Week 1: "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?"

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.

  1. How do I know that my Branch Church is alive? Because I am alive. Our members are loving, active, vibrant members of our community and welcome all to our Reading Room and Church services. Our members have many levels of participation in Church, but now matter how much or how little one has time to serve they are loved and cherished by each one of us. Our Wednesday evening testimony meetings have very little quiet time as members are eager to share their testimonies of healing from the week as well as lots of gratitude for God and His goodness for us. We recently held our own "Talking With Others about Christian Science" workshop because we are not near one of the larger cities that were hosting a workshop. Now that was ALIVE. Our discussions were filled with love and sharing. There was laughter and gratitude and a real sense of loving each other as we answered the questions. We were nurturing each other to share ideas if an answer did not come easily and no one felt inadequate. We also host a lecture every year and provide the Christian Science Radio Program for our community. It's great to be active in the Christian Science movement. Thank You Mary Baker Eddy for this rousing Church.

  2. After the shocking and violent attack on the Towers in N.Y. on 9/11 I felt a profound lessening of my faith in God. I felt that all of those innocent people deserved God's care and all of them were killed by other of God's creations. Where was HE?
    Also conditions today, existing in Washington, show a wish to see Christianity "go away" and a lack of regard for our way of living in this beloved country.
    However,in spite of these things, I am certainly grateful for the help and healing during my many years of my practice of Christian Science.

  3. Our church is small, fewer than ten members. I very much look forward to dialogue with other Christian Scientists in general. As I go about daily life in my profession and with family and friends, I have much internal conversation with divine Mind. It would be wonderful to share with other like-minded individuals who can appreciate the continual proofs of care and inspiration on a broader scale. I didn't realize that the feeling of isolation had sort of crept in. I'm going to enjoy this website!

  4. I think the C.S. churches need to really OPEN UP and come out of their "Box" of old, stale traditions and concepts of what "Church" should look like. Most of the churches I've attended or been a part of seemsed to be insular, not reaching out to their Community and wanting to keep their church going just for their small membership. Part of that problem stems from the fact that most C.Sers I've interacted with have had very little experience in dealing with people of other Faiths and Beliefs and don't really know how to "build a bridge" and communicate.

  5. I've known about Christian Science and attended services for only about 8 years, and even over that short time, I have seen so much tangible evidence of reawakening and renewal in our churches. Just here in Australia, we've seen stagnant/complacent memberships revitalised, fresher outlooks and ideas embraced, old disputes and tensions healed, growing interest and activity among young people, and just a greater sense of connection overall - among our members, between our branches, and with our wider communities.

    A big factor in this has, I think, been the wonderful initiatives The Mother Church has given us over the past few years: Board of Directors visit; workshops on Sunday School, Reading Rooms, and the healing practice; a TMC Youth Summit. We've also had many CS lecturers from overseas, participation in last year's Parliament of the World's Religions (here in Melbourne), and new growth in our local Adventure Unlimited Easter Camp program. Sure, there are still issues we're dealing with; there's always more to do. But it is tangibly happening, and it gives me great hope.

    I'm learning not to listen to the claim that "our churches are declining", "people aren't interested", or "we're stuck in our own box". Just what the "serpent" would say, hmmm? It's not true. Even if it's how things look to human sense sometimes, it is simply not true. More and more, we're seeing through it, all over the world. How fantastic that this website will help us keep in touch as a global church family and let us lift each other up with evidence of Christ at work. Thanks!!!

  6. In the first part of Mrs. Eddy's definition of church (found on page 583 of Science and Health) she carefully defines church in spiritual terms; "The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle." Church is an individual as well as a collective demonstration of Christ. As a "Church Alive" we must keep our thought and vision expectant of good, and in proportion as we practice healing in our own individual lives, the effect will shine out into the greater community and bring to the light those who have a genuine hunger and thirst for the truth. We are not encountering an "outside" to our Church's relevance; we are being called upon to "polish our windows" in order to let the brightness of God's love IN and OUT.

  7. The number in a Church is not where its strength is. Frequently in the Bible I read about how the Israelites defeated much larger and better armed armies. In several places they even pared off some of their people and sent them home. In Deuteronomy 7:7-8 we are told that it was not the number but the quality of the congregation that brings us into God’s care. So, my question is; if we do not rely on the numbers do we have the quality?

  8. I have been a Christian Scientist, a member of and attending a wonderful Christian Science church for only 2 years now and this question is consistantly in my thoughts.

    In the amplified edition of Mary Baker Edddie, Christian Healer, pg 218, the authors state "She established her church to awaken human consciousness to the understanding of man's inseparable relationship with God; the natural result of that understanding is healing".

    Repeatedly on pages 209-214, in various communications, she makes clear her thinking that demonstration, works, not words awoke the people to the wonders of this loving Science and were the engine behind its phenominal growth.

    I believe that if we truly focus on demonstrating this Science healing the sick and reforming the sinners in our communities, as this work became known, our pews would fill and people would be lined up to get in.

