Week 46: Should Christian Science churches participate in more ecumenical events?

Response 1: Christine Driessen

Thank you for alerting us to this wonderful opportunity to open our church doors to the community and show our support for our fellow Christian Churches. They have a great video on YouTube, which effectively but simply addresses the concerns people have about going to church.

National Back to Church Sunday (September 18), could be a wonderful time for Christian Science churches to join the effort of thousands of other Christian churches in sharing the value of Church as a healing force in the community and to encourage our members to invite family members, friends, or colleagues who have left church or never attended. It could also be a time to introduce the community to our Sunday Schools, Reading Rooms, periodicals, websites, and healing services on Sundays and Wednesdays; to offer lectures or organize interfaith panel discussions on the healing power of the Christ; and to open dialogue with other Christian Churches on our deep love for Christ Jesus as the Wayshower and Savior for all mankind.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "Love all Christian churches for the gospel's sake; and be exceedingly glad that the churches are united in purpose, if not in method, to close the war between flesh and Spirit, and to fight the good fight till God's will be witnessed and done on earth as in heaven" (Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 13). Christ Jesus taught us to judge no one, but to love all mankind. We can unite with so much of what they present in their statement of faith and trust the rest to God’s guidance.

The one key difference is their statement that Jesus is God, even though Jesus himself said, "Why callest thou me good; there is none good but one, and that is God" (Matt 19). He always identified himself as the son of God, and yet he was also the manifestation of the Christ in the flesh and said he, and each of us, is one with God. This concept is very difficult for people to understand—even for Christian Scientists.

Listen to Mrs. Eddy’s own words on the question: “The Christ was the Spirit which Jesus implied in his own statements, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life;’ ‘I and my Father are one.’ This Christ, or divinity of the man Jesus, was his divine nature, the godliness which animated him” (Science and Health, p. 26).

We all have a long way to go before we will truly understand the infinite nature of God and the unique role of Christ and Christ Jesus. Rather than arguing with people over doctrine, I find it much better to build bridges to all that unites us, trusting the Christ to communicate to each heart and to help us all gain a deeper understanding of the divine nature manifested through Jesus.

Response 2: Miles Harbur

To me, participating in events with people of differing beliefs can be a good thing. At the very least, I always learn a lot more than I thought I would. By being willing to overcome the fear of social "risk" in interacting with people of differing beliefs, we're enabled to learn about their beliefs directly. We learn what aspects of Mary Baker Eddy's ideas are especially appealing to them, and we learn what ways of expressing and demonstrating these ideas are most comprehensible and useful to them.

And beyond learning, sometimes the results of these events are truly amazing and humbling—people who are unfamiliar with the healing ideas and practices in Science and Health get to have first-hand experience with them from someone who loves them deeply. That's a basic purpose of church!

To help grow mankind's awareness, appreciation, and practice of Christian Science, we must be willing to mix, share, listen, and build authentic relationships with people and organizations whose lifestyles and beliefs differ significantly from our own. Mrs. Eddy made this point in Christian Healing: “We have asked, in our selfishness, to wait until the age advanced to a more practical and spiritual religion before arguing with the world the great subject of Christian healing; but our answer was, ‘Then there were no cross to take up, and less need of publishing the good news’ ” (p.1).

Jesus also illustrated this principle in his inclusion of all kinds of people in his sphere of relationships: greedy businessmen, respected Pharisees, lowly hookers, playing children, outcast Samaritans, and skeptical fishermen.

This being said, it does require humble, honest spiritual listening and prayer to decide which events to take part in and how to participate if we decide to go forward. Some events are more useful than others. It's good to consider what could be negative downsides to participating in a specific event. To me, the bottom line is whether the event might be a means of connecting with some spiritual seekers—the same seekers Mrs. Eddy had in mind when she wrote Science and Health.

I’ve learned from participating in different public events that the motive that brings the best results is not the desire to tell other people about Christian Science. It’s a willingness to listen to others, to honor their ideas, and to practice Christian Science during the event in response to this listening. I love that you’re considering this opportunity!

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the response of Christine Driessen. Even though there are some doctrinal differences in the CS viewpoint of the divinity of Jesus, this doesn't mean that the CS churches can't participate in something like the "Back to Church Sunday" program. All of the major Christian churches are experiencing a decline in attendance. The CS churches are by no means alone in having the problem with churches which are half empty or worse.

    Many years ago, back in the 1950's, I was in the Sunday School of First Church of Christ Scientist, Rutherford, NJ (now closed). My Sunday School teacher asked me to participate in a World Day of Prayer program as the representative from the CS Sunday School. The program was held at the local Baptist church. I very much enjoyed being part of the program and was very proud to represent the CS Sunday School.

    For many years, the CS churches seemed to stay "in the corner" by themselves, as though they were somehow better than all of those "other" churches. Not only were we seen as the "people who did not go to doctors", but we were somewhat suspect in other ways too, since we kept ourselves aloof from other Christian churches.

    I am happy to see that this misguided attitude has greatly changed over the last few years. One example of this changing attitude is Shirley Paulson and the CS Fellowship group in the Chicago area. Over the past year they have promoted a dialogue about other Christian faith groups, and have even visited some of these groups (e.g. the Swedenborgan church).

    The Christian Science church needs to continue in the good work it is doing in connecting with other Christian church groups. Walls of misconception have to be broken down on both sides.

