All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Seeing and Freeing

Victoria Garvey
August 21,  2016
14 Pentecost C /Proper 16
Isa 58.9-14; Ps 103.1-8; Heb 12.18-29; Lk 13.10-17

I hated Sundays when I was a kiddo. My father had very firm ideas about Sundays, which he happily passed on to and enforced with my brother and me. No playing or games that were loud. No roughhousing. No going to the movies. As far as my brother and I were concerned it was a no to anything-remotely-fun-day and we hated it. Church in the morning and quiet the rest of the day. Sunday was the pits at our house.

I think, in retrospect, that my father was acting out of his Roman Catholic upbringing on the one hand, and a skewed sense of Sabbath in the American cultural consciousness of his day on the other. Of course, it might also have been that he was so exhausted and bent out of shape by the incessant cares and noise and our irrepressible carryings-on of the other six days of the week that he craved a day of rest and calm and quiet on the seventh.

The biblical reasons for Sabbath were emphatically not about a series of nos, but about yeses, about possibilities and promises; it was about resting into and with the God who had been doing the enormous work of creating a universe and who had invited us into that work and into that rest.

The leader of the synagogue in today's gospel was not, by any account, a bad person. Like Jesus, he was a faithful Jew doing his best to live his life in concert with the ancient covenant and in partnership with the God who had offered that covenant. Both Jesus and the unnamed leader are keeping the Sabbath; they just differ on what keeping it means.

This gospel is above all about noticing, about seeing, about beholding, and then acting as if whatever or whomever has been noticed matters. The leader is so focused on being observant that he's fallen into the trap of believing that if he follows all the rules all the time, he's being faithful. Conversely, playing fast and loose with the rules gets you major grief. Jesus remembers his ancient catechism better. He knows that God created the universe including the concept of time and timing, which of course includes Sabbath, for the sake of people. He's noticed that the ancient precepts direct that the needs of people count, even over the Sabbath and Temple codes, that noticing people, genuinely seeing people and their needs is Rule #1 even, and perhaps especially, on the Sabbath.

So he's in the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his wont, and he notices a woman. Even the text gets this. Although it's not reflected in the English translation we just heard, the Greek says "Behold, a woman!" Or in a more modern sense, "Look! A woman!" And Jesus beholds, and sees a woman in need.

Again the translation is a little misleading; it tells us that she was "bent over". Now I think we've all seen or known people with varying forms of scoliosis, but mild forms of stooping are not what's being described here. The Greek is very specific. It tells us that she's bent double or bent together like this. [Think gymnasts at the Olympics who are agile enough to bend double. Imagine being in that position for more than ten minutes with no hope of ever standing up.] So for eighteen years, her view of the world, of people, of reality, was skewed, slant. Her view was restricted to her own feet and a few inches of ground around them. She could see others' shoes, but she wasn't able to look anyone in the eye, not able to see another human face except by peering awkwardly upward and sideways. And still, here she is faithfully in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Notice, she doesn't ask for anything. Not for healing. Not for forgiveness. Not even to be noticed.

But he notices. How does he do that? The unnamed woman in the synagogue was bent in on herself, bent double, so she was half the height of anyone around her. She's over there, in the women's section. He's presumably with the men—yet he sees her. How many others in that synagogue do? Or do they see through her? Or avoid seeing her? Is she a cause for embarrassment? For shame?

For eighteen years she's been bent double. For eighteen years she's presumably been coming week after week among them. Perhaps they're blind to her and her needs because she's such a persistent presence. Perhaps they think she's somehow brought this on herself. Perhaps they think what she has is catching. We don't know. We only know that on this day, he notices.

One day, several years ago, my nephew, then three years old, was at a mall with my parents. They'd just bought him a pair of shoes and the sales person had given him two balloons when they left the shop. As they walked up the long hall of the mall, they began to hear a distant commotion. Screaming and screeching, deafening decibels of it. The kind of disturbed and disturbing screaming that only a toddler in deep distress makes. Not the "I-just-fell-down-and-somebody-better-pay-attention-right-now" scream, but the "I'm-having-a-terrible-awful-truly-unredeemable-kind-of-day-and-I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-myself-except-scream" kind of scream.