  9. First of all, I just love how TMC continually demonstrates, in fresh and exciting ways, the directive in the manual regarding "Periodicals". Mrs. Eddy knew we had to "keep abreast of the times", and this "on-line" periodical does just that! It also reaches out to a new generation who oftentimes participate in church through the world-wide web. Young people like to be where other young people are and where are today's young people? On the internet! When I visit the TMCyouth website I see what exciting things are going on around the world. I read about what young people are talking about and interested in. When I read chats on TMCyouth; articles by youth on Spirituality.com or in the printed weekly and monthly periodical; I witness a vibrant youth committed to this amazing Science of the Christ. Youth are out there and they are deeply dedicated to this Science. And healing is going on.
    At my branch church here in Nairobi, Kenya, we have a very active youth committee of about 30 members who love their church. They have community outreach projects with orphanages, youth groups in slum areas, schools etc... In addition, they clean the church inside and out twice a year and freshen up the garden. Next month, as an extension of a TMCyouth global team project, the youth committee is hosting a workshop at the local YMCA on "Youth, Christian Science and Peace". Three members of the youth committee also serve on the church board. The clerk, the Sunday School superintindent, and the reading room librarian are all in their early twenties. These are young people who love their church and love Christian Science. I am so grateful to witness it.
    I am also grateful that "Times, they are a-changin" and the one Mind is keeping us abreast of them!

  10. When tempted to think about number of members in our church I am reminded of the following: In a talk given by Lawrence Doyle he reminded us that in our manual Mrs. Eddy says we are to "stay away from...numbering the people". He takes that to mean that we also need to stop numbering how few individuals attend church on any given Sunday or Wed. And that we also need to stop numbering how many branch churches have closed. Also, "Quality not quantity" was what Mrs. Eddy was desiring in her churches according to Robert Peel. I then ask myself "am I a quality member"? "What more could I be doing for church".

  11. Years ago in college, I had a professor who said she had
    grown up in Christian Science and then abandoned church because she said, " I never could believe matter was unreal". It is easy to attract people to Christian Science through healing, but sometimes they fall away when they realize it challenges the existence of matter.

  12. It has blessed our Christian Science church to open our thought, our doors and our membership to whoever God sends. We no longer see our church as divided into those who have attained a high plateau of spiritual understanding and demonstration and those who haven't gotten there yet. LOL Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."(Matthew 7:1) I just noticed that the next verse elaborates this concept. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged:..." A friend said that if I point a finger at someone, then I have 3 or 4 fingers pointing back at myself.
    The Message translates this as, "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part."
    A patient of one of Mrs. Eddy's students wasn't responding to prayer and MBE was asked to take up the case. She said, "Oh, Lord, let the door be opened." Then, the patient was healed. (page 245 of Christian Healer, lst edition) It is wonderful to know that the door is wide open to the ideas God sends. Revelation 3:8 says, "..I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it:"

  13. I don't go to church much nowadays. There has been a lot of talk about healing, but I haven't seen much in the way of healing results. And it seems that sometimes, in church, the tail ends up wagging the dog. What I mean is that church should all be about love and healing, but it can end up being all about serving on a committee and learning 'Roberts Rules of Order'.... and deciding on the best colour for the reading room. The main thrust should be all about spiritual growth and healing. If we aren't achieving good healing results as individuals, then we shouldn't be bragging about healing in advertising our lectures etc. Get priorities right... then the rest will follow. Less talk and more 'do'.

    And church is not limited to a building and a group of members. An individual on a desert island might be doing better than a whole congregation somewhere else.

    Having said that, the church members I know are lovely people. And I am grateful for being brought up in Christian Science. Mrs Eddy was certainly on to something, even if I don't share her apparent deep concern over animal magnetism. Love is the way to go.

    Best wishes...

  14. My branch church is not big or small. It is just right. Full of love for God, members, our community and Christian Science. Our testimonies on Wednesday evening show 'proof of its utility'. My role is to be in church on time, and while there, to be prayerfully attentive to the healing message expressed at the service in song, sermon, Science. To heal, as Jesus Christ commanded, all manner of disease and discord, by the power of God alone. The actual number present or our calendar ages just cannot define church. It is defined by what God is, and Christian demonstration.

  15. I feel that the vitatility of church comes from within. When the church members are expressing love and gratitiude for each other and the work done within church - this love naturally includes the community. Youthfulness is not the only measure of vitality! In the story of Jesus being hungry, he found a fig tree which was out of season, which he condemned and the fig tree whithered away. The demand for healing comes in many guises and the Christ is always ready - the community will beat a path to your door to find and experience this healing when love and gratitude are at the heart of church. We have to make sure that the church is not out of season! (see Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 KJV)

  16. My answer to Judy's comment #11 is that matter is unreal because God did not create it. If God had created matter, then it could never be destroyed by man or converted into physical energy [E = mc(squared)] Can man undo the works of omnipotent God? No! But the substance [Life, Truth and Love] of the idea can never be destroyed, hence the mortal rematerialization of that idea.

  17. Kudos to #13, Stephen Coote, for his simple honesty! I, too, have seen too many CS churches where there was too much attention to "reading the lesson from the desk perfectly, following all the rules, etc." and not really expressing Love to its members and the community. I know that Jesus' message and Mrs. Eddy's message was really one of Love. Jesus put a lot of emphasis on telling the Pharisees not to put their rules and laws first, but to come from their Hearts - in the Spirit of Love!

