All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago


The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey
All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago
13 March 2016 • 5th Sunday of Lent, Year C

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters:
I am about to do a new thing; do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people, so that they might declare my praise.
Isaiah 43:16-21 (abridged)

I’m not what you’d call a “wilderness” type of person. I mean, I do love the outdoors. I went on a five-day hike in northern Michigan…once…the summer after eighth grade. And even though that really was awesome, since then I just have not prioritized going out into the wild as much as I have other things, like playing music, and playing sports, and getting too many degrees, and having children. But when I saw that today’s reading from Isaiah had to do with “the wilderness”, I thought I’d better brush up.

So I sat down with a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine and watched Wild, the movie version of a 2012 memoir by a woman named Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl, after some personal trauma, decides to move from Minneapolis to Oregon and then to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from southern California up through Oregon and into Washington state.

When Cheryl begins, it turns out that even I (with only my post-eighth grade hike!) have more experience backpacking than she does. I mean, she has grown up with woods in the backyard, but hasn’t done the thing where you try to stay alive outside overnight.

But she has prepared the best she can: She has spent a couple months accumulating all the right gear – so much so that she’s not even sure how to carry it all in her enormous pack. She has researched the trail. She has mailed back-up supplies to various stops along the way, under her name, so she can replenish herself as she goes. It seems that she’s as prepared as she could be, save the experience of actually having done this before.

About two weeks into her hike, most of her urges to quit and turn around have worn off – most of time. She’s realized and remedied some of her initial naïveté – like how her portable gas stove really doesn’t work without the right kind of fuel, and how her boots (which she thought were good enough) are really terrible for her feet. Although she hikes alone, she has made friends with a few other solo hikers along the way and savors their occasional company. They give her some tips (because invariably they have more experience than she does), share stories, and mostly leave her alone, which she likes. They affirm – at this point two weeks in – what she knows from her trail guide already: that there’s a water tank ahead on this desert portion of the trail. Cheryl plans her water supplies accordingly, and – conveniently – runs out right before she reaches the tank.

It is empty. She’s about three days past the last stop where there was a water pump, and at least that far away from the next one – if there’s even anything in that one. She hasn’t seen anyone on the trail since the last stop.

What can she do, but keep going? Everything she sees is dry: dry sand, dry dirt, dry brush.

Then, she spies on the ground a glimmer of something reflecting the sun above. She runs over to it. It is a puddle. A dirty, murky, kinda smelly, gross-looking puddle.

Watching the movie, I think: “Oh, she’s so close! All she needs is water, and this is wet, but who would drink it?”

She takes her empty bottles out as fast as she can and fills them up with the brownish greenish water. She drops iodine tablets into them, and waits, and trusts that they will make this water potable.

Who drinks this stuff? It’s far from perfect, but it keeps her going.

I may not have much experience trying to stay alive outdoors for long periods of time, or even facing any kind of real physical insecurity – like with food or shelter – like so many in our neighborhood do. But I do know something – and I’ll bet you do, too – about trying to get by in new and sometimes strange places. About trying to make it another day when something – or someone – you depend on is no longer there. About recognizing I am lost and needing to take just one right step, and then another, and then another. Of thinking, and praying, along with the words of Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

Merton continues:
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

These words could have been the words of the Hebrew people to whom the Lord God is speaking through the prophet Isaiah. In the political climate of their time, these people had been displaced from their home and sent into exile in Babylon. They, like Cheryl – and like many of us, in our own ways – were quite far away from home, although in their case, not by any choice of their own. They had lost everything: their land, their families, their livelihood, everything they knew and cherished. And had they lost their God as well?

Then, through Isaiah, God says to them, “Remember me? Remember me? I’m the one who, when all you could see was water, put dry land there in the middle so you could get through. And now, I’m going to do a new thing. Don’t just look for what you’ve seen before. I’m going to do a new thing. I’m going to put water – rivers of water – in the deserts of your lives, because you are my people, and I love you.”

Sometimes, the grace we need to get through a day does show up like a river in the desert. Other times, it’s a murky, questionable puddle into which we put our iodine tablets and hope it will be okay. But always, our desire for God and what is good will lead us to what we need.

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Weekly Message for January 14

Weekly Message for January 14

Dear Friends,    

I hope you can join Susan and me for dinner this Saturday, January 13, at our home (4550 N. Hermitage Ave) from 6 to 9pm. We’ll have awesome food, created by Joe and David Wernette-Harden, lots of wonderful beverages, and free childcare if that will be helpful! This annual January dinner is a great time to hear about the vestry’s plans for the upcoming year, meet new people, and have a tasty dinner at my home. Please do come!
Sunday, January 28th we’ll have our Annual Meeting at 10:00 am. At the meeting we’ll have brunch (again lots of beverages) and our annual slide show. We’ll elect vestry members and diocesan representatives, review our budget for 2018, and honor several wonderful volunteers. On that Sunday, we’ll only have an 8:00 and 9:00 worship service. There will be NO 11:00 service.  
Emily is preaching this Sunday, I’ll be celebrating and our choir and Colin will be creating some great music. Stay warm, hold your loved ones near, and reach out to everyone in need.
All my best,
Please let me know if you are interested in serving on our vestry (governing council) or being a representative of this congregation at or Diocesan Convention in November.
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 

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.