All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

What are you protecting yourself from?

Beau Surratt

August 4, 2013

There I was in yoga class on Thursday was the period of relaxation at the end of class--that time when, after all of the exertion of a yoga practice, the body is given a chance to rest, regroup and reset itself, by lying on the back and relaxing completely into the floor. My yoga teacher Nick, who could help even the most tightly wound person to relax completely, was leading us into relaxation by inviting us to let go of any of the places where we were holding tension in our bodies. I hadn't been to a yoga class in a while so I was totally enjoying this. I was in that yoga bliss zone and it was great. That is, until Nick uttered those words that sent me spiraling into sermon prep mode for the whole rest of savasana:

What are you protecting yourself from? are things that many of us seek to cultivate in our own lives and in the lives of our families.

Parental drives to protect their children are particularly strong, and rightly so--this is especially prevalent in moms who will often try to protect kids and even adults who aren't even their own--like when you're riding in a car with a colleague who is a mom and, when there's a particularly hard stop she throws her arm out in front of you like a mom-sized seatbelt, except...she's not your mom. Or, like yesterday at the lunch break for our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training course when Andrea Garland, mom to Owen and Eli, felt compelled to make things better and protect me from having a meltdown yesterday when the waitress spilled water all over my pants and I didn't react at all.

Our protection instincts run strong, particularly in this part of the world in this day and age. Life insurance, car insurance, pet insurance--insurance insurance. We yearn for and crave safety, security and protection, and it's no wonder, really. Author, researcher and TED talk diva Brené Brown (who is an Episcopalian, by the way!) tells us in her bestselling book "Daring Greatly" that she's witnessed major shifts in the zeitgeist of our country. She says, "The world has never been an easy place, but the past decade has been traumatic for so many people that it's made changes in our culture. From 9/11, multiple wars, and the recession, to catastrophic natural disasters and the increase in random violence and school shootings, we've survived and are surviving events that have torn at our sense of safety with such force that we've experienced them as trauma even if we weren't directly involved."

All of us have ways that we deal of the harshness of the world--- ways of looking for peace in the midst of the chaos, hope in the midst of the apparently hopeless, control in the midst of uncertainty...ways to ratchet our vulnerability down even just a little when everything seems like too much to bear.

What are you protecting yourself from?

In December of 2012 I returned to All Saints' after almost a year of being away from this community. By my count, this makes my fourth incarnation on the All Saints' staff--- College Intern, Parish Administrator, Associate for Music and Administration, and now Director of Music. In mid 2011 I had been working full time as Parish Administrator here at All Saints' for about 4 years when Margaret McCamant, who was the Director of Music here for 20 years (and now, much to my delight, sings in the choir, plays fiddle and does a myriad of other things here in this community) retired. After much thought, consideration, discernment and questioning about whether it would be something that might work, Bonnie (our Rector-Senior Pastor) and I decided that I would take on the music director duties in addition to my duties as Parish Administrator. I certainly wasn't 100% sure that working 60 hours each week in this amazing and quirky community of faith would work, but I was so excited about the possibility of being able to make music with y'all that I felt compelled to jump in with both feet. And it was really wonderful....for a little while. At some point during those months I realized something that, quite frankly, scared the hell out of me. I couldn't control it all. I was used to being able to rely on my competence to be able to handle whatever anyone threw at me, but, in these two areas where I felt very competent, I just couldn't handle it all. It was out of my control and it made me very, very uncomfortable (and, if you worked with me in the office during those months, you'll know this well--cranky.) So, I did what anyone else would do when completely overwhelmed.....I joined the Roman Catholic Church.

Now...before you think that working at All Saints' drove me to the Roman Catholic Church, I should be really clear that I had felt drawn in that direction for various reasons for a long time and it was something that I would eventually have to experience for myself in order to know completely what it was. But what led me to leave All Saints' and go to work and worship in a Roman Catholic parish at that particular time was something in myself that I didn't know quite how to deal with. I wanted to feel in control again...I wanted to feel like I knew all the answers...I wanted some certainty about things, and I didn't want to feel so darn vulnerable---and, truth be told, if there is a Church that doesn't project even an iota of vulnerability, it's the Roman Catholic Church. I certainly found wonderful grace and comfort during my time in the Catholic Church. I also got to know some very pious- very devoutly religious people - who certainly helped me with my need for certainty. But here's the thing...the more I was attracted to that certainty the more I saw its shadow side. The faith that was so important to me had again become almost completely about being certain and getting it all right. The faith that had been kindled into a living, breathing flame through the Holy Spirit's work in me through my first encounters with the All Saints' community had become a matter of participating in the right rituals in the right way as if to try and make sure God knew that I really cared. I was accumulating all of this right belief and religious experience, and that was it--I was accumulating it. Storing it up, protecting myself so that I wouldn't have to worry about anybody or anything else.

A few months later, when I went with All Saints' and Ravenswood Community Services to the Greater Chicago Food Depository's annual Hunger Walk (and eventually began the series of conversations that would bring me back home to All Saints' and the Episcopal Church) it became very clear to me that I was longing to return to this community. Being at Hunger Walk reminded of something very important that I had learned and seen embodied at All Saints' and that became an integral part of my faith: The Gospel doesn't matter one bit if it doesn't change people's lives. I had been spending a lot of time learning the Gospel, but precious little time living it.

We all at different times in our lives find ourselves longing to protect, hold close, and maybe even hoard our money, possessions, time, religious experiences, our denomination, our church. Particularly when we're feeling overwhelmed, angry, uncertain, and scared. But Jesus says to us the same thing he said to the rich farmer in our story from Luke's Gospel today who stored up all his grains and goods so he could eat, drink, and be merry: "This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Blogger about the weekly lectionary readings, Sarah Dylan Breuer ( writes: "When we're dead set on accumulation, whether it's some kind of moral points we think we're gathering or wealth to shield us from misfortune and suffering, we end up trapped in anxiety. There's usually an awareness that we're kidding ourselves, that life involves vulnerability."

Life involves vulnerability. Vulnerability....being ALL IN, as Brené Brown puts it. And she goes on to say in Daring Greatly, "Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection."

Life involves vulnerability.

This very night your life is being demanded of you.

What are you protecting yourself from?

This table that we gather around week after week is a place of vulnerability. Because at this table we offer our very selves to God--hopes and fears, joys and thanksgivings--all that we are - along with bread and wine and food for hungry people. And when we offer it all to God, God gives back to us God's very self--the Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven - the Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation -- and we become God's body- the living, breathing, healing, forgiving, and renewing body of Christ sent to mend this broken world. In our vulnerability.....offered to Christ's vulnerability--in his life and death, there is the great power of Resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit that we are not alone -- we are not left comfortless.....that we're in this thing together. We're ALL IN.

The Gospel really doesn't matter one bit if it doesn't change people's lives and I am so thankful to be among this community in which I first experienced this being lived out. And I can't wait to see where this living the Gospel together takes us next.


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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.