All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Our Amos Moment

July 10, 2016
All Saints Episcopal Church

It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? Just as my facebook feed returned to pictures of cute puppies and silly cats, this week happened – a week marked by violence, retribution, accusation, racism, fear.

Just three weeks ago, Bonnie stood here days after the massacre in Orlando and asked if we were willing to work on this “cancer of hate and violence, racism and homophobia prayerfully, tenaciously, steadfastly, and relentlessly.” (The Rev. Bonnie A. Perry, Sermon, June 19, 2016)   I would imagine that many of us thought –  Yes, yes, we will with God’s help.

And here we are again, when we thought it couldn’t get any worse… more lives lost, more hate spewed. An endless stream of news, video, facebook posts coming at us relentlessly.  And while in the weeks since Orlando, our horror may have diminished at the capacity of humans to mow one another down in hate and fear, the violence never really stopped, did it?  What Bishop Gene Sutton of Maryland calls the unholy trinity of poverty, racism, and violence – that unholy trinity continues to wreak havoc and pain  on a world, a nation, a city that I believe, has lost its way, that is no longer “plumb.”

And the Lord said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “a plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people, Israel; I will never again pass them by.”

The Book of Amos begins with God’s indictment on Israel’s neighbors – Syria, Canaan, Moab – for their injustice against the people of Israel. Then this prophet from Judah turns his attention to Israel and pronounces God’s judgment on a nation that has lost its way – where economic injustice, greed, indifference, and neglect of the poor abound; in a time where self-satisfaction and a believe that God is on their side rules the day.

“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people….”

A plumb line is a tool used by builders and masons since the time of Ancient Egypt. It’s quite simple – a string attached to a triangular weight – that is used to ensure that new construction is upright or that an existing structure is square.  (I’m sure this tool was used quite often by Ron Young and his team during our recent renovation) You can’t just eyeball a structure to determine if it’s plumb.  Being out of square or not fully plumb may not be readily apparent.

And once you determine that something is out of plumb, you have several options.

  • You can ignore it (we did that for a long time here with our building and we know where that got us)
  • You can try and prop it up to bring it plumb or square (we tried that too without much long term success)
  • Or you can rebuild it (we finally recognized that this was the best option) And this re-building sometimes involves tearing it all down to start anew.

    A plumb line finds what can be a fatal flaw in a wall or a building. And as we discovered with our actual walls, you can’t prop up (at least in the long-term) what is not square or upright, you must create a new foundation and rebuild.

    “I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people.”   God has set the plumb line in our midst and we are not plumb.  As a people, as a nation, we are in an Amos moment

    Like Amaziah, priest of Bethel, we may not want to hear these words. “Go away,” Amaziah says to Amos, go somewhere else, to another land, go back home, anywhere but here!  It’s easy for those of with privilege, with comfort to say no to the one calling us to accountability.

    And what I know and experience about us here at All Saints is that as uncomfortable as it might make us, we are willing to acknowledge our place in an unjust system, a structure that is deeply flawed, that needs to be taken down and rebuilt.

    Amos’s words are meant to disrupt us, to shake us, to tell us the truth. The truth that in our country of 320 million people, there are more guns than residents; the truth that the deeply violent founding and growth of this nation was marked by subjugation, oppression and slavery; the truth that present day bigotry and racism infects us all; and the truth that police brutality (especially directed at African-Americans) results in little or no justice for the perpetrators.

    And this past week, and the week before that, and the months and years before that continue to point to these ugly and sinful truths. And while our natural inclination might be to look away from the pain, to cross to the other side of the road, to ignore the wall that is leaning right in front of us, to shut out the voices/the prophets in our midst calling for change, our readings this morning call us to stop, to pay attention, to offer healing, and to get involved.

    So what might that look like? I offer three ideas….

    1. We must continue to name the evils in our midst – system racism, white supremacy, unfettered access to guns, murder, callous disregard for human life, corrupt systems. And we must name these evils not just here but in our workplaces, our schools; at the playground and in the boardroom; in the coffee shop and in the halls of power.
    2. We can continue to offer space for healing and naming of the deep pain and fear that is in our world, in our city. Soon after the Orlando shootings, my dear friend Katie, who happens to be straight, sent me a message.  She said that as she was reading all the stories that came out after Orlando –stories of homophobia, violence against LGBTQ folks – she realized she had never asked me about my experience, what was it like for me as a lesbian; had I ever experienced the type of violence and hatred that people were sharing online.  And she invited me to share my story but importantly also acknowledged that I might not want to do that.  And in Katie’s act of care and concern for me, offering presence and a healing balm, I realized that I rarely have offered that healing space to my friends of color in times like this week or to those who may be in law enforcement.  We cannot heal all of the pain and the grief will continue, yet our presence may make a difference.
    3. We can acknowledge our connection to one another. There’s a scientific theory called quantum entanglement that I think illustrates this idea beautifully.  The idea of entanglement is just the idea that two things that are separated in space can still be the same thing.  And the particles within these objects remain connected even though they are physically apart – they are entangled.  What excites one, excites the other.  What moves one moves the other.  What hurts one, hurts the other.  (National Public Radio, Invisibilia, January 30, 2015) Scientific evidence for empathy.  And when we become entangled, we are changed. When we are entangled, we are neighbors.

    The lawyer testing Jesus, asking “who is my neighbor,” is trying to politely ask, “who is NOT my neighbor,” argues New Testament scholar Amy Jill Levine. “Who does not deserve my love, whose needs can I ignore, whom can I hate?”  (Levine, Amy Jill, Short Stories by Jesus, p. 85) To which Jesus simply answers, no one.  No one.  We are all entangled – science proves it and Jesus commands it.

