All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago


The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey
4 September 2016 • The 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18, Year C
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Luke 14:25-33

Imagine that you’ve just heard of this guy. Let’s call him Yeshua (which is Hebrew for Jesus, and I am talking about Jesus, but let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve never heard anything about him before!) So anyway, you’re just starting to hear about this guy named Yeshua. You heard a radio spot about him. You saw an article in the paper, something about Yeshua speaking in New York, and Boston, and LA. A friend mentioned him the other day, too: “Have you ever heard of this guy, Yeshua? He’s kind of…interesting.” And then, you were just on Facebook and saw that a friend invited you to an event: “Yeshua in Chicago”. This guy, Yeshua, it turns out, will be in Lincoln Square, starting at Giddings Plaza and then heading down to Welles Park.

You mark on the Facebook event: “Interested”. You just might go.

Saturday, the day of the event, comes. Now, you could be going to the gym or to the beach (it’s a gorgeous day just like today) or having brunch or just hanging out at home, but you have this nagging curiosity about this guy, Yeshua. So you head over to Giddings Plaza, along with your family, and your coffee squarely in hand. You see a crowd in the plaza near the fountain. And just at about the time you get there, the crowd starts to move. They’re heading south on Lincoln toward Wilson, following this guy Yeshua.

As you’re getting close to Wilson you see Starbucks and you’re like, “Ah! Good, I’ll grab a second cup”, when the crowd stops, because the man has stopped, and turns around to face the crowd, saying:

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Or what president, going out to wage war against another country, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able to oppose the one who comes against him? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions!” (Luke 14:25-33, adapted)

And then he turns and keeps walking ahead.

So what do you do?

Do you get out of there, taking your family with you? (Admittedly, you see many others making this decision.) Like “Heyyy, this is not what I was expecting.”

Or do you drop your coffee cup and your bag and walk away from your family to follow him? He said, “Give up your possessions!”

Or, do you linger behind Yeshua—your family, too, if they want—to hear a little more. You’re compelled, quite beyond yourself. You cannot put your finger on why, but something in his startling words sounded true.

At the beginning of the 2010 film The Way, sixty-something California opthalmologist Thomas Avery is driving his forty-year-old son Daniel to the airport. Both men are grieving and readjusting after the death of Thomas’ wife, Daniel’s mother. Daniel has decided that he is going to travel the world. And so this day, he’s traveling to Europe on a one-way ticket, to see what he can see. To find himself.

In the car, Daniel says, “You should come, too, Dad! A father-son trip.”

At this point in the film, we have seen Thomas working in his ophthalmology office and playing charity golf with colleagues. He doesn’t look happy but he looks comfortable.

Thomas, played by Martin Sheen, replies to his son, “I don’t want to go. My life here might not seem like much, but it is the life I choose.”

Daniel responds, “You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live one.”

Later, when Thomas receives the devastating call that his son has been killed, he rushes from California to France to identify the body. Daniel has lost his life in an accident at his outset on the Camino de Santiago, an 800-kilometer trek from southern France westward through northern Spain to the city of Santiago de Compostela, the cathedral of which is reputed to hold the remains of St. James—Sant-Iago—the apostle of Jesus.

At first, Thomas plans simply to bring his son’s body home to California. But then, when he learns what the Camino is, learns that for over a thousand years, pilgrims have made the trek from various starting points within Europe to the northwest coast of Spain, and that his son was doing it, too—he decides to have his son’s remains cremated, packs them in his son’s backpack, and with all of his son’s gear, sets out on the path.

The French police captain who has helped Thomas there says, “Mr. Avery, you are not prepared to make the trek. You have not trained. And with no disrespect, you are more than sixty years old.”

Thomas says simply, “I’m walking.”

Why is he, why was Daniel, why are the other pilgrims compelled to do this? What do they seek? One of Thomas’ fellow walkers, “Jack from Ireland”, is curious about this, too, and asks every other pilgrim he meets why they’re walking the Camino. And at the end of the Camino, if a pilgrim wants a compostela or certificate of completion, he or she must state their reasons for walking.

Was it for a religious reason? A personal reason, an emotional reason, a health reason? Invariably, they have trouble articulating why exactly they do it. But I notice that what they have in common is that they feel compelled from deep within them, a place deeper than words.

I think this compulsion—this curiosity, this call—characterizes for many of us what it feels like to follow Jesus. Which is why today’s Gospel passage about calculating the cost of discipleship ahead of time sounds, to me, so strange.

You know, in some ways, this Gospel passage is like the Congregational Assessment Tool, a survey that many of us took several months ago about our experiences and values here at All Saints’—at least that infamous Spiritual Vitality Index! Imagine survey questions like: Do you give up your family? Do you give up your stuff? Did you calculate ahead of time or do you at least realize now what you’re getting into, following Jesus?


Then you’re not a disciple!

These sound to me like the kinds of survey questions we did have: Do you think about God all the time? Do make all of your daily decisions based on your awareness of God in your life? Do you pray every day at least once?

No? Maybe? Kind of? Not sure? These aren’t quite the words you would have chosen?

Then you don’t have “spiritual vitality”! Or at least you have less spiritual vitality than 98% of people in other churches.

I am facetious not because I think there is any lack of spiritual vitality in this place—quite the opposite!—but because the wording of the survey’s questions, like the words Jesus chooses today, sound off-putting, almost foreign in its assumptions. It can be hard to find ourselves in today’s Gospel.

The truth is that there is a cost to following Jesus, though most of us do not or cannot calculate it in advance, nor do many of us choose to follow Jesus because of the cost it exacts.

Another truth is that Jesus does not ask of the crowd or of us any more than is asked of himself. Think about it: As this crowd follows him, he knows—but they don’t—that he is heading all the way to Jerusalem, where he knows (and again, they don’t) that it is there he will make the ultimate sacrifice. Is he giving up his possessions? Is he giving up his family? Is he giving up his very self, his own life? Will he even carry a cross (a reference that we get now, but the crowd at the time could not have)? Most literally, yes.

But he knows that as painful as these costs may be, it is they that help open the way to new, unimagined life. Like a pilgrim on the Camino trekking miles and miles and miles with only a backpack, we should consider what we might give up. Perhaps the costs are more subtle: “our need to acquire,” as theologian Emilie Townes suggests, or “our yearning for success, our petty jealousies, our denigrating stereotypes of others, our prejudices and hatreds”, and God knows what else (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4, p. 46). Moreover, what I think is not immediately obvious from today’s Gospel passage is that the process of following Jesus is just that: a process. A journey.

Echoing Daniel Avery, we may not choose our life or have it figured out ahead of time, but we live it. We live into encounters with God: the mystery of Communion, the mystery of serving food to friends and strangers (who, as human beings, are beautiful mysteries themselves), the various claims God has put on our lives, the calls that God has placed in our hearts that we cannot explain—but we are compelled. Each of these encounters and mysteries gives us the grace and the strength to take one step, and then another. 

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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,


    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, 
    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,



    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


    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.