All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Speak in the Storm

The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey 
All Saints' Episcopal Church, 
Chicago 21 June 2015 
• Fourth Sunday after Pentecost • Proper 7B 
Mark 4:35-41

Hi, I'm Emily, and this is my first Sunday here at All Saints'. I have been looking forward to this day for a long time.

I was talking with my mom and dad last night and realized that I've been discerning a call to ordained ministry for twelve years. More than that if you count high school and college, when I changed my major a million times, trying to figure out what it was God wanted from me. I've spent the past eight years in formal discernment in The Episcopal Church. In that time, I've worked in hospitals, restaurants, and also in churches as an organist and choir director. I went to Northwestern for college, then came back to Evanston to Garrett-Evangelical Seminary for a Master's in Music Ministry, and most recently I've been at Virginia Seminary for a Master of Divinity.

I say this just so that you know a little bit about me and where I've come from, and how long I have been looking forward to this day. I am so excited that your discernment and my discernment have led me right here.

If you think about it, someone's first day also means that they've never done this before. I'll be learning lots and lots as I go, and I ask your patience and support. Bonnie, I'm grateful for this one Sunday before you leave me in charge for two weeks. By tomorrow, I'm sure that I'll know exactly what I'm doing!

On this first day, I can't help but think of another important "first day" in my life: the day my first child was born. Like today, I had been anticipating that day for quite some time. Being pregnant gives you clues that something is changing. So, at that time — like the time I just spent in seminary — I read lots of books about babies, went to classes about what to do with said babies, acquired at least some of the stuff people recommend you have for babies, and took in lots of advice from others who knew about babies.

But none of this really prepared me for the day I met my baby. None of this really prepared me for the steep learning curve that is being a new parent. In a day, I went from thinking I knew about babies to thinking, "Oh my gosh, what do I do now? I don't know what I'm doing!" In a day, I went from well-rested to...well, not. In a day, I went from never having met this little person to being absolutely in love with him.

And while I'm thinking — and hoping — that ministry with you will afford me more sleep than a new baby will (please), know that I will love you and cherish you, as I do my own children. Later this year, it is you - and the bishop - who will make me a priest. I become who I am through you, just like children make someone into a mother or a father.

So as a parent and as a person of faith, this week has been tough, hasn't it. More news of ecological demise. Maybe you saw the report foretelling the extinction of animals at a much more rapid pace that usual — even classic animals like lions and tigers, the animals my kids learn to mimic even before they learn regular daily words. More incomprehensible violence, as a racial terrorist walked into a church — just like this — and killed nine black Christians at prayer, just as we are today.

These days are stormy. Terror and injustice crash like wind and waves all around us. I think - like the disciples in the Gospel - that we just might be perishing by the weights of racism, and our own despair and hopelessness. And where is Jesus? Asleep? Seems like it.

In this storm I have looked for comfort. These past few days, I have found it in the words of one of my mentors, a priest who mentored me in Washington, DC, when we were both there. Now, he is living in South Carolina. He is African- American, he is wise, he is bold, and he is full of words. The morning after the Charleston massacre, he offered these:

"I sought and found, I trust through the leading of the Spirit, who can illumine truths that I, in my aggrieved blindness, cannot see, two comforts.

One. I do and dare believe that there are more of us who live and move and have our being within the ethical economy of good will than there are those of us in whose hearts evil prospers.

Two. Those of us who still, after innumerable assaults to the soul of grievous experience, whether personal or that of others, can wince in agony means that we are not morally benumbed and have retained the quintessential elements of sensibility and sensitivity that compel our deeper commitment to love and justice for all." (The Rev. Paul Roberts Abernathy, via Facebook, June 18, 2015)

That he could find and share these words just hours after the massacre — which, as an African-American clergyman in South Carolina, must have cut into his heart in ways I may not fully understand — both impressed me and comforted me.

More comforting still, though, is how I see the sensitivity of which he speaks, this compulsion toward love and justice, at play here at All Saints'. See, on Tuesday night I had what you might call a "quintessential All Saints' moment". It was about eight thirty, and I had just finished washing dishes after the Community Dinner. (Or really, had just learned about the whole dishwashing system and had done one small part: I watched that dish sanitizer really well!) And I came upstairs to the vestry meeting.

Now I have been to a few vestry meetings before, and they were not the most engaging conversations. But here, I sit down, my hands still a little wet, and someone asks me, "What might a sacred conversation about racism be like? We've been talking about it," she continues, "and we'd like to ask you. What might a sacred conversation about racism be like?"

And I thought, "Of course. Of course this is what the vestry is talking about, because this is All Saints'. And All Saints' is a place where we talk about the things that need to be talked about."

In the meeting, we went on to watch a documentary called Cracking the Codes, which is designed to illuminate issues related to racism, and to help folks talk about them. When someone invites you to watch the documentary, I encourage you to do so. It really is good.

And I have a hunch that when we gather to talk about racism, when we gather for these awkward and emotional conversations that perhaps we'd rather avoid, we will begin to see Jesus right there — awake, not sleeping. We'll hear him there whispering "hush!" to the storm.

But paradoxically, if we stay silent, if we don't talk about what needs to be talked about, we might think the storm will just pass along on its way — but it will not. It will rage on and on; if we stay silent, then the storm will never be silent. If we don't make time – if we don't dare — to have holy, hard conversations about racism, then what good is it to pray for safety or comfort or peace?

I find it hard to pray to God for things that I'm not willing to take part in, to help bring about. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that "there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that [like Jesus in our Gospel today] is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows."

All Saints', in my few days with you, I have heard and I have seen that you are people who pray with your hands and your feet and your hearts. Today I ask you to remember that whenever you do so, whenever you seek lasting peace perhaps at the expense of your own comfort or fears, you indeed are of that creative force that will bring down evil. Please, let me join you. 

  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.