    CSers need to wake up and realize that there are lots of people and organizations out there in the world now that think they way we do. We are not the "elite and special" group we were when CS started way back in the late 1800's! We need to join hands with other people and other groups as there is power in sharing Love together! Let's fling open our doors and our thought and stop trying to be so "special" and just start embracing all other people with our thought - in word and in deed! This is truly what will keep the Christian Science Church Alive and Meaningful in the 21st Century!

  18. I am so grateful that this website has been started. It is so timely and is really an answer to prayer. I know it will do much good. How wonderful to be able to share in such a global fashion!
    Wendy Dearborn, Appleton, WI

  19. What a gift to open up this morning! I love the ideas expressed. What a help to me in my continual unfolding of church in my experience. Recently all kinds of ways of loving and sharing are opening in my daily walk and conversation. Thanks to everyone who is expressing love in the world.

  20. Church is the "structure". not "stricture" of Truth and Love. Not "three strikes and you are out" but threefold, enlightening,strikes of truthfulness and loving practiced within one's circle of friends and family and beyond. Honesty is truth lived, and it is so comforting to be honest with oneself and others. Allowing others to be their best "me" possible is a lovely manner of being part of Divine Oneness. Church is a verb. It calls for action. We can go churching as easily as we go shopping, and it so much more fun.

  21. Thank you so much for giving us this forum in which to air our ideas and thoughts on Christian Science and Church! I, too, was raised in C.S., but don't feel a strong pull towards attending a C.S. church right now. I get a sense that C.S. Church Attendance and the C.S. Religion are undergoing a deep-rooted transformation right now, just as is our County, our Economy and our whole Planet. I think there needs to be a lot of airing of peoples' gripes and grievances about things that happened or didn't happen in their C.S. experience (i.e. not receiving the promised Healing, not getting what they should have out of C.S. Class Instruction, being raised in a C.S. Family where the concepts of C.S. were not really lived, etc.). I have been a member of 12-Step Groups for years and have found that the rigorous honesty expressed in those groups is very Healing and Healthy. When people are allowed to REALLY tell the truth about how they feel and about what's REALLY going on with them - things start to change, they open up and blossom and real Healing happens!

  22. It's all about spiritualizing our thoughts about EVERYTHING! We don't make progress by hanging on to matter-based thinking. How can we argue or find fault when all we have to do is HEAL to prove the truth?
    Thanks to the Mother Church for opening up the website to honest discussions and sharing about C.S. in our lives.

  23. Thank You for this web site! Kudos to #13, which I also agree with and would like to add. In the church I had attended for 30 years, I was forced to leave not only as a member, but as a second reader because the church democratically voted on a "version" of the bible. That all other bibles would be removed from any study or consideration in both the church proper and the sunday school. Two weeks after this vote the lesson was using a different "version" in the responsive readings and they re-wrote that part of the lesson. This was a simple exit from the Mother Church lesson sermon. These issues point up how history and politics overthrow what makes a church thrive. I feel those that would be critical of the Mother Church should be given a one year trip to the Mother Church(by their own church) to work and see the folly of being critical of the spiritual opportunities we forgo by being judgmental.
    Spiritual lessons are not confined by the words of one version of the Bible.
    The Church I joined in my community is not critical, it is spiritually active and is giving to its members, community, and blessing all who are in need. Most of all, it is not critical of the Mother Church as some of our Churches have taken liberty.

  24. I have been a student of Christian Science for approximately 40 years. Our membership has dwindled to fewer than ten.

    From time to time, members of our community visit our Church eager for the Word and the healing message of Christian Science but they are soon turned off by the arrogance, and controlling behaviour of some of its members. Yes, I fully endorse the comments made by Bev Newsham (No 17).

    "Who shall be the greatest?" is definitely a huge problem in our Church. It has been a major struggle for me but Class Instruction from a dedicated teacher and yearly Association meetings have kept me going. Sometimes I am the only member of the congregation but it is amazing, I start praying knowing that there are people in our community who are hungering and thirsting for the healing message of the Christ then I am joined sometimes by one or two others.

    I have thought many times of leaving but to go where. I love Christian Science but would like to see its members awake from their slumber and express genuine love and above all - humility.

  25. I, too, have wondered why the churches have seemed to not have the attendance they once had, but over the years, I have watched how Christian Science has leavened the world thought in so many categories. I believe that the CS movement is expanding, not contracting. I have often thought that just because a worker passes on, that worker is still working and praying in Christian Science. There is no death, so each Christian Scientist that does pass to the next experience is still praying for the world and the world thought is leavening with Truth. I believe if we all continue to constantly pray as we are taught in Christian Science, we will see our churches full again. Perhaps sooner than it "looks" on the human scene.

  26. I like Barbara's five questions she considers when cherishing the ideal (alive!) Christian Science church. Recently I substituted as first reader in a new small church that could answer YES YES YES YES YES to those questions. This church epitomises Mrs. Eddy's Manual description of churches as independent, individual and distinctly democratic. Especially the democratic part as the second reader prepared the scriptural selection and 1 John 3, the musicians chose and led the hymns, the administrator provided the necessary notices, the sound and tech crew came early and stayed late, the power point for the solo was lovely and friendly greeters helped everyone feel welcome before, during and after the service.
    This was quite different from the other two churches where I have been first reader. Truly, the services are "filled with inspiration, joy, freshness, vigor, and liveliness" as Barbara says...
    Thanks for opening up this dialog.