    It is too easy to believe that the world in which we live today is the world we are destined to have. It can seem too hard to imagine something different.  Yet as people who proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, we are called to shape an alternative vision of the world we inhabit, one in which structures of hate and division are torn down and foundations of love and justice are put in their place; one in which we see each other – all of us – as deeply connected, entangled as neighbors – in which the longing to be in relationship, the longing for love is more powerful than the forces of hate and fear.

    UCC pastor, Acting Executive Director of the UCC Justice and Wellness Ministries, and Black Lives Matter activist, Traci Blackmon, wrote this past week, “Ultimately, the guns used to kill 5 police officers and wound six more and one civilian, and the guns used to kill Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Reykia Boyd, Michael Brown, Amadous Diallos, 49 mostly Black and Latinx LGBTQ people at Pulse in Orlando, 9 in Bible study in Charleston, and 312 in Chicago to date this year were loaded by the common enemies of fear and hate… not matter who pulled the trigger. We are all connected.  We must mourn it all.  And we must all love ourselves out of this.  Murder is a byproduct of people who have lost their love.  Love is our only hope.” (Rev. Traci Blackmon , July 8, 2016)

    The promise of Jesus’s resurrection, after suffering a brutal death at the hands of the state, is that LOVE wins. The love that is much more than a feeling or a hallmark movie, but the love that tells those who lost their lives this past week that they will not be forgotten and their deaths not in vain.  The love that fulfills a mother’s agonized plea that her black son be able to live in a world in which he can breathe and run and make mistakes that won’t cost him his life.

    In the statement this community developed and wrote on race last year, we vowed “with God’s help, to claim our responsibilities to overturn, step-by-step, systems of racial inequality…”( All Saints Chicago, Race Matters) Will we work to tear down the our of plumb structures of hate and injustice so that we might together build a new community – the beloved community of God?  Will we seize our Amos moment?


    1. This Week
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    Weekly Message for December 17

    Weekly Message for December 17

    Dear Friends,    

    Tomorrow is our long awaited and much anticipated #HamiltonMeetsJesus Christmas pageant. As I write this note, I remember Fonzi and the writers’ of that beloved 70s TV show, Happy Days, and conclude that this year’s pageant may truly have "jumped the shark." That said, our young people have spent an inordinate amount of time working on this year’s production. Tomorrow you will see that the camel and sheep legislators are busy amending the celestial republic’s founding documents, the shepherds are trying to figure out their new tax bills, the innkeeper offers Joseph some sage advice, “Smile more, talk less,” Mary is adjusting to a new donkey, the archangels have an opening rap that really puts some flesh on the notion of the virgin birth, and King Herod is quite sure that the immigrant Wise Men will be back. All of which is to say, it’s pretty much business as usual for the All Saints’ Christmas Pageant which will be premiering at the 9 and 11 o’clock worship services. 

    In the midst of the Hamilton hoopla one truth I hope to offer to all of us is that God, in the infant Jesus, came into this world to show each of us the unending power of love. While Alexander Hamilton and the founding parents of our republic took a step toward liberty and justice, I invite you to remember and hold dear that the real revolution, the true up-ending of our world, comes not through government policy, but through our ability to live our lives in such a way that the love of God is made real in all we do. Please let that revolution begin.

    To avoid donkeys, camels, and chaos, attend the 8:00 service and then return for the absolutely amazing Advent and Christmas Lessons and Carols that our choir will be offering at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. To end a long day at 5:30 we’ll all journey to the back room of O’Shaughnessy’s Pub for Beer and Caroling! At noon—we’ll be serving a light lunch and transforming our sanctuary from Advent austerity to Christmas greenery. Please come and join in any or all the activities that may feed your soul in this season of expectation and birth. 

    All my very best to you on this my MOST FAVORITE WEEKEND of the year,


    Working Against the Virus of Racism

    Working Against the Virus of Racism

    kellybdWe are very excited that the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be spending a weekend with us this fall, September 23 and 24. Kelly was formerly the Canon Theologian at our National Cathedral. In the fall she will become the first Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, now located at Union Theological Seminary. We've invited Kelly to spend the weekend with us so that we might again return to our work on confronting racism. Kelly is an amazing preacher and theologian and we are beyond honored that she is making time in her incredibly busy schedule to be with us. Look for more details in the next few weeks on the spirituality and theology that we will be exploring together. 

    In the event that you find yourself looking for some interesting summer reading, here are some books she has suggested we investigate: HomecomingThe Color of Law, and one by Kelly called Stand Your Ground. She also suggested that watching 13th on Netflix would be helpful.

    Racism is an issue that we are called to confront and challenge and end. It is not something that will just die a gentle death. Our hope is that with our time with Kelly and one another, we may again return to this important work. 

    All Saints' Book Club

    All Saints' Book Club

    midnightFall Reading List Selected

    The All Saints Book Club has defined its reading list through the fall. The meetings start at 7:30 PM usually at the home of a member. The locations and further details are on our Facebook page. Here is the schedule for the next several months:

    • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
    • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe (meet in the Reading Room at the church)
    • October 12 - "Saints and Villains" by Denise Giardina
    • November 9 - "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson
    • December 14 - Pick your own poetry book and share favorite poem(s)

    For additional information, contact Mike Burke (

    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 

    This OLD Church

    This OLD Church

    This week’s stories of the bell tower: The beams and posts in the bell tower are being filled with epoxy and fungicide to prevent future insect damage and to restore their strength and integrity. Here are some photos of the work currently taking place. Everywhere you see white is where the post or beam is being rebuilt, restored and protected.
    The blue hue in the photo is from the tarp surrounding the bell tower enabling Ron Young and his crew to continue working in the dropping temperatures.
    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.