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. 

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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,

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 (


    Gardening at 10am
    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 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 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


    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.