All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago


The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey
All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago
17 April 2016 • 4th Sunday of Easter, Year C

In the past couple of weeks, as I have gotten to rehearse that psalm1 with the choir, I’ve kind of fallen in love with it. It has stuck with me.

One way it has captivated me is that at the top of the page of music, the composer has written a note – which I think came through this morning – that the musicians should sound “serenely confident”: serenely confident that the Lord is my shepherd, and though I walk through dark valleys, I am not afraid because God is with me. And God is spreading a table before me in the midst of my foes. The Lord guides me and comforts me, guards me, anoints me, and loves me.

What also has captivated me is the little word the composer has added throughout the psalm. This little word, lauda, is Latin for “praise”, and if it had been in the original psalm, which was in Hebrew, it would have been the Hebrew hallel – like “Hallelujah”, “Alleluia”. So the composer punctuates this familiar psalm with joy – joy that bubbles up in response to God’s presence with us, even in our darkest, most hopeless times. Some of the words of praise are bold and jubilant, others soft and yearning, but it is the effervescence that strikes me: the impulse to praise God naturally and frequently.

What does it mean to praise God? In everyday conversation, when we “praise” someone, we’re saying good things about them. But I think that it’s deeper than that.

I looked in my trusty Hebrew dictionary and saw that hallel, “praise”, means to shout with joy…or with wonder…or even in terror. So it’s like a Yayyyy! and a Wow…and a Whoa.

Now bear with me down a short rabbit trail. We’ll come back. See, by mistake as I was looking through the Hebrew dictionary, I saw that hallel looks and sounds a whole lot like this other word, challel. Challel means “to pierce”. This would have a negative connotation – that whatever is pierced would be damaged beyond what it is meant to be, no longer desirable, polluted, broken. I wonder if the fact that these two little words look and sound so similar can help us understand what it means to praise.

If challel is to pierce, then maybe hallel is like it – piercing the air with our shouts of joy or wonder or awe. If challel is to puncture, then might hallel be like it – punctuating our lives with the joy of God-with-us.

If challel is to puncture, then might the punctures in Jesus’ hands and feet have become causes of joy, because they are not the end of his story – just as our wounds, as deep and true as they are, are not the end of our stories.

So, “even at the grave,” as one of our ancient chants says, “we make our song, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” So we punctuate this service and so many services with Alleluias all over the place: “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” “Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!” “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, Alleluia, alleluia!” (There are some churches where you all would be punctuating this sermon with Amens and Alleluias – but please don’t do that, because it would make me feel uncomfortable!) Because sometimes the Alleluias, the Laudas, bubble up out of us, as if they are the carbonation of our joy that cannot be contained, and there are other times when we might not be feelin’ it and it helps to have those words in front of us because we need to practice. We need to practice joy.

I was walking around yesterday on that glorious day – just like this glorious day – thinking about all this, and when I had an urge to check my phone.

It was a familiar urge, because it had only been five minutes since the last time I checked it. Had I missed a text? Did I have any notifications? Any of those little red circles with numbers in them? What were the numbers? I can’t stand those things – I like to keep the screen neat. But if I’m completely honest, I do like them, because it means that someone has paid attention to me.

When it hit me: I am punctuating my time with an iPhone!

What if every five minutes, instead of checking if someone has paid attention to me, I stop to pay attention to what God is doing. If I noticed that magnolia tree that all of a sudden is bursting with blossoms. If I looked up and out and into the eyes of my neighbor, and realized that I recognize him from the train and around the neighborhood. If I remember that even during all of the tough times, somehow there always has been enough.

Then maybe I would see the table that God is always spreading before me, the green pastures and still waters to which, though hidden, God is always leading me, and in which my soul may find joy and rest. Alleluia, alleluia!


1. The choir had sung a setting of Psalm 23, the psalm appointed for the day, by Z. Randall Stroope: 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Lauda, lauda!
Through death’s dark valleys, no fear shall I know, Lauda, lauda!
My head is covered with the finest oil, my cup runneth over and over. Lauda, lauda!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow!
Green pastures, still waters, the Lord provides! Lauda, lauda.
My soul restores, my heart renews. Lauda, lauda!
The Lord prepares me a table, lauda, no fear have I from my foes.
The Lord anoints me, guards me, loves me.
The Lord provides me with a rod and staff, lauda,
They comfort and guide me, lauda, lauda!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow!
And in the house of the Lord I will dwell forever. Lauda, lauda!

See for a sample of the music, and here for a sample performance.




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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.