Historical sketch of the early church is a brief statement of how the Church of Christ, Scientist, was formed, including its purpose and the corner stone on which it is built.
Building of The Mother Church in Boston tells about the building of the two church edifices: the Original Edifice (1894) and the Extension (1906). The photo to the right shows the Original Edifice in front, with the domed Extension behind it.
Brief history since 1910 provides information about the "great litigation" in 1919 as well as about changes to Church buildings used for administration, publishing, and other church activities.
This "Historical Sketch" is itself a historical document, first written in 1879, at the time the Church of Christ (Scientist) was being formed. Then it was edited at times during the next thirty years. It has been published in the Manual of The Mother Church since its first edition in 1895.
In the spring of 1879, a little band of earnest seekers after Truth went into deliberations over forming a church without creeds, to be called the "Church of Christ, Scientist." They were members of evangelical churches, and students of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy in Christian Science, and were known as "Christian Scientists."
At a meeting of the Christian Scientist Association, April 12, 1879, on motion of Mrs. Eddy, it was voted, — To organize a church designed to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.
Mrs. Eddy was appointed on the committee to draft the Tenets of The Mother Church — the chief corner stone whereof is, that Christian Science, as taught and demonstrated by our Master, casts out error, heals the sick, and restores the lost Israel: for "the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner."
The charter for the Church was obtained June, 1879,* and the same month the members, twenty-six in number, extended a call to Mary Baker Eddy to become their pastor. She accepted the call, and was ordained A. D. 1881. Although walking through deep waters, the little Church went steadily on, increasing in numbers, and at every epoch saying,
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
On the twenty-third day of September, 1892, at the request of Rev. Mary Baker Eddy, twelve of her students and Church members met and reorganized, under her jurisdiction, the Christian Science Church and named it, THE FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST.
At this meeting twenty others of Mrs. Eddy's students and members of her former Church were elected members of this Church, — those with others that have since been elected were known as "First Members." The Church Tenets, Rules, and By-Laws, as prepared by Mrs. Eddy, were adopted. A By-Law adopted March 17, 1903, changed the title of "First Members" to "Executive Members." (On July 8, 1908, the By-Laws pertaining to "Executive Members" were repealed.)
THE FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST, IN BOSTON, MASS., is designed to be built on the Rock, Christ; even the understanding and demonstration of divine Truth, Life, and Love, healing and saving the world from sin and death; thus to reflect in some degree the Church Universal and Triumphant.
* Steps were taken to promote the Church of Christ, Scientist, in April, May and June; formal organization was accomplished and the charter obtained in August, 1879.
The Original Edifice and the Extension
From the inside flap of the dust jacket of Building of The Mother Church by Joseph Armstrong and Margaret Williamson, © 1980, The Christian Science Publishing Society. Used with permission.
In September 1892, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, deeded a plot of land in Boston’s Back Bay to the newly formed Christian Science Board of Directors with the stipulation that a church edifice be completed within five years.
The first stones were laid at the end of 1893. After overcoming obstacles that seemed insurmountable—such as lack of time and funding—members held their first service in the completed building on December 30, the last Sunday of 1894.
Soon the church edifice was no longer large enough to seat its growing congregation. The members rose to the challenge once again, and, at the 1902 Annual Meeting of The Mother Church, they voted to build an Extension to accommodate four to five thousand. The finished Extension was dedicated June 10, 1906.
Records of physical and moral healing as well as the efficacy of Christian Science to improve other areas of our lives are a key part of church history. The Christian Science periodicals have always included personal testimonies. For some real life experiences of healing
In 1919, as a result of litigation brought by the Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society against the Christian Science Board of Directors, the Court confirmed that the Board of Directors had authority over the Trustees. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made its decision based on a determination of Mary Baker Eddy’s overall intents in the deeds she executed, especially the 1898 Deed of Trust for the Publishing Society. The Court recognized the Church Manual as a major piece of evidence of Eddy’s intent for the authority of the Christian Science Board of Directors, and dismissed the bill in equity of the Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society. A brief summary of the "Great Litigation" in the early 20th century is available.
In 1934, the Christian Science Publishing House was completed. Originally, this 308,000 square foot building only housed the publishing-related activities of the Church. Located in the building were massive printing presses, bindery equipment, and storage and production space.
In early 1970s, the Christian Science Plaza was completed, adding several new buildings. These included the Administration building, the Colonnade, and the Sunday School building, plus a distinctive reflecting pool and fountain. Publishing activities took place in the Colonnade and Publishing House. Once the administration activities were moved into the new Administration building, the old Administration and other buildings were removed to make room for a green park area and a new glassed-in Portico to the Church. For the first time, the Church had an entrance clearly visible to the surrounding community.
In 2006, the Church announced that it would relocate its headquarters from the Administration building and the Colonnade into the Publishing House. The relocation was completed in the spring of 2008. Church administration, the Christian Science periodicals, The Christian Science Monitor, and general products are now all housed in the Publishing House, as are the Office of the Publisher's Agent for the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and The Mary Baker Eddy Library. Church services continue to be held either in the two Church edifices: Extension of The Mother Church or in the Original Edifice.
In 2012, the Sunday School was moved out of the Sunday School building back into the Church edifices, where it originally was housed.
Please visit Plaza Architecture and Grounds for more information on the design and use of the buildings on the Plaza.