All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

A Friend I Can Do For —

January 12, 2014
Matthew 3:13-17
Baptism of Jesus
Bonnie A. Perry
-with excerpts from Anne Ford's book

I propose to show that our community kitchen and food pantry is the sacrament that has enabled All Saints to create a community that attempts to get to what God hopes for in the world, so that those hearing this sermon will come and visit and listen and learn.

Each of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have somewhat different descriptions of Jesus' early life beginning of his public ministry. Luke's Gospel has a lovely set of stories of Jesus as a child before he steps onto center stage. In John's gospel one of his first public acts is to change water into wine at a wedding reception because his mother asks him to. In Matthew and in Mark his public ministry as an adult begins with his baptism in the river Jordan, by John the Baptist.

"When Jesus was baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

A rumble in the sky, words from on high. And thus it all begins. His trip to the Jordan, being bathed in water, not really about forgiveness of sins, instead it is for him much more of a rite of passage: an outward visible sign that he is now doing a new thing, a different thing, a holy thing, a maybe— world-transforming thing.

For other people who came to John in the Jordan that day is was about having their sins metaphorically and literally washed away. For Jesus it was a outward visible sign that his time to challenge the world and create an oasis of hope, and a vision of change is beginning.

Baptism, in our tradition, is a one-time, public moment of making promises, vows and assertions about our faith, and the faith we hope to offer our children and signified by having water poured on their heads, their bodies, our head, our bodies: Water is the outward, visible sign of God's inward spiritual grace, water is the outward visible sign that God is acting in and through us.

As we will do at the 11:00 worship service for Finley.

Water in baptism is the sign that begins it all. In this passage Jesus rises from the water and those around hear and know that a new thing is upon them. They hear the thunder, the words and know the Holy is in their midst.

Baptism is wonderful, one of the activities I most enjoy as a priest. It is something we as a community do for an individual child, an individual family. And I love it. And as with all things, as with all things church, with all things, I realize I am wired to ask continually the question, "So what?" What does it mean, how does this lovely event, lovely snippet matter?

Christian Ethiscist, Stanley Hauerwas, says that Christians are called to create a community, "Capable of forming people with virtues sufficient to witness to God's truth in the world." (A Community of Character, 1982, p 3).

Let me say that again, 'Christians are called to create a community "capable of forming people with virtues sufficient to witness to God's truth in the world."'

What might be an outward visible sign of a community that is committed to witnessing to God's truth in the world? God's truth for our world—not a world where nearly 55% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 have experienced at least a year in poverty or near poverty, not a world where almost 50% of all American children have at some point in their childhood relied upon food stamps. Not our world as we know it—but our world as it could be.

What might be a sign of a community committed to witnessing to God's truth for our world?

I think, quite possibly, our community kitchen and food pantry, Ravenswood Community services, might be this Christian communities, outward visible sign of our belief that our world can be different, should be different, must be different.

I'm not saying our Tuesday nights are perfect, I am saying that they matter and that they may give us a glimpse of hope, a bit of truth, a portion of holiness.

Anne Ford's narrative and Charlie Simokaitis' photos portray that glimpse in their book, A Friend that I can Do For.

A Friend that I can Do For, is powerful piece simply because it is people's stories: about their lives. Neither the narrative nor the photos differentiate between the people who gather on Tuesday evening. It is a story of neighbors, "just neighbors" gathering, sharing, listening, talking, sitting and eating. What remains constant on a Tuesday evening: people come to our parish hall, come to our sanctuary and we are fed: literally, metaphorically, spiritually, physically.

Is it perfect? No. Is it Holy? Listen—you tell me.

Says, one Tuesday night regular: "It's one of the highlights of my week. It doesn't make me sad. Its sort of a social occasion. I see my friends, and I hang out for a couple of hours and have a meal. How often do you get to have a dinner party with your friends every week? [Where you don't have to cook and you don't have to clean up? If I were a good volunteer, I would clean up.]

The folks on Sunday morning, we look like we have our lives together. We can hide all of the things that are falling apart. Most of the folks on Tuesday night can't hide the fact that their lives are falling apart. They're much more forgiving. If you say something stupid or don't respond right, they don't judge. You're one of them." (P 3)

Another former regular says, "The last job I had I was working out of the YMCA that I live at. But I stopped doing that because I'm not ready to have all this extra money. I have to have a friend I can do for. If I'm by myself, depression will set in...I was house sitting for a guy who had to go to prison for two months. He came and dug me up from under the bridge to sit with this 80 year old lady till he gets back. The lady if she put anything on the stove to cook, she'd walk off and forget about it. I told her, "Don't cook nothing. I will cook for you."

I had money so I went to Aldi's. I cooked a duck. I had it on the table. I had candles lit. I ran to the liquor store and bought some Boone Farm Strawberry Hill. She tastes it—I made her a plate and everything—and she tells me in her 80 years of life, ain't no man in her life ever did what I just did." (P 5)

Another neighbor says, "I started coming here [to RCS] about a year ago. I like the way you have these ladies around that kind of hostess you. That just makes you feel more human. When you're homeless, you're most of the time by yourself, in your own thoughts. That's too much in the head. You go crazy and you don't even know you are crazy. But you have a nice pretty lady sitting by you talking all night, it reminds you that you're a worthwhile human being." (P 71-72)

And this, "I was a psychiatric nurse for a long time. [On Tuesdays] we set up a clinic and its fabulous. We started doing blood pressures and weights and a lot of health teaching. Then we began looking for places we could send people, because we don't prescribe medications.

These people are just a see of unmet health care needs. There are agencies that in theory provide care to them, but getting people connected is incredibly difficult. There's one agency that says you have to have an official note that you're homeless. Isn't that fabulous?

I have the luxury of treating people as whole human beings which is very nice." 

One more snippet which may sum up our Tuesdays, "If you have an agenda here, you'll go crazy. If you have an agenda that you are going to transform lives or whatever the hell it is you're going to do—No. I get to say hi to some people. I get to hug 10 people. They're going to tell me some stories; they're going to catch me up, they're going to tell me crazy stuff, I'm going to tell them crazy stuff. And then we'll clean it all up, put the chairs away, put the tables up.

That is the powerful thing we can do, is just love people. I'm not here to teach people. I'm here to love them. And I think that loving people is what teaches them. Maybe that's fudging it. But that's my story. And I'm sticking to it."  (P 32)

Christians are called to create a community, "Capable of forming people with virtues sufficient to witness to God's truth in the world."

That I believe is our calling here at All Saints' and Tuesday evenings for the last 20 is our attempt to create a glimpse and slice of God's hope for our world.

That's my story—and I'm sticking to it.


  1. This Week
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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.