Week 3: "How can a church navigate the different views between the more casual members and the more formal members?" 

Question: How can a church navigate the different views between the more casual members and the more formal members?  The more casual people seem to think that the old ways are too stiff and rigid, while the more formal members think the casual people are not respectful of the meaning of church.

Response 1: Judy Wolff

Navigating a church through the waters of conflicting viewpoints can be a rollicking, but ultimately, unifying adventure. Part of the adventure may be discovering what draws us to church. What really attracts people—whether attendees are old or young, liberal or conservative, casual or formal—is Christian Science. "The two largest words in the vocabulary of thought…" as Mary Baker Eddy described them in No and Yes (p. 10). So large are these words that they include everyone and accommodate a rich variety of expression.

"Christian" reminds us of the love of Christ that is so vast it overpowers opinions, divisions, and even people. It’s divine Love experienced here and now— a love that cherishes fellow members regardless of whether they have a more laid back or a more formal sense of church. It's the Christ that gives us both our individuality and our unity.

Then there's the "Science," or laws of God, which operate equally for all members whether they wear jeans or a suit to church, enjoy contemporary or traditional hymns, or study from the King James Version or more modern translations of the Bible. The healing practice of Christian Science is what unites us all on a deeper level, as I personally experienced.

For a few years, another practitioner and I were in different camps at our church—one more progressive and one more traditional. Our church was fractured. Our prayers were answered with a surprising resolution. Someone collapsed at a service and both of us went to aid him. The other practitioner's pure metaphysical treatment was instrumental in the healing that followed, and I told her how much I appreciated it. We began talking with each other about church issues with a renewed mutual respect for each other’s healing practice. Soon we became friends and jointly embraced the whole church, not just those who shared our outlooks.

Our willingness to appreciate the metaphysical depth behind each other’s views helped unify our church—a church alive to all of its members. We found the word “and” enriched our church experience. Jeans and suits. Change and stability.

"Church unity" is not the same thing as "church conformity." Our collective church identity includes the individuality of each member like a song includes every individual note. A relaxed, informal approach and a more proper, formal approach can and should balance and bless each other, and strengthen the church.

Response 2: Mark Swinney

Not only in churches but in most human organizations, some of a group’s toughest tasks can be setting policies and agreeing on organizational directions.  As you may have seen or experienced, the process may get emotionally-charged and result in some hurt feelings.

 
Many factors may contribute to this, but much of the trouble lies in a personal sense of what’s happened, what’s happening, or what could happen.  Discussions, instead of being objective, shift toward becoming personal.  Instead of an idea being examined and judged simply on the grounds of what it is, the person who presented it may take possession of and personally identify with the idea, and when it’s shot down or altered, feathers begin to ruffle.  Or, the other way around, a person might hear of some new proposition, and because it’s seen as a personal threat to the church organization, he or she may want to either fight, or just quit being a member.
 
Personal sense of this sort often establishes “sides” and divisions that go deep.  Ultimately, people with whom you actually have a whole world in common become the very ones you mistrust and even write-off for good!  Once that starts happening, the organization is effectively handcuffed and can’t accomplish much. Personal sense is every organization’s enemy. 
 
The best approach I have found toward healing divisions and honoring unity is to stop identifying a threat as a person.  Jesus made a significant point in his Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (see Matthew 5:22).
 
Raca means empty-headed idiot. Constantly to view someone in those terms brings its own hell. Instead, to look at your fellow church member through God’s eyes, so to speak, brings healing, constructive prayer. God-given potential is present in us all, and it’s up to each of us to acknowledge it in each other, and even be grateful for it.  That’s church in action.  I love where Mary Baker Eddy explained, “Spiritual perception brings out the possibilities of being, destroys reliance on aught but God, and so makes man the image of his Maker in deed and in truth” (Science and Health, p. 203)
 
And that’s what we’re really interested in doing—relying on nothing but God to guide our church organizations.  Emotional, personal sense is not God, and therefore it can’t provide trustworthy guidance.  The one Ego, divine Mind, always can.  If organizational decisions have been made that seem either constrictive or destructive—if an organization seems just frozen in place or going in directions that’s causing it to lose its original purpose and identity—take heart, and be a witness to God’s gentle, timely correction and guidance.  It always comes.  Jesus witnessed it, Mrs. Eddy witnessed it, and—joyfully—we can be witnesses to it, too.

