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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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,
Bonnie

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 (mebcat@gmail.com)

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

churchschool2010

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 website@allsaintschicago.org 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 care@allsaintschicago.org. 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

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.