  27. Living the love of Christian Science is such an opportunity. Reading most of the statements above, you would have no idea that the denomination is in serious decline in North America. We cannot allow the practice of Christian Science to pass away slowly. That would be sinful. Future generations need and deserve this religion. The honesty expressed in #21 to be exactly what is needed to start the transformation. We need that kind of humility.

  28. Another "take" on the dwindling Church Attendance issue: I'm sure all C.Sers know that Mrs. Eddy never intended to turn her discovery of C.S. into a religion or a church. She wanted it to be a Science for all people - of all religions. Apparently she felt she needed to protect this discovery within the context of an organization for a while, so it could grow and be proved. But she does mention several times in Prose Works that the church organization would not last forever, nor should it. I think she said that someday, the church organization would fall away, but the Truth would still be lived and known. Maybe this is that time? Maybe the material organization of The Church has become too prominent and needs to fall away so that the real substance of the Teachings can be seen and demonstrated again. As other commenters have noted, with arrogance and lack of humility and honesty and Love, the Church has lost some of its tremendous healing power that gave it such credence in the world. Maybe there is a lesson in this for all of us - the Mother Church, Board of Directors, etc. included. Maybe the Church has turned too much into a "business" and has lost some of its spirituality - taken over by too much materialism - just like our current world has.....???

    Any Comments???

  29. Clearly, the depth of this dialogue -- the years of prayer and experience behind each posting is palpable -- answers the question.

    The mere fact of this discussion gives me hope.

    I think the fundamental challenge is figuring out how to keep the vast substance of Science in clear view while allowing the 19th century forms of music, architecture, conventions of speech, etc. to flex. (This forum is a good example of that.) I think, in this era, Truth is done coming from a single church or individual. It is demanding to be understood as a shared property -- a spiritual gift we all receive from the Father.

    What I find missing are clinical discussions of the practice. For example, I yearn to speak with others and discuss the details of mental practice -- what works for each of us and what doesn't. I yearn for discussions where healings are not discussed as magical touchstones, but in specific, practical terms. I have friends who use what they've learned in CS in very specific ways in their business and therapeutic practices. This feels like the most alive part of the church.

    I really look forward to this unfolding discussion. Thanks to all who have created the forum and are participating verbally and mentally.

  30. I have read the comments submitted with great interest. I was raised in Christian Science and for a number of years was a member of a branch church. While living in Chicago I became very turned off by the rigidity and stiffness of much of what I found in the CS church. I will never forget one Easter Sunday (about 1990)when I asked, after the service, why there was such a noticeable absence of any Easter flowers (Easter lillies, etc.) on the platform. Someone standing nearby said that as long as I attended that church, the only flowers I would see would have to be in my own thinking. I was absolutely floored by this response. Even though it was a relatively minor incident, it symbolized to me the rigid attitudes in that church. It was the last time I attended service there. Shortly afterwards, I began attending the local Episcopal church, where I found a completely different atmosphere. The services were beautiful, lively and energetic. I have always been amazed that a Church (CS) which teaches the infinity of all things should be so limited in its outlook. I have noticed in the Manual that the word "present" is used to describe the order of the Sunday services. This implies that at some future time changes might occur. Yet to even suggest any kind of change evokes a chorus of criticism. No wonder that so many Christian Science churches have closed or are on the verge of closing. In an article in the November, 2010 CS Journal, the Mother Church Treasurer comments that this decline has been in progress for eight decades! I was completely taken aback by this statement, since I had thought that the CS church was growing until the 1950's. Despite all of the obviously good thoughts expressed by the previous commentators, I do not see a promising future for the Christian Science church unless there are some very significant and real changes.

  31. In response to a couple of themes in this string of comments - just some thoughts...

    Regarding CS churches/services that are cold, austere, old-fashioned, rigid, stuck in the past, etc. I've seen that attitude too, and if it were all I had ever seen of our churches, it would probably turn me off as well. But it has nothing to do with the spirit of Christian Science itself, and all I can say is, trust me: THEY'RE NOT ALL LIKE THAT.

    Regarding the argument that Mrs Eddy never intended to found a church or religion, or at least not one that would last very long as a human institution. From her writings as a whole and the biographies (especially Robert Peel), it's obvious that this was her initial approach. But as soon as it became clear to her that Christian Science simply could not survive in the world without a church organisation for its basis, she poured everything into developing that organisation into a form that could preserve and uphold the purity of her revelation without stifling its vitality and healing power.

    Just think for a moment. If it wasn't for the organisation of Church - The Mother Church and its branches - we wouldn't have Mary Baker Eddy's writings and teachings, the correct theology and practice of Christian Science, provided accurately and reliably. We wouldn't have any system for training and authorising practitioners and teachers of this Science of Christ-healing that the world needs so much. We wouldn't have representatives to stand up for accurate presentation of Christian Science in the media and legal provisions for us to practice spiritual healing as a legitimate form of healthcare. We wouldn't have the Bible Lessons to draw on for inspiration and guidance each week. We'd have no sure way of connecting with others who share this commitment to a Cause that's so much bigger than one's own personal concerns; no way of gathering together to give gratitude to God and encourage each other. We wouldn't even have this website to give us a forum to share our ideas and concerns about Church!!

