All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

A Friend I Can Do For —

January 12, 2014
Matthew 3:13-17
Baptism of Jesus
Bonnie A. Perry
-with excerpts from Anne Ford's book

I propose to show that our community kitchen and food pantry is the sacrament that has enabled All Saints to create a community that attempts to get to what God hopes for in the world, so that those hearing this sermon will come and visit and listen and learn.

Each of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have somewhat different descriptions of Jesus' early life beginning of his public ministry. Luke's Gospel has a lovely set of stories of Jesus as a child before he steps onto center stage. In John's gospel one of his first public acts is to change water into wine at a wedding reception because his mother asks him to. In Matthew and in Mark his public ministry as an adult begins with his baptism in the river Jordan, by John the Baptist.

"When Jesus was baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

A rumble in the sky, words from on high. And thus it all begins. His trip to the Jordan, being bathed in water, not really about forgiveness of sins, instead it is for him much more of a rite of passage: an outward visible sign that he is now doing a new thing, a different thing, a holy thing, a maybe— world-transforming thing.

For other people who came to John in the Jordan that day is was about having their sins metaphorically and literally washed away. For Jesus it was a outward visible sign that his time to challenge the world and create an oasis of hope, and a vision of change is beginning.

Baptism, in our tradition, is a one-time, public moment of making promises, vows and assertions about our faith, and the faith we hope to offer our children and signified by having water poured on their heads, their bodies, our head, our bodies: Water is the outward, visible sign of God's inward spiritual grace, water is the outward visible sign that God is acting in and through us.

As we will do at the 11:00 worship service for Finley.

Water in baptism is the sign that begins it all. In this passage Jesus rises from the water and those around hear and know that a new thing is upon them. They hear the thunder, the words and know the Holy is in their midst.

Baptism is wonderful, one of the activities I most enjoy as a priest. It is something we as a community do for an individual child, an individual family. And I love it. And as with all things, as with all things church, with all things, I realize I am wired to ask continually the question, "So what?" What does it mean, how does this lovely event, lovely snippet matter?

Christian Ethiscist, Stanley Hauerwas, says that Christians are called to create a community, "Capable of forming people with virtues sufficient to witness to God's truth in the world." (A Community of Character, 1982, p 3).

Let me say that again, 'Christians are called to create a community "capable of forming people with virtues sufficient to witness to God's truth in the world."'

What might be an outward visible sign of a community that is committed to witnessing to God's truth in the world? God's truth for our world—not a world where nearly 55% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 have experienced at least a year in poverty or near poverty, not a world where almost 50% of all American children have at some point in their childhood relied upon food stamps. Not our world as we know it—but our world as it could be.

What might be a sign of a community committed to witnessing to God's truth for our world?

I think, quite possibly, our community kitchen and food pantry, Ravenswood Community services, might be this Christian communities, outward visible sign of our belief that our world can be different, should be different, must be different.

I'm not saying our Tuesday nights are perfect, I am saying that they matter and that they may give us a glimpse of hope, a bit of truth, a portion of holiness.

Anne Ford's narrative and Charlie Simokaitis' photos portray that glimpse in their book, A Friend that I can Do For.

A Friend that I can Do For, is powerful piece simply because it is people's stories: about their lives. Neither the narrative nor the photos differentiate between the people who gather on Tuesday evening. It is a story of neighbors, "just neighbors" gathering, sharing, listening, talking, sitting and eating. What remains constant on a Tuesday evening: people come to our parish hall, come to our sanctuary and we are fed: literally, metaphorically, spiritually, physically.

Is it perfect? No. Is it Holy? Listen—you tell me.

Says, one Tuesday night regular: "It's one of the highlights of my week. It doesn't make me sad. Its sort of a social occasion. I see my friends, and I hang out for a couple of hours and have a meal. How often do you get to have a dinner party with your friends every week? [Where you don't have to cook and you don't have to clean up? If I were a good volunteer, I would clean up.]

The folks on Sunday morning, we look like we have our lives together. We can hide all of the things that are falling apart. Most of the folks on Tuesday night can't hide the fact that their lives are falling apart. They're much more forgiving. If you say something stupid or don't respond right, they don't judge. You're one of them." (P 3)

Another former regular says, "The last job I had I was working out of the YMCA that I live at. But I stopped doing that because I'm not ready to have all this extra money. I have to have a friend I can do for. If I'm by myself, depression will set in...I was house sitting for a guy who had to go to prison for two months. He came and dug me up from under the bridge to sit with this 80 year old lady till he gets back. The lady if she put anything on the stove to cook, she'd walk off and forget about it. I told her, "Don't cook nothing. I will cook for you."

I had money so I went to Aldi's. I cooked a duck. I had it on the table. I had candles lit. I ran to the liquor store and bought some Boone Farm Strawberry Hill. She tastes it—I made her a plate and everything—and she tells me in her 80 years of life, ain't no man in her life ever did what I just did." (P 5)

Another neighbor says, "I started coming here [to RCS] about a year ago. I like the way you have these ladies around that kind of hostess you. That just makes you feel more human. When you're homeless, you're most of the time by yourself, in your own thoughts. That's too much in the head. You go crazy and you don't even know you are crazy. But you have a nice pretty lady sitting by you talking all night, it reminds you that you're a worthwhile human being." (P 71-72)

And this, "I was a psychiatric nurse for a long time. [On Tuesdays] we set up a clinic and its fabulous. We started doing blood pressures and weights and a lot of health teaching. Then we began looking for places we could send people, because we don't prescribe medications.

These people are just a see of unmet health care needs. There are agencies that in theory provide care to them, but getting people connected is incredibly difficult. There's one agency that says you have to have an official note that you're homeless. Isn't that fabulous?

I have the luxury of treating people as whole human beings which is very nice." 

One more snippet which may sum up our Tuesdays, "If you have an agenda here, you'll go crazy. If you have an agenda that you are going to transform lives or whatever the hell it is you're going to do—No. I get to say hi to some people. I get to hug 10 people. They're going to tell me some stories; they're going to catch me up, they're going to tell me crazy stuff, I'm going to tell them crazy stuff. And then we'll clean it all up, put the chairs away, put the tables up.

That is the powerful thing we can do, is just love people. I'm not here to teach people. I'm here to love them. And I think that loving people is what teaches them. Maybe that's fudging it. But that's my story. And I'm sticking to it."  (P 32)

Christians are called to create a community, "Capable of forming people with virtues sufficient to witness to God's truth in the world."

That I believe is our calling here at All Saints' and Tuesday evenings for the last 20 is our attempt to create a glimpse and slice of God's hope for our world.

That's my story—and I'm sticking to it.


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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.