All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Backpack Blessing

Good morning, I’m Jeannie Marie Olson and I’m a Chicago Public School Parent.  

Welcome to Backpack Blessing Sunday.

Last fall, my daughter was the new kid at school. We had just made the decision to come back to our neighborhood Chicago Public School and it felt good. I showed up early to my first meeting with a PTA representative, determined to pitch in and volunteer and make a difference, all energy and no direction but ready for the plan!

The school is four blocks from our house and we used to walk past it before we had children. The parents and students playing at the playground. The shiny red glazed brick of the addition. And here I was with my very own kid—not borrowed, mine—and ready to get on board with the Parent-Teacher Association.

We talked a lot about diversity. Specifically, how to get it reflected in the composition of the PTA. My daughter’s school is 36% Hispanic, 29% South Asian and Asian, and only 20-ish% white.  Part of the reason that we love this school is because of its diversity, the families who speak over 35 different languages at home.  But at the moment, when school families pictured the PTA, that picture was looking very, very white. Not entirely white. But pretty white.

Before I go on with this story, there are some things you need to know about me, and what I believe about education.  

First, as a good disciple of John Dewey, educational philosopher, I believe that experience is learning and it is all around us constantly. We never stop learning inside or outside of the classroom. That the best teachers—along with getting us excited about algebra and confident about spelling--help us to turn that experience into knowledge about ourselves, others and the world.

Second, I believe that two tools are essential for me in this world:

The first one is this.   (Holds up magnifying glass)

A magnifying glass.

From the Latin word for “to extol, to praise, to have the power to increase.”

And this.   (Holds up mirror.)

A mirror. From the Latin word meaning, “to wonder”.  

If you look up the word “mirror” in a dictionary, you might see the following definition: Something that faithfully reflects or gives back a true picture of something else.

And then it gets even cooler. Because if you look up the Latin word for “reflect?” It means, “to bend back”. To cause a change in direction. Like this mirror can reflect light if I turn it to the light.

And what was needed in that moment from me, in my school community, was a mirror.  Because my school community was awesome and was already doing a pretty great job of inclusion. I had watched some of the more involved parents and PTA representatives working the crowd at drop-off and pick-up…giving hugs, shaking hands, laughing with other parents… parents in saris…parents in hijab… parents in shiny Doc Martens with a little hint of a tattoo. But I also saw the shyness, the hesitation. Many of our parents are newcomers to the U.S., many struggling with a new language and new cultural norms. The PTA members saw themselves as part of this community.  But how did these parents from other countries see their own place in the community?

The day of the Back to School Picnic last year, I was ready. I had my 35 mm camera on a tripod, a white curtain backdrop and a box full of props like funny mustaches and princess crowns. And I had my sign…Free Photobooth.  After a few hours, I had over a hundred photos of parents and students and teachers, many sporting some sparkly crowns and mustaches.

My mirror was to reflect everyone back to themselves, not as individuals, but as members of a bigger school community. To say, “You are here. We see you. Everyone belongs.”  I printed out dozens of these photos and handed them out before and after school over the next few weeks.  They were the jumping off point for making connections, strengthening relationships, and yes, invitations to come hang out at the PTA meetings. Everyone is welcome.  Bring your sparkly crown.

In my work as a qualitative researcher, I enjoy collecting observations through photographs and sketches the most. I often collect many things from my fieldwork in the quest to understand the “why” and the “how” of particularly nuanced and complex problems, how and why people interact with each other the way that they do. Long, detailed narratives and journals of observations, bits and pieces of paper and artifacts.  Clues that lead us to deeper questions about priorities, assumptions, decision-making, and prejudices.  It’s all data. And I like data.

Data is from the Latin word meaning “to give”.   Data has always given to me. It gives me a sense of order in a disorderly world.  Which is good, because a year ago I was having what Elise Doody-Jones calls “The Annual School Decision Freak Out”.  This is a yearly ritual that goes like this:  You wake up at 3 a.m. with your heart pounding and wondering, “Oh no, did we choose the right school? Public or private? Charter or non-charter? Bus ride or walking? Am I doing the right thing for my children’s future? Or will they be destined to live in our basement forever?”

There is just so much uncertainty in the world right now, and in public education especially.  The events of the past year in Chicago—the strike, the closings, the budget cuts-- have brought that uncertainty crashing through the lives of many of us.  When that uncertainty struck me at 3 a.m. last fall, I did what I have been trained to do…I went to the data. I took out my magnifying glass to find something that I could praise and extol.