The parents of the little girl in distress were distressed themselves but doing what they could to calm her. It wasn't working. Others, mainly adults, did what people often do: averted their eyes, pretended not to notice, disapproval etched deeply and clearly on their faces.

So the awful screaming went on...and on...and on. Until my nephew stopped, disengaged his hands from his grandparents, walked up to the wailing child and crouched in front of her so he could look up into her face. "Little girl," he said, "little girl, don't cry." And then he handed her both his balloons, took my parents' hands again, and walked away.

Jesus sees the woman and notes her unspoken need. And calls her, not by name, but by gender. "Woman," he says. I wonder if, given her posture, she even knew at first that he was calling her; she couldn't have seen him and she's only one woman among several in that synagogue. I wonder if he didn't crouch down in order to be able to look up at her face to face; that would be like him.

And then he tells her, as if the deed were a fait accompli, not that she's been healed, but that she's been loosed, that she's been freed from what had bound her. Which means not that he's about to do some magic trick or forbidden work on the Sabbath but that the God of the Sabbath has already done the loosing and Jesus' own subsequent laying on of hands is a blessing, a punctuation of the freeing that God has already done.

And then he gives her a name that is both title and ennobler, a name which has actually been hers since birth, but one that, given her infirmity, I'll bet she hasn't heard these eighteen years. "Daughter of Abraham" he calls her. Child of the covenant, member of the family in a long line stretching back to the promises first given to Abram and Sarai, all the way back to Genesis 12. Freed this day from a body that had constrained her every move, freed like her ancestors who themselves had been freed from another sort of constraint in the land of Egypt twelve or thirteen hundred years earlier. "Daughter of Abraham" he names her, and with those words, he not only restores her dignity but reclaims for her a place, good standing in her own town and clan.

It is no wonder that she then unbends, stands up straight and sticks the landing, praising God, modeling by her doing what a Sabbath's for. More than a bent spine was healed that morning.

Many of us come most weeks to a place like this and most often we come on the Christian equivalent of a Sabbath. And in many if not all our lives, there are constraints, often very constrictive ones that are not as obvious as the one binding our woman in the gospel of the day. Things like relationships gone to hell, or houses in default, or jobs lost or, well, you know the drill.

Here's the thing. This little story reminds us that we've got a God who takes notice of us. A God who stoops down to meet us whenever, however we may be—whether we're bent by the rules we've let bind us needlessly, or by the cares that weigh us down, or by some sense of unworthiness we've been taught that can crush us, or by the self-preoccupation that has us whining to others.

Our God bends down, embraces us, and calls us by a name that recalls us to ourselves, freeing us time after time, no matter how many times we let others tie us into knots, no matter how many times we bind ourselves needlessly.

God calls to each of us, "Daughter of Abraham," "Son of Abraham. You are free." And will keep on saying it and meaning it until we begin to believe it, and then, like that God in whose image we are made, we go and do likewise for somebody else.


  1. This Week
  2. Service Times
  3. Contact Us
  4. Sermons

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow afternoon I'll hit a milestone that astonishes me. I'm honored to be officiating at Kate Gannett and Jamison Merrill's wedding. Katie was one of the five or six little ones who were here at All Saints when I first arrived almost 25 years ago. She was five years old... Now she's working on a graduate degree at Johns Hopkins. She and Jamison met while working in South Africa.

So much has changed since then and yet this community of faith, although much bigger (and heaven knows our building looks much better), retains the same "let's just give this a try and see what happens" spirit. Back then we had Clyde Propst and a few dedicated church school teachers who were willing to give their time to be with our young people and let them know that they mattered. Today we still have Clyde Propst, and more than 10 other people, working with and serving our young ones. In addition, one of the little ones from back in the day, Hilary Waldron, now facilitates our incredibly active 7-12 grade youth group. Taking young people seriously can make a huge difference in their lives! I am so grateful to our nursery, church school teachers, and youth group advisors. Thank you for all that you do and give.

