Question: "It seems like all the churches I’ve been to have very few members, and most of them are older. How can you be confident that church is alive?"
Response 1: Kevin Graunke
As a Christian Science lecturer, I’ve visited scores of branch churches and societies in North America and, yes, I’ve attended services where the congregations were small and of “advancing years.”
Yet, I’ve also found frequently that the smaller the congregation the larger its vision, and the more alive its members’ presence in the community. Take, for example, the modest-size branch church in Texas whose active volunteer ministry in a local youth correctional facility led to hosting a talk there on Christian Science, plus a second one the following day for youths and young people from the public . . . followed by pizza. Or the little society in Florida (with many senior members) that participates actively in an annual body-mind-spirit expo sharing Christian Science healing ideas, connecting with new people, and selling Science and Health.
Part of Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of Church in Science and Health reads: “The Church . . . is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding . . .” (p. 583). Note: dormant, not deceased!
Last spring, my wife planted a lovely delphinium in our garden. Unfortunately, it was attacked by pests and lost all its leaves and flowers. It looked dead. But she gently transplanted it in a small pot and moved it to our deck, nurturing, fertilizing, and watering it regularly. Over the summer, all new leaves appeared (from the bottom up) and, at the top of stalks that had been barren, new buds formed—then burst into full bloom.
In much the same way, if our mental view of church seems lifeless, we may well need to transplant that concept to a new place mentally and spiritually. To nurture, love, and expect an awakening—a revival!
As we look outward from this re-energized inward spiritual basis, we’ll discover that Church—the spiritual ideal expressed in the daily life—isn’t found in the size or demographics of the congregation. Church’s lively, vital expression is found in the awakening of humanity’s dormant, limited view of itself and God, and in the collective activity of universal salvation, grace, and spiritual regeneration.
Response 2: Barbara Pettis
Here are some questions I consider when cherishing the ideal (alive!) Christian Science church:
- Is there good evidence that the members deeply love God and Christian Science?
- Do they love and care for one another in a Christian way? Are they interested in and participating in their community?
- Are they really expressing Church as Mary Baker Eddy describes it in Science and Health (p. 583) to the very best of their ability?
- Are their services more than a habit—filled with inspiration, joy, freshness, vigor, and liveliness, rather than simply going through the motions?
- Are they healing? Because nothing emphasizes the aliveness of Church as does healing.
Then I have to answer some straightforward questions regarding my own living of Church:
- How willing am I to serve?
- How willing am I to express the kind of lively participation I want to see in church?
- Do I see the spiritual identities of the members—how God knows them as ageless, active, and good rather than young or old, traditional or contemporary?
- Do I assume that someone else will be a member, do the work of Church, and provide me with church services without my own dedication and commitment?
- Am I following my Leader and the teachings of Christ Jesus?
- Am I healing and demonstrating the gift of Christian Science to humanity in my own life?
The spiritual sense of Church is always alive. The question is whether or not we choose to be alive to its demands.