To make a long story short, I had some burning questions about equity within our school district and about public education in general that I wanted answers to. I wondered why so many CPS schools didn’t have a library or a librarian. Why so many of them were without proper heating and cooling. Why the same schools dominated “The List” each year. And if you are unfamiliar with “The List,” it’s an annual ritual for media organizations to rank schools by their Standardized Test scores. I wondered how the rankings and lists of schools also take into account the kids who don’t begin their learning path with a richly appointed preschool or learning games on iPads.  I wondered about the way parents and students saw the data supplied to them about their child, themselves and their school, and how this changed their behavior, thoughts and feelings about themselves and their school.

Not because of an interest in numbers alone, no. I was hooked because of the importance of the mirror and the magnifying glass.  These numbers that we use are important. They reflect how we measure the worth of others. They reflect our priorities and assumptions and prejudices and even our fears. They help us to trace the paths that we travel on our way to decisions.

Looking at the data was actually very affirming.  Peeling back how school ratings were calculated, for example.  (Explain how a school’s ISAT Composite can mask what is going on in the school.)  Or how the school utilization formula related to overcrowding and what the District considers to be underutilized. (Explain why)

When I paid the proper attention to the data and carefully reconciled it with what parents were experiencing, I was affirming them.  Affirming that what they saw was real, even though it didn’t agree with what they were being told.  And sometimes giving them new and uncomfortable truths to think about. Reflecting on the data was reflecting on how we measure and value our schools.  Praising some virtues that are often masked by the math, and giving other parents the confidence to advocate for their schools and their students.

Reflect. Extol. Give.

The SchoolCuts work I engaged in was particularly difficult and exhausting.  I remember the first community hearing I attended and my heart broke watching parents, students and teachers plead, rage and cry at the panel of often blank-faced representatives, begging for their school to be kept open.  The School Cuts team came together and launched our project in less than 3 weeks, giving parents the data that they needed to advocate for their school and their possible alternatives.  We wanted parents to feel informed and empowered instead of helpless and defeated.  And I remember that my jaw dropped at 8 am in the morning as I was driving in my car listening to Linda Lutton, the education reporter for WBEZ in Chicago, interview a Southwest Side parent whose school was on the closing list about why her son should be allowed to stay at his school and not be sent to another specific school. The parent didn’t break down in tears or plead helplessly on air. She reached into her purse and pulled out the test score data for both schools and broke it down for the reporter, why her son’s school was a better choice.

It’s been a year now that I’ve tried to be a magnifying glass and a mirror in Chicago Public Schools, particularly neighborhood schools that don’t have a test or lottery for admission.  Yes, there are so many things wrong with public education right now and I won’t go through the list because many of you know it by heart.   But there are so many things that are going RIGHT in classrooms and schools around this City—despite what sometimes seems like the best efforts of District Administration to dismantle some of them, even if they believe they have the best of intentions-- and those things need to be reflected.

If, as John Dewey reminded us, we view the whole world as our classroom, what can we learn about the events of this past year? About the struggles in our City? How can we engage each other and all of our students—from public schools or non—in reflecting on the critical role that a free and fair public education plays in our society and in our civic life? About what engaging and collaborating with others LOOKS like when it isn’t just words? About the hard truths around the issues of equity, justice, politics, business and government, and the complexity of all of it? What can we extol? What can we magnify?

I can offer something.

I have been so heartened, so lifted up by the increasing awareness of all parents and citizens of this City around the important details of inequity and complexity that exists in the District. I’ve often talked about it with others. I know specific groups and other parents have too.  But it hasn’t been until this year that I’ve seen different groups and neighborhoods and communities joining together across the City, across zip codes, to listen to each other even when the District wasn't listening to them. To engage each other, even when the District was not engaging them. And to advocate for each other even when they thought that no one was in their corner.

Forgive me if I use someone else’s words here instead of my own, but these words from Elise Doody-Jones were a mirror for me when I needed them this year, and I would like them to be a magnifying glass for some of you:

When the first day of school arrives, I see the long-term friendships my son has and we parents have, the amazing teachers who have struggled for far longer to teach under difficult situations and a principal who regardless of the politics manages to make it work with a smile because, no matter what foolishness the adults are engaged in, kids need to be taught and need to be taught well if we are going to survive as a free society.

Yes, we could run off to greener pastures but someone at some point planted and cultivated that pasture that is so green. We choose to continue to tend the garden here at this school despite the harsh climate because someone else somewhere else at other schools took the time and energy to do the same for us.

