huffington Post. Here are some links.

Pain. Change. Hope.

November 15, 2015

What Does St. Francis of Assisi Have to Say to Us Today?

October 4, 2015

Wake Up Calls

September 6, 2015

Christmas Reminds Us That We, Like God, Are Human, Too

December 24, 2014

The Deep Sleep of Racial Oblivion: One Pastor's Sin of Omission

November 30, 2014

Pulpit Swap

The Pulpit Swap between St Thomas and All Saints is part of our ongoing effort to bring our parishes closer together as we engage in a conversation about systemic racism and how we can work together to forge new possibilities and outcomes.

Going Home—Changed

Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Bonnie Perry of All Saints Episcopal Church on October 16, 2016.  

When Prayers Go Unanswered

Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Dr Fulton L Porter celebrating at All Saints Episcopal Church on Oct16 2016.