"How can we help our churches from being self-centered to being focused on loving our neighbors to the point that we become active participants in the community once again?"

Response 1: Laura Clayton 

I would try not to think in terms of one group of people trying to get another group of people to do something.  Our dear Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, counsels, "Exercise more faith in God and His spiritual means and methods, than in man and his material ways and means, of establishing the Cause of Christian Science."  (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,p. 152). Our heavenly Father, the one Mind, is at the helm of this movement of Christianly scientific thought. 

When I'm tempted to mull over what I think others at church are not doing or doing poorly, I find that such thoughts usually chase themselves in circles and shut out the divine inspiration that truly promotes church progress. So I'd like to reformulate the question:  "Dear Father, how can I develop a greater love for my brothers and sisters in Christ, a love that turns away from personalities and problems, and focuses on beholding the perfect man, and on what You, dear Father, are doing right now for us all?"  Or, "My Father, how can I see more clearly -- with prophetic vision -- that Your Christ is alive in us as God's children and thus embracing this town or community in Your law of good?"

Our Pastor instructs us in these words from Philippians, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). We can remember that each branch church has a unique membership and a unique community to serve. No one way can be outlined except that which Mrs. Eddy has already outlined in her writings. We have everything we need! So I would love for anyone else to respond to this question with his or her own question that reaches into the heart. Anyone?

Response 2: Dave Hohle 

For a church to have a presence in a community is no small thing, and it can be a huge benefit to a neighborhood. Not only does it tend to bless its surroundings, but it involves many points of contact and interaction and provides many opportunities to “afford proof of its utility” (Science and Health, p. 583).

But sometimes managing a church overshadows the purpose of Church. Organizing the various functions and activities, caring for the building, landscaping, staffing, and financing are demanding. Upgrades to building and fire mitigation systems, and weather-related issues are constant.

And that doesn’t even address the issues of by-laws and discipline and making sure the books are audited and which Bible should be used in services.

We might ask ourselves how Jesus might manage a church today. Jesus seemed to have the ability to cut right through to the essence of things. My guess is he’d probably keep it pretty simple. I can almost see him holding a tiny white lily between his thumb and forefinger and speaking lovingly, intelligently, and truthfully to his listeners. I think he’d want people to be comfortable and to get what they came for and for them to feel loved. 

In Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, Mary Baker Eddy wrote,
 “Jesus taught by the wayside, in humble homes. He spake of Truth and Love to artless listeners and dull disciples. His immortal words were articulated in a decaying language, and then left to the providence of God” (p. 99).

But what about us? Most of us don’t operate in humble homes and by the wayside. Is there a way we can adjust our work to make it more simple, more Christly? And more effective and useful to our neighbors and ourselves? Is there a way to make church management subservient to purpose?

Here’s one idea: Prior to doing anything for church -- anything -- we can take a moment to remember the purpose of what it is we are about to do. As Mrs. Eddy modeled in her own life, let the Christ go before us. A simple act of yielding can bless each activity, or possibly eliminate it and lead to a better way. The Bible says, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (Tim. 1:7).

We can take just a quick moment to yield to divine Mind in each particular area, allowing the Mind of Christ to lead, because the Christ idea is all that is worth accomplishing anyway.

This a simple suggestion, but it might help revolutionize our churches, make them more rousing, useful, and fun.

  1. Both of these are really great ideas.
    Thank you.

  2. I think I would like to hear on some concrete ideas on what a congregation can do to engage with its community as an identifiable group. I certainly appreciate that this is different from how we see Truth, but I think it would be a blessing on the congregation to feel like it is part of the community, not just a subset that is in the community.

  3. I am grateful that both responders to this question turned my thought toward the power of prayer which is our unique contribution to community service. As a young professional mother, I well remember my very human sense of contributing. I did so as a foster parent, as a volunteer for youth activities, as a school board member & through my profession. Yes, it was needed. But now as a Gg'ma, I have a deeper appreciation for the powerful contribution we can make through prayer. Start w/prayer. Start w/quiet listening. Let the Mind of Christ lead at each so-called stage of human experience. It all comes together to express the whioleness/completeness of an active sense of church in the community.

