All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

A Companion God

I guess, if there is one thing we all want in life it is companionship. If we had all the money in the world and all the time in the world but not one person, spouse, child, pet, or friend to share the things money can buy and time can provide, then those millions and those hours would be meaningless. We are social creatures. In the first pages of Genesis, God says, “it is not good that the human should be alone.” And what happens? A helpmate is created, and so, husband and wife, the first family.

We recognize that same bonding today, in a new way, state by state, Michigan being the latest! We celebrate weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, graduations, confirmations, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving. These are all social events that bond our relationships.

We seek interaction from infancy. In an old sermon on our text (Psalm 23) I observed how amazed I was when our first grandchild, Robin, 11 months old at the time, was so into people. Cautious with a new face, he quickly warmed up and engaged you with a smile, a pointed finger, or copied a patty cake. He lite up when Mommy entered the room after being away.

That same boy, now 25 years old, is adored by his younger siblings, has become a great hugger, and is happily engaged to be married. Just last week he drove in from Topeka, Kansas, to attend his sister’s senior recital at Chicago Arts (Chi Arts) High School, followed by a fun-filled family dinner.

Companionship is not limited to us humans. Our new dog, Oliver, just a year old, wants social interaction beginning as soon as the bedroom door opens in the morning. He wants to cuddle, lick, play; I have to remind him I am not a dog! Out on the sidewalk he urges me with a pull to cross the street and greet the dog or just a person walking by! Ollie has become a dear companion very quickly. He lay at my feet as I prepared these words.

Our Hebrew forbears understood their God to be a companion too. From the earliest days as a people, they experienced a divine power, but also a companion leading them out of Egypt. They felt God’s influence but also God’s presence alongside of them. They understood God to be transcendent, that which they could not see or touch, who answered Moses with a burning bush and the awesome words, I AM WHO I AM. But they understood God also as intervener and guide in their lives and history. God was both “wholly other” and a trusting shepherd, both mystery and companion.

As we continue our journey through Lent, we are not alone. This is the message of a group of psalms called songs of trust.

Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd;
Psalm 27: The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Psalm 91: You who live in the shelter of the Most High;
Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills.

These psalms offer a profound sense of trust and reliance upon a companion God. Each one talks of a personal relationship, an I-Thou interaction between Creature and Creator.

This companion God was on my mother’s lips as she lay dying from a brain tumor. She was home, in her own bed with the aid of family and hospice when I arrived that last morning. It was March, 1987. My sister Cathy had on Mom’s tape of Mahalia Jackson singing spirituals, low volume. Then, Mom just started reciting Scripture. And what did she quote but the companion psalms! To my amazement, with all that damage in her head, she uttered most of Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord.” Then words from Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” And of course, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” In the King James Version of course! My mother felt the accompanying presence of God to her last breath.

Martin Luther called the Psalms “die kleine Bibel”, the little Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and martyr, wrote from his prison cell on May 15, 1943, “I am reading the Psalms daily, as I have done for years. I know them and love them more than any other book in the Bible.” And a little later in that letter he declares, “I don’t think it is Christian to want to get to the New Testament too soon and too directly.” That’s a concept worth pursuing some time…

And here at All Saints, while we read the 10 Commandments throughout Lent, we sing or read a psalm every Sunday throughout the entire year! In its wisdom the Church has placed the Psalms at the center of our worship because they address us in the depths of our needs. The Psalms have enabled Christians and Jews to live life, to face life, to cope with life, even with this miserable winter!

Let us turn now to the 23rd Psalm. The profound simplicity and matchless beauty of this gem has touched the hearts of countless people through centuries. Confirmation classes learn it by heart. Adults are sustained by it in the perplexities of life. It is a peaceful benediction on the lips of the dying.

This psalm offers a double image: shepherd and host. The shepherd is protector of the sheep, but also host to travelers who find safety in the shepherd’s tent from dangers and enemies of the desert. Among the Bedouin people in the Near East today this strong sense of hospitality still prevails. The shepherd is guide to the flock and a friendly host. In the eyes of the psalmist, the Lord God is such a shepherd and host.