    Remember, Mrs Eddy gives a two-part definition of Church in S&H (p. 583): the eternal, spiritual "structure of Truth and Love", and its human expression as "that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race...". As long as humanity is in need of elevation - as long as we are still dealing with the false sense of life as material and mortal (which, last I looked, I certainly still was) - we are still indispensably in need of "that institution". We just need to make sure we're living it in fresh and inspired ways. And that really is happening! :-)

  32. Change is key. The answer lies in the Church Manual p.131 under Deed of Trust, "...ordinary and usual uses of a church." What could be more ordinary than a wedding, memorial service, sharing our church with the community,etc. Keeping church alive involves looking outward, not inward - we've done inward and it doesn't work.
    Also could we please STOP using the term 'Leader' in public/this forum as it so cultish! I do know that MBE is the discoverer, founder and leader of CS, but using 'Leader' in public says we're a cult and not a church.
    I have been a branch church member since age 16 and am now a grandmother. I do believe that all mankind is seeking the Truth about God and man and that CS provides the answers no matter how big or small mankind's difficulties. Our church is here to have a place for mankind and ourselves to worship, have healings, and provide FELLOWSHIP - loving our neighbors as ourselves!
    Change is key!

  33. Hi Everyone,

    I don't know where to post this comment.

    Anyway,

    The recent meeting I went to and attend the meeting, someone asked me are you the member of this branch church? The question seem strange to me because they were like we never saw you in this church why you are here?

    One of the service on sunday the reader reads "Well come to the member of the ----- church". Instead he can begin with the service "Welcome All".

  34. I would just like to comment on Dawn's post. The reference to the Deed of Trust, p.131 in the Manual, where it speaks of the "ordinary and usual" uses of a church. For many years, it was taken as gospel that the only activities that could take place in a Christian Science Church were the church services and lectures. Fortunately, in recent years, there seems to be a movement towards liberalizing the approach to activities held in the church. In several CS churches (First Berkley, CA; First Louisville, KY; and Second Phoenix, AZ) it is advertised that weddings may be held in the branch church. Also, I know of several CS churches which have had memorial services for one of their members. One such church is my sister's church here in New Jersey. Finally, a number of churches have had refreshments after the Sunday service. I know that the CS Society in San Juan Capistrano has done this for quite a while. I attended a Sunday service here in Riverton, NJ several years ago which had a social hour following the service. All of these activities tend to make the CS church seem warmer and more fiendly both to the membership and particularly to the newcomer.

  35. Yes Bev, I have sometimes thought that the Church organisation seems to see itself as a business.

    One thing that has bugged me is the way that the Bible Lesson seems to have gone. It was always a bit of a pain to mark out the lesson into the text books every Sunday night.... and we are told that we should not read from manuscripts. However the full text Quarterly came into existence, and this was a wonderful thing for those who didn't mind paying for it (In NZ it seemed quite expensive for a young family man... considering the exchange rate and everything...along with having a spouse that was not a student of CS).

    I used to use Concord to print Lessons in advance. I used to share these with friends to save them time (or who may have had difficulties in marking the lessons). But I stopped this when I heard that it could be considered a breach of copyright. (I doubt that Mrs Eddy would have made a fuss, but still we are meant to be law-abiding).

    I also used another program to create the lessons (Zwick was it?). This program allegedly used an edition of Science and Health that wasn't copyrighted. That seemed to work really well for a while.... but then I just couldn't get it to work on my computer.

    The Church have produced on-line versions of the Lesson. But dangnabit they cost a lot to subscribe to!!

    I know that we should all be able to 'demonstrate supply' so that we'd have heaps of financial abundance to pay for a lesson subscription (and yes, I have demonstrated abundance). But isn't the lesson for the whole world? Aren't there people that might benefit from it who never see it? I reckon it should be available free on line.... or for a nominal cost. Isn't the church about spreading the world and helping our neighbours?

    I think that once my Dad queried the Mother Church about the high cost of the Quarterlies/lessons and he was told that these were a significant source of income for the church. Hmmmm.

    So the experienced and spiritually advanced church organisation could demonstrate supply in other ways in order to give more economical access to the Weekly Bible Lessons. That is what I'd do if I ruled the world. Maybe I'm naive.

    I am a grandfather now. I attended CS Sunday School as a child, and I 'did' my lesson every day (with few exceptions) from when I was a teenager right up until maybe two years ago.

    You know, when I stopped reading the lesson regularly nothing bad happened. I still hunger for spiritual input and growth, but there are many sources to get this from.... including the writings of MB Eddy. I'd still like to see the lesson available for a good price (or free) on line. God gave us the brains and inspiration to develop the internet and now widespread, quick communication is possible. Isn't this a wonderful way to spread the word, and isn't our lesson ideal for this?

    We are never, ever separated from God. People who have never been in a Christian Science church have God as close to them as anyone else. I think one of the best things we can do is to think for ourselves and to question everything... especially dearly-held concepts and beliefs. This gives a real feeling of freedom.

    Love from New Zealand.... Coote.

  36. I am so glad that we have this forum to be able to share our thoughts about Church -- and it's so great that people are actively posting their true feelings about it.

    I remember a professor in college who spoke about that popular saying "Seeing is believing" -- she said about this popular saying that actually it's just the opposite -- "believing is seeing", and we see just exactly what we believe is going on. Although this was a marketing class and she was talking about shaping public opinion when marketing a product for sale, I think the same logic applies to church.