  1. In my eyes, what would bring about wonders, would be if every member or visitor of that church would work for a weekend in a facility, whether it would be a medical hospital, a home for mentally or physically handicapped people or a CS nursing home. After that weekend, everyone's views would still be individual, maybe even unchanged, who knows? Only them, in their hearts would know. But my guess is that those points of - who are we and who are the others - who is mentally ok and who is not - who is right and who is wrong - who knows the truth and who needs me or a certain God to tell him ... all of this would sound very different. Everybody would have done practical work. And together with compassion - I mean that practical way of giving someone a tissue when they cry - and with free, independent, logical thinking, their concept of how big one church is and how little another one, or what church is and what CS is would have changed. The mutual meetings with neighbours or members then might be different and more fun, more relaxed, more .. whatever they would want them to be.
    But there is no order that any member or non-member would ever be required to do that, so .... I guess it will not happen or in a totally different way than the above little painting of a story. - This story came to my mind because of my friends here who lived in a part of a country where CS was banned for 40 years and where they were prosecuted and needed to survive.
    Another bit I'd like to share is what a friend just remembered from her teacher in class. That teacher noticed that the text or treatments for an illness where so different from those about a church problem. The latter ones were somehow weak and weird and mixed-up. So instead of asking each other - Is your living room empty as well? Does your belly still hurt? - anyone who's interested might just start to use their knowledge like they always do when their child is crying.

  2. Two brilliant, uplifting, healing responses to this question. Thank you, Judy and Mark! :)

  3. Most grateful to The Mother Church for raising and addressing this! Relevant to the discussion - "Science of Mind-healing" from "No and Yes", p 7-13, by Mary Baker Eddy.

  4. There was also a wonderful Journal article a few years ago (called something like "Letter to a Friend") that spoke beautifully about freeing our thoughts of each other from labels like "forward-thinking", "conservative", "liberal", "traditional" etc.... I might see if I can find it and send it in to the Favourite Articles section of this site.

  5. For me navigation begins with finding a way to quit judging. Totally. Cold turkey. Replacing a critical thought ASAP with appreciation of that person's spiritual goodness -- and there is always something good to be found! -- makes the choice to not judge.

    It's important to be consistent. Whenever something negative about a member comes to thought, replace it with something you know from the depths of your being to be good and true about them. As this becomes habit, respect rather than self-will or frustration, defines the relationship.

    Disagreements are never really about issues. As I see it, this is real love, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in action. You could say it is healing our sense of church, one relationship at a time.

  6. This article might be Healing controversy through a deeper understanding of God’s Government by Patricia Tupper Hyatt from the November, 1993 Journal which begins “Dear Church Friend.” I will send it to the “Favorite Article” section.

  7. Many years ago, after a number of years of not being an active member of a Christian Science Church because of the coldness and exclusiveness of the members, I visited the First Church of Christ Scientist, Newport Beach, California. Although located in an upscale neighborhood, they had a very loving and inclusive membership that welcomed everyone, including the passerby that sppeared to be homeless. I was not only welcomed at church, but included in outstide activities of the members - a first after being an active member of several Christian Science churches, but excluded from the social gatherings. It is so important to love and value each member and guest, regardless of outward appearances, and this is what my current church does.

  8. I think Mark's comments can be summarized by MB Eddy's statement: "The nature of the individual, more stubborn than the circustance, will always be found arguing for itself,-its habits, tastes and indulgences. This material nature strives to tip the beam against the spritual nature, for the flesh strives against Spirit, -against whatever or whoever opposes evil,-and weighs mightily in the scale against man's high destiny."