From our high speed travel along the interstates today it is almost impossible to see sheep. But this Biblical image is so vivid, so much a part of our Christian narrative, that we cannot escape connections to the lost sheep or to Jesus saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” We are humbled to see the almighty transcendent Creator God as a down-to-earth Shepherd, Guide, Savior, and Companion.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Nothing more is needed! That is hard to image in a commercialized world where we are constantly reminded of what we need, when a one-hour TV show gives us 14 ads telling us our desires! I am personally tired of Viagra ads. When I change the channel I get the very same ad on that channel! And just after you buy the latest high tech gizmo, you discover it is already outdistanced by a newer model with even more apps that you “must have.” Dare we admit that we don’t need more activities, more pills, more gadgets, more Facebook interactions, and more excitements of all kinds.

No, if God is our shepherd we can be content with our blessings; appreciative of our lives; secure in the palm of God’s hand; secure in lying down in green pastures and walking along a still brook and feeling renewed, restored in soul and being; supported in choosing the right path among the cross currents of daily choices and in doing justly in all relationships with self, lovers, neighbors and systems. Now that is a companion you cannot and would not unfriend!

To be sure there are threats to our lives: walking on icy sidewalks, driving our cars while skirting pot holes and avoiding texting drivers. Gun violence. Cancer. Escalating arguments. And a whole array of temptations. In the words of the psalm: “Walking through the darkest valleys.” But even there, especially there, God is with us. “I fear no evil; for though art with me.” Evil is present but with God as guide I don’t need to be frightened. Now that is a companion.

“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Many years ago I attended the memorial service for retired Methodist Bishop Paul Washburn. One of the things he most treasured about the office of Bishop was the shepherd’s staff that came with it. He proudly carried that staff in Ordination services. He understood himself as shepherd. The carpenter who made Paul’s first staff carried it in the funeral processional and placed it at the foot of the casket. I did not always agree with Bishop Paul, but I respected his office. He certainly received comfort from that staff.

Then we shift to the image of Host. “Thou preparest a table.” Once a traveler is received into a shepherd’s tent that guest is guaranteed immunity from the enemy, from any outside threat. This concept was revived in the 1980s sanctuary movement which sought to safeguard undocumented persons who had fled for their lives from Central America. Many of these same persons now fear deportation from the land where they live, raise children and pay taxes.

When we offer sanctuary we do it in the name of our Shepherd God in whose tent we find a gracious welcome, a hearty meal, and a protecting Host. Then the Host anoints the head of the traveler till the cup overflows.

Now a reversal takes place. No longer does an enemy or a demon or a temptation pursue me; it is goodness and mercy that chase me and follow me all the days of my life. Suddenly the tent becomes God’s temple: “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Now that is a companion whom we can trust!

Over the years, sitting with elderly people facing the sunset of life, I would ask, shall we read some Scripture? No passage has been chosen more that the 23rd Psalm. And usually people repeat the words by heart as they hear it read.

We may feel profoundly alone or sad, despairing or angry or confused, but our companion God is walking beside us, hand in hand. We may experience defeat, heartache, separation, hurt, illness, disappointment, or health, happiness, joy, reward. In all these situations and conditions God is present, God cares and intercedes and accompanies us through these dark valleys and bright mountain pastures.

One of my long time colleagues and seminary classmates, Fred Morris, served for several years as a missionary in Recife, Brazil, the diocese of the renowned Bishop Dom Helder Camara. Brazil was ruled by a brutal dictatorship determined to stop Dom Helder from meddling in politics, which for this priest was simply supporting God’s “preferential option for the poor,” in the words of the then liberation theology. Because Dom Helder was so popular, the regime chose to go after his colleagues. Fred was arrested, thrown into prison and tortured. Months later the US Ambassador finally secured Fred’s release and I invited Fred to come and preach for me at First Methodist Church, Evanston. Fred came and in his sermon confessed publicly that it was only repeating the words of Psalm 23 over and over and over again during torture that allowed him to endure the ordeal. That psalm and that God was his companion in the valley of the shadow.

In sum, when you feel the need for solace, quiet, guidance, and support turn to the God who is our companion and shepherd throughout life’s journey. This God is with us. This God loves us. This God will not unfriend us. Amen.

Martin Deppe
All Saints Episcopal Church, Chicago
March 30, 2014

 

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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,
Bonnie

icecream

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 (mebcat@gmail.com)

     

    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 http://growinghomeinc.org

    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!

    Peace,
    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 website@allsaintschicago.org 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 care@allsaintschicago.org. 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

    Email info@allsaintschicago.org 

    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.