    So how do we believe our Christian Science churches function and operate and therefore, what do we see? Does a Church, or, as a previous poster wrote, that 'Structure of Truth and Love' have the ability to do anything but express Truth and Love? What if it appears that a church expresses other qualities not derived from God?

    I know it can look that way, especially when we want to help our church and have a great way do it but it doesn’t gain traction with other committees at church. Or when we attend a service and don't have a good time.

    But like any other problem that needs healing, whether it be an awful skin rash or a problem at church, seeing beyond the problem and looking to those qualities of Truth and Love which we all express -- seeing the divine identity not only about our fellow church-members but also about ourselves, brings healing to any situation, anywhere.

    For me, that's Church Alive -- seeing Church as only that structure of Truth and Love; if it isn't filled with Truth and Love, it doesn't qualify as Church because the definition of Church is that which exemplifies Truth and Love.

    And for the many people who have decided that their best place is somewhere other than the church property -- we can know with authority that those perfect children of God are getting, through those angel messages that we all constantly receive, all of the support that they need, and in the way that they can understand it (same for us!); whether or not they attend church services.

  37. My question to each one of you is this. Why do you go to church? To give? Or to get? I've surprised many people with this question. Often we’re looking for healing inspiration ourselves. It’s what we bring to each service that brings healing to that experience, for others as well as ourselves.

    I have just read all the comments negative and positive and have also witnessed many good as well as negative things in different churches. The seeming combination of good and evil is the illusion of a false reality trying to mask / hide the true spirituality, the good that is present right now.

    If each of us comes to church (whether we are physically present or not) prepared to humbly give with open hearts armed with inspiration, our uplifted thought, our joy, our love will flow into each service, each Sunday School class, each Reading Room, each activity. This is the true growth of Christian Science. This is what we can see filling our churches right now. Just as keeping our thought filled with the allness of God, good, heals us, the same joyously receptive and open thought brings healing and blessing to each church activity.

    Each of us in our own unique way has so much to give. When thinking about, praying about, or attending church, each person can epitomize the welcoming, unconditional, non-judgmental love of Christ. Through joyful, inspired study and unselfish, caring thoughts, the healing presence of the Christ is felt by all. Peace, love, healing will be experienced by more and more attendees. There is no emptiness, no lack. Our churches are full – full of the ever presence of divine Love right now. We can consistently rejoice in this truth. This light shining from one heart naturally permeates many hearts. We can know it is filling and flooding our services every moment. This is the Truth that heals.

  38. What a wonderful response Daniel. Good food for thought.

  39. Dear Friends: Thank you for sharing with all of us your innermost thoughts and comments. This is a wonderful venue in which to exchange, encourage, inspire.

    The early CS workers were "on fire" about Christian Science, and healing was their number one priority. Over the years the spirit of love has become diluted and as a whole we have become bogged down in dogma, formality, tradition, complaint and criticism. Enough!! I applaud the Mother Church/Board of Directors for working towards lifting us up out of that and back to the business of healing.

    I do take issue with the comment made by Stephen (#13) in reference to Mrs. Eddy's "apparent deep concern over animal magnetism". Rightly so. I am totally convinced that we must deal with animal magnetism if we are going to get back to basics...ie a growing, vibrant, healing church. It is the serpent, the anti-Christ, that would keep us from attending church (Sunday AND/OR Wednesday)or keep us from joining church (and once members, would keep us from serving/participating). It would keep us focused on the letter and not the spirit, from taking class instruction, from writing for the periodicals, from Journal-listing as a Practitioner, from giving testimonies on Weds (even if it's just to stand and say "I'm grateful, period"). It would trick us into thinking, especially when healings are delayed, that "Christian Science does not heal", "I am not spiritual enough". It would allow us to be disillusioned with church and withdraw membership or leave altogether. The chief goal of the serpent, animal magnetism, is to keep us from anything to do with spiritual growth and healing.

    I look forward, with enthusiasm, to our movement taking an "about face" and, like the early workers, being "on fire" about Christian Science once again.

  40. I am grateful that we have been able to publish our innermost thoughts here. And maybe a little surprised that some were allowed to be published !! Thanks. It feels good to have shared what I've been thinking for a very long time. I'm thinking that I should go and pay my overdue per capita tax.

    Church can be absolutely wonderful, and it can be a significant factor in spiritual growth. I am indebted to Mrs Eddy and my church upbringing.

    I believe, however, that (for want of a better analogy) that folks who have never been to church can still get to heaven. Surely they did back in old testament times, and surely anybody can now. Jesus, as far as I know, didn't buy real estate, establish a music committee or set up an usher's roster (although maybe there are old documents yet to be discovered that will prove me wrong).

    Jesus healed, lectured, and radiated love. He lived the theory. Others have lived fairly similar lives, including Mrs Eddy.

    I went to Sunday School because I had to. That is what my parents expected and that is what I thought was normal for me. My teachers were generally lovely folk. I don't remember many details. I do recall using my 'collection money' coin to scratch the initials of a girl I admired into the varnish on the leg of the Sunday School table. I also seem to remember that one teacher seemed to champion the idea of unconsummated marriages. I think he even implied that a married Mother Church 1st reader that he knew had such a marriage.