  9. If there are very different attitudes as to what church should be, why not just "grow" two churches within a community? This gives those looking for a church home a choice. It's not a criticism or judgment of either. It's like a marriage - sometimes two wonderful people just aren't a "fit." Sometimes two wonderful groups of Christian Scientists just aren't a fit for eachother. Two churches in a community can provide an opportunity for two radically different viewpoints to find a happy church in which to flourish.

  10. I realize tht what follows will shock some but it is sincerely aimed at moving thought, and not intended to create anger.
    On one hand you have the wonder and majesty of Christian Science, but once people get interested in Science, they discover that the freedom Scientists talk about is freedom to think only along the strict rules and regulations establihed by Mrs Eddy over 100 years ago:rules that are not to be commented, explained, only obeyed. The line is very thin and at times impossible to discern between the sacralisation of the writings and the deification of the writer. This is a real challenge facing the Church today, and personally I know several who stay away from church for just that reason, to wit, the cult surrounding the person of Mrs Eddy, for example the requirement that "Leader "be written with a capital "L". science claims to have no credo , but the constant reference to the Manual's dogma has gradually morphed into one.

  11. I'd like to hear more from "curious observer" because I think it's important to understand various objections. In particular this feeling of loss of freedom. My feeling is that this discovery called Christ. Science had to be uncovered, revealed and codified by someone. We don't worship a discoverer but we respect their discovery. Eddy herself says follow me only as far as I follow the Christ idea/ideal or Truth. She knew that God was the only creator or originator and therefore all Truth is uncontaminated and unfettered by human hypothesis (an unproved theory, as all human theories are). Therefore, I see no cult because she espoused no individual worship, especially of her. This would be anathema to her teachings. If it is a science it must follow absolute rules or laws. There cannot be deviation. We cannot say red is blue. If one feels a loss of freedom from exercising this science is this nothing more than self will and self justification raising it's ugly head on our part? If one doesn't believe in this Science that one's perogative, but one must come gently into it. This science has been proven satisfactorily to me. Jesus was followed because his healings proved his science. If he didn't prove what he said he would simply be another philosopher like plato. Jesus gave us the principle of this Science in a very general way, but Eddy gave us the rules and proved them and hence our great respect and gratitude for this. The age of a law or rule is irrelevant. Isn't a true law cemented in eternity? A truth is always present it merely has to be revealed or discovered. There is no question that this truth, CS, can seem very transcendental, abstract and counterintuitive, but those that follow it see it's science. Great thinkers like Einstein called Eddy's Scientific Statement of Being "the most profound statement ever uttered by mankind". We have to study a science. There is Divine logic behind all science. The answers are there.

  12. I am very grateful for the Church Alive program and for the weekly questions! This week's question is particularly meaningful to me.
    The above two responses to this week's question appear to reflect this statement by Mrs. Eddy in Science & Health on p.144, "Ignorance, pride, or prejudice closes the door to whatever is not stereotyped." The marginal heading is "Conservative antagonism." I used to look at this paragraph as a comparison of Christian Science to other denominations, but I now see that it can also encompass the differences within the CS denomination, too.
    The "infinite manifestation" of God, Mind, cannot be stereotyped.

  13. To Curious Observer,

    I couldn't agree with you more. One of the major problems, as I see it, is that the Christian Science Church remains stuck back in the late 19th century. No matter what kind of a modern face the Church leaders try to put on it, the adherence to the rigid rules of the past (and even the worn out traditions)works against any significant breakthrough into the twentyfirst century. Take, for example, the format of the Sunday and Wednesday service. Can any less effective method be found than trying to reach a congregation than through reading to them? I don't care how good the reading is. It is still just reading. Can it be surprising that most Christian Science churches are practically empty.

  14. To Curious Observer and Brad - If you have new & better ideas, why not go ahead and try something new? Get together with some like-minded people, and start an informal group. Where the rubber meets the road, you might find some of your ideas terrific, and some don't work so well - that happened when Mary Baker Eddy was establishing the Church - and you go forward from there. Give it a go! See what you can do.

