All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

A Recipe for Weary Souls

M. Jeanne Wirpsa

February 5, 2017
All Saints’ Episcopal Church

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” (Matthew 5:13)

I don’t know about the rest of you but I have absolutely no idea what salt tastes like when it has lost its flavor. Maybe during Mathew’s days they had different techniques for mining and storing salt that led to this depletion of taste. The salt I buy – be it Morton Salt or Kosher salt – always seems to fill its function just fine. Since I don’t really “get” the salt metaphor, humor me while I offer another one from the culinary world that hopefully will invite us to think about the question on my mind today – How do we sustain ourselves for the work of justice and mercy to which we are called? How do we find the staying power we need for the long road ahead?

I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of more than a little sustenance right now. On a personal level, I’m wrestling with some old demons from my past. I did not get the promotion at work I wanted. The darkness of winter combined with the darkness of our political system threatens to rob me of energy and light. I’m tempted to give in to the feelings of demoralization and weariness.

And yet, I know I don’t have that luxury. The vulnerable, the unwanted, the stranger don’t have the luxury of laying down their load, so neither can I. Neither can we. Now is NOT the time to hide under the covers or, to use Mathew’s other metaphor, to hide our light under a bushel.

So here’s my remedy by way of metaphor: One of my favorite vegetarian recipes is an old Tuscan soup, Ribollita. It is often referred to as the “poor man’s stew.” It literally means “re-boiled” as the servants used to take the old broth from yesterday’s Minestrone soup, add food-soaked trenchers from the Lord’s banquets and boil them for their own dinners. There are now many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans, crushed tomatoes, nearly a pound of Lacinato kale, and inexpensive vegetables such as carrots, celery, and onions. The version I love is topped with a layer of bread, thinly sliced red onions, and parmesan cheese.

Now while I’m convinced the crispy layer is the sole reason my vegetarian daughter eats the soup, the key to the success of this dish are the herbs. As the broth simmers, you add not only the usual suspects – garlic, salt and pepper, bay leaves – but also FRESH sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Yes, fresh whole sprigs of rosemary and thyme. I once tried to make it using dried herbs – trust me, it just did not taste the same. As the soup simmers, the kitchen becomes saturated with the aroma of rosemary and thyme. The savory, comforting smell soon reaches every corner of the house and it’s as if you are transported to a small village in the south of Italy where all is right with the world.

Lest I leave you confused about the recipe, please note that it helps to use ripe Italian tomatoes, fresh kale, and real (not that fake, canned) parmesan cheese. But these ingredients fall flat without the herbs. It is the rosemary and thyme that make the tomatoes pop and the kale sing. It is the rosemary and thyme that call forth the full flavor of the Ribollita.

Salt or rosemary or thyme or ginger or lime…you name it. It is always one or two simple, understated, and unexpected ingredients that make or break a dish. It’s the same for our individual lives as well as our community.

So take a second and think. Shift your focus from this week’s worries about bills or health care, from news of more violent deaths, and from harmful, frightening presidential edicts. Shift your focus from organizing and agitating and protesting. Just for this moment, shift your focus from feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and welcoming the stranger. Focus on who or what it is that gives YOU comfort, strength, and joy. Who or what are your rosemary and thyme?

As many of you know I work as a chaplain at NMH, mostly with patients and families facing serious and life-limiting cancers. The course of treatment for many of these cancers is arduous and long, and the outcome uncertain. The weight of the diagnosis and treatment together can be crushing. Weary is the word I hear often from patients and their loved ones. Weary to the bone.

Since every other profession in the hospital gives out prescriptions (you know -- two pills three times a day, chemo once a week), I like to do the same every now and then, especially in response to bone crushing weariness. My prescription read something like this: “I so wish I had the power to take this load off you. I can’t change what you must go through if you want to try to fight this cancer. So here’s what I’ve learned from other patients and families: You need a double dose of beauty and joy to balance out the badness and suffering.” Now if there is even a slight sign of interest, we then go on to explore small places where they might find such sustenance – binge watching old I Love Lucy or Friends Episodes, connecting deeply with an old friend, lavender oil, or an image of resting under the shelter of God’s wings.

I’ve been trying to follow my own prescription lately. I’ve been doubling up on those activities I know renew my spirit – exercise, a walk by the lake, quiet time for prayer and meditation, and yes cooking, lots of cooking! I’ve also found sustenance in surprising places.

On Inauguration Day I knew I needed to shift my focus from fear, bigoted arrogant language, and darkness to that which was life-giving. It would have been easy to listen to NPR on my drive in to work or to sneak a look at the day’s events while visiting patients. I chose to do neither. Instead, I decided the best way to face the day was to attend the Dr. Martin Luther King Humanitarian Awards, an event held annually at our hospital. As I heard the story of how five ordinary persons (all employees of the hospital) were effecting change in their communities and our world, the truth of Dr. King’s prophetic words hit home – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

The five honored humanitarians received rousing applause for their good works. The crowd really came to life, however, when the children from the hospital day care paraded in, dressed in little purple choir robes, to sing a sweet, slightly off key tune about Dr. King’s dream. This unexpected dose of pure delight was what we all truly needed to be able to go back to our work as bearers of suffering and healers of bodies and souls.

In his essay The Meaning of Joy, theologian Paul Tillich challenges those who envision the Christian life as one purely of discipline, hard labor, and sacrifice. He reminds us that the Bible abounds in admonitions to rejoice. Joy, however, he goes on, is different than mere pleasure. Seeking pleasure for the sake of pleasure is our attempt to fill a place of emptiness, to avoid engaging with reality. In contrast, we find joy when we connect deeply with the abundance of creation, with others, and with the Source of Life itself (our God).

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” Fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme to make the tomatoes in the Ribollita pop and the kale sing. Whichever metaphor you choose, the message is the same – to do God’s work of justice and mercy for the long haul we need to be fed. We need not deny ourselves rest, prayer, and yes, great joy to be disciples of Christ. AMEN.


Mark Bittman's Ribollita recipe from the New York Times.

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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.