    Once I had a conversation with a young man whose SS teacher had evidently given him the idea that you only had sex if you wanted a child. Perhaps that teacher was correct, but I would think that particular philosophy helped to sow the seeds of guilt in a few young minds. Of course not all teachers would have promoted the same view, although I suspect this teacher was not alone in her views. I imagine most stayed silent on this topic despite the fact that many teenagers would have devoted considerable thought to the matter.

    I think it is best to seek one's own counsel on such things. Go with the gut feeling. Be loving, and make choices that are for the highest good of all involved.

    It seems we are here to test and prove what we believe. To glorify God if you like. We can do this through church, or anywhere we feel drawn to. My family had a holiday home on a relatively remote island where we would sometimes spend a weekend, including Sunday. I remember one church member stating strongly words to the effect that such places kept people from their right place like church and sunday school. Actually, that particular holiday place has been the source of many blessings and 'demonstrations'. One of my most quoted experiences involved traveling to this island in extremely stormy weather. The journey included a trip on an exposed, mountainous unsealed road - then half an hour or more in a small boat. On the way we encountered a vehicle that had been blown over on its side. Anyway, to cut a long story short I prayed, felt safe, and proceeded without incident. My father also had some great experiences, and I think one or two of these may have been published in The Christian Science Sentinel.

    I think the greatest thing we can do for ourselves, our families and the world is to live an abundant, happy life where we are applying what we know to our daily existence. We can do this in church, the workplace, in prison, or on another planet. An admired or appreciated life example is, in my view, much more influential than a sermon delivered by rote.

    We should follow our own internal guidance as to how we should live our lives.

    As hinted at by others, it may not be helpful to have an 'us and them' view on life. In church and out of church, for instance. Church-goers and the less fortunate (or less enlightened). Right and wrong maybe.

    An attractive church is one that brings to light wonder, love, healing and abundance. One we are drawn to more from love than from fear (obligation, superstition, the thought that we must sacrifice etc).

    All is well. We can all head in the right direction wherever we are.

  41. It may sound strange, but I thought the other day that church - as the waking-up of dormant understanding - is really the AHA that happens in physics research, in any field of research ... everywhere, you name it.
    I can still go to a certain place where some people read in a certain book but what they read, this CS is so much bigger, like people here wrote before. This law of Life, expressing itself, and the result of this living-itself is man which is the catholic neighbour, too and the so called sinner who I might call an inkognito CScientist.... So that One Being is the only thing that is going on.
    As everybody continues to individually, freely digg really deep into MBE's logic and makes it his/her own ... things are going to change and hopefully we can stop asking ourselves how to convert our sinful neighbor. This is not what we are, this is not what he is. But if we continue to just take one word or sentence of MBE's writings and then keep mixing it with opinions, traditions, with the conviction that we are a 2-legged being, repeating sentences without thinking,
    boy, how can that confusion bring healing? We keep talking about God and man as 2 different things. We are afraid of evil. We start with man, we start with the problem, we start with animal magnetism. Why not for a change stick to the "God is All in All mathematical basis" and not go away from that in our (so called - yes, you are right,there is a slight logical error in there ...I think) in our own independent, free, logical thinking?
    You know, we live in an age where everybody realizes the Science of Life. In an esoteric bookstore, or wherever. We should not be surprised or threatened by that. Does this Law belong to a church or to us? That would make it very small...

  42. A long-time TMC member, I recently applied for membership at a church that had voted not to read other translations than the King James translation and not to use, buy, or sell the new hymnal supplement. It was obvious at the interview that my views on the translation issue were really the only significant issue, and my application was rejected. I remain incredulous. The most far-reaching, significant, and healing school of thought and action ever discovered reduced to a petty, backward-looking Pharisaism! I hope all churches out there are examining their membership qualifications. Is there really anything needed more than a sincere desire to grow and give in the Spirit?

  43. Recently I attended two different branches that had pasted into the church Quarterlies printouts off the Web of King James versions of the Golden Text and Responsive Reading. This is fundamentalism fiddling with our thinking. However, in both cases there was much kindliness expressed, and testimonies were given that showed Christian Science was being actively used and appreciated.

    Somehow I am reminded of Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Present, with the pitiful children Ignorance and Want hiding under its skirts. We have too much to DO to bog ourselves down with over-concern about our fellow CS practitioners' foibles. So often, a person I have judged to have a shortcoming was actually in the process of conquering some tenacious error.

  44. For me to hear too: these are concerns, yes. But, everyone of them is nothing more than a personal story. What is not touched by any of these stories? Here is freedom.
    Two commandments: One God/Love and love.
    Our focus and behavior is what is blessed and what blesses.
    Curtain color, translations, marking books, the other person/persons...stories, weather passing. "Where art thou Adam?". "Who told you you were naked?"
    The healing I have witnessed had been about surrendering the personal. Then the infinitly specific rocks your world ;<}
    CS, the real deal is not a hum concept. When it poses as such there is no healing. No therory, Real Science and vast...not small as in tradition.
    Bless us all even ad we are blessed.
    Think infinite folks and listen.
    Oh, and tenderness is welcome too ;<}
    all are welcome.
    Love,
    k
    keep talkin'. It's good to be genuine. 100%

  45. Thank you all for your honest and deeply caring words and thank you once again to TMC for providing an avenue and forum for discussion about Church.