  15. I once again apologize if I talk like a heretic, such is not my intent.
    It's not about the theology. It's about the danger of the theology being choked out by the thicket of rules and by-laws. I know of a church in the west where some members were indignant because, one Sunday, in violation of the Manual prescription, instead of a solo, there was a duet! There are committee meetings where precious time is wasted on haggling over voting procedures! Is this the message? In order to be a loyal Christian Scientist, must one stand at attention before all the rules? Jesus didn't build churches, and his only manual was the 10 Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount,and the Golden Rule.
    One last remark: membership has been in decline for eight decades (see the Nov. Journal). Shouldn't this be a wake-up call for change? It isn't enough to spiff up the hymnal. I think a major reason is the stifling corset of rules. And it's because I treasure the message of Christian Science that I wish those rules and regulations would up-date.

  16. All the thoughts expressed above are provoking but doesn't it ultimately come down to expressing more love in church and everywhere, for that matter. If we reach out to all in genuine love and drop all sense of personality and discuss the issues of church objectively and open mindedly with genuine consideration and respect for all I think we would find harmony and consequently solutions leading to a "church alive".

  17. My drift is simply that as long as we are straightjacketed by the rules set up over 100 years ago, we're heading for a brick wall, honking all the way.
    Thank goodness Love existed before codification; we need no regulations to tell us how to express love; and the ultimate issue IS love, isn't it?
    Enough said.

  18. I'm wondering which "rules set up over 100 years ago" a previous commenter is referring to. If you read the Manual of The Mother Church, it's actually surprisingly simple and sparse. There could have been reams and reams of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots", but there aren't. Just the very basics needed to set up and run a church that works. Nothing at all there that could keep us from expressing love, or limit our ways of doing so! One insight I've gained about the Manual is that it's a framework to hold us up - not a cage to hold us in.

    I guess we have a choice here. We could continue to accept the picture that our churches are split between those who think we're going to pot because we AREN'T sticking to "the rules", and those who think we're going to pot because we ARE sticking to "the rules". Or we could say: no. Church is not a bunch of mortal personalities with ever-conflicting agendas and outlooks and opinions. Church is the structure, the unshakable manifestation, of Truth and Love - Truth AND Love! - in every single one of us... regardless of what we may personally think of ourselves, our fellow members, or the way things "should" (or "shouldn't") be done.

    Letting go of those mortal opinions - whether they categorise us or others as "liberal" or "conservative" - can work wonders. It opens the way for us to stop judging each other and start loving each other, unconditionally. It lets us put our trust in God, not in personal sense, to guide us all surely to ideas that are constructive and productive, and away from any that aren't. I've seen branch churches revitalised that way, and I know many others have similar stories. It's an ongoing process, but it is going on! It just has to start with our own thinking - and our love.

  19. This is in response to several of the previous posts: Curious Observer, Courteney Rule, and Happy Member. To answer your question, Courteney, as to which Rule I would have changed, I don't think it comes down to any one rule, but rather that nothing can really be changed. To have any expansiveness and modernization at all, great thought must be given as to how a particular rule can be "stretched". For instance, there is my all time favorite, the one about haunting Mrs. Eddy's daily drive. That is as bit out of date, don't you think? Everyone in this discussion, I'm sure knows about the "famous" Estoppel Clauses in the Manual. If the Church is so keen on seeing that every jot and tittle is obeyed to the letter, then why are these clauses so blatanly disregarded? Mrs. Eddy was asked to take them out of the Manual, but she refused. Hmmmm.

    Curious Observer, I really love your picture of the CS church heading full speed towards a brick wall and honking all the way. I guess you and I are the only ones who have read what the Mother Church Treasurer said in the November Journal article regarding the eight decades decline in membership. As more and more churches close or/and sell their edifices and move into storefronts, ONE WONDERS WHERE WE WILL BE IN TEN YEARS. Just look at the Mother Church. It is hard to imagine how a "progressive" spin can be put on the fact that, after the Sunday School moves back into the main church edifice in the next year or so, none of the buildings built on the Plaza back in the 1970's will be used directly by the church (although they will bring in much needed revenue).

