Responses by Peter Jackson Maryl Walters. I remember a church service I attended a while ago, where I learned an important point. During the lesson-sermon it appeared that no matter how much I tried to concentrate on the words being spoken, I couldn’t stop my thoughts from wandering away on to unrelated matters. This went on for some time until eventually I paused to examine my own thinking. Was there any joy there? Any love? Hmm…I had to admit I could do better!
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.
Responses by Janet Hegarty and Susan Collins. There is no rule against decorating our church buildings at Christmas, and as your question thoughtfully points out, the community may wonder why a Christian church does not publicly appear to celebrate Christmas. We would want to choose these decorations wisely, however, to ensure that they reflect the spiritual sense of our celebration.
Week 33: "Even to those not well-informed, the similarities between Christian Science and New Thought seem obvious. My question is why the schism? In this age of ecumenism, it seems to me that a merger of New Thought/Science of Mind/Christian Science movements would be mutually beneficent in the long run. Or, at the very least, a close association of these organizations would be greatly beneficial. So, why is there no such movement?”
Responses by Giulia Nesi and Scott Putnam. Mary Baker Eddy herself had a love for all who loved God and a deep respect for each individual’s spiritual practice. Undoubtedly, Mrs. Eddy earnestly desired that Christian Science be widely known and that her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures be read and the spiritual principles utilized by individuals wherever they were on their spiritual path. In fact, she dedicated Science and Health to “…honest seekers for Truth” (Science and Health, p. xii).
I have found though, that as you dig more deeply into the foundational teachings of New Thought and those of Christian Science and clarify the meaning behind the language used for spiritual concepts, there emerges fundamental differences and distinctions which would make merging them difficult to do.
Week 32: "Since the Church Manual provides that no less than 16 people, including one Journal-listed practitioner, can organize as a church, do you think we should be ‘branching out’ to form more churches, rather than consolidating into fewer, larger churches with several practitioners and many members?"
Responses by Tim Mitchinson and Wendy Wylie Winegar. While the decisions raised in the question are all individual—and I would be out of place to tell another church what it should do—I do know that the purpose of each Church of Christ, Scientist, is to heal the ills of its community. This has nothing to do with numbers. Jesus even commented, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
The real question for each individual Christian Science congregation is, are we affording proof of our utility by rousing the dormant understanding in our congregation and community (see the definition of Church, Science and Health, p. 583)?
Responses by Tad Blake-Weber and Manya Kaseroff-Smith. First let me say I can empathize somewhat with your sentiment of having pets at church. I haven’t actually experienced a service where an animal was present. So, I must admit I would be surprised to see a pooch in a pew. On the other hand, to me, church is a place of inclusion. Often people come to church holding on to something not as blatant (or as cute!)—fear about money, addiction, illness, or anxiety.
Responses by Rich Evans and Ruth Geyer. Jesus dispatched his disciples to heal based on what he had taught them—to love God, the divine healing Principle, and to love their neighbors so completely that they could remove ills without harm and affirm the presence of the kingdom of heaven, the presence of harmony in every place he sent them. He advised they should remain to be fed by their hosts because, “The labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10).
Responses by Jim Corbett and Joy Carr. A branch church’s full round of activities reflects the unrestricted spiritual idea of Church unfolding to the congregation overall. The direction the demonstration of that idea takes varies from branch to branch. Thus, agreeing on permissible uses of our edifices is a matter of prayer more than of policy.
Week 28: “During the last 50 years while so called evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic churches have grown—some substantially—the ‘main line’ churches have dwindled. While Christian Science is not considered ‘main line’ and doesn’t publish membership figures, it’s widely perceived that its numbers have dwindled substantially. What is the church doing to reverse this troubling trend, and why has it happened to a church which by the very revolutionary nature of its teaching ought to have weathered rather well the disenchantment with ‘main line’ denominations?”
Responses by Kate Sims and Ethel Baker. Here’s an exciting thought—we don’t need to wait for “the church” to do anything—we are the church!
Week 27: "Our church is reaching out to the community in many ways, but our Reading Room has moved back into the church, and the Reading Room hours are very limited. We spend mega bucks on a Christmas program for the community complete with choir and brass band, but I question if we’re truly sharing the "bread of life." We’re very generous financially with the community, but it seems we’re off course. My initial reaction is to wonder if all the work done on the Christmas program, etc., were given to lecture preparation, we would witness greater fruitage. My first reaction is to move my membership elsewhere, but I know that running from a problem is never the solution."
Responses by Eric Oyama and Jodi Crump Beatty. Great encouragement can to be found on page 1 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds” (p. 1). Your sincere desire to share the Comforter with your community is one that you can trust with God. We have centuries of examples throughout the Bible to show that God takes care of His children no matter what obstacles confront them.
Week 26: "Could you give me some ideas on how a church can include those who are physically challenged? Our church has a chair lift in the hall but that's about all. There's a tendency to think that if we put in some structural aids, we might be accepting the physical difficulty, and not encouraging healing. What are other churches doing in this regard?"
Responses by Annette Dutenhoffer and Paul Grimes. In the Bible in the book of Mark chapter 2, you’ll find an account that directly addresses this question. As church members, are we like the four friends who loved their friend with the palsy enough to take down a roof and lower him into a building where Jesus was? They knew the presence of the Christ was there to heal their friend. Shouldn’t we also be willing to remove the stumbling blocks for our fellowman, so they can experience healing in our church services?