All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

New Song

The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey
All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago
29 May 2016 • The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 4, Year C
Psalm 96

Yesterday, I was in the car, driving to Mariano’s. I turned on the radio and was clicking through stations. It seemed that all I was getting was commercials. But then I heard something that sounded like a rock song. I didn’t recognize the song, but that’s nothing new. It sounded pretty chill, pretty “Saturday morning,” so I kept listening to it.

But then I realized that they were singing something about God. The words, I think, were actually from a psalm.

I clicked past it.

There have been times in my life when I’ve listened to many songs like this, rock songs about God. I have gone to churches where these songs are the norm. And these churches have been very important to me. It was there that I met people, certain people, who went out of their way to care about me. They cared that I was there, that I existed, and they introduced me to the possibility that God might care about me, too.

So I went to church with them, and I learned the songs, and I sang them in the congregation, at home, and in the car. When I sang these songs, I felt very close to Jesus. Like I could pour out my soul, like I could feel whatever emotion, and know that somehow God was right there.

I like to think, sometimes, that I’ve moved on. I didn’t find my home in those churches for several reasons; among those reasons was that the worship sometimes came to feel contrived—like if I just wasn’t feeling the emotion of the moment, then I wasn’t doing it right. (This was a 180 from the Catholic churches of my upbringing, in which if you were emotional at all, you weren’t doing it right! )

This was also a time when I wasn’t sure there was a God, at least not one I could recognize. I was sure that there were times when it felt like God wasn’t there, or that God had let something terrible happen, or that I or someone I loved was really struggling. And I did not want to sing over and over again about how much I love God or how awesome God is or how because Jesus died for us, everything is okay.

About nine years ago I found the Episcopal Church, and was immediately intrigued by its mix of emotional and not-so-emotional, certainly by its social openness and advocacy, and of course by its gravity around this altar. Sometimes I still feel pretty new to the Episcopal Church, and other times I feel like my heart has been here all along.

Today’s psalm (pesky psalms…) challenges me, though, to wonder if something even as good as a church home and identity, or belonging, or values, or lifestyle—whether within the church or outside of it—can sometimes get in the way between us and God. The psalm says, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. The Lord is to be feared above all gods, for all the gods of the people are idols.” When I read this in Hebrew I was like [gasp!], because there is a striking word play going on here. The word for “gods” is elohim, which is a common word, and also means “God” with a capital G; I recognized that one. But at the end of the sentence is another word that looks just like it. Reading quickly at first, I thought it was elohim, “gods”, again—but it’s actually the word elilim, which means “worthless”, in the sense of pointless, empty, not worth your time, and it is this word which we translate “idols”. What struck me is that if I had not paused to take a closer look, I would have thought that these two—“God” and “idols”—were the same.

I often think that “idol” is one of those really old churchy words that doesn’t mean much now. I mean, occasionally I watch American Idol…but I’ve never seen a golden calf, so I think I’m good. What took my breath away—and challenged me—is how alike these two words sound and look: elohim and elilim, As if the language of Scripture itself is suggesting that an idol is something that looks and sounds to us a lot like God or like something that we assume is taking us to God and getting us in touch with God, and which we treat as such—but might not actually be so.

The author James K. A. Smith says that following God is not so much about knowing or believing or even doing, but about hungering and thirsting for what is resonant and right.1 Hungering for God.

I clicked back to that song, and I listened to the rest of it. Because I wanted to. I wanted to pour out my soul. And I wondered, thinking about this psalm, if some of my idols might be in my attempts to be thoughtful, sophisticated, savvy, politically and theologically correct. Sometimes, I just want Jesus. I’m hungry for Jesus. And I think it’s okay to acknowledge that our hearts want God.

Sing to the Lord a new song—not because we need to keep making up new songs or because it matters if we’re saying or singing or doing it right, but because God is always doing a new thing in us. Every day, God, through Jesus, is saving us from ourselves.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune our hearts to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above!
Praise the mount, O fix me on it, mount of God’s unchanging love.2

1  You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (April 2016), p. 2

2  “Come, thou Fount of every blessing” was the Opening Hymn at this service.

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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.