All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Goldfish and Apple Juice

The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey
All Saints' Episcopal Church,
Chicago 2 August 2015
• 10th Sunday after Pentecost • Proper 13B
Exodus 16:2-4,9-15John 6:24-35

Shortly before my graduation from seminary, the two classes of seminarians behind me threw a party for my classmates and me. At this party, they surprised us with superlative awards.

So, for example, a classmate who's really into music and has started writing his own hymns was named Most Likely To Write The Next Hymnal. A classmate who's an amazing listener and peacemaker and who has studied abroad a lot was named Most Likely To Single-Handedly Reconcile The Anglican Communion. A classmate who is especially fiery and outspoken was named Most Likely To Start The Next Inquisition. A classmate who was heading for a church near her home on the Florida coast was named Most Likely To Start A Surfing Ministry (and she has). A classmate who's on social media constantly was named Most Likely To Live-Tweet His Ordination Vows.

The party was a ton of fun and I love a good joke that's done in love, but I'm here to talk about why it is that I'm still a little uneasy about the award I received.

Now, I have nothing but love and respect for all of my friends at Virginia Seminary. I miss them, and I understand why they gave me this award. I know they were playing on the fact that I have two small children, the younger of whom was born in the middle of seminary. So, they had seen me with an infant, and then pregnant, and with another infant, and then with toddlers, and I suppose if there was anyone in my class who was the picture of young parenthood, it was I. So, they named me Most Likely To Serve Goldfish Crackers And Apple Juice At Eucharist.

Again, I get it, and there really is a lot of Goldfish and apple juice in my life. But I'm here to talk about why it's actually not so likely that we'll see Goldfish and apple juice here on this altar.

See, it's bread, not Goldfish, that we hear a lot about throughout Scripture – both in God's first covenant with the children of Israel, and in God's next covenant with the whole world through Jesus Christ.

In our story from Exodus, the Israelites are walking through the desert from captivity in Egypt toward the Promised Land. It has only been about six weeks since God made a covenant with them, that they would be his people, and he would be their God. So it's still really early in their relationship. When we hear language in the reading like "God was testing them" or "they were testing God", it's because the Israelites were still figuring out what it means to be people of God. God has promised them freedom from captivity, which sounds great, but today here they are, traipsing through a desert with no food in sight. Why has God brought them there, they ask, poignantly. Only to let them die?

Then God, seeing that in fact there is no bread, does the impossible: God makes heaven rain down bread. Now when has that ever happened before? Certainly not until that point. But God does something new in this impossible situation, as if to say, "You are mine and I am yours. Sit down and have some bread."

Last week's Gospel portrayed another huge, traveling crowd that had gotten very hungry. And once again, there was nothing to eat. Well, not nothing: there were five loaves of bread and two fish. But, as the disciples said, "What is that among so many people?" It's another impossible situation, but again, God shows up. Somehow, Jesus makes the bread to feed all five thousand people.

In today's Gospel, people are still processing that. They guess that the miracle, the sign, points toward God's fantastic and almighty power. So they ask Jesus to perform more signs. They say, "You're all about the signs – What's next?" Jesus says, "No, no, all that bread is not to impress you. Neither was the manna in the desert. The bread is to remind you who you are. When you remember that you are God's and God is yours, you will be fully alive. I am that bread." There is a woman about my age named Jessica Fechtor. When she was twenty- eight, she suffered a brain aneurysm. With a lot – a LOT – of luck and good medical care, she survived. Now she, like me, happens to have two young children.

She's just published a memoir about her recovery from the aneurysm. It's called Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home. She writes about how when everything was or at least seemed impossible – walking, seeing, smelling, eating – it was food that reminded her who she was. It was food that healed her soul.

In one part she writes: I would wake up in the middle of the night too uncomfortable to sleep, feel my mind speeding off into the darkness, fear closing in, and I'd know what to do. I'd think about squash. About cornmeal cherry scones. [About my great-aunt's almond cake.] It seems whenever I'd enter the kitchen, I'd discover a story, one that would nudge me over to something more real and more permanent about my life than illness...The stories I remembered, the stories I made, let me know there was a life beyond the narrow world of recovery. At their heart were the protective powers of kneading, salting, sifting, stirring, because you can't be dead and do these things...To fry an egg is to operate with the perfect faith that you will sit down and eat it. To season it with salt and pepper is a statement that you will do so with pleasure, according to your taste. When you're sick and broken and sad and afraid, it feels good to think of a time when you weren't. (186-7)

She went on to start a food blog, which became popular, had two children along with her husband, and wrote this book.

I know that not all stories have such a happy ending. Our loved ones and we ourselves don't always recover. The healing we hope and pray for doesn't always happen. Any neighbor on Tuesday can tell you that there isn't always enough in their lives. That sometimes ends don't actually meet. That sometimes hope really is lost.

