All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Orlando:  It's About the Questions We Ask


June 19, 2016
By Rev. Bonnie A. Perry

As the Psalmist writes,
“I am like one whose bones are broken to pieces…
While they say to me all day long:
Tell us Now Where is Your God?” Psalm 42

Anger and sadness vie for the custody of my soul. In this I expect I am not alone. The people shot at the Pulse night club were between ages 18 and 50. The average age was 29. Most were of color, most were Hispanic, most were LGBTQ; some were not. Pulse was a place where people went to be themselves and to have fun. Although lots of different types of people frequent Pulse, it is by its own description on Twitter, “Orlando’s premier gay ultra lounge, nightclub and bar.”

Texas Representative Pete Sessions can say its not a gay club and Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell can continue to omit mentioning gay people every time he speaks of the massacre, but their omissions do not change the facts, they merely prove the FBI’s data that LGBT people are more likely to be targeted in hate crimes then any other group in this country. If you are of color and happen to also be transgender then the statistics just get worse (New York Times, Saturday June 18, 2016).

In the tornado of hate that landed in Orlando maiming and killing so many children of God, so many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender children of God, I have found myself sheltering in a cellar, sheltering in a storm cellar of denial. Each time I have attempted to venture out to view the swath of destruction my words vanish and my feelings are swept away.

All I can find myself asking is, “ Where the hell is God?”

Tornadoes are classified, by the Fujita scale from 1 to 5 and some of the most destructive tornadoes in the world are the ones that form with multiple vortices within the larger tornado. The mere presence of the extra vortices can increase the speed of the tornado relative to the ground by more than 100 mph. So these tornadoes are frequently responsible for extreme swaths of destruction. This then is what I see in Orlando, a tornado with multiple vortices.

Not just hate, not just terror, not just untreated mental illness, not just xenophobia, religious superiority, not just unchecked slaughter by legally purchased firearms, but a swirling vortex of all these things, joined with paralyzed government and a societal acceptance of hatred: hatred of Queer people, hatred of Muslims, Hatred of and for people of color. All this, coupled with the American public’s passive acceptance of terror and hate foisted on us by the National Rifle Association’s belief that the second amendment can slaughter the first.

Susan Alborell, a former parishioner wrote to me the night of the massacre. She said, after hearing the news of Orlando, that morning, she went to the beach to clear her head, to pray, and to try to make some sense of the destructive horror. She said, she heard in her mind, the question that I have said to her in the past, “Where is God in all of this?” That she said was the question she took with her to the beach.

While there a large group assembled near by. Soon it became clear that it was a church group, an African American Church group gathered for a full immersion baptism. Then she heard another question, “Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil?” That was when she cried. She said, it became clear to her that it is always about the questions we ask.

It’s always about the questions we seek to answer.

It’s a year and two days since 9 African American people were gunned down during a bible study in Charleston, by a white supremacist, hoping to incite a race war.

Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

I renounce them.

The cries continue. The lament lingers. What my friends shall we do?

16 people have been shot and killed in Chicago in June so far.

Interestingly, scientists have pointed out that some tornadoes can be shut down by the backdrafts of the very storms that started them.

What are we going to do?

How can we metaphorically and literally anti-cyclones, massive high pressure systems to our world’s lows? How can we be a force equal and opposite in intensity that stops the uncontrolled spiraling violence of our world?

I do not have the answer. If it were easy we would have figured it out awhile ago because we are smart. So the answer is neither simple, quick or easy. So this then is the question I am asking all of us

Do you respect the dignity of every human being?

—because it is the questions that we ask that matter.

Are you willing to work on this, this cancer of hatred and violence, racism and homophobia prayerfully, tenaciously, steadfastly, relentlessly using all we have as individuals and a community for the foreseeable future? This violence in our country right now is at the intersection of all we fear, and all we believe. Will you bring your life, your worth, your gifts to this fight?

Now? Now. Now!

Gracious God give us strength to move beyond our fears that nothing can be done.

In your holy name we pray.



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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.