All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Alzheimer's, God and Grace

Bonnie A. Perry

Sunday. A group of 20 of us were sitting in the back room of O'Shaughnessy's passing eggs, potatoes and pancakes. In the midst of balancing plates and getting hot eggs into my mouth in a timely fashion I asked the fellow to my left, how it was that he and his wife made it to Chicago from Texas. I had in my mind as I asked the question an expected answer. I was thinking to myself, it must be because they have kids and grandchildren here.

Ben, in the midst of the noisy table answered my question in a quiet southern drawl. "Our daughter lives here, she and her husband and their two children." Bullseye. I had guessed the answer. I nodded and turned to pour myself some more tea. Then I heard him say something about retiring and someone being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. That's when I turned and asked, with all of my brain engaged, "Who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's?"

He said, "I was."

"Holy, expletive deleted," said I.

Ben's wife Robyn said, "Well now there's a reaction."

"How is the care here in Chicago for Alzheimer's?" I continued the conversation minus the swear words.

"Good," he said, "I haven't changed too very much in the last three years."

Later Ben's wife, Robyn said to me. He doesn't usually come out right away.

God abhors a closet; those places where we hide and lock our true selves away, usually for very real and good reasons. A number of us know all about closets. Closets: those, perhaps safe, yet confining, suffocating places where we lock away the deepest most vulnerable stories of our lives. Our sexuality, our gender, our fears, histories, addictions, our disabilities, our kid's struggles, there's shelf for all of those stories and a hanger for our vulnerabilities. We leave them all behind a closed, locked door. We then emerge, pretend, and lead lives that any Facebook algorithm would applaud. Yet those closets are small, confining and eventually that which we constructed to keep us safe is closing in around us, stealing our oxygen, and depriving us of the connections in the world that might be able to lift and carry us along.

God abhors a closet but so many of our families and friends living with dementia and or Alzheimer's disease have little choice but to move into that small world, lest they be known, pitied and dismissed.

A couple of weeks ago I heard N. R. Kleinfield the author of the stunning New York Times Piece, "Fraying at the Edges," being interviewed. Then I read his article, a profile of Geri Taylor, an accomplished hospital administrator and nurse. Three years ago Geri was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer's disease. She and her husband Jim Taylor agreed to be followed for several years by Mr. Kleinfield.

Kleinfield said of his article, so many of us believe we know what Alzheimer's disease is, "A withered person with a scrambled mind, memories sealed away. That is the familiar face of Alzheimer's. But there is also the waiting period."

What Kleinfield documents is Geri and Jim Taylor's decision to "live the most fulfilling days they could at what seemed the bleakest possible time...to just plunge ahead."

What I read in Geri and Jim Taylor's story, I am seeing and hearing in the ever so brief conversations I've had with newcomer's Ben and Robyn Ferguson.

Ben and Robyn like Geri and Jim Taylor are amazing advocates for people living with this disease. They graciously shared a bit of their story with me. And I am so honored that on their second week in this community they are up for having conversation with us between the 9 and 11 o'clock worship services.

Ben a clinical psychologist, in telling his story says, "Robyn had asked me over and over again to get evaluated, but I don't remember that. What I remember is that I was unable to learn a new computer program at work. That's when things started to unravel. I couldn't work if I couldn't learn. I was ashamed and scared and quit before they could ask me to leave. I had neuropsych testing, blood work, PET scans and an MRI. Then when the condescending jackass of a neurologist said, 'Alzheimer's I felt the deepest despair of my life.'"

Robyn says, "I wish I could tell you how I felt the day Ben was diagnosed, but I can't. All I remember is what Ben said as we walked out of the neurologist's office: "I know I'm a dead man walking, but I promise I'm going to do this as gracefully as I can." She says, "But the next day—that I remember. I grieved—grieved harder than any time in my life. I keened, I sobbed, I wailed—all in the shower, with a washcloth against my mouth to muffle the sound."

I am in awe of much of Robyn and Ben's story, the bit I know, but the part that stands out to me, is the part that brought them here. Robyn said, "I wanted to figure out how to bring Ben back to so we could enjoy the time we had left together. I mentioned to our daughter that I wished we could move to Chicago." Robyn said, "I was a little surprised when she said yes, 'I'll pray for it.'
One hundred days later they moved into an apartment in Uptown, around the corner from their daughter and her family.

Then after seeing it mentioned in an article he was reading in The New Yorker, Ben found the Center for Cognitive Wellness in Evanston and Dr. Sherrie All, who referred them to a support group at Northwestern. It was at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where they met Mary O'Hara and their lives changed.

Not healed, not perfect, changed. Ben says, "I have lots of friends. I can't remember their names, but they can't remember mine either. We still manage to have a good time." As part of a Northwestern program, Ben mentors a first year medical student, helping to humanize the disease and dispel some of the stigma. Last week at the end of the year banquet, his medical student stood up and said, "I had no idea Alzheimer's could look like this. Ben beats me regularly in Chess."
Robyn and Ben are advocates for people living with the disease. Ben says, " What I know is that now I am contributing."

Not out of sight, lost in a closet.

Biblical Scholar, Amy Pauw, tells a story of one of St. Augustine more fanciful theological speculations. Augustine once said, "That God could have taught all persons individually and immediately by means of angels. Had God chosen to do so then all the wisdom that every human being needed could have been obtained in this direct and effortless way. Instead, said Augustine, 'God's plan was for us humans to learn wisdom from one another, because he says it makes, 'A way for love, which ties people together in the bonds of unity and makes souls overflow and intermingle with each other.'"

We are, concludes Amy Pauw, "All bound together in the laborious and precarious enterprise of seeking wisdom so that we will learn at the same time to love one another, "(P. xviii A Theological Commentary on the Bible and Proverbs and Ecclesiastes).

More than anything, Geri and Jim, Ben and Robyn are risking putting themselves fully in the midst of life. We who like to fix things are some times befuddled by things that are not readily cured, yet while that cure comes to be, we are called to see and be with each other—through it all--all of us—all of us-- children of God—in search of hope and wisdom.

Amen.

Copyright Bonnie A. Perry, May 22, 2016

 

  1. This Week
  2. Services Times
  3. Contact Us
  4. Sermons
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.