We have to set the example of how you are supposed to BE in society.

We often feel so helpless in the face of overwhelming political and bureaucratic obstacles that we forget that we have so. Much. Power.  TO be a mirror.  To be a magnifying glass. Not everyone is going to go about this in the same way, being the mirror for a hurting City or at the District level. But we all have the power to reflect back to others…to students, to parents, to teachers…to give them new data, to give them a more powerful and empowering view of themselves, their school, and their place in this City, in this world.

Thank you.

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Dear Friends,

Tomorrow afternoon I'll hit a milestone that astonishes me. I'm honored to be officiating at Kate Gannett and Jamison Merrill's wedding. Katie was one of the five or six little ones who were here at All Saints when I first arrived almost 25 years ago. She was five years old... Now she's working on a graduate degree at Johns Hopkins. She and Jamison met while working in South Africa.

So much has changed since then and yet this community of faith, although much bigger (and heaven knows our building looks much better), retains the same "let's just give this a try and see what happens" spirit. Back then we had Clyde Propst and a few dedicated church school teachers who were willing to give their time to be with our young people and let them know that they mattered. Today we still have Clyde Propst, and more than 10 other people, working with and serving our young ones. In addition, one of the little ones from back in the day, Hilary Waldron, now facilitates our incredibly active 7-12 grade youth group. Taking young people seriously can make a huge difference in their lives! I am so grateful to our nursery, church school teachers, and youth group advisors. Thank you for all that you do and give.

This weekend, in addition to Kate's wedding, I'll be getting my sermon ready for Sunday and anticipating our amazing end-of-the-church-school-ice-cream social. 

Colin and the choir will be creating some lovely music and Emily will be catching some time away after an incredibly packed Spring!

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!

All the best,


The last few Sundays of our church school year are quickly approaching:

Sunday, June 18th - The Annual Ice Cream Social when church school hosts coffee hour and what's better than ice cream! There will be a variety of ice cream flavors and many possible toppings for do-it-yourself Sundaes served on the lawn in front of the church. Children help with set up serve (and eating!) ice cream, and clearing away the debris

The rest of June and July - Although Sunday school classes do not meet at 10 during the summer, Atrium I will continue to be open during the 9 o'clock service until the end of July. Atrium I children who attend the 11 o'clock service will be welcome in the nursery during the service.

At 10 o'clock children are encouraged to come help water, weed and harvest vegetables from the garden we're planting to support the Ravenswood Services Community Kitchen.


redbirdUnderstanding Vocation in a Complex World

Parishioner Liz Futrell and her colleague Kate Rademacher both work in international public health with a focus on trying to increase access to contraception for women in developing countries. Both women feel a sense of vocation in this work. However, with birth control remaining a controversial topic in the political and religious landscapes, understanding this work as a vocational calling can raise challenging questions. Liz and Kate will talk about how their work intersects with their faith. Kate will read from her new memoir about her recent conversion to Christianity, and Liz will read from a piece about her career path that's been included in a new anthology of women's stories.

Discussion will take place Sunday, June 25, during coffee hour. There will be time for open discussion and the group will be invited to share their experiences and thoughts about discernment and understanding vocation.


revelationsMonday nights at 7:30, Beginning July 10

Bible study is back! If the current U.S. presidency and administration is causing you to wonder if we're living in "apocalyptic times," then studying the Book of Revelation is perfect for this summer's Bible study! The Monday nights for this, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. (6 to 7:15 p.m. for dinner beforehand at O'Shaughnessy's), are July 10, 17, 24 and 31.

Your "tour guide" on this journey will be parishioner Jerome Wilczynski. Jerome holds a Master's degree in Systematic Theology and New Testament from Catholic Theological Union, and a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. He is Associate Professor/Core Faculty in the department of Counselor Education and Supervision at Argosy University, Chicago. The point of our study will be to de-mystify this all too often misunderstood text from Scripture. The main commentary Jerome will use to assist us in unearthing the rich symbolism of this book will be Wilfrid Harrington's Revelation from the Sacra Pagina series, in case you want to buy it—but don't feel you have to.


Summer Lineup Selected
The All Saints Book Club met on May 11th and decided on a lineup of books for the next year. The book club is open to anyone who enjoys reading. 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:
  • July 13 -  "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe
  • For additional information, contact Mike Burke (


    Individual Actions Towards Racial Equality

    Volunteer Opportunities, Events, and Recommendations

    (re)imagining: Racial Justice Summit Sponsored by YWCA Evanston/North Shore:

    Thursday, April 6 from 6 - 8 pm
    Friday, April 7 from 9 am - 4 pm
    Unitarian Church of Evanston
    1330 Ridge Ave., Evanston, IL
    Goal: "To bring people of all ages and demographics together to deepen their understanding of their own racial identities, develop skills to work for change, formulate action plans and engage with others."

