All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

John the Baptist and Newtown

December 15, 2013
Bonnie A. Perry

Create in me a clean Heart o God
Renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from you presence.

Good Morning.

John the Baptist is in prison. Last week he was out in the wilderness, “Preparing the way of the Lord.” This week we jump ahead eight chapters in Matthew’s Gospel and we find John in jail. It seems that all that preparing and proclaiming, got him in trouble. Typically, insecure people of power, dislike being compared to a writhing pile of snakes. “You brood of vipers,” said John to the Sadducees and Pharisees, “Who warned you to flee? I tell you even now the ax is at the root of every tree that does not bear good fruit.” Put pastoral lines like that with a fellow who has no real respect for earthly authority, joined by vast crowds of restless people gathering and well—the fact that John the Baptist is now in jail is not all that surprising.

Here’s the interesting part, at least to me. John who was the one, proclaiming the coming of the Lord…John who was the one who baptized Jesus, John who was there, John who said, “It is you Jesus who should baptize me.” John as he sits in prison appears to be having doubts. Second thoughts. He sends word via his disciples to Jesus’, “Hey,” he says, “Are you the one? Are you really the one or should we wait for another?”

As theologian Mark Yurs says, “What a relief, when the one who is supposed to know the answer doesn’t know. Makes the rest of us not feel so bad for not being sure ourselves.”

It’s like that sometimes isn’t it? We don’t necessarily realize what we have when we have it. John had Jesus—right there. Now he wonders. Now he has doubts. Most of us, as we float along in our lives, have no visceral sense of just how transitory everything can be in our world. As we look forward and look back and miss now. It is the now that we will need as the foundation for the future.

Is that day of Jesus’ baptism not just seared into John’s brain. Or is all a blur: a pixilated collage of images that he is unable now to focus?

Yesterday, as we know, was the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings in Newtown, CT. I offered a remembrance at a memorial service yesterday evening. As I was writing that piece I came across a remarkable interview by Tovia Smith that aired on NPR’s morning edition.

Tovia Smith interviewed Nelba Marquez-Greene. Mother of Ana Grace age 6 who was one of the 28 people who was killed by a bullet shot by a gun on that wretched
day. One of the 20 first graders murdered.

“As much as December 14th will forever be a day of unfathomable grief, December 13th will forever be one of unending gratitude”, said Ana’s mom, Nelba. “I will never forget that day,” she said.

Instead of rushing to activities and errands and worrying about the dishes and the laundry, even cleaning the mess on the floor, Nelba ignored it all. Even the crèche set—that little Ana had knocked over that morning. Apparently before Ana left for school the day before the shooting, she managed to knock the entire nativity scene off the piano and onto the floor. The baby Jesus was still in little pieces all over the floor when Ana came home from Sandy Hook elementary school that day.

Nelba said, “I just ignored it. For some reason that she does not understand, Nelba corralled son Isaiah, Ana, and her husband Jimmy and insisted that they all go to dinner at the Cheese cake factory. Where they had their final time as a family of four.

Nelba remembered, “It was the greatest gift—we were sitting there taking goofy pictures, making faces. We had a second dessert and like three plates of pasta. I’m so grateful we had that.”

We need the moments of now for the future. Not because doom is impending, but because our time together is precious, Holy and deserves to be treated with reverence and reveled in. We need moments of meaning etched onto our souls in the present—to carry us through those dark places and dark times in the future: to remember that God who was with us then, will be with us now and always.

Where in this overwrought season of rushing are you stealing space and forging time for remarkable moments of meaning?



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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.