All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Have We Messed Up Too Much?

Proper 10 • July 16, 2017
Isaiah 55:10-13 • Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

My week began in a way that yours might have as well—by reading the staggeringly alarming article by David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine about the fate of our earth in its changing climate. Within days, it had become the most-read article in the magazine's history, spawning backlash from some climate scientists who say that it goes too far in exploring and compounding the worst-case scenarios of climate change. Still others objected to the premise of exploring such worst-case scenarios anyway: "Why would you do that?", they say.

The most compelling part for me is exactly that question: Why would you do that? Why would we—and should we, suggests the author—explore worst-case scenarios? Why can't we even seem to imagine major catastrophe in our climate? Why, the author explores, do we know where we were on 9/11 or when we get a call that a loved one has died, but we don't know where we were when, say, the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere hit 400 parts per million? Or when the largest iceberg ever—one the size of Delaware—broke off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, following the previous collapse of two other ice shelves? (Perhaps you do remember that iceberg. It just broke off on Thursday.)

Why do we fail to understand what is happening, even to imagine what is happening? The author suggests some reasons: "the simple speed of change and also its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past;...the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (2 degrees), the largeness (1.8 trillion [something]), and the abstractness (like that 400 parts per million) of the numbers [involved]; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of the problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; and simple fear. But aversion arising from fear," he says, "is a form of denial, too."

In such denial, are we like the packed soil in Jesus' parable, downtrodden with despair and steeled against threats to our own security? Are we like the rocky soil, that understands the problem for a second, then gets overwhelmed by its magnitude? Are we like the soil covered by thorns—or greed—that choke the truth and imagination right out of us? Are we, at times, like the good soil, that does understand and does what it can, where it can, whenever it can?

Jesus calls it "the parable of the sower". "Let anyone with ears listen!", he says. That is, we should all listen to the truth that what God does is cast love about like an extravagant—maybe even a careless—gardener. This is good news for us because wherever we may be, however downtrodden, however tilled and torn up, however shattered and scattered, however shallow—or full—our hearts may be, God is loving us into new life. We are not beyond hope. You, me, all of us—we are not beyond hope.

The parable might also be called the "parable of the soil". And in that case, I suggest that Jesus has not gotten to the end of it. Because the type or condition of soil—whether it's too dry or too shallow or too hard—is never the end of the story. Soil can be changed.

I remember when I started my first garden. We had just moved from Chicago to Virginia, where I finally had a little patch of land. Part of the small yard beside our apartment got good light, and I had grown up with gardens, so at last, this was my chance. I dug into the ground—and what do you find when you dig in Virginia?

Clay. Red, hard clay.

What do you do with clay?! I asked a neighbor, "What do you do with clay?!"

She showed us how to mix that clay with lots of rich, dark topsoil and compost. She worked alongside us to build a raised bed into which we poured that mixture. She taught me some varieties of plants that grow well in Virginia. She was available to talk as I studied up on companion gardening—which plants grow best near which other plants—and as I sat at the kitchen table sketching our little 4x10 plot and determining what to plant where. And when the time finally came, I planted each little seed lovingly and deliberately—not extravagantly or carelessly, like God the sower!—and watched, lovingly and deliberately, every day to see if anything would grow.

It did well, that little garden. It grew many beautiful herbs and vegetables during the time we lived there.

Amid the increasingly incomprehensible news about our changing climate, I wonder if God is suggesting to us today that we are not beyond hope—and that we are working with red clay. What do we do?!

We ask the help of others. We pray, we learn, we dig in, we work together. It is not easy. It is hard to know whether any of our efforts will work, whether anything will grow. Yet I keep thinking of the spiritual we'll sing in a little bit, which goes, "I don't feel no ways tired. I've come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don't believe He brought me this far to leave me."

And, as I've been considering our climate's change in light of Isaiah's prophecy that likens the Word of God to rain and snow that come down from the clouds to water the earth and grow the seeds into plants that bear fruit, yet increasingly these patterns are changing into flooding, sea level rise, huge storms, and droughts, I have wondered: Is God's Word still speaking, or have we messed up too much?

Isaiah is speaking to the people exiled in Babylon, who, like many of us today, wonder what is happening to their dreams and to the futures they have always imagined. They are pained at the thought that their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will live in a world far different, and far more diminished, than the one they have known. Isaiah encourages them, as Jesus encourages us today, that God is still saying: You are not beyond hope. And so they sing in that foreign land, "I don't feel no ways tired. I don't believe He brought me this far to leave me."

As we pray, come together, tend to one another, and work boldly in the face of fear, we can trust that "instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle, and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, an everlasting sign that we shall not be cut off."


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Weekly Message for December 10

Weekly Message for December 10

Dear Friends,    

Tomorrow morning, Saturday the 9th, from around 10am to 2pm, I’m looking for people who might want to assist me in doing some Christmas decorating for the outside of our church building. Ahn Gallagher has graciously agreed to hang some lights in our bell tower, now I’m looking for assistance is getting lights in our oak tree out front. I’ll be able to put on my climbing saddle and rig a belay and climb the tree, but it will be much easier and way more fun if I have assistance. Right now our beautifully restored building looks GREAT in the day and kind of dark at night. I hope to fix that tomorrow. Dress warm and come join the fun!
Two Wednesdays from now, on December 20th, our evening prayer will be extended to include more silence for reflection, more music for our souls, and an opportunity for anointing. Christmas can be a very difficult time, particularly if we are in the midst of a transition or have lost someone we love. We hope to create a time and some space to acknowledge those difficult feelings and offer some solace and consolation. I invite you to take an hour to care for yourself with some prayer and music.
This Sunday I’ll be preaching, Emily will be celebrating, the children will be rehearsing our presidentially-recognized Christmas Pageant, #HamiltonmeetsJesus, and Colin and our choir will be creating seasonal music that will lift our spirits.
I look forward to seeing all of you!
All the best,
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.