  20. Funny that you mention that by-law Brad-- it's actually one of my favorites. Used to be so for the reason you mention. It just seemed so odd and outdated, but it was kind of quirky and funny. But I've gained an appreciation for it. It's the by-law that is all about keeping our respect and appreciation for Mary Baker Eddy in its right light and right place. In other words, no, we don't have to worry about people literally lurking on MBE's drive. But, haven't we all encountered people who have said "Oh, we can't do that! Ms Eddy wouldn't like that at all!" or "I only do x, y, or z b/c that's what MBE did". The by-law is all about not haunting the human habits of Mary Baker Eddy and keeping our respect tied to following her understanding of the Christ rather than a personality-driven sense of right and wrong. That's anything but out-dated if you ask me.

    I'm not saying there's not a need for freshness and a deeper sense of the true spirit and nature of church. And obviously someone else thinks so too since this site exists and we're all having this discussion together! I'm just not convinced that the Manual needs to be tossed to find it. Instead, I think we all can do a better job of finding the inspired spirit behind the by-laws rather than getting rigidly stuck in the letter.

  21. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for your last post. I thought you did an excellent job of giving a fresh insight into that particular by-law.

    Now, do you (or anyone else for that matter) have anything to say about the Estoppel Clauses? That whole business has always left me a a bit perplexed. There are those people who are very strict in their reading of the Manual, but on the Estoppel Clauses they have very little to say.

  22. What are the estoppel clauses specifically, Brad? I've never heard them mentioned before, and just looking through the Manual, I can't work out what they might be. Thanks to Liz, by the way, for her comment (#20) - I've come to appreciate that by-law in much the same way.

    Yes, I've read Ned Odegaard's observation about the 80-year decline too. But I'm not afraid. I can't assume that my own experience applies to everyone else, but I've been studying Christian Science and attending church for only 8 years so far (coming from an essentially non-religious background). Even over that short time, I've seen so many signs of renewal and reawakening all through our movement, locally and worldwide. It's still just beginning, and there's a lot more to do, but it's happening - and it gives me great hope.

    Where is our Church's strength really, I wonder? In huge memberships and big buildings? Many denominations have seen a similar decline over the past few generations. 80 years ago, most people attended church regularly; it was the "done thing" in society. That's not so anymore, and we're not the only denomination dealing with this issue. But very often, the Christian Science churches I've been to where I've felt the most love, gained the most inspiration, seen the most activity, have been the smaller ones. (Especially ones who've sold their huge, ageing, redundant edifice and moved into a modern shopfront - where they're right there in the midst of their community, visible, vibrant, reaching out to those who need them.) These members aren't there in church because it's what they've always done, or it's what their parents did, or it's what they think they "should" be doing. They're there because they LOVE Christian Science - they know how much it's done for them, and they want to share it with others who are yearning for healing.

    We all love Christian Science too, don't we? (That's why we're on this website.) And we know that it comes from God, as His (or Her!) complete revelation of who we all truly are. So we can trust God to keep on guiding us to express and share it in ways that are both fresh and wise. (Mrs Eddy certainly trusted that, and just kept forging ahead - often in more daunting circumstances than we're facing now.) What we do need to do is stick together, and not let fear get to us. We're all here to support each other (even when we don't always agree) - and love each other.

  23. Sunday School teachers boycott teaching the Sundays we sing from the new Hymnal Supplement...
    Sunday School teachers who condemn mybiblelessons in front of other teachers and students prior to Sunday Sunday...
    Church business meetings where members against some new issue to be voted on are given advance word and come prepared with 8 minute researched papers as to why the new issue from The Mother Church is all wrong...
    Church members who continue to rail against any direction The Mother Church/ Christian Science Board of Directors attempts to guide the Christian Science Movement...
    "The Mailing Fund"? is that still going on?
    Church Business Meetings when there was to be a vote on approval of purchasing the new Hymnal Supplement was so rancorous one would have thought we were voting to approve buying Hitler's Mein Kampf(sp?)
    The Bible Translations? Again, the animosity towards The Mother Church/Christian Science Board of Directors in church memberships in Christian Science churches in which I was a member in two different cities was so discouraging
    one would have thought the memberships were being asked to approve pornographic literature to be used in church services.
    I sometimes wonder that gray day in November when Mrs. Eddy called her workers together and said they were to start a daily newspaper called The Christian Science Monitor did the workers respond by saying...let's all read and pray on the metaphysical topic of "church" before the next meeting?
    Thanks goodness Church Alive has been begun I hope and pray it's not too late. Everything I've read on the blogs and the incredible things churches in CA and AZ is truly heartening

