All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Finding Hope, Together

September 3, 2017
Jeremiah 15:15-21

I’ve spent the past few days trying to get my home in order for the start of the school year. I’ve organized closets. I’ve been going through the kids’ clothes, setting aside those that no longer fit or are just worn out, and making lists of the new sizes to buy. Making lists of those last few, obscure school supplies to purchase. I’ve been stocking up on snacks for the kids to eat after school, or at sports practices, or share with new classmates and friends. I’ve been plotting on our family’s calendar who needs to be where and when, which is kind of like choreographing an intricate dance.

Meanwhile, my son’s name is already up on his new kindergarten wall. His birthday is already posted on their class calendar, ready to be celebrated, along with those of twenty-something kids he has yet to meet—we have yet to meet—whose families, like ours, are trying to get their act together, and then jump in.

As one mom I met at kindergarten orientation said, “Well, here we go. We’re all in this together.”

The newness is palpable. The newness is all around.

Although going back to school, especially starting at new schools as we are and finding new routines, is no small feat, I’m finding it humbling to do so while friends and so many fellow citizens around Houston are struggling to get through today. Who are not living in their homes because the water is still there, rotting everything; who are not living in their homes because there is no potable water, there is no power. Who may have lost their homes entirely, lost their cars, their livelihoods.

Going back to school with all of these important things intact takes extra work and extra time, but rebuilding after so much loss, while thousands and thousands around you are trying to do the same? That is beyond daunting.

The story of the Amofa family is not atypical. “They thought they would be safe,” reports a journalist. They “had a second floor…The government said [their area was at] ‘minimal hazard’…So they bought milk, eggs, loaves of bread, and hunkered down [last] weekend, joined by [a few relatives]. It had taken Kris and her husband Yaw [an immigrant from Ghana] six years of work to buy the house. Six years of saving up, fixing their credit, attending personal-finance classes, and debating whether they should invest so much money and risk into a single $180,000 purchase…When they moved in, they hung a sign on the living-room wall: ‘Home—where life begins.’”

Hurricane Harvey consumed their entire first floor and threatened the second. Yaw is already working on tearing out rotted drywall and cabinets, he is already “pulling up the floors, [and] throwing away the furniture.” Meanwhile, they are staying with relatives across town whose home remained dry, and Kris is making endless calls: she is calling Federal Emergency Management, she is calling her employer, the mortgage company, the car insurance company, the utility company, her friends from church.

“‘I have no control over anything right now!’” she cried. “‘I’ve never sat waiting for somebody to take care of me. I’ve always done it myself. Now, I have to wait all the time for somebody or something.’”

The book of Jeremiah is written during disaster—multiple disasters, in fact. The prophet is living and working in Judah, the southern part of Israel, in the sixth century BCE and he bears witness to three invasions in fifteen years by the Babylonians from the north. These invasions result famously in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 587 BCE, the capture of much land, and the exile and even death of thousands of people, leaving the survivors—not unlike those in Texas and amidst the horrific floods all around the world—displaced and disillusioned and asking questions like, “How did things go so terribly wrong?” “Has God left us?”

Earlier in the book, before the portion we heard today, Jeremiah and his people cry out, “We longed for relief, but received none. We longed for a time of healing, but we found only terror” (8:15). “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, yet we aren’t saved” (8:20). “If we took you to court, Lord, you would win, but we still have questions about your justice. Why are the guilty so successful? Why are the evil so happy” (12:1) and the innocent and vulnerable among us so destitute, at wit’s end?

Or, as we hear today, “Why is our pain unceasing? Why are our wounds incurable, refusing to be healed?” (15:18)

God responds to these cries by saying, “You are not healed, so I am not healed. Your heart is broken, so my heart is broken, too” (8:18). “Because my people are crushed, I, too, am crushed” (8:21). So the first thing to know about God in disaster or displacement is that God grieves with us. Our losses are God’s losses, too.

But that does not help all the way, does it.

The second thing that Jeremiah and his people bid us remember is that God is and has always been with people on the move, with people who lack a safe, secure home, with people who are changing. The story of our ancestors in faith begins with Abraham, and what is the first thing God tells Abraham? “Leave your home and go to the new land I am promising you” (Genesis 12:1). Abraham is like, “What?”