    I'm so grateful for the on-line presence of The Christian Science Church. In more than 35 years as a member, I've never seen our Church so alive or had so much hope for it. The Mother Church and its branches used to seem so immoveably stuck and trapped by human traditions, as well as by a well-hidden hatred of the spiritual idea and it is an absolute God-given miracle to have been able to witness the changes which have come over this Church in the last couple of decades. There is plentiful evidence of this Church being moved by the power of Spirit, by God. People feel freer to express themselves and to share their deepest inspirations and this itself is a healing taking place.

    The only thing that is dead, dying, or declining is that which never belonged to Church in the first place. This change or "chemicalization" going on in our Church, though it can seem painful, is actually a hopeful and healing process where Truth is casting out error.

    I'm not part of a nearby bricks and mortar church right now, but I have hope and faith that someday I will be part of one again. Meanwhile, I'm grateful for the online services, SS, forums, articles, blogs, as well as the periodicals, that are available to us. And I'm glad for the time that I have to work on deepening spiritual understanding, learning to be more sensitive to what God thinks and to continue losing my sensitivity to what the world thinks.

    If I'm ever a member of a local branch church again I want it to be a Church that is absolutely irresistible because of the power of the Christ and its undeniable healing effects which are felt and experienced there. What other reason is there for a Christian Science Church to exist, than this one?

  46. To Incredulous: I have a friend who was a Methodist before becoming a CS and she says the Methodist membership requirements are that you walk through the door, are willing to work and have, as you put it, "a sincere desire to grow and give in the Spirit." It's encouraging to me as I talk with hundreds of CS across the country to find that many churches are re-doing their membership process and even taking off the antiquated "sin lists" which started about 1940 and grew so large around the 1960's.
    I came home from my first membership interview in tears in 1974 convinced that I would not be accepted because the elderly members who interviewed me (just two years out of Sunday School) didn't seem to think any of my answers were good enough. But, they ended up accepting me anyway and I became SS Supt., Treasurer and the lecture committee for that downtown branch of the vine, which is now closed.
    There are plenty of churches which would love you as a member, so please don't give up. Mrs. Eddy never joined TMC or a branch, but had she wanted to join a King James Only church she might not have been accepted since she calls Dr. Noyes' Bible an "excellent translation" in S&H, so you are in good company!

  47. The branch church in Tempe Arizona is very much alive. We have a healthy sized membership, full and active Sunday School, babies in child care, and new faces at every service. What draws and keeps people here is the loving, open friendliness of the members and their dedication to continue to learn to be better healers. We all stay alert to visitors and make a point of greeting all that come through our doors. The one repeated comment from returnees, new or not new to CS is, "We can feel the love here." Away from church, we are truly a family that helps and supports each other and many of us take time to just have fun together. Our members take time to study and pray and then they live what they've learned, in a beautiful way. When a rare problem or conflict arises, it is met quickly with collective prayer. We're not perfect, but we are better than we used to be in loving, forgiving, and being patient with each other. I thank God every day for bringing me to this wonderful garden to grow in.

  48. I am truly astonished by what is being uncovered that would try to hide from us the wonderful spiritual reality that Christian Science offers to us. "The open fount is free to all: God's promises are kept".

    I was so grateful to have found the revelations of C.S. some years ago now, and I knew then that it was the absolute Truth that I was seeking.
    I realised, as I still do, that it is so infinite that the seeking goes on and on, and involves study of the Word and its spiritual interpretation - which we find through studying S & H and the Lesson Sermons etc. - and demonstrating what is being revealed to us. This proves it to be true and gives us strength and courage to go forward.
    It involves examining our own thoughts and actions and giving up anything that is unlike what Christ teaches us, and in particular, keeping the First Commandment continually. I have found that I need to make sure I am identifying myself and everyone else as God's own image, having the one Mind which was in Christ Jesus. This takes a lot of self-discipline and constant work. Who said it was easy? But trying to emulate the humility and simplicity of the Christ is desirable.

    For me, Church is invaluable. By seeing every office in the church as a spiritual post, and endeavouring to do it joyfully, faithfully, and intelligently by letting God guide me, has done wonders for me. I have been able to do things I never thought I could do, when I was willing to give it a go. I have found the church members to be loving, helpful and supportive. I have discovered wonderful qualities in every member, and this enables us to work together. There are obviously moments where everyone does not agree, but we use the tools of Christian Science to enable us to go forward together harmoniously.

    We love to welcome newcomers into our church, and we rejoice in every one, knowing that God has led them to be there.

    It seems to me that if we are seeing rigidity, staleness, any kind of difficult person that doesn't measure up to our idea of church etc....., we are seeing falsely. We are all individual expressions of the one Mind,God, and so we must look to God to know what He is knowing and doing. "The spiritual reality is the scientific fact in all things."
    Animal magnetism is a strong and subtle thing, but has no power over our living church - it is only suggestion.

    When we see a problem in our churches it seems to me that it has come up to be healed, whatever its claims are, and that is what C.S. is all about. I feel that we must begin with our own thoughts and blend them with God's. It may take some while before we see the result, or it may not, but the answer is not to walk away, but to continue loving and caring about our spiritual structure of Church and all its members. God's thoughts are new and fresh every moment, so we can be sure the new and true way will open up to us and keep us abreast of the times in a way we can all recognise and embrace.

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