All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

What are you protecting yourself from?

Beau Surratt

August 4, 2013

There I was in yoga class on Thursday was the period of relaxation at the end of class--that time when, after all of the exertion of a yoga practice, the body is given a chance to rest, regroup and reset itself, by lying on the back and relaxing completely into the floor. My yoga teacher Nick, who could help even the most tightly wound person to relax completely, was leading us into relaxation by inviting us to let go of any of the places where we were holding tension in our bodies. I hadn't been to a yoga class in a while so I was totally enjoying this. I was in that yoga bliss zone and it was great. That is, until Nick uttered those words that sent me spiraling into sermon prep mode for the whole rest of savasana:

What are you protecting yourself from? are things that many of us seek to cultivate in our own lives and in the lives of our families.

Parental drives to protect their children are particularly strong, and rightly so--this is especially prevalent in moms who will often try to protect kids and even adults who aren't even their own--like when you're riding in a car with a colleague who is a mom and, when there's a particularly hard stop she throws her arm out in front of you like a mom-sized seatbelt, except...she's not your mom. Or, like yesterday at the lunch break for our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training course when Andrea Garland, mom to Owen and Eli, felt compelled to make things better and protect me from having a meltdown yesterday when the waitress spilled water all over my pants and I didn't react at all.

Our protection instincts run strong, particularly in this part of the world in this day and age. Life insurance, car insurance, pet insurance--insurance insurance. We yearn for and crave safety, security and protection, and it's no wonder, really. Author, researcher and TED talk diva Brené Brown (who is an Episcopalian, by the way!) tells us in her bestselling book "Daring Greatly" that she's witnessed major shifts in the zeitgeist of our country. She says, "The world has never been an easy place, but the past decade has been traumatic for so many people that it's made changes in our culture. From 9/11, multiple wars, and the recession, to catastrophic natural disasters and the increase in random violence and school shootings, we've survived and are surviving events that have torn at our sense of safety with such force that we've experienced them as trauma even if we weren't directly involved."

All of us have ways that we deal of the harshness of the world--- ways of looking for peace in the midst of the chaos, hope in the midst of the apparently hopeless, control in the midst of uncertainty...ways to ratchet our vulnerability down even just a little when everything seems like too much to bear.

What are you protecting yourself from?

In December of 2012 I returned to All Saints' after almost a year of being away from this community. By my count, this makes my fourth incarnation on the All Saints' staff--- College Intern, Parish Administrator, Associate for Music and Administration, and now Director of Music. In mid 2011 I had been working full time as Parish Administrator here at All Saints' for about 4 years when Margaret McCamant, who was the Director of Music here for 20 years (and now, much to my delight, sings in the choir, plays fiddle and does a myriad of other things here in this community) retired. After much thought, consideration, discernment and questioning about whether it would be something that might work, Bonnie (our Rector-Senior Pastor) and I decided that I would take on the music director duties in addition to my duties as Parish Administrator. I certainly wasn't 100% sure that working 60 hours each week in this amazing and quirky community of faith would work, but I was so excited about the possibility of being able to make music with y'all that I felt compelled to jump in with both feet. And it was really wonderful....for a little while. At some point during those months I realized something that, quite frankly, scared the hell out of me. I couldn't control it all. I was used to being able to rely on my competence to be able to handle whatever anyone threw at me, but, in these two areas where I felt very competent, I just couldn't handle it all. It was out of my control and it made me very, very uncomfortable (and, if you worked with me in the office during those months, you'll know this well--cranky.) So, I did what anyone else would do when completely overwhelmed.....I joined the Roman Catholic Church.

Now...before you think that working at All Saints' drove me to the Roman Catholic Church, I should be really clear that I had felt drawn in that direction for various reasons for a long time and it was something that I would eventually have to experience for myself in order to know completely what it was. But what led me to leave All Saints' and go to work and worship in a Roman Catholic parish at that particular time was something in myself that I didn't know quite how to deal with. I wanted to feel in control again...I wanted to feel like I knew all the answers...I wanted some certainty about things, and I didn't want to feel so darn vulnerable---and, truth be told, if there is a Church that doesn't project even an iota of vulnerability, it's the Roman Catholic Church. I certainly found wonderful grace and comfort during my time in the Catholic Church. I also got to know some very pious- very devoutly religious people - who certainly helped me with my need for certainty. But here's the thing...the more I was attracted to that certainty the more I saw its shadow side. The faith that was so important to me had again become almost completely about being certain and getting it all right. The faith that had been kindled into a living, breathing flame through the Holy Spirit's work in me through my first encounters with the All Saints' community had become a matter of participating in the right rituals in the right way as if to try and make sure God knew that I really cared. I was accumulating all of this right belief and religious experience, and that was it--I was accumulating it. Storing it up, protecting myself so that I wouldn't have to worry about anybody or anything else.

A few months later, when I went with All Saints' and Ravenswood Community Services to the Greater Chicago Food Depository's annual Hunger Walk (and eventually began the series of conversations that would bring me back home to All Saints' and the Episcopal Church) it became very clear to me that I was longing to return to this community. Being at Hunger Walk reminded of something very important that I had learned and seen embodied at All Saints' and that became an integral part of my faith: The Gospel doesn't matter one bit if it doesn't change people's lives. I had been spending a lot of time learning the Gospel, but precious little time living it.

We all at different times in our lives find ourselves longing to protect, hold close, and maybe even hoard our money, possessions, time, religious experiences, our denomination, our church. Particularly when we're feeling overwhelmed, angry, uncertain, and scared. But Jesus says to us the same thing he said to the rich farmer in our story from Luke's Gospel today who stored up all his grains and goods so he could eat, drink, and be merry: "This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Blogger about the weekly lectionary readings, Sarah Dylan Breuer ( writes: "When we're dead set on accumulation, whether it's some kind of moral points we think we're gathering or wealth to shield us from misfortune and suffering, we end up trapped in anxiety. There's usually an awareness that we're kidding ourselves, that life involves vulnerability."

Life involves vulnerability. Vulnerability....being ALL IN, as Brené Brown puts it. And she goes on to say in Daring Greatly, "Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection."

Life involves vulnerability.

This very night your life is being demanded of you.

What are you protecting yourself from?

This table that we gather around week after week is a place of vulnerability. Because at this table we offer our very selves to God--hopes and fears, joys and thanksgivings--all that we are - along with bread and wine and food for hungry people. And when we offer it all to God, God gives back to us God's very self--the Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven - the Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation -- and we become God's body- the living, breathing, healing, forgiving, and renewing body of Christ sent to mend this broken world. In our vulnerability.....offered to Christ's vulnerability--in his life and death, there is the great power of Resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit that we are not alone -- we are not left comfortless.....that we're in this thing together. We're ALL IN.

The Gospel really doesn't matter one bit if it doesn't change people's lives and I am so thankful to be among this community in which I first experienced this being lived out. And I can't wait to see where this living the Gospel together takes us next.


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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.