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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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,


    Memorial Service for John Vanzo

    Memorial Service for John Vanzo

    AUGUST 13 2013 11The memorial service for our friend and neighbor John Vanzo will be held at All Saints' this Saturday the 17th, at 11:00 am. There will be a visitation in the sanctuary prior to the service, beginning at 10:30am. All are welcome. 

    On Friday evening, the 16th, we will host a time of conversation and story telling for John's friends and family. All are invited from 7 to 9pm to share a drink, and hear and tell a favorite story of the very many sides of John.

    May John's soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


    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.