    For Information and Registration, click here

    "The Scottsboro Boys" at Porchlight Theater through March 12th
    A musical production that is getting rave reviews, "nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and presented in the style of the notorious "minstrel show", this true-life story of nine African American teenagers accused and put on trial in Memphis for a crime they did not commit is one America's most notorious episodes of injustice; inaugurating a wave of social changes leading up to the modern Civil Rights Movement."

    For information and ticket prices, click here

    Suggested reading, non-fiction: 
    Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson, January, 2017

    This book has been described as "...a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted."

    Recommended as a "companion piece to the film rather than a stand-alone book." One reviewer recommended "seeing the film first, and then using the book for meditation and revisiting afterward."

    Volunteer opportunity: GROWING HOME "We have a vision of a world of healthy people and communities. Everyone deserves to have a good job, and everyone deserves to eat well." Since 2002, Growing Home has trained and employed and, most importantly, given a second chance to people with employment barriers. You may be familiar with their Wood Street farm in Englewood. Their farms are the first and only USDA-certified organic high-production urban farms in Chicago, and because they strive to also feed their community well, all their produce is grown, harvested, cleaned, and sold within a 20-mile radius. Read more at

    Volunteer opportunity: Non-profit Reading In Motion has successfully refined its mission over its 30+ years to help give kindergarten and first grade students foundational reading skills they need to start on a path for lifetime learning. They partner with public school teachers and have been extremely successful in making a difference in children's lives. Click here for more info.


    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!

     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!


    Jeff Lee
    Dear Polly and All Saint's Kids,
    I am writing to you from a meeting of the board of Episcopal Relief & Development in Bogota, Columbia. We are meeting here to visit some of our partner ministries with people in need. I have seen the amazing results of this year's bake sale (in fact, I'm looking at photos of some of the cakes - wow!), and you have reminded me that we don't have to travel to Columbia or South Sudan to make a huge impact for the good of God's people.
    I am so proud and grateful for you and the work you do. You guys are heroes. Our friends in South Sudan will be blessed by your effort.
    In Christ,
    Jeffrey D. Lee
    Bishop of Chicago

    Sundays at 10am

    The phrase Imago Dei means the Image of God. Specifically, the image of God as it is found in humanity. The image of God in us - it is what makes us spiritual people - valued as whole and complete. What does it mean to creatively live as whole people? How do we live in relationship with others - respecting and sharing one another's security and one another's discomfort?

    Join us on Sunday mornings between services as we figure out together how to help one another take practical responsibility for living in this world - especially as racial and spiritual beings.

    True - our time will be uncomfortable because it will mean talking about race, violence, personal helplessness, and personal failure. Also true - this will be comforting and supportive because it will mean getting to be honest, practicing together, and caring for one another.

    Every week we will ask one another "What have you done in these past 7 days with who you are and within your sphere of influence when it comes to the realities of race?" the answers will be different for each person and it won't be a competition. We will be lifting up the everyday choices we make and don't make. Sometimes we will like what happens and sometimes we won't.

    And - we will be doing it together.

    The Middle Eastern refugees and immigrants served by the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society were deeply moved by the notes of welcome from All Saints. We shared them at our community lunch on Thursday, and now they will hang in our conference room to remind people of your warm welcome in the days to come. Thanks!

    Laura Youngberg

    breadbakersSignup online to bake for a month

    Calling all bakers! If you love the smell of fresh-baked bread filling your kitchen, please consider signing up to bake communion bread for our services. This involves a one-month commitment that you'll share with another baker, and you can do all your baking at once and add to the reserves in our freezer.

    Signing up is easy, just click here for our page on Signup Genius and reserve your favorite month.

    Contact Jennifer Simokaitis, or Anne Ellis if you have any questions.

    Yard Signs Available 

    Grow Community has created yard signs for anyone who would like to display support for our local public high schools. Signs and sign holders are available in the Reading Room.



    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.


    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.

    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.

    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.


    tinaParishioner, Tina Tchen, accepts Bishop Maryann Budde's invitation to preach at the National Cathedral Sunday, May 8. Click here to see the video.


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

    1883 Construction web 

    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.

    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.


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    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.