Christian Science practitioners Lois Carlson and Elizabeth Kellogg share healing ideas for anyone cherishing a greater sense of compassion among church members.
Your questions—your Church community’s answers. Each week, we’ll feature a new question from the Field, with responses from two experienced spiritual thinkers to kick off the discussion. Next, it’s your turn to help bring new insights, ideas, and solutions to light by posting a comment or participating in our discussion forums.
Two practitioners and experienced Readers share their insights into the Manual By-Law which states that Readers “shall make no remarks explanatory of the Lesson-Sermon at any time.”
Christian Science practitioners Mark Swinney and Christie Hanzlik offer some helpful prayers with regards to tithing and a deeper sense of financially contributing to Christian Science branch churches.
Practitioners and Teachers Fenella Bennetts, Elise Moore, and Lorenzo Rodriguez offer inspired thoughts for a branch church praying about the decision to remain a church or become a society.
Week 91: I am a member of a small branch church that appears to be in decline. We have had no Sunday school for almost 7 years. There are few members and not enough people to do the work. I am in poor health and am not able to attend on regular basis or participate activities. This has caused me a great deal of guilt. I love my branch church and want to participate. I pray for the church, but that seems all I can do at this time. The membership does not seem to understand this, and I often feel alone as a result, which only adds to the guilt. How can I feel inspired about church again?"
Responses by Mark Swinney and Christie Hanzlik
Responses by Dawn-Marie Cornett and Robert Gilbert
Church Alive's Bill Warrick responds to a question about church growth for time4thinkers.com.
Sandy Sandberg and Susan Jostyn explore the utility of online resources and online church services, and the continuing value of local branch churches.
Responses by Mark Swinney, Dawn Marie Cornett, Ute Keller, Evan Mehlenbacher, Lynne Buckley-Quirk, and Wendy Winegar
Responses by Kevin Graunke and Marian English offer healing ideas for a difficult church situation.
Mike Davis, researcher at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, and Christian Science practitioner and teacher Susan Mack offer a historical perspective and inspired ideas on how they have thought about the church solo.
Christian Science practitioners and teachers Stormy Falso and Tim Mitchinson share helpful ideas on how to more openly share Christian Science with our communities.
Christian Science practitioners Phil Davis and Dee Sharples offer helpful insights for branch churches considering how to ensure their business meetings stay mission-oriented.
Ginger Mack Emden and Mark Unger share helpful ideas and experiences for a Sunday School looking to embrace young families with no prior connection to Christian Science.
Don Wallingford and Beth Schaefer consider how membership in The Mother Church blesses Readers.
Lois Herr and Lindsey Biggs offer prayerful ideas to a church dealing with differences of opinion and gridlock.
John Kohler and Kate Robertson share helpful thoughts on prayerfully supporting Sunday School classes that are engaging and vibrant.
John Biggs and Rebecca Odegaard consider more deeply how Christian Science branch churches can (and do) celebrate Christmas.
The Church Alive team and community shared a few of the reasons they are grateful for chruch. Be sure to add your own gratitude in the comments section!
Reading your question I immediately thought of Jesus and his twelve disciples. What a family! Imagine sitting around with the Master-Teacher, listening, praying, and sharing deepest thoughts of Life together.
"I'm not sure there is anyone who hasn't felt the desire to sleep in on a Sunday or curl up at home on a Wednesday evening. The temptation to stay home can be a strong one. . ."
Responses by Frank Prinz-Wondollek and Dave Stevens. "What came immediately to me in response to this question is: What a wonderful opportunity to offer a lecture on progress and unfoldment! Inviting people to a lecture is about sharing our joy, our love, and our healings with a world yearning for solutions."
Responses by Ned Odegaard and Pamela Cook. There may be some practical steps available here, such as taking a fresh look at the job definition of these roles and stripping away excess steps that may have accumulated over the years. . .my instinct is that this question isn’t really one of equity in compensation, but of commitment to Christian Science.
Week 72: "I know of several branch churches that are having a hard time staying afloat. Mine in particular is considering cutting back on key activities, for example, not holding a lecture this year or reducing Reading Room hours. I know we need to be practical, but this seems like a step in the wrong direction to me. We should be making this demonstration of supply! Maybe this isn’t really a question, but I’m just looking for ideas."
