All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago


Sunday, May 28, 2017
Feast of the Ascension, observed
Acts 1:1-11Ephesians 1:15-23Luke 24:44-53

I’m thinking a lot this Memorial Day weekend of my friend Andy Becker, who, as some of you know, died in March when the fighter plane he was flying crashed during a training exercise on his Air Force base in New Mexico. He was 33. We had grown up together; he was like a little brother to me.

His memorial service was held near our hometowns in Michigan at the end of March, and as is the custom in Michigan and other places to honor fallen servicemen, on the day before his funeral, flags on public property were flown at half-mast throughout the state.

So as my family and I drove across the state that day, from the southwest corner nearest Chicago all the way to the suburbs of Detroit, I looked at every flag. Sure, not all of them were at half mast; many of them, in fact, were not, such as the ones outside gas stations and restaurants—and of course, when you’re driving along I-94, these are legion. But the flags at state rest stops and public schools and parks, and even some random office buildings, God bless them, all of these were at half mast.

It was so weird to know exactly for whom they were lowered, and to have known him since he was a little boy—the same age as my own are now—to have played with him and laughed with him and admired him, especially as he grew up into an entirely respectable, super smart, and selfless man. I was looking desperately for each of these flags because each was a sign of him and of his commitment to his vocation as a pilot for the protection of our country. It was not lost on me, however, that they were also signs of his absence.

As Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, was being taken up into the sky, two men dressed in white robes suddenly appeared beside the disciples and asked them the most obvious of questions, “Men of Galilee, why are you looking up toward heaven?” They might have answered: “Because our friend is flying up there in the sky. We’ve never seen this before. It’s kind of interesting. We want to watch.”

They might also have added: “Because our friend is leaving us. And we want him here. Right now.”

I am certain that as they watched him, they were remembering the story1 in the Scriptures of when the prophet Elijah was taken up into heaven, just like this. And how after Elijah was taken up, a group of about fifty men went out looking for him, because, they said, “If God has picked him up, then maybe God has also put him down somewhere, on that mountain or in that valley.” How I understand why they looked for him.

And thinking of Elijah, the disciples must also have been recalling that day2 in their recent memory when Elijah and Moses both appeared with Jesus. It was that day, they remembered—how could they forget—when Jesus went up a mountain to pray with Peter, James, and John, and then Jesus’ clothes flashed white like lightning and his face shone like the sun and Elijah and Moses themselves were talking with him. And Peter said, “Oh my gosh, it is so good that we’re here. I’m going to build a house for each of you—for you, and you, and you—so that you stay with us.” How I understand what Peter was thinking.

And the women among the disciples that day must especially have been remembering that day3, only forty days ago, when they went to Jesus’ tomb to take care of his body, his beloved body, but instead they found those two men in white robes asking another strange question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

So today when these same men (and who knows, maybe they are Moses and Elijah, but at least they are meant to remind us of them) ask the disciples—and us—“Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” I wonder if their asking the question implies that there is, somehow, another answer besides the obvious.

“Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” they say. “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

This day, our observance of the Feast of the Ascension, marks a turning point: a turning point between Jesus’ going up to heaven and his coming back. It is also a turning point between Jesus’ going up to heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Today and for the past several weeks, Jesus has been saying, “I am going to leave you. But I will not leave you alone. I will send you the Holy Spirit to comfort you, to counsel you, to guide you, to inspire you, to be your inner fire.” But we are not quite there yet.

It is also no coincidence that the story of Jesus on the mountain with Elijah and Moses—the story of the Transfiguration—is read on the last Sunday of Epiphany before Lent begins: another turning point. I wonder if such times invite us to turn from ourselves toward others, to turn from ourselves and minister beyond ourselves.

Thinking again of Elijah: When he went up to heaven, standing on the ground watching him was his disciple/student/apprentice/protégé Elisha. When Elijah went up, his coat fell down, and Elisha picked it up; he literally picked up the mantle of his teacher. Before Elijah went up, he had said to his student, “I am going to leave you. Before I go, what do you need from me?”

“What do I need?” Elisha cried. “I need everything! I need your spirit—no, I need twice your spirit! I need you.” And when his teacher left, Elisha said, “What now.” He literally said, “Where are you, God, now?”

“Where are you, God, now?”

Jesus, in opening their minds to the scriptures, is saying that somehow there is fulfillment in him—that the stories of Moses and Elijah and Elisha, and the guys who went looking for Elijah in the mountains and valleys, and Peter who wanted to build little houses for everyone, and Luke and James and John and Mary Mother of God and Mary Magdalene, and my friend Andy and you and me and everyone who lives in our hearts are all caught up, somehow, in him and the promise and reality—the reality—of eternal life. All of our stories are caught up together, and each is a small yet indelibly precious part of a much greater mystery.

I wonder if my friend Andy had a sense of this as he flew. I wonder if that’s why he loved flying. There was a text shared at his service called “A Pilot’s Creed” and some of it goes like this: I believe in flying, our noble inheritance from God, which enables me to view the wonders of the universe from a high vantage point, exceeded only by infinity. Through this experience I learn humility in the knowledge that I am but one of insignificance among so many who are truly great.

On our drive back to Chicago from Michigan, a friend called to ask, “How are you? No, how are you really? How was the service? How is your family?” As we talked, first of all my spirit was revived by such care. Second, from this one who was looking for signs on the whole drive there, I kid you not that as we talked, the sky opened up and the sun shined after two entire days of clouds and rain.

So my questions for you, for all of us, today are: What is going on in your story? Who are you remembering, and how are you different? How might others become different because of them? Is there a mantle that you have picked up? Maybe you didn’t want to. Is there a mantle that you might pick up?

And all of this makes me think of a poem4 that Jan Richardson wrote for today, Ascension Day. She writes:

I know how your mind rushes ahead, trying to fathom what could follow this.
What will you do, where will you go, how will you live?
You will want to outrun the grief.
You will want to keep turning toward the horizon,
watching for what was lost to come back, to return to you and never leave again.
For now, hear me when I say, all you need to do is to still yourself,
is to turn toward one another, is to stay.
Wait, she says, and see what comes to fill the gaping hole in your chest.
Wait with your hands open to receive what could never come
except to what is empty and hollow.
You cannot know it now, my friend, cannot even imagine what lies ahead,
but I tell you the day is coming when breath will fill your lungs as it never has before and with your own ears you will hear words coming to you new and startling.
You will dream dreams and you will see the world ablaze with blessing.


12 Kings 2

2Luke 9:29-33

3Luke 24:1-12

4From “Stay: A Blessing for Ascension Day”

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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.

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.