All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Speak in the Storm

The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey 
All Saints' Episcopal Church, 
Chicago 21 June 2015 
• Fourth Sunday after Pentecost • Proper 7B 
Mark 4:35-41

Hi, I'm Emily, and this is my first Sunday here at All Saints'. I have been looking forward to this day for a long time.

I was talking with my mom and dad last night and realized that I've been discerning a call to ordained ministry for twelve years. More than that if you count high school and college, when I changed my major a million times, trying to figure out what it was God wanted from me. I've spent the past eight years in formal discernment in The Episcopal Church. In that time, I've worked in hospitals, restaurants, and also in churches as an organist and choir director. I went to Northwestern for college, then came back to Evanston to Garrett-Evangelical Seminary for a Master's in Music Ministry, and most recently I've been at Virginia Seminary for a Master of Divinity.

I say this just so that you know a little bit about me and where I've come from, and how long I have been looking forward to this day. I am so excited that your discernment and my discernment have led me right here.

If you think about it, someone's first day also means that they've never done this before. I'll be learning lots and lots as I go, and I ask your patience and support. Bonnie, I'm grateful for this one Sunday before you leave me in charge for two weeks. By tomorrow, I'm sure that I'll know exactly what I'm doing!

On this first day, I can't help but think of another important "first day" in my life: the day my first child was born. Like today, I had been anticipating that day for quite some time. Being pregnant gives you clues that something is changing. So, at that time — like the time I just spent in seminary — I read lots of books about babies, went to classes about what to do with said babies, acquired at least some of the stuff people recommend you have for babies, and took in lots of advice from others who knew about babies.

But none of this really prepared me for the day I met my baby. None of this really prepared me for the steep learning curve that is being a new parent. In a day, I went from thinking I knew about babies to thinking, "Oh my gosh, what do I do now? I don't know what I'm doing!" In a day, I went from well-rested to...well, not. In a day, I went from never having met this little person to being absolutely in love with him.

And while I'm thinking — and hoping — that ministry with you will afford me more sleep than a new baby will (please), know that I will love you and cherish you, as I do my own children. Later this year, it is you - and the bishop - who will make me a priest. I become who I am through you, just like children make someone into a mother or a father.

So as a parent and as a person of faith, this week has been tough, hasn't it. More news of ecological demise. Maybe you saw the report foretelling the extinction of animals at a much more rapid pace that usual — even classic animals like lions and tigers, the animals my kids learn to mimic even before they learn regular daily words. More incomprehensible violence, as a racial terrorist walked into a church — just like this — and killed nine black Christians at prayer, just as we are today.

These days are stormy. Terror and injustice crash like wind and waves all around us. I think - like the disciples in the Gospel - that we just might be perishing by the weights of racism, and our own despair and hopelessness. And where is Jesus? Asleep? Seems like it.

In this storm I have looked for comfort. These past few days, I have found it in the words of one of my mentors, a priest who mentored me in Washington, DC, when we were both there. Now, he is living in South Carolina. He is African- American, he is wise, he is bold, and he is full of words. The morning after the Charleston massacre, he offered these:

"I sought and found, I trust through the leading of the Spirit, who can illumine truths that I, in my aggrieved blindness, cannot see, two comforts.

One. I do and dare believe that there are more of us who live and move and have our being within the ethical economy of good will than there are those of us in whose hearts evil prospers.

Two. Those of us who still, after innumerable assaults to the soul of grievous experience, whether personal or that of others, can wince in agony means that we are not morally benumbed and have retained the quintessential elements of sensibility and sensitivity that compel our deeper commitment to love and justice for all." (The Rev. Paul Roberts Abernathy, via Facebook, June 18, 2015)

That he could find and share these words just hours after the massacre — which, as an African-American clergyman in South Carolina, must have cut into his heart in ways I may not fully understand — both impressed me and comforted me.

More comforting still, though, is how I see the sensitivity of which he speaks, this compulsion toward love and justice, at play here at All Saints'. See, on Tuesday night I had what you might call a "quintessential All Saints' moment". It was about eight thirty, and I had just finished washing dishes after the Community Dinner. (Or really, had just learned about the whole dishwashing system and had done one small part: I watched that dish sanitizer really well!) And I came upstairs to the vestry meeting.

Now I have been to a few vestry meetings before, and they were not the most engaging conversations. But here, I sit down, my hands still a little wet, and someone asks me, "What might a sacred conversation about racism be like? We've been talking about it," she continues, "and we'd like to ask you. What might a sacred conversation about racism be like?"

And I thought, "Of course. Of course this is what the vestry is talking about, because this is All Saints'. And All Saints' is a place where we talk about the things that need to be talked about."

In the meeting, we went on to watch a documentary called Cracking the Codes, which is designed to illuminate issues related to racism, and to help folks talk about them. When someone invites you to watch the documentary, I encourage you to do so. It really is good.

And I have a hunch that when we gather to talk about racism, when we gather for these awkward and emotional conversations that perhaps we'd rather avoid, we will begin to see Jesus right there — awake, not sleeping. We'll hear him there whispering "hush!" to the storm.

But paradoxically, if we stay silent, if we don't talk about what needs to be talked about, we might think the storm will just pass along on its way — but it will not. It will rage on and on; if we stay silent, then the storm will never be silent. If we don't make time – if we don't dare — to have holy, hard conversations about racism, then what good is it to pray for safety or comfort or peace?

I find it hard to pray to God for things that I'm not willing to take part in, to help bring about. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that "there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that [like Jesus in our Gospel today] is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows."

All Saints', in my few days with you, I have heard and I have seen that you are people who pray with your hands and your feet and your hearts. Today I ask you to remember that whenever you do so, whenever you seek lasting peace perhaps at the expense of your own comfort or fears, you indeed are of that creative force that will bring down evil. Please, let me join you. 

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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.