  24. Hi Courtenay,

    In answer to your question as to what the estoppel clauses are, let me give it a try. I do not have a Manual in front of me, so please excuse me if I answer in a somewhat general way. There are approximately 30 - 35 provisions in the Manual which require Mrs. Eddy's written approval in order to be carried out. These are not minor items, but are at the heart of running the Mother Church as we know it today. During Mrs. Eddy's lifetime, it was pointed out to her that if she were no longer physically present, it would be impossible to carry on the church government after her passing if the requirement of her written approval was not removed from the Manual. She refused to do this.

    After her passing in 1910, the Directors of the Mother Church were faced with a major problem as to how to carry on the church government without her being physically present. In fact, it was known to be such a problem that a major publication of the time (I can't remember which one) was given an interview by two of the Directors in which the situation was discussed in detail. I have read the interview and it was most interesting. Eventually, the solution to the issue was to simply ignore the impossibility of obtaining Mrs. Eddy's written approval.

    It does seem strange that the Church insists upon such strict observence of the Manual by-laws, but can so easily ignore these estoppels. It seems to me to be completely contradictory. How can the Manual be read both ways?

  25. Hi Brad,

    Yes, this question about the consent clauses has been asked many times before and since Mrs Eddy's passing (including at least twice in actual legal challenges). There's no secret, let alone skulduggery, as to how it works. I'm quoting from a CSPS publication, "Permanency of The Mother Church and its Manual" - you should be able to find a copy at a Reading Room, if you're interested in reading further. Here's the pertinent part, from the reminiscences of William R. Rathvon, a Christian Science teacher and lecturer who worked in Mrs Eddy's last home:

    "After I was in Chestnut Hill for a short time and studied the Manual as our Leader desired us to do, I was at first puzzled, then perplexed, and finally apprehensive, that she had apparently made no provision for those sections of the Manual... to function after her signature or assent could not be had. I shared my misgivings with Judge [Septimus] Hanna and Mr [Archibald] McLellan, both of whom felt as I did. We decided it would be best to speak to General Henry M. Baker about it, as he was legal adviser to our Leader as well as her cousin, and a regular visitor to the home. He was then a member of Congress and his judgment on legal matters was greatly respected by Mrs Eddy.... [General Baker was not a Christian Scientist, by the way.]

    "...[General Baker's] prompt and emphatic reply dispelled every cloud of doubt from my mind. "You need not be at all uneasy," were his reassuring words. "It is a matter of common law in a case of this kind, where it is physically impossible to carry out specified conditions by the one named, that the next in authority assume that jurisdiction. And in this case the next in authority is the Board of Directors of The Mother Church. Any competent court in the land will uphold the Manual just as Mrs Eddy intends it to function whether her signature is forthcoming or not.""

    Ever since then, it's been understood that the Board of Directors is the authority that gives assent/signature in Mary Baker Eddy's stead for all those clauses. This was upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1924, when two lawsuits against The Mother Church, relevant to this issue, were decided in favour of the Directors. Mrs Eddy made it very clear a number of times in her last decade that she expected the Manual (and the Church) to keep functioning as she had provided, even once she wasn't there personally to give her signature.

    If you like, Brad, why not send this question in through the "submit a question" form on this website, and ask if the current Board of Directors (they'll be giving regular video interviews on this site) or TMC's legal counsel could give a response? You're right, it is an important question, and there are probably plenty of other people who'd like to hear it answered.

