All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

The lives we thought we had are gone

December 8, 2013
Bonnie A. Perry

Create in me a clean heart o God
Renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence.
In your Holy Name we pray.

There’s a line, a sentiment floating around the congregation these days. I know because I’ve heard it in at least three different places from three different people. I think people are quoting 9:00 parishioner and Northwestern Hospital Chaplain Jeanne Wirpsa. I don’t actually know what Jeanne said but the version of the quote as I have heard it goes something like this. “We think, we think we are in control of our lives. Then well, then something happens and the lives that we had, the lives we thought we had are just suddenly gone. It’s all different.” And each person who I’ve heard say this—then shakes his or her head and looks away.

It is not a sentiment that we haven’t all heard in one way or another. It is I believe something we all know—we are not in charge—we don’t really control our lives— we know this. I know this; much along the same lines as I know that one day I will die. I know this. But I do not comprehend it. It’s like the island of Fiji. I know it exists, but I don’t actually think I’m ever going to visit.

The lives we thought we had are gone.

Our body betrays us. We betray our body. Our parents, our child, our spouse: a loved one becomes ill. Someone dies. We lose a job. We fail to get a job for which we were perfect. We become intimately associated with death and her second cousin: vulnerability. Something has happened and now, shattered, shards of glass lay at our feet. What we thought was a window on our world, a clear view, we now know to be nothing more than a mirror of our souls. And now, all that was, is altered. Our call, our vocation, our sense of our place in the world is muddled and perhaps even our belief system is skewed.

The lives we thought we had are gone.

We didn’t think we were actually going to be in paradise here, but maybe a nice ranch house in a suburb of paradise… that would have been okay. Instead we find ourselves in the wilderness. We find ourselves truly seeing and walking in the wilderness of this world, vulnerable, bare.

Although we may have heard it before, never in our lives did we need to listen as we do now.

We hear the voice crying out in that wilderness, “Prepare, prepare, the way of the Lord, make God’s paths straight.”

The lives we thought we had are gone.

For we are in the wilderness, but it is in that barren place that we will find life. Our lives, our true lives, for in the wilderness there is a path. This path is not of our making and manipulating. This path is God’s path of God’s constructing and God’s creating. Prepare the way—for God’s path.

A path where in the midst of our loss and disappointment, we will find each other: God’s path. A path where when I cannot walk, you and someone else will carry me and be with me, and I will do the same for another. God’s path: A path where we cease to fixate on the stones. A path free from hazy nostalgia for the past and absent of distracting day dreams of the future Instead, upon this path, this now, this moment, this today will matter more than all the glories of our past and fantasies of our future. On this path, God’s path in the wilderness we will see and be fully present aware and attuned to that which is now.

More than anything else—on God’s path in this wilderness—we will see clearly that we are not alone. That God is constructing this path, creating this highway with us and for us—completely and utterly grounded in the reality of now and the vision, the hope, possibility of what may be, what can be, with all of us together—now.

The lives we thought we had are gone.

To which we say, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’



Copyright Bonnie A. Perry 2013

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Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Here is a link to download Bonnie's address.

Weekly Message for February 18

Weekly Message for February 18

Dear Friends,    


How much longer will the killing continue? 
Here are some groups and activities you might consider supporting with your time and your money: 
  • The IL Council Against Handgun Violence 
  • Moms Demand Action 
  • Gabby Giffords' PAC 

  • And here's a list of congressional representatives who have received the most amount of money from the National Rifle Association. Apparently they are all praying for the people in Florida directly affected by our country’s latest mass shooting. I invite you to pray for their souls and to drop them a note wondering if God is answering their prayers. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But, being held hostage by a diabolical association that has convinced our elected officials that it is the God-given, constitutionally-sanctioned right of every American to wander around with a semi-automatic rifle is absurd. Seems like all of us ought to start loudly pointing out this insanity.
    I’ll be at the Moms Demand Action Lakeview gathering on the 24th of February. Let me know if you’d like to come with me. Please let me know what other courses of action you plan to take to end gun violence in our country.
    This evening, All Saints’ will be hosting a gathering for the friends, family, and neighbors of our long-term neighbor John Vanzo at 7:00. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a visitation in the sanctuary and a memorial service at 11:00 am. All are welcome. 
    I’m super excited that we will finally kick off the All Saints’ Youth Group with an overnight this Saturday. Please RSVP to Hilary Waldron if your 7-12 grade child is planning on attending. 
    Following the 11:00 Worship service we will have a Newcomer’s Brunch at O’Shaughnessy’s at 12:15. Please join us!
    This Sunday, Emily will be preaching, I’ll be celebrating, and our choir will be singing some wonderfully moving Lenten music. It seems like the right time to be praying and repenting. So please come and join me.
    All my best,


    Memorial Service for John Vanzo

    Memorial Service for John Vanzo

    AUGUST 13 2013 11The memorial service for our friend and neighbor John Vanzo will be held at All Saints' this Saturday the 17th, at 11:00 am. There will be a visitation in the sanctuary prior to the service, beginning at 10:30am. All are welcome. 

    On Friday evening, the 16th, we will host a time of conversation and story telling for John's friends and family. All are invited from 7 to 9pm to share a drink, and hear and tell a favorite story of the very many sides of John.

    May John's soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


    Lenten Evening Prayer

    Lenten Evening Prayer

    On Thursdays, February 15-March 22, brief services of Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00pm, with scripture, poetry, and song. Come find rest for your souls.

    Inquirers’ Class

    Inquirers’ Class

    On Thursdays, February 15—March 22, the Inquirers’ Class will take place in the Reading Room next to the sanctuary. Designed especially but not exclusively for those new to All Saints’ and/or the Episcopal Church, this 6-week series is an exploration of adult spirituality through history, prayer, scriptures, theology, church polity, and more. If desired, it may also serve as preparation for the rite of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church in May or June.

    The book we’ll refer to occasionally in the class is called Jesus was an Episcopalian (and you can be one, too!): A Newcomer’s Guide to the Episcopal Church by Chris Yaw. If you’re interested in joining the class, consider getting a copy to look over.

    Contact Bonnie or Emily for more info.

    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!

    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.

    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 

    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.