This weekend, in addition to Kate's wedding, I'll be getting my sermon ready for Sunday and anticipating our amazing end-of-the-church-school-ice-cream social. 

Colin and the choir will be creating some lovely music and Emily will be catching some time away after an incredibly packed Spring!

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!

All the best,


The last few Sundays of our church school year are quickly approaching:

Sunday, June 18th - The Annual Ice Cream Social when church school hosts coffee hour and what's better than ice cream! There will be a variety of ice cream flavors and many possible toppings for do-it-yourself Sundaes served on the lawn in front of the church. Children help with set up serve (and eating!) ice cream, and clearing away the debris

The rest of June and July - Although Sunday school classes do not meet at 10 during the summer, Atrium I will continue to be open during the 9 o'clock service until the end of July. Atrium I children who attend the 11 o'clock service will be welcome in the nursery during the service.

At 10 o'clock children are encouraged to come help water, weed and harvest vegetables from the garden we're planting to support the Ravenswood Services Community Kitchen.


redbirdUnderstanding Vocation in a Complex World

Parishioner Liz Futrell and her colleague Kate Rademacher both work in international public health with a focus on trying to increase access to contraception for women in developing countries. Both women feel a sense of vocation in this work. However, with birth control remaining a controversial topic in the political and religious landscapes, understanding this work as a vocational calling can raise challenging questions. Liz and Kate will talk about how their work intersects with their faith. Kate will read from her new memoir about her recent conversion to Christianity, and Liz will read from a piece about her career path that's been included in a new anthology of women's stories.

Discussion will take place Sunday, June 25, during coffee hour. There will be time for open discussion and the group will be invited to share their experiences and thoughts about discernment and understanding vocation.


revelationsMonday nights at 7:30, Beginning July 10

Bible study is back! If the current U.S. presidency and administration is causing you to wonder if we're living in "apocalyptic times," then studying the Book of Revelation is perfect for this summer's Bible study! The Monday nights for this, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. (6 to 7:15 p.m. for dinner beforehand at O'Shaughnessy's), are July 10, 17, 24 and 31.

Your "tour guide" on this journey will be parishioner Jerome Wilczynski. Jerome holds a Master's degree in Systematic Theology and New Testament from Catholic Theological Union, and a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. He is Associate Professor/Core Faculty in the department of Counselor Education and Supervision at Argosy University, Chicago. The point of our study will be to de-mystify this all too often misunderstood text from Scripture. The main commentary Jerome will use to assist us in unearthing the rich symbolism of this book will be Wilfrid Harrington's Revelation from the Sacra Pagina series, in case you want to buy it—but don't feel you have to.


Summer Lineup Selected
The All Saints Book Club met on May 11th and decided on a lineup of books for the next year. The book club is open to anyone who enjoys reading. 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:
  • July 13 -  "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe
  • For additional information, contact Mike Burke (


    Individual Actions Towards Racial Equality

    Volunteer Opportunities, Events, and Recommendations

    (re)imagining: Racial Justice Summit Sponsored by YWCA Evanston/North Shore:

    Thursday, April 6 from 6 - 8 pm
    Friday, April 7 from 9 am - 4 pm
    Unitarian Church of Evanston
    1330 Ridge Ave., Evanston, IL
    Goal: "To bring people of all ages and demographics together to deepen their understanding of their own racial identities, develop skills to work for change, formulate action plans and engage with others."

    For Information and Registration, click here

    "The Scottsboro Boys" at Porchlight Theater through March 12th
    A musical production that is getting rave reviews, "nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and presented in the style of the notorious "minstrel show", this true-life story of nine African American teenagers accused and put on trial in Memphis for a crime they did not commit is one America's most notorious episodes of injustice; inaugurating a wave of social changes leading up to the modern Civil Rights Movement."

