All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Relationships that Matter

Luke 20
November 10, 2013
Bonnie A. Perry

Years ago Annie Dillard had an exquisite article in Harper’s Magazine. I remember her opening line was something to the effect of—“If, you stop to think about it there really are very many more dead people than alive.” There really are very many more dead people than alive… I read that and read it again and air just leaked out of my lungs. I remember, clearly, sitting up, looking around my living room, my then dog Annie was curled up under Susan’s chair and Susan was preparing a class at the dining room table. I remember thinking, what the hell am I doing? What am I doing that really matters? Given, that death is where we are all headed what am I doing here and now? With whom am I doing it?

Today’s Gospel, from Luke, is another scene in Jesus’ on-going fencing match with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Religious authorities who typically would have been content to spar with each other have for a variety of reasons joined together to tag team Jesus and hopefully, eventually take him down. Today’s absurd theological conundrum, right up there with what color wings might an angel wear were it to dance upon the head of a pin…” Concerns a woman who marries seven brothers each of whom precedes her in death. The question the Sadducees ask of Jesus is : in heaven whose wife is she? Now, in our context we might want to ask—what the heck is happening that every single one of her husbands is now dead….? Different times….

Jesus’ answer although also somewhat convoluted has a line in it that makes sense—that really stands out to me. Jesus says, quoting Moses, who quotes God, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the living for all of them are alive.” The God of the living…Jesus’ point being that those who have died are yet alive which is great news, but of more interest to me—is what does it mean to be the God of the living. What does it mean for us to be alive?

I officiated at a marriage yesterday evening. It was an opposite-sex marriage so it wasn’t one of the trendy ones—but it was sweet. It was good. Emily Rowe and David Wiegand. Some of you may know Emily. She’s an 11 o’clocker. Late twenties, been attending here for 4 years or so. Tall, long curly hair, she ushers regularly. She used to leads a cooking team once a month for our community kitchen and food pantry she is a leader at our All Saints’ Cafes. She is of this place. And what an honor to preside at her ceremony. Two folks in it for the long-haul—making huge promises come what may.

I have to say as I was doing the rehearsal on Friday night I did indeed find myself tearing up. It might have been the combination of singing: Charles Wesley’s: All Love Divine, All Love and Meatloaf’s, I can do anything for love…. Maybe that brought tears to my eyes or maybe it was the simple fact that now, in this state of ours and in this diocese of ours, in this church of ours I will soon be able to officiate at marriages: for opposite and same sex couples. Each equal. Each valid. Each pregnant with possibilities. I have to say it made me cry.

What does it mean to be in alive? What does it mean to be in relationship with the God of the living? It means to be in it for the long haul—come what may.

My last evening in Mexico we went out of the city and up into the hills to do an evening prayer service. It was cold for Xalapa—around 50 and windy and raining. We hopped in a borrowed car four of us, the other borrowed car had stools. I had the heavy backpack filled with the Spanish Book of Common Prayer books.

We drove for 25 minutes. Parked and walked up a paved street to a dirt street, to a dirt trail to a series of ruts that went up for about quarter mile or so. We went past, cows, chickens, and dogsUp we walked. I was happy I changed into sneakers. Up we went. As we neared the top of the hill Byron and the three other lay leaders—started knocking on the doors of the tiny rooms in which families live. “Come join us—we’ll be having evening prayer.” It being the end of the All Saints’ and All Souls day weekend it was a perfect time to gather and pray. Unlike the other times they had invited people to pray while I was visiting—this time only a handful of people joined us. Hace frio—it was cold.

We gathered on a mud ridge of sort—between the two rooms that are Juanita’s home. On one end is the room where she cooks—with a propane cylinder chained to a fence post. Clean laundry hung in effort to dry under the ubiquitous blue plastic tarp. Although the floor was cement, clods of red rich clay covered the floor. In contrast the other room—the room where she and her family slept—that floor was immaculate—I noticed each time she entered that room she left her shoes at the door and switched to pretty pink slippers.