The story of our ancestors continues with Moses leading his people out of Egypt, where they were captive, into a new land that God again was promising them. God is always on the move with us, from what binds us and isolates us and weighs us down, to what frees us and liberates us and makes us whole. God is always gathering us home.

To Jeremiah and his people, God says, “You who have survived have found grace in the wilderness. You who search for rest—I have been with you! I love you with a love that lasts forever, and with this love, I draw you to myself. I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt” (31:2-4). And today we hear, “I am with you to save you, to deliver you, to rescue you” (15:20).

But what does that rescue look like? I have not yet seen God prance down from heaven on chariots or something, or wave a magic wand to make things all Technicolor like in The Wizard of Oz—but this week I have seen rescue, as have some of you, in stories of the Cajun Navy showing up at flooded homes to pick people up in boats or jet skis. Kris, whose story we heard earlier, has seen rescue and blessing, too—when her friends drove her to Walmart, since she lost her car, and there her friends paid for two whole carts full of clothes and food. And then they went to the grocery store and waited in a line that went around the store’s perimeter just to get in—and in the checkout line, three different strangers paid for her groceries. She also sees blessing in her sister’s assurance that she and her family can stay as long as they need, and that her kids and her sister’s kids are finding this whole ordeal to be like an “extended slumber party,” God bless them.

I see rescue in stories and photos from my friends’ churches around Houston, where people are flooding the doors in search of relief, and just as many people are flooding the doors to help. They’re gathering and organizing supplies. They’re bringing in food and cooking for maybe fifty people, they guess—and then, again as in our stories of faith, it goes on to feed hundreds. Because we’re all in this together.

If the book of Jeremiah is a story of disaster, then it is also one of survival. When we name our pain and cry out to God, we can trust that God hears us and hurts with us. When we refuse to let death or displacement have the final word—because they do not—we can begin to imagine with God a future, and we can find hope, together.

We are in this together. God has not left us. Indeed, God is making all things new.


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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,


    Annual Bake Auction

    Annual Bake Auction

    Dear Friends,
    For nineteen years, All Saints' has been creating an Africa Bake Auction that changes people's lives. Last year we raised over $26,000 by buying cakes that we baked! With the money raised during the auction between our 9am and 11am worship services, our young people chose to fund:
  • wells and clean water for people in South Sudan
  • a women's collective tea store, creating a place for women entrepeneurs
  • scholarships for Sudanese refugees in Uganda
  • financial aid for two scholars working on LGBT issues in Africa
  • health care for women, children, and men in the Diocese of Renk, South Sudan
  • In terms of what it buys in South Sudan, our money is multiplied by a factor of ten. And now, more than ever, our assistance is needed. What you do--what we give--helps people so very much.
    So come with your debit cards, bring your friends, bake some goodies, and get ready to make an investment in the lives of people in South Sudan.
    Susan and I will be spending at least $750 to make a difference. I'll be baking my no frills, simply chocolate, kinda ugly, really tasty cake!
    And during our worship services on Sunday, each offering that isn't marked "pledge" will be given to our friends in South Sudan.  
    Please start baking, and email a title and brief description to Polly Tangora so she can streamline check-in by preparing your bid forms in advance. Then post your amazing goodies on Facebookor Instagram, tagging All Saints' and using the hashtag #AfricaBakeAuction. 
    All the best, 
    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage

    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage


    Dear Friends,

    I invite you to join me on a pilgrimage to Washington DC on March 24th to support the young people from Florida who are marching in memory of their slain friends, murdered in their high school.

    I believe this journey to DC or a shorter trip to Downtown Chicago needs to be an intrinsic part of our Lenten Discipline this year. This country can no longer sigh and wring our collective hands and be lulled into thinking that there is nothing else we can do. We can show up. We can show up by the thousands, by the hundreds. That showing up begins when each one of us changes a plan and alters a schedule to be there to show we care. Because we do. 

    For DC, we’ll leave Friday evening at 5:00, March 23rd. Click here for more information and to purchase bus tickets. We’ll March during the day on the 24th. And return Saturday night so that we all may be back in time for Palm Sunday Services, March 25th. Know that the procession we take part in on Saturday will be a Palm Sunday Procession for the world and not just our church.

    I hope you can be there, with your family and friends in either DC or Downtown.

    All my best,



    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.