In college, I got to know a practitioner in my branch church. She was friendly, selfless, and inclusive of members and newcomers alike. I admired her obvious dedication to Christian Science. One day she asked if I’d stay after church to talk with her for a bit. She surprised me by saying she wanted to give me a chance to ask her any questions I might have about the practice of Christian Science. The practice? I confessed that yes, I had occasionally given thought to the full time practice of spiritual healing, but at the time, I was ardently pursuing another career.
Still, I was touched that someone had noticed some spiritual yearning in me. We had a substantial talk that day, and her words of encouragement stuck with me over the next few years until I began taking cases myself and, ultimately, advertising my practice in the Journal. I’m glad she was there.
Of course, this practitioner wasn’t the only one at the branch who was healing herself and others. And I’ve noticed that in Mary Baker Eddy's writings, when talking about healing work, she often refers simply to a “Christian Scientist” rather than a “Christian Science practitioner.” For example, she writes, “The Christian Scientist has enlisted to lessen evil, disease, and death; and he will overcome them by understanding their nothingness and the allness of God, or good” (Science and Health, p. 450). And, “If students do not readily heal themselves, they should early call an experienced Christian Scientist to aid them” (p. 420). With the expectation of reliable healing work already going on among the members, why might Eddy have included the provision that each branch church have a full-time practitioner?
It certainly isn’t to establish any kind of hierarchy within the church–practitioner’s votes don’t count double at business meetings or anything like that. But perhaps it has to do with the qualities that a practitioner brings to the branch. The Church Manual requires “ample time for faithful practice” (p. 82). Someone who spends much of his or her day in earnest, Christian prayer is necessarily cultivating and cherishing–living!–qualities that help a branch to thrive, like purity, discernment, wisdom, love, moral courage, high expectations, affection for others, and selflessness.
With the practitioner at my college branch, the fact that her full-time job was praying for others probably helped give her the discernment, moral courage, and spiritual authority needed to give me a gentle push. Out of all the loving, friendly members at this particular branch, she was the one that proactively supported my own budding practice–seeing its potential before I did. Her presence and example was a resource to visitors and an inspiration to members. The divinely-inspired energy she brought the branch showed us the potential any one of us had for healing, and we could then take that confidence out into the community. It wasn’t her “job” to inspire, encourage, or mentor her fellow branch church members, but that activity grew naturally and spontaneously out of her practice.
Some branches today find themselves without a full-time practitioner and are praying about this issue. Often the demand in cases like this is for everyone involved to spiritualize thought just a little bit more than the day before. To prayerfully, quietly appreciate the practice, potential, and availability of Christian healing today. When branch members individually and collectively do this, they may just find the next Journal-listing emerging from someone in their midst.