Junanita, herself—looked a bit like many of you. She was taller than me—in Southern Mexico—it turns out that I’m tall. She was mid-forties, hair dyed light brown, she wore a dark knit sweater and a pair of dark brown pants with black flip flops. I was amazed at how incredibly clean she was—given that it was fiercely raining and there was mud everywhere. My sneakers were now red clay distributers their yellow color well South of orange and heading fast to brown. I’d been on the hill for 30 minutes and my clothes were a mess, she lives there and she was immaculate.

Juanita’s daughter and granddaughter were with her. We placed the plastic stools in a circle under the tarp and waited for others to arrive. Seven or so women and men and two little boys appeared. Out came a lovely wooden table, with a pressed immaculate doily upon it Juanita placed and a plastic 2 foot tall statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A candle was lit. The prayers began.

What caught me by surprise was opening the Spanish Book of Common Prayer and seeing in front of me signatures of people from All Saints’. Karen and David Howe, had bought the books, brought them to All Saints’ a bunch of us signed them and then the Howe’s shipped them down to Xalapa. Of course, I remembered all of that but that still didn’t stop me from initially being taken aback at seeing our signatures in such a foreign space. Two worlds colliding, overlapping, coming together and making a whole—two worlds of relationships, one to the other.

What matters? What is exceptional in our lives upon which we must focus? Upon which the God the living will share our concern? How then are we daring to connect? How are we vulnerable? Learning and Caring? How are we pushing ourselves, taking our souls beyond ourselves? How are we in long-term relationships? It is at the limits of our personal orbits that we will encounter the sacredness of our lives……push ourselves beyond that which makes us comfortable.

Long-term—that matters—long-term intimate relationships and connections of all types and sorts well that is Holy work. For it puts us in a spot where our souls can be broken open—caring. Where we encounter the mystery, the grief, the sorrow, the happiness, the joy and wonder—it is in those connections that we encounter the living God.

 

Copyright November 2013 Bonnie A. Perry

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Dear Friends,

Emily, Colin, vestry member Joe Wernette-Harnden, and I have all just finished a week of intense training at the College for Congregational Development. It was a real honor for me to do my second round of training at "the college" with colleagues from All Saints'.

What has become ever clearer for me, doing this training as a group, is that we have the people in place for All Saints' to take our next big step in our community and world. I'm not even sure what that step may be. What I do know, although we are not perfect, we are a faith community called to take significant actions to alter the condition of our world, even as we feed ourselves and our neighbors, body and soul. With our gifts, resources, leadership, and faith we have no other choice but to take part in and initiate movements of change and meaning. Our vestry (governing body) has been exploring these questions for the past several months, they'll be working on them even more in the month of August. I hope that we'll have some thoughts to guide a congregation-wide conversation in the fall. I'm thinking that congregational conversation may happen on Sunday, October 22. It's all very much in flux and formation now-but I wanted to let you know a bit of what I've been thinking about and what our vestry has been contemplating.

Tomorrow our former seminarian, current youth group leader, and Bishop Anderson house Chaplain, Paul Goodenough will be our preacher tomorrow. I've had a preview of his sermon and I found it wonderfully challenging and intriguing. Emily will be celebrating and Colin and some of our choir members will be creating wonderful music.

I'll be away tomorrow and for pretty much the remainder of the summer. I'll be doing some paddling trips in Canada and Scotland and spending some significant time in Virginia with my dad and siblings.

Please know how very much I enjoy being a priest at All Saints!

All the best,
Bonnie

We 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. 

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 (mebcat@gmail.com)

     

    Gardening at 10am
     
    churchschool2010
    For 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 Community Services kitchen and food pantry

    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!

     

    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 website@allsaintschicago.org 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 care@allsaintschicago.org. 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

    Email info@allsaintschicago.org 

    Information about pastoral care.

     

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    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.