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.

  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.