  26. Hi Courtenay,

    Thanks so much for your last post. I am familar with the "Permanency of the Mother Church and its Manual", although it has been quite a while since I last read it. After I read your last post, I remembered that I had printed off a hard copy of the interview to which I had previously referred. I was able to find it again. It was originally published in the newspaper, "The New York World" on December 9, 1910. The article was titled "MRS. EDDY'S SECT 'IN MOST CRITICAL SITUATION NOW'". I came across it on an internet site called "Christianscienceissues2" on May 17, 2010. It was labelled as Message 40501. You might be able to locate it by going to that site and going back into their "archives", which it should not be too hard to do. The article graphically depicts the very real quandry faced by the Directors. The two representatives of the Mother Church during the interview were Archibald McClellan (one of the Directors) and John Dittemore, Clerk of the Mother Church.

    You refer to several legal challenges and that they were resolved in 1924. I had always thought that the courts had refused to become involved in the issue and that the matter was shelved at that time. However, I am also aware that there is at least one ongoing lawsuit at the present time regarding this matter.

    The long and the short of this issue, to me, is that the Christian Science Church is finally coming awake and old, tired, and outworn procedures are at last being questioned. Hopefully, thanks to all the interest being generated by the "Church Alive" discussion thread, we will see much needed progress in the near future.

  27. I truly believe a church should be prepared to split in order for those who want to invest effort to have the opportunity to do that and move forward. If one group is stifling the activity of another group for any reason, it's best for those who desire the new activity to go ahead and act by starting a society. What's important is that those who are prepared to act, even if it involves reinventing the wheel, should be free to act. This activity is certain to benefit the movement. Truth never changes, but as long as we are in bodies that do change and grow and improve, why shouldn't our other earthly structures do the same? In the context of constant Truth, change is always good.

  28. There was a comment about why anyone would come to church to hear someone read to them from The Bible and Science and Health. As a former professional cellist, the first thought that came was how wonderful it is to listen to fine music over and over, for example, the Bach Cello Suites. They enrich in a fresh healing way each time I hear them, and always uplift and enthrall. I feel at one with the music and it is a participating experience. I would rather hear the real thing than have someone just lecture me about the music. How much more I love to hear the Word of God. I could listen all day and night, it is so dear and true. To sit quietly, calm the mortal ego, and listen for a few moments on Sunday and Wednesday, is such a privilege. It is one way Life sustains and refuels our oil. It is never just words read at us, it is the truth "of" us. It is God's profound gift to us of Himself, freely given to heal and make our lives blessed.
    Thank you Mark and Judy for your wonderful helpful comments, and thanks to all the contributors. This is a very thought-provoking discussion. I am definitely for eliminating all stuffiness from our services, but also for cherishing the gold that we have. I laugh thinking back when I was the first to wear a pantsuit ushering and the church had to decide if that was OK. And I was the first to prefer not to wear the white gloves ushering which resulted in a vote to eliminate this archaic trend:) The Manual has never been a book of laws of what not to do for me, but a protection for what we CAN do. It protects infinity. A God who is creative and ever-appearing could NEVER be dull. With that in mind, I always expect The Christian Science church to be on the cutting edge of innovation and the first to embrace newness and originality. I so love the new hymnal; what BEAUTIFUL hymns! I love when our Sunday School kids come and play their instruments for Wednesday service. I love it when everyone is allowed to participate and speak their feelings in church business meetings, even when they do it passionately. I love it when we try new ideas. Mark's clear thought on not personalizing ideas was great and helpful to me. I love the trend of selling old smelly churches and going into modern active storefronts or building new structures. I want the the Christian Science movement to breathe OUT freely, not rigidly IN, and I think for the most part we are doing that in a big and effective way. And I can't end without giving such profound and deep gratitude for all The Mother Church Board of Directors has done the past few years to keep us abreast of the times and bring a vibrant fresh jump-start to our Movement worldwide. WOW. Amazing work!

