All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

masadawallsThe Hope of the Word

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
January 24, 2016

They have forgotten.
It happens you know.
It happens all the time.
It happens to us and it happened to them. More than a century has gone by; more than three generations have gone to their graves singing foreign songs in a foreign land.

But now they are returning from Babylon back from exile. They are returning to their beloved city on a hill to rebuild and renew. Yet that shining place is razed and ruined. Charred beams and weeds fill the temple courtyard and scavenging packs of animals walk freely through the holes in the city's walls.

Word comes to Nehemiah, a faithful Jew serving the Persian King, word comes
from his brother in Jerusalem that they need help: they are threatened by their enemies all around. The city walls need to be rebuilt if Jerusalem is ever again going to be a Holy City on a hill.

The Persian King, grants his eunuch advisor, Nehemiah, permission to leave and bestows upon him, his eunuch advisor the title of governor of the province of Judah.

Nehemiah arrives with supplies, plans and a vision. The wall is rebuilt we are told in 52 days. But here's the thing. Though the external restorations have been accomplished. Though but a shadow of itself the temple is reconstructed, the breach in the walls repaired.

But the people have forgotten what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. The people have forgotten who they are and whose they are.

They have a temple, they have a wall, but their souls are stone, broken and shorn.

So Nehemiah—does what he can. Uses the gifts he has and calls for the King of Persia to send back Ezra the priest. For their local priests in Jerusalem are dispirited, dismayed and beat down by daily life. It happens to us all. They are a people without a faith.

Nehemiah realizes that they need a priest who believes. And more than that they need the word of God. As it was then so it is now.

Scripture. Torah. The Law.
God's holy wisdom in words is if we read it—if we soak in it—it will be our on-ramp to faith; our entrance to God's ways and God's love. But we have to read it,
hear it, feel it—before we can embody it.

While they await Ezra's arrival Nehemiah commands that a giant scaffolding be erected by the Water gate. A giant scaffolding so all can see and hear. Then when Ezra arrives Nehemiah commands all the people to be at the Water gate at dawn. Men and women, all, all, all.

Nehemiah instructs Ezra—to read the Law—to read God's word to the people
from dawn to dusk all day long, read it and explain it in such a way that the people will understand.

Ezra—by all accounts is not a particularly compelling man or charismatic preacher. He isn't amazing, or inspiring—instead he is faithful—nothing more, nothing less
for the word of the Lord, God's covenant is written upon Ezra's heart, his soul is not stone.

As Ezra mounts the platform and unrolls the scroll, the people stand with him, it is probably not unlike, not all that dissimilar from when Jesus enters his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, 500 years later and unrolls the scroll and proclaims the words of the prophet Isaiah

"The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, liberty to the oppressed and sight to the blind, to declare the year of God's favor."

It was probably vastly similar for it was on that day at the Watergate that the people began to hear the word of God again—for the very first time.

What would that be like for us?

What would it be like to hear and to know, to read and to mark, to learn and inwardly digest, what would it be like for us to hear the word of God and then for our souls to fill and our lives to change? What would it be like to know who we are
and to know whose we are.

I think we know.

But then I think we forget. I know I do. But listen with me for a moment and see where your soul goes.


In those days, a decree went out from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be registered...

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene, came to the tomb, and saw that the stone had been removed...

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth...

He saw the crowds, he sat down and he began to speak...Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted...

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude...

On the night before he died, he took the bread


So it is my friends. In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God. The words became sentences, the sentences became paragraphs, and the paragraphs became the stories of the people of God.

It was on that day, in the rubble strewn streets of Jerusalem standing at the foot of that ramshackle wall, that the people once again began to hear and to believe. It was on that day the people began to remember. May we too do the same.

May it be for us as it was for them. As It was on that day that the people stood and heard the word. And the people said, "Amen."

Copyright Bonnie A. Perry January 2016


  1. This Week
  2. Services Times
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  4. Sermons
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.