Responses from Evan Mehlenbacher and Stephanie Johnson. When a branch church is faced with a declining membership and dwindling resources some deep soul-searching about what priorities are important to pursue, what unproductive activities should be stopped, and where attention should be focused to demonstrate growth can be very healthy. But above it all, it’s useful to remember that God provides freely and abundantly every resource needed for that branch to prosper.
Week 71: "We have a regular attendee, who has never expressed an interest in joining church, but is always complaining about church activities (criticizing the readers, choice of solo, etc.). After devoting so much time and efforts to church, it’s so frustrating to hear the complaints--particularly from someone who hasn’t been willing to participate. How can we handle this?"
Responses by Michelle Nanouche and Michael Fish. There is only one way to handle this kind of situation that is effective every single time - prayer.
Responses by Miles Harbur and Susan Mack. From my study of The Manual, I have concluded that Mrs. Eddy’s hope was that each branch church would be keenly alert to the needs of its particular community, and that its bylaws would be designed to meet the needs of the members and the ways in which those members most naturally can communicate and support the democratic processes of their branch church.
Responses by Josh Niles and Sabrina Stillwell. When we are lifting up Christ in our thought, folks really are drawn to that, and when a church is lifting up Christ-healing in their service, that is really what we are drawn to in church isn't it?
Responses by Jill Aaron and Curt Wahlberg. This is a good question and sooner or later every First Reader confronts it. But, as each situation is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. First and foremost, I would pray, both before the meeting and during the testimonies.
Responses by Chet Manchester and Melanie Daglian. It’s important to embrace the entire community, even the world, in our prayer for Sunday School. God has already revealed the form of spiritual education that will meet the needs of all children, enable them to know their divine Parent, and to recognize their own unshakable spiritual worth When our thought opens in this way and our prayer spreads its wings over the whole community, wonderful things happen.
Responses by Melanie Wahlberg and Phil Davis. Boy, that question prompts soul-searching, doesn’t it. . . We certainly don’t want a trend of closing Christian Science branch churches, and the decision to keep a society going or to close or consolidate efforts with another is not trivial. But the bigger questions we can each ask are: “How can I love better? How can I learn to heal more quickly, more thoroughly, more consistently?”
Responses by Rebecca Odegaard and Mark Swinney. Christ Jesus declared that “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few” (Luke 10:2) and then instructed that we pray to God for more laborers, — not because the labor is great, but because the harvest is! The harvest, or yield, from working in church must be the innumerable blessings that come to us by way of selflessness, increased patience, forgiving love, and the pure joy of serving God.
Responses by Anne Cooling and Mark Unger. Sometimes you may find what is on the websites will just support you as the teacher putting together your lessons, and sometimes it may be appropriate to add them in as an addition to your lessons within the class. The Father will guide you each time.
Responses by Dawn-Marie Cornett and Dave Stevens. Maybe this is the key to the question here. What are we serving? Is it really that we need to be devoted to church, or is it that our fellow man needs to know about God, about Christian Science, about the healing that comes from this knowledge? Christ Jesus said that the two most important commandments were to love God and love each other. If this is being expressed in our church work, then I think we're good. However, if we find that we've minimized or forgotten this sense of inspired purpose, maybe there is more we can do.
Responses by Mary Alice Rose and John Q. Adams For a branch church to be healthy, it must be a collective demonstration where all views are heard, and all are given access to filling the different positions, offices, and activities. Our Leader set this tone of equality and fairness by emphasizing rotation in office. more
Responses by Tim Myers and Michelle Nanouche. More than meeting a requirement, lectures bless those that plan, sponsor, and attend. Because of your expectation of good results, I have to assume your church is giving fresh eyes to the lecture work, and approaching it with prayer before, during, and after. So if, with all that, you aren’t finding even a trickle of interest in your church, is there something wrong? Not necessarily.
Responses by Todd Herzer and Lois Herr. In the church service, the solo is traditionally viewed as an opportunity for quiet reflection setting the stage for the upcoming Lesson-Sermon. For many, an applause following the solo might be an unwanted distraction.
