All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Privilege 

Sermon preached at All Saints Episcopal Church, Chicago

14 February 2016
Lent 1C
The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows

Good morning Saints! Let me begin with a number: 3275.
Actually, $3,275. That is the monthly rental price for a two bedroom, two bath 1,000 square foot apartment at the Xavier. High efficiency heating and cooling systems keep residents comfortable in an environmentally sustainable way. Indoor dog runs, expansive city views, and roof top chef’s kitchens are among the amenities offered. Conveniently located near public transportation, “good” restaurants, and for good measure, a Target, everything residents might want are just footsteps away. Xavier is located in Cabrini Green, putting residents in close proximity to Chicago’s most vibrant neighborhoods including Old Town, Lincoln Park, River North, Buck Town/Wicker Park and Goose Island.

Of course, when the high-rises that used to grace the site was simply called Cabrini Green, all of this proximity was a problem. Named after Francis Xavier Cabrini, the developers of this high rise say, "We are particularly conscious of this neighborhood's rich and long standing history, and feel the project will have positive long-term impacts on the area." In embracing the area's history, the developers hope that other developers might come to terms with and accept the Cabrini-Green name and the neighborhood's next chapter—which is looking to be dominated by high-end rental towers. And in the way that cities are nothing but layers upon layers of new built on top of the old, many of the new residents may never really know the history of the land on which they now live. Renters with money to pay do not need to know who occupied the land before they arrived. They do not need to concern themselves with who has been displaced without appropriate redress and resettlement in order to improve the neighborhood. Most will not give too much thought as to why most other people in the building look like white, upwardly-mobile professionals. Perhaps there are some people of color who choose to live there may who briefly wonder about it. Maybe. All these new residents of Cabrini-Green know is they have the choice to live anywhere and if they choose the Xavier most will applaud their good taste. These are the benefits of privilege.

Privilege is an oft-used word these days. The gathering of inter-faith leaders and academics that is the White Privilege Conference has been going on for 18 years but it is only recently that the term “white privilege” has become commonplace. Those who have been attending the White Privilege Conference—including some from our own diocese in recent years—hope that the identification and confrontation of privilege might be a critical tool in dismantling systemic racism. Privilege, as you all have been discussing here at All Saints, means not having to see, confront, or change things because they do not impact you personally. Race—particularly being identified as white—gets one a lot of privileges in our society. But so does money and social class standing. This is why Cabrini-Green now with the Xavier apartments can command glossy full-page ads in the Sunday Tribune magazine to draw residents and the largely black and brown former residents who are hoping for access to public housing endure waiting lists that are 3-5 years long.

Cabrini-Green has fascinated me for decades and this Xavier apartment building is a particular irritation. Having grown up in housing projects in New York City, I know that they can be dangerous places but also places of beauty, community, and care. However, there is something about housing—luxury housing—built atop land where the blood of the dead ran too frequently that doesn’t sit right. In another decade, will any recall the generations of black people who lived there or the Italians that preceded them before the housing projects went up some 60 years ago? Segregation compounded by race and class continue to define this city and our world. It is hard to imagine that this is what God intends.

But what does God intend? Our reading from the Hebrew scriptures this morning gives us some help but we have to dig for it. In Deuteronomy Moses recounts what the Israelites were to do upon arrival in the promised land: You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” And Moses recites the saving acts of God: their initial homelessness (“A wandering Aramean was my father”);
their migration to Egypt (“lived there as an alien”);
their suffering there (“treated us harshly and afflicted us”);
their cry to God for redemption (“we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors”);
their redemption out of enslavement (“the Lord brought us out of Egypt”);
their settling into a fertile land (“flowing with milk and honey”).

For the Israelites these remembrances bring comfort and speak of hope and promises fulfilled. The exodus story is so much like that—the calling forth of a people out of bondage and slavery into freedom and fertile, productive land that will sustain them. It’s like moving from the old Cabrini-Green to the Xavier! Kind of.