  4. This is a really good question and central to the continuance of the human movement called Christian Science. The part of the question that is especially interesting is the choice of final words "once again". My memory of Christian Science church spans seven decades and I don't recall any of the fourteen churches/societies/college org's/informal groups in which I participated as being "active participants in the community" in a broader sense more than having a reading room, filling literature racks, and sponsoring a yearly lecture. There is here a local history of strong community engagement during the flu epidemic of 1918; nothing much more that I know about in the ensuing 95 years and I'd love to see that change. Involvement in our communities is not only a good way to show that we care and are not "strange" in some sense, but it also bonds participants in important ways. Which is something our churches badly need. It would be a win-win if practiced.

  5. Handing out "Spiritual Snacks" on the pavement in front of the Reading Room was a tremendously successful experience for me this past summer. I typed up either Bible Quotes or Science and Health quotes on a small piece of paper and rolled it up. I used tiny elastics to keep each rolled shut, then placed 50 in a basket and handed them out. Often Passers - By would take one ! It has raised awareness of the presence of the Reading Room and it has increased the number of visitors inside the Reading Room. Also, people who took the snacks in the past will also walk by and wave at me! I have learned to be more comfortable approaching people about Christian Science. Laurel

  6. Such a great question and useful responses. Thank you

  7. THank you for those great ideas...we are just about to take a table for our RR stock at a monthly market in our shopping area which has come about to help "revitalize Wynnum"........letting the Christ go before us and knowing that the Christ consciousness is already present and so is the Life that Jesus promised that we all may have more abundantly.
    THank you for your timely responses to that question

  8. Loved these responses! I think that letting Love be the motivator is the way to bless others both within and beyond the church walls. I'm confident that we are on that right track in the dear church to which I belong. And, I'm also confident that the community is the beneficiary.

  9. I love this idea of 'simplicity in Christ'. Simply be what we are created for. Simply love. Simply embrace all creation in the great One. Simply know that God is all-in-all. Simply do what has to be done - as reflection of Love.

  10. I learned that it doesn't take much to participate in one's own community. Start with Love. Plain and simple.

    Here are three steps to consider:
    1 – FIND the HEALING WORK: find out where the healing action is going on in your community (example: interfaith groups; hospitals and hospices; shelters; dog pounds(!); community groups involved in social justice; youth groups; efforts to clean up the city and so on.)
    2 - TALK and ENGAGE - go to the people and organizations and ask them about what they are doing - introduce yourself from the church and explain that the church wants to support the healing already going on in the community
    3 – SUPPORT - find ways to support it ( prayer agenda for the church; lecture ; Reading Room displays; Reading Room booth at a community fair; church donates a % of its collection, and so on.)

    Of course there are more details here, but this is what I have seen as a result of these steps:
    Lecture on CS to Ethics Committees in hospitals;
    presentations on CS to a hospital's prayer team;
    included in a Catholic Spirituality Center's focus on women's spiritual journeys (presenting info on Mary Baker Eddy);
    involvement in a community's efforts to heal racism
    Reading Room booths at a variety of fairs and festivals focusing on environment, women's issues, wellness, book fairs, neighborhood crime watch, and more.

    It's important to know that this is not difficult. People in the community are usually very happy to share what they do and are happy to have support – even “just” prayerful support.
    It can be done with one person or a whole group.
    Love leads. And because Love leads, you know it will be a good time!!

  11. Great suggestion Dave. I followed it recently and did some quiet listening and yielding before and during a recent church meeting at which we were discussing an ongoing community service project our Sunday School had undertaken. The meeting promised to be...and was...contentious but we came up with a good compromise that allowed all parties to move forward together in harmony. We remembered our purpose, and our love for each other and took a step further into our community...together.

  12. Yes, yielding to the divine Mind can be so readily attained by prayer. Praying simple, yet profoundly to be found expressing that Mind which was also in Christ Jesus in the various activities we know of as church. God honors this as in no other way! Church becomes ALIVE and we, who are church, are blessed while honoring He who is the author and finisher of our faith.

  13. Just last night at our Wed. service, a testifier remarked that sometimes 'we need to be found' - relating to someone needing to feel cared about. And, the days leading up to this, I had been curious about what our church does for members who are simply under stress. Also, had sent a compliment to a Church member about how I appreciate her joyful love at Church and how needed it is! Now, this morning, I actually just stumbled upon this site. All of these experiences within the last 3 days or so. Wow. I would be interested in taking part in any discussion about how we - through Christ - as a Church can give attention to those in need - an outreach, an expression of love from Love - just anything to express support/kindness/mercy. The need IS THERE.

