All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

String Theory

Samuel Wischnewsky
5 June 2016 • Youth Sunday • The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 7:11-17

O Lord, bless us today and give us the knowledge to use our gifts properly in our lifetimes. Amen.

Good morning, my name is Samuel Wischnewsky and this year I am the oldest member of the All Saints’ Youth Group. That means I have both the honor and the curse of delivering a sermon for Youth Sunday.

If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I like to contextualize things and in my reading of the Bible and my views of the world, I see a very clear parallel to my favorite thing: science. Now I know that when some of you hear the word “science”, your eyes glaze over and you might think, “Well, time to relax and tune out a bit.” But I’m going to challenge those of you who that describes to take a chance and pay attention because you are about to hear the first ever and therefore best ever science-themed sermon in the history of this congregation.

Now before I get to God, I’m going to explain two huge branches of science: general relativity and quantum mechanics. Wow, very scary names, but don’t worry—no math is involved in this sermon. So, let’s start with the older and more intuitive of the two theories.

General relativity was first introduced to the world by Albert Einstein. He proposed that all of space was combined with all of time into a fabric very creatively named space-time. The fabric bends when objects with mass are placed in it and these bends are what cause gravity. Now this theory has been very successful at describing very large objects that change slowly over time, like orbits of planets or gravitational waves in space.

Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, was developed later to describe increasingly strange phenomena that were observed when studying subatomic particles. When Max Plank studied objects that would absorb particular types of radiation and then reemit new ones, he saw that energy was only radiated in separable chunks. Now to explain this I will use the analogy of a car. So, imagine I am driving (which I can do, by the way). If I want to go 15 mph, then I have to accelerate from 0 to 15 and go through all of the speeds in between. But quantum objects don’t go through all of the in-between speeds. One second, they aren’t moving, and then next they are going 15 mph. Quantum mechanics has been very good at explaining the behavior of very small particles.

So, quick recap. General relativity: slow changes on a large scale. Quantum mechanics: instantaneous changes on a very small scale.

So . . . how could any of this relate to God?

Well, as I reflect on my experience with faith, I feel that there are two very different worlds: the world of the Bible and my world. I hear a lot of passages from the Bible, some of them funny, some of them sad, typically with a vaguely ominous moral. But I find that generally these tales do not really resonate with my own life. The world of the Bible seems to me like the world of quantum mechanics: there are fast changes with little transition time in between.

Just like in the Gospel today. Everyone doubted Jesus, so he raised someone from the dead and they immediately became believers. They went from nonbelievers to believers in a matter of seconds. Granted, this was due to the overwhelming evidence before their eyes that something heavenly had occurred.

Now these quick transitions are one very quantum mechanical style phenomenon, but the thing I really notice is how the world of the Bible—just like the world of quantum mechanics—really doesn’t make sense with my own life experience. Jesus walking around making people rise from the dead when there are doubters in the crowd and yet never providing any concrete proof of himself in this day and age. This is just like particles that can exist as both particles and waves. I do not really understand how this could possibly be—but honestly, no human really does. It’s impossible for us to picture these things that have been proven through science when they do not relate at all to the things we physically experience on a daily basis.

In my experience, my world is that of relativity. It is a world dominated by huge, slow movements, like those of the planets: slow transitions that I can understand, not these quick incomprehensible changes.

That brings me to my final point. Relativity and quantum mechanics are two of the most important branches of fundamental physics, and yet they do not work well together. The two are both completely functional in isolation, but when their equations are combined, the two seem incompatible. It is just the same with combining the human world and the divine world: one is understandable and coherent, while the other seems to be so unknown and impossible to understand. But just as science today is trying to combine quantum mechanics and relativity to create one unified theory that will apply to everything, we should all make personal attempts to combine the world of the divine with our own world.

There are many possibilities in science for combining the two theories, and one of the most promising is string theory. Based on the little I know about string theory—and that is very little—faith is just like it. String theory can combine relativity and quantum mechanics. I think faith can be like string theory in that faith is how we combine the human with the divine. In both science and faith, both worlds are valuable and have their place—understanding that they both function well alone and yet when perfectly combined could be something miraculous.

I love science because there are mysteries. If everything were known then there would be no reason to study it. It is just the same with faith. Knowing that there is a spiritual world to explore and connections to seek means that faith is not instantaneous but more of a journey. So, maybe we live in the boring world of relativity and we don’t get to see people rising around us or angels appearing out of thin air. Maybe some people still do go straight from zero to 60—but I don’t.

If I woke up one morning and everyone miraculously lived in a society where they could learn and work to the fullest of their abilities, sure, that would cement my belief. I know I’m not alone in wishing for a quantum mechanical miracle. Everyone wants someone to be healed or someone to come back. But, sadly I live in the world of relativity. I feel that I can accept that sometimes, but most of the time what I want is more. And faith, fluctuating as it does, is hard to hold onto.

What I know from science is that there is quantum mechanics and there is relativity. What I know from this place is there are biblical stories and there are joyful people listening and hoping and I guess maybe I am one of them, hoping for more quantum mechanics in a world of relativity. What about you?



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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.