However, the role of music in worship services is evolving significantly and becoming more contemporized to reflect the changing values of society.
Responses by Patricia Tupper Hyatt and Don Adams. Rotation in office is vital to the growth of a branch church. Each time a member assumes a new responsibility, he or she is forced to grow—and, as each member grows, the church grows.
Responses by Tim Mitchinson and Becky Buhl. Two phrases jump out from this question: “in their places” and “to silently prepare.” The place of a Christian Scientist is fundamentally mental—being immovably God-centered; perpetually prayerful. Are we coming to services (and meetings) embodying church alive? What are we bringing to church?
Responses by Annette Dutenhoffer and Curt Wahlberg. There is no guideline in the Manual for the length of silent prayer during our services, but certainly it shouldn’t be so brief that the congregation is surprised to hear the congregation saying, “Our Father,” before they’ve even bowed their heads. And, it shouldn’t be so long that they’re tempted to get out their smart phones and check their e-mail while waiting!
Responses by Pamela Cook and John Rinnert. In considering the mission of our Reading Rooms, we might ask, “What can we do to make sure every man and woman knows the ‘infinite value and firm basis’ of Christian Science?” We might consider every proposed activity in the context of this goal.
Responses by Mark Swinney and Dawn-Marie Cornett. I love this question! I’d say right from the start that, just as each person is quite individual, the specific time to enter Sunday School is individual, too.
Responses by Beth Schaefer and Evan Mehlenbacher. Handling the resistance to reading has two parts: lifting the burden from the role of reader by shifting the focus from who reads to the message that is being read, and learning as a membership how to love and care for its readers.
Responses by Mike Davis and Lynne Buckley-Quirk. There is no evidence that Mrs. Eddy and Christian Scientists in her time viewed Societies as somehow having more freedom than Churches to be “progressive” in their activities. On the contrary, Societies were seen as lacking elements Mrs. Eddy felt were essential for Christian Science Churches, and it was hoped that Societies would move toward Church status as quickly as possible.
Responses by Robin Hoagland and Louis Benjamin. It can be hard when it feels like our local church falls short of the ideal we hold in our hearts–the ideal of the Day of Pentecost, where “they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). But the early Church had its own struggles, too, working through divisive issues from Jewish practices for pagan converts to enforcing morality and codifying theology. That Christianity survived those contentious church meetings is due in large part to the stalwart members who held to the spiritual ideal Jesus taught of God and man as the workable model for both the individual and the community.
Responses by Kevin Graunke and Lindsey Biggs. This question is right at the leading edge of what many churches, not just our own, are confronting in today’s wireless, instant-message world. How do we balance the value of connecting and sharing online with the invaluable blessing that comes from gathering together in person to exchange spiritual ideas and build on common goals?
Responses by David Stevens and Shelly Richardson. Thinking about this question, one might point to the impact of sports and other extra curricular activities, lack of interest on the parents’ part, family logistics, and more. All of these reasons either obscure or mistake the value, and promise of the Wednesday night service. Those of us who attend can continue to cherish the value and promise of Wednesday evening testimony services for young people.
Responses by Mike Davis and Jill Aaron. Other than her initial recommendation to “read a selection from a chapter in the Bible,” we’ve not found any statement by Mrs. Eddy in which she gives advice on what verses, or how many, to include in the Scriptural Selection. And we don’t know of any documents in which she discusses its purpose. But we do know the supreme importance Mrs. Eddy gave to the Bible.
Responses by Phil Davis and Jenny Lobl. Well, my first response in reading this question is “yes!” But I immediately thought of two other questions: What is it we should market? And what do you mean by marketing?
Responses by Pamela Cook and Todd Herzer. My answer to this question is pretty simple, but it’s the approach I’ve found to be the most effective in situations like this: Pray.
Responses by Miles Harbur and Christine Driessen We all have a long way to go before we will truly understand the infinite nature of God and the unique role of Christ and Christ Jesus. Rather than arguing with people over doctrine, I find it much better to build bridges to all that unites us, trusting the Christ to communicate to each heart and to help us all gain a deeper understanding of the divine nature manifested through Jesus. more