  14. Thanks Laura and Dave;)
    LOVE the reframe of the question Laura! and Dave, your image of Jesus with a lily and humble simplicity;)

    "there is nothing too hard for thee:" form Jeremiah 32:17
    and the few references in IICor regarding "God knoweth"

    often help me navigate my day and cradle church, present throughout my day and witnessing the Church universal and triumphant showing up when I join with others on sunday and wednesday as well. nothing too hard/unsolvable/overwhelming and God knoweth - promises that comfort and guide each of us.

    Big thanks for this lovely constant, available dialogue through CHurch Alive;)))

  15. One thing our branch church did was simply respond: our neighbors invited us to participate in National Night Out. This was a first for us. Several members showed up--including one Sunday School member with her mom. We also shared our photographs (taken for our newsletter) with them after the event. There was a lot of good meeting and greeting during the event as well.

  16. As a member of a congregation I find it is vital to be active in our community, engaging with it, taking an interest in it, being invloved with it and when in it, living out the spiritual reality that is revealed through studying Christian Science. In our Bible Lesson this week we have the account of Jesus quietly going about the Father's business speaking with a woman of Samaria by a well. In that conversation she heard something so awesome she unmistakebly knew something big was going on. The same with the disciples when they first encountered Jesus, their nets broke with an abundant catch. Something so big happened we know how Peter reacted - this is just wonderfully awesome - depart from me I am a sinful man - but he came back for more. When the Christ reveals to your community that something, 'awesome big', people want to identify with it. The Samaritan woman went and brought back the whole community with her to find out more and so they could experience more of the same.
    Our CS Society members are out there being it and doing it and the Christ is out there working with them enabling their light to shine effectively.
    At our last CS lecture, and we had four last year, 50% of the audience were visitors and we spent nothing on advertising. Many of the attendees at lectures are those we meet in our day to day activity.
    in our communities.
    Something reasonably 'big' happened at a recent lecture with two guests that attended. In the ten minutes prior to the lecture start we had a cosy chat together in our Reading Room. They brought up two ideas in our conversation and the same two ideas were the first mentioned and explained by the lecturer. Both visitors were a little amazed and said so afterwards.
    Our congregation has noticed new businesses, new enterprises and restoration happening close to our Reading Room and our community police officer told us that our area is now Q - Q for quiet. Only yesterday, our little town featured on regional TV as a place where the best of something was happening. We expect to have an impact on our community and our success will be measured by increased care everywhere, decreasing crime, better health, higher standards in education, decreasing poverty, full employment etc.
    Concrete evidence and signs following is what it is all about. Love it.

  17. Often I start discussions on the Web Site C/S Discussion Group. I have trouble understanding the difference between human arguing for and spiritual praying for a solution. This day I received many helpful quoits from MBE'S writings to show me how to do this. The above Church Alive added to this instruction. Amazing, how C/S comes to the rescue.

  18. Before I found CS I attended Religious Science, which also had Practitioners. The prayer was called "treatment" and the minister would often say "You need to treat and move your feet." That was to say that after prayer one needs to take the "practical steps", which is a term I hear and read often in CS. I have attended several different CS churches in the 12 years since I was introduced to it and have noticed a distinct disconnect between what the "pastor" says, what TMC says and what is evidenced in the church. Fellowship is minimal - people stay after church 5 or 10 minutes in the lobby, then lleave to wherever they go. My previous churches - Religious Science and Unity - were my family. There were weekly potlucks and activities so we got to know one another. There were Bible studies and adult Sunday School. I really miss all that, but cannot go back to the theology which is close, but no quite there/true. Even MBE was disappointed in TMC and called it as cold as the marble floors. I want to think that the members are praying, as Ms. Clayton said we need to do, for the church. At our membership meetings and Metaphysical meetings it is discussed and people say they are praying about it. What isn't done is the "move the feet" part. However, I realize RS isn't growing anymore than CS. What Bob had to say above is, I think, so true. Generously we have received. We need to generously give - to other than Christian Scientists, to the community.