Yet many who gather here for Eucharist on Tuesdays at 4:00pm will be quick to tell you, as they tell me, that what matters most is their relationship with God. Praying, reading the Bible, getting together with other Christians: these are what feed them, these are what sustain them, they say, through thick and through thin.

What is it that is or seems impossible for you right now? For what do you hunger?

All of the various stories about bread – not Goldfish – in the Bible remind us that it is our God who takes heaven and makes it rain down bread, who takes bread and makes it body, who takes our bodies and makes them whole; who takes all of us wayward people, faltering friends, broken saints, and makes us – even us – the body of Christ.

At the meal we are about to share together, let us remember who we are, and become the body we receive.

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Dear Friends,

It continues, more hurricanes of movie-like proportions, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and wildfires, in addition to terrorist attacks and neo-Nazi marches. The New York Times interviewed theologians and religious studies professors at Harvard, Fordham, and UC Santa Barbara to get their take on whether or not the apocalypse is upon us. The most interesting quote came not from the academics but from science fiction writer John Scalzi, who said, "These aren't the End Times, but it sure as hell feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now."

Is it the end of the world as we know it? Perhaps. This is, I believe, the new normal. This is the weather and world that humanity is in the midst of creating.

So what then is the Christian response? What is our response as individuals and as a Christian community of faith? These are the questions and realities I invite us to consider seriously. Who are we? How do we talk to our children about our world? How are we called to be in the midst of these confounding realities? I'll be preaching tomorrow and will begin to grapple with these enormous questions. I hope you'll be there to join me in this journey of faith.

I'm delighted to be back home and extremely excited for this coming fall. Many thanks to Emily, Andrew, Colin, Lori, and Parker for all of their work in the past weeks while I have been away.

Here is a bit of what is on the schedule:

Church School starts this Sunday, and next Sunday we'll have our annual Backpack Blessing at the 9 and 11 o'clock worship services.

This year we have distributed plain black backpack "canvasses" to about fifty local students and artists. We'll be displaying their creations around our altar for both the Ravenswood ArtWalk and our Backpack Blessing. Come celebrate their work and learn more about our ministry of feeding people and supporting our local schools at a reception we'll be hosting on Saturday evening, September 16th, from 6-8pm.

paintedbackpack1Pictured here are some of the backpacks we'll be displaying. Choir member and local art teacher, Sarah Wain, has painted a marvelous creation reminiscent of pop artist Takashi Murakami, who was recently featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Pam Carter, a nationally recognized Scottish artist, has contributed a piece with scenes from the Isle of Skye on its front and side panels. I can hardly wait to see the other pieces done by local students.paintedbackpack2

We need more paper for our altar! Every year at our Backpack Blessing we remove the wooden altar and pulpit and replace them with paper we have collected, and then donate the paper to our local schools. Right now we have about 1000 pounds--thank you! We need another 1000 to meet our goal of collecting one ton. If you can, buy a box of paper and just have it shipped to the church at 4550 N Hermitage Ave, 60640.

Next week's guest preacher will be P.J. Karafiol, principal of Lake View High School. P.J. is a parishioner at St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Hyde Park. I'm very much looking forward to what he will offer us on Backpack Sunday.

After the Backpack Blessing and Church School start, things just get busier. Theologian the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be with us the following weekend, September 23 and 24, for two in-depth days reflecting on race and anti-blackness.

On a lighter note, the annual Pet Blessing will be on October 1st! This year, we'll have dogs for adoption from the Anti-Cruelty Society and a coffee hour program by Dr. Steve Larson (8:00am parishioner and RCS volunteer) and veterinarian at West Loop Veterinary Care.

All of which is to say we have a LOT coming up. I'm looking forward to seeing all of you this Sunday. I am so blessed to be starting yet another program year here at All Saints'.

All my very best,

back2017Sunday, September 17

Mark your calendars for the annual Backpack Blessing on September 17. PJ Karafiol, principal of Lake View High School, will be the guest preacher, and educators will speak on a panel during the 10am coffee hour.

Once again we will be collecting ONE TON OF PAPER to distribute to our neighborhood public schools. And there is even more up our sleeves to make this the most incredible Backpack Blessing yet...

Want to help make it happen? You're invited to join the planning meetings this Wednesday, August 2, 6-9pm, and Wednesday, August 23, 7-9pm. Contact Emily for more information.

midnightFall Reading List Selected

The All Saints Book Club has defined its reading list through the fall. 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:

  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe (meet in the Reading Room at the church)
  • October 12 - "Saints and Villains" by Denise Giardina
  • November 9 - "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson
  • December 14 - Pick your own poetry book and share favorite poem(s)

For additional information, contact Mike Burke (

kellybdWe 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. 

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.



Bonnie on Huffington Post

Occasionally Bonnie's sermons are published on the Huffington Post. Here are some links.

Pain. Change. Hope.

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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.