    For information and ticket prices, click here

    Suggested reading, non-fiction: 
    Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson, January, 2017

    This book has been described as "...a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted."

    Recommended as a "companion piece to the film rather than a stand-alone book." One reviewer recommended "seeing the film first, and then using the book for meditation and revisiting afterward."

    Volunteer opportunity: GROWING HOME "We have a vision of a world of healthy people and communities. Everyone deserves to have a good job, and everyone deserves to eat well." Since 2002, Growing Home has trained and employed and, most importantly, given a second chance to people with employment barriers. You may be familiar with their Wood Street farm in Englewood. Their farms are the first and only USDA-certified organic high-production urban farms in Chicago, and because they strive to also feed their community well, all their produce is grown, harvested, cleaned, and sold within a 20-mile radius. Read more at

    Volunteer opportunity: Non-profit Reading In Motion has successfully refined its mission over its 30+ years to help give kindergarten and first grade students foundational reading skills they need to start on a path for lifetime learning. They partner with public school teachers and have been extremely successful in making a difference in children's lives. Click here for more info.


    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!

     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!


    Jeff Lee
    Dear Polly and All Saint's Kids,
    I am writing to you from a meeting of the board of Episcopal Relief & Development in Bogota, Columbia. We are meeting here to visit some of our partner ministries with people in need. I have seen the amazing results of this year's bake sale (in fact, I'm looking at photos of some of the cakes - wow!), and you have reminded me that we don't have to travel to Columbia or South Sudan to make a huge impact for the good of God's people.
    I am so proud and grateful for you and the work you do. You guys are heroes. Our friends in South Sudan will be blessed by your effort.
    In Christ,
    Jeffrey D. Lee
    Bishop of Chicago

    Sundays at 10am

    The phrase Imago Dei means the Image of God. Specifically, the image of God as it is found in humanity. The image of God in us - it is what makes us spiritual people - valued as whole and complete. What does it mean to creatively live as whole people? How do we live in relationship with others - respecting and sharing one another's security and one another's discomfort?

    Join us on Sunday mornings between services as we figure out together how to help one another take practical responsibility for living in this world - especially as racial and spiritual beings.

    True - our time will be uncomfortable because it will mean talking about race, violence, personal helplessness, and personal failure. Also true - this will be comforting and supportive because it will mean getting to be honest, practicing together, and caring for one another.

    Every week we will ask one another "What have you done in these past 7 days with who you are and within your sphere of influence when it comes to the realities of race?" the answers will be different for each person and it won't be a competition. We will be lifting up the everyday choices we make and don't make. Sometimes we will like what happens and sometimes we won't.

    And - we will be doing it together.

    The Middle Eastern refugees and immigrants served by the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society were deeply moved by the notes of welcome from All Saints. We shared them at our community lunch on Thursday, and now they will hang in our conference room to remind people of your warm welcome in the days to come. Thanks!

    Laura Youngberg

    breadbakersSignup online to bake for a month

    Calling all bakers! If you love the smell of fresh-baked bread filling your kitchen, please consider signing up to bake communion bread for our services. This involves a one-month commitment that you'll share with another baker, and you can do all your baking at once and add to the reserves in our freezer.

    Signing up is easy, just click here for our page on Signup Genius and reserve your favorite month.

    Contact Jennifer Simokaitis, or Anne Ellis if you have any questions.

    Yard Signs Available 

    Grow Community has created yard signs for anyone who would like to display support for our local public high schools. Signs and sign holders are available in the Reading Room.



    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.


    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.

    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.

    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.


    tinaParishioner, Tina Tchen, accepts Bishop Maryann Budde's invitation to preach at the National Cathedral Sunday, May 8. Click here to see the video.


    Please consider supporting the restoration project of our historic building. To make a donation, click here

    1883 Construction web 

    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.

    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.


    faceb   twit   smallmail

    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.