  19. Thanks for the responses pointing us higher, and for all the helpful comments."Desire is prayer" Mrs. Eddy tells us in Science and Health. Trusting that our desires are known and will be fulfilled by God is a big first step. I love the expectation in praying about important issues in our communitiy. We expect results when we pray!

  20. Hooray for Monika. She is that ray of light, where ever she finds herself. No angst there.

  21. One of the things I feel we all need to do is to pray for our Fellow Christian Scientists. There seems to be a strongly held belief out there that Christian Scientists and Christian Science Churches and Services are cold, uncaring and are afraid of Feeling and Loving from a Human basis. One of the things I do is attend other Churches and Groups up here in N. Idaho and get to know the people, etc. I learn a lot and I do let them know that I am a Christian Scientist and they all seem just fine with that. I attend TMC online at 7:00 a.m. (our time) so this gives me a chance to attend the Unity Church Service at 10:00 a.m. or the Presbyterian Church at 10:30 a.m.. I enjoy a wonderful Fellowship with the congregation and have let some of them know that I am a Christian Scientist and they think that's Great! I also attend Al Anon Meetings where you can be of any Religion and support this very Spiritual Program. Just tonight I called to support one member whose husband is ill and she asked me to pray out loud for them right then and there on the phone. So I prayed a very spontaneous affirmative C.S. prayer, acknowledging the Goodness and Love of God ever-present with both of them. She just Loved it! When I told her I was a Christian Scientist she said, "Oh that's Great! They are definitely into Healing!" So, there ya Go!

  22. Thanks for this simple, thoughtful response to the question. It leads to my soul-searching.

  23. Reading this question and the inspiring, shared answers and comments made me think of Caleb, when (Num. 13:16,17) Moses sent him out to see what would be the best way to enter and become part of the land. ( Num. 13:26,27 ) "And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.
    27And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it." Caleb shared with Moses what he had perceived with his spiritual sense. In contrast to that, the material sense witnessed to a more material view and voiced strong concerns and fears. The material sense is subject to the silent whisperings of mortal mind or the flesh, which is enmity against the Spirit. I think the most important work Moses had to do in order to go the way, God was leading him to join others, was to uncover these lies as lies, as untrue, powerless, without cause or effect. (Num.13:32,33) "And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. 33And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." Yes, we would say Moses was handling the claims of animal magnetism and by that : " Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." (Num. 13:30)
    Step by step the way opened up for the whole community to move forward. It had been work. This reminds me of what M.B. Eddy says in SH 242:15 " In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, — self-will, self-justification, and self-love, — which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death." Today when I read reports of Church Alive it shows to me how we are all progressing, learning to handle the claims of animal magnetism and by that learning to love more. I'm so grateful for that, I'm learning so much from each one of us, working together is the most rewarding work one can do today.

  24. I love and appreciate both of these answers, based so soundly on spiritual reality and prayer. In my branch church experience, I find that most of the members are quite active in the community in their individual roles as citizens, (some are architects who work on local development, some are well-known artists who exhibit their work in local museums, some are musicians who play in the orchestra or in ensembles, some are officers at the local ivy league University, some are coaches, teachers, business executives). . .and they share Christian Science openly with their community contacts. I've only lived in this area a few years, and as I too became active in a community group that worked on ways to improve and enhance the community experience in our township, I was impressed by how many people on learning that I am a member of the Christian Science church, said they knew members, or done business with members, or had visited our reading room, etc., and spoke highly of those contacts and asked questions with genuine interest and appreciation for our presence in this town. Not only is our church well known, but it is well-known BECAUSE of contacts with our members individually. It is the individual lives of Christian Scientists, and the example of these who are known for great faith and spiritual healing, that speaks best to those around us. In my town we are known for our reliance on God, and that fact is highly respected. As I read the answers to this question I thought of the Bible verse, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heavern."

    With that done first, each member will find their way in community participation. It doesn't have to be group think or a group act. . .it's really how a congregant lives his own life that proves the science we profess. Anyway, I love the answers that were given. Thank you.

  25. The closer we get to God the closer we will get to the right answers that meet all of our needs ~ human planning never meets everyones needs and has a tendency to find new wants and wishes year after year. The more we leave the human and draw close to God the closer we will be to our fellow man and make decisions that bless all. We can't look at life with human eye balls and then respond from that point of view~ truly "to begin rightly is to end rightly"