But our lesson ends here at verse 11 which is problematic. Indeed, exodus and the promised land might be all we hear. It is such a good story! But were not there people already living in that promised land flowing with milk and honey before the Israelites showed up? What of them? If we are to move beyond our comfort zone and place of privilege we would continue with the rest of the chapter

In verses 12-16 Moses continues, without skipping a beat, to update the rest of the instructions. Every three years the Israelites were to set aside a tenth of the land’s produce and deposit it locally. This was so that the powerless among them could have access to it: the resident aliens, the orphans, the widows. Commentator William Yarchin puts it this way, the point of this lesson is that the redeemed might themselves act on behalf of the powerless in the same way that God has acted, blessing them with abundance. In short, God continues to redeem the powerless, but through the agency of the people of God when they choose to be faithful.

Faithfulness looks like sharing and giving stuff away—like power and privilege. But, we who follow Jesus, are also called to do a far more radical and difficult thing. So much as we are able, we are called not to pick any more than we already have.

Let’s review the temptations of Jesus which we may know so well:

Fresh off the glorious experience of his baptism where God proclaims to all—this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I well pleased—from this joyous moment Jesus is driven into the desert wilderness. It is in the wilderness that Jesus learns about himself--about what his identity as a beloved child of God really means.

He was tempted three times: first, to turn stones into bread—the privilege of self-sufficiency;
Second: to call upon this magical God to save him—the privilege of access;
and finally, to possess all the political power of the world—the privilege of power
Jesus had a decision to make…and he turned down all three options.

He rejected them all, and over the course of his life and ministry, clear on through this death and resurrection, he still ate and fed people, he remained connected to God the creator of all and gave his friends and disciples the same access, and he continually lifted up the powerless even as he battled powers and principalities and mocked those overly invested in earthly rule. He invited his followers to do likewise. He knew that if his followers actually did these things—actually gave up the power and privilege they had in service to God, or for those who had little, stopped groping for power and privilege reaching instead for the riches of God’s reign—he knew if they did these things, they would be seen as so countercultural as to be dangerous. These acts of resistance would get them in trouble but it was the only way to true freedom.

And that’s the thing. God does not desire that you and I or the poorest among us have more privilege, more money, more power. God desires that we be truly free. Like Jesus we already have the freedom to choose to dismantle racism. We have the freedom to choose to give away privilege when it serves to lift up others or use it rightly to bring about true transformation. And this transformation looks like freedom from defacto segregation, crumbling classrooms and under-resourced teachers; freedom to walk to school safely and drink water free from contamination. Freedom from fear of deportation. Freedom from the fear that a broken tail ight may be the literal death of you.

So I want to encourage you, Saints. With this first Sunday in Lent we embark on a journey to the cross which is about preparing ourselves for resurrection. The work, introspection, bridge-building, reflection that you are doing as a community on the topic of race and racism is preparatory work—for life. And not for yours alone. While indeed you are taking this journey because you believe The blood of the dead is calling you to repent for your sins of racism. The blood of the living and those yet to come need you to be about this work for the rest of your days. You cannot not know what you now know. This is what “staying woke” is about. Like people of color in this country, you are called to live this work, to weave it into your life, your breathing, your habits, your decisions. Let it transform you.

Bonnie and others in this room, I won’t name names, like to kid me because my family and I live in the north suburbs. We spent our first years here in Wilmette and then moved to Skokie. But our son goes to school in Kenilworth. It some ways, those choices kind of “happened to us” but they also didn’t. Raising a black boy in Chicagoland means that there are no uncalculated choices. I wanted to give our son the gift of knowing he could comfortably claim and hold space wherever he wanted to be—even if he was the only person of color in the room. This is another kind of freedom and privilege that I pray will hold him in good stead and keep him alive especially when white folks think he ought to “know his place”. And in using my own privilege to give him these experiences, I’m teaching him, even at the age of five, about what it means to share privilege, that he is wondrously made and loved by God, and that that truth still holds when the rest of the world tells him at every turn that it isn’t so.

The contours of privilege are many and complex. Dismantling systems of racism and classicism, just like sexism and homophobia, is wearying and difficult. It is also holy because it is about fullness of life and God’s freedom. But understand: the devil is a ready tempter, peaking out from behind shiny new addresses and gleaming buildings. Resist him, firm in your faith.

Amen.

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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,
    Bonnie

     

    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, 
    Bonnie
    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,

    Bonnie

     

    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

    Email info@allsaintschicago.org 

    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.