  29. Reading the first response to the question brought back a lesson from my theatre training. I remember during a class on Improvisation that our teacher taught us the magic words - "yes, and...". The idea behind this was that you were always supposed to take what was offered by your partner and build on it - never negate or deny. This was a rule no matter how outrageous they're offering might be. It was very challenging at times. Yet, I remember watching the people who were really gifted at this art and admiring how they could turn even the most ridiculous premise into something that made sense. The cool thing was that the other person was then carried into this new storyline -- not because they were made wrong, judged, denied, or negated in any way. But by the openness and skill of their partner who said, "YES, and..." While this took a great deal of inspiration, creativity, wit, and willingness, it was made very clear how simply saying "yes" opens up worlds of possibility.

    On the contrary a pliable suggestion offered to a partner who had the habit of negating, could easily fall flat and go nowhere.

    Wouldn't it be amazing to use this principle in our churches? Can you imagine the "yes, and..." response when a new idea was proposed, rather than that old knee-jerk reaction of "no"? What if we trusted enough to make YES our first answer with the added "and...". Then EVERY offering becomes an open-ended possibility spurring MOVEMENT, progress, action, mobility; instead of the cessation, inaction, and stoppage of a closed door.

    Brings to mind that wonderful, expansive word - WHATEVER - from Mrs. Eddy's definition of church -- "...whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle." I've a feeling we haven't even scratched the surface.

    Oh how I can envision this for our churches - yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and............................

  30. What an interesting and exciting exchange of ideas on Church! Thank you all. I have grown in my love for my current church and watched it go from what seemed to me to be a bit stuffy, formal, traditional and conservative (well, perhaps a lot) to a loving, caring family group. Through a lot of prayer and over some time, we were able to sell a large edifice that required much time, money and attention and build a smaller, efficient but very lovely new structure that better represents both our fresh thinking and great sense of outreach to our community. And all this was done with NO ugliness, no arguments, no bullying into what one person or another wanted. IT was a joyous group project that unfolded for us and resulted in a lovely church.

    We revised our bylaws to be more reflective of the Beatitudes than the Commandments - removing the list of "Thou shalt nots" from the bylaws and instead, noting that we welcomed those who were endeavoring to practice Christian Science to the best of their ability! A new found sense of inclusiveness was awakened in the membership and the older unintended "clubiness" of tradition seemed to fall away. We are all working together to see our true spiritual natures and so far, none of us that are attending regularly seem to have ascended. So why would we exclude someone with a more obvious or visible fault or human habit while not asking too if they are self-righteous or perhaps not always so loving as part of our restrictions for membership? I feel as if our membership is now banded together to work on ascension. I sometimes felt that in reading our bylaws prior to this, we were asking for proof of ascension BEFORE we would allow people to join! ;-)

    I love the image Judy Wolff shares in a Journal article from March 2010 that I read recently - where she asks the question - "Why choose to join and actively participate in Church?" And she offers this comparison - crossing the ocean in a canoe alone, or traveling with others on a cruise ship. She says, "The ship, because of its size, power, and experience at sea, would be the better choice. And that ship is like Church." I thought more about this and yes, on a cruise ship, you will very likely encounter some passengers with whom you might not share the same views on many issues and perhaps might not choose to sit at dinner. And so some days you might think you would prefer to be off in a canoe by yourself! But during the crossing, when you encounter storms or rough water, wouldn't you then be grateful to be on the ship and in the company of others to help each other and bring comfort and strength to one another to face the storm? It isn't always the easy way. But it is definitely the one that brings us the most growth and challenges us to be the best Christians, to practice what this religion is all about, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, cleansing the lepers. (The article has many other great ideas about joining church so you won't want to miss it!) So I have to say to the one who suggested that a more progressive group break away and start their own group - yes, sometimes when you have prayed and prayed and nothing yields, a change is the right step, but I have seen that patience and persistence to live the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount will bring about change from within that will give that fresh new sense of church to all. Mortal mind, animal magnetism, whatever you want to call what would tear us apart or bring church down will always first try "divide and conquer" and too often, we seem to succumb without a fight and without even realizing what it is that is causing the dissension. We think it is people or issues. And it rarely is any of that. So looking forward to this year of considering CHURCH ALIVE - progressive and healing the ills of the world.

  31. This is a question I have pondered from time to time. Thank you all for the excellent ideas and comments.