  2. Over the years, I have participated in several interfaith activities. My goal in each case was to share Mary Baker Eddy's ideas in a meaningful way with those of other denominations, in a way they could relate to and that would support their present demonstration of Christliness. Once, in a meeting with clergy and lay members of other churches, we were discussing what our purpose was, and I remembered a line from Mrs. Eddy's hymn, Christ My Refuge, that I repeated - "my prayer some daily good to do to thine for thee; an offering pure of Love, whereto God leadeth me." A Roman Catholic priest remarked,"That's beautiful!" Another time, I was invited to participate in a dedication service at the local Bahai center, and I read Mrs. Eddy's hymn, "Love." A member there asked for the words and music of that hymn so they could use it, and another member asked for a copy of Science and Health. In yet another, a Good Friday service at a Congregational Church, I was invited, along with clergy from other denominations, to read and share inspiration on one of Jesus' last words on the cross. I chose, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" I found something in Mrs. Eddy's writings that addressed those very words and incorporated that into my talk. I can share many other similar experiences, where, as a Christian Scientist, the joy of sharing Mrs. Eddy's teachings with others of various faiths, was genuinely and warmly received and appreciated. When our motive is to build up and support the present demonstration of others who are sincerely seeking Truth, the opportunities to share are abundant.

  3. Question # 46 CHURCH ALIVE: FIND QUESTION OF THE WEEK @ CHRISTIANSCIENCE.COM: Present the argument for your branch churches' participation. " We have asked, in our selfishness, to wait until the age advanced to a more practical and spiritual religion before arguing with the world the great subject of Christian healing; but our answer was, "Then there were no cross to take up, and less need of publishing the good news." A classic writes, —"At thirty, man suspects himself a fool; Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan; At fifty, chides his infamous delay, Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve. The difference between religions is..." Mary Baker Eddy.
    Present your case to join with others, not in Crusade or mere prattle, but argument, respectful, learned, assertions making clear our ability to listen to others presenting theirs. In this effort we are present in the moment of opportunity proving again: "The ultimate of scientific research and attainment in divine Science is not an argument: it is not merely saying, but doing, the Word — demonstrating Truth — even as the fruits of watchfulness, prayer, struggles, tears, and triumph" Mary Baker Eddy

  4. For many years now the Arizona Christian Science field has actively participated in the Arizona Interfaith Movement and it has always been a joy to attend its meetings and various events. Their general manager is a Christian Scientist and former Arizona COP. There is always a feeling of joy, tender respect and shared love of good amongst all the participating faith groups. It is the Arizona Interfaith Movement that got the Az. legislature to designate Arizona as the Golden Rule state and there is a custom license plate that can be ordered through the DMV that shows that designation.

  5. Thank you Christine and Miles. I would only add that the bigger the Back-to-Church phenom is, the more likely it will draw some CSers toward an hour or two in the church they perhaps grew up in. Let them see if the "cultural CS" has receded and the Spirit prevailed. And as we add our presence to inter-faith efforts let us always remember that we, I, may be the only contact a given non-CSer has ever had with our church! That's a big responsibility when our numbers are smallish.

  6. As we love mankind and humbly desire to only bless, God will open ways. These ways won't come through an "us and them" approach. A right motive will open ways of communication, but these may not come through setting church goals, having meetings about them, and then mandating accomplishing such and such. I think that's where Jesus' humble quiet teaching to wash one others feet is helpful. As I understand it, we are taught to bow in honor to one another and look up to the Christ in all. This establishes the true relationship. Then, devoutly listening for wisdom, avenues will open for right communication and there will be protection from fruitless or hateful encounters. This activity may be individual or one the whole church participates in.

    One day there had been lots of time for quiet prayer. Before dinner, I jumped in the car and headed to the market to buy their homemade pizza. When I came out, a beautiful young woman came to my car and asked if the pizza was good. Then, she went back to giving away instructional material on how to keep youth off drugs. I felt impelled to check out what she was doing. We conversed about taking a strong stand, not only against recreational drugs, but pharmaceutical prescription drugs, which seem so prevalent in the US. We were agreeing on every point. Then, she tearfully confessed she had to take drugs because she had multiple sclerosis. Without missing a beat I gently said I was a student of Christian Science and knew that was not a loving God's will for her. She was choked up and I continued to share truths with her, ideas from the Bible. She said she was Catholic and believed everything I was telling her. We eventually parted ways with a hug.

    I got home and went to my study to pray. In a few moments, I was packing a large bag full of pertinent Sentinels I'd saved, a paper back Science and Health, a biography of Mrs. Eddy, "A Century of Christian Science Healing" and "Christian Healer." God was doing it, because I had no will and it was flowing naturally. I drove back to the store and took the bag to her. I said "I don't want to be proselytizing in any way, but you will find a lot of good here. If you don't like what you're reading, please just give it to the library." Her eyes were huge as she said incredulously, "You came back for me? You would do this for me? Thank you thank you." I never saw her again, but knew she was with God.

    As church members continue to grow spiritually, many opportunities will come to share Truth. I used to take Sentinels and pamphlets to street fairs, rock concerts, leave them in gas stations, in motels, things like that. There's nothing wrong with that, but, what works best for me now is tuning into the still small voice and not doing anything until I hear that direction. I know we can all, individually and collectively, hear these instructions, because it is God's will that mankind have the Truth. Love provides endless opportunity for Christlike dialogue.

  7. The closing remark of this video is the mantra of the prevailing health care system in America today, the difference Christian Science can bring to this National Day is an unflinching certainty of Life as a spiritual, perfect and eternal expression of Love.

    National Back to Church Sunday | Back to Church Sunday 2011 Promotional Video:
    What would happen if every church member invited just one person to church? Join with hundreds of congregations as they invite their neighbors to visit on Back to Church Sunday

  8. Our numbers may seem smallish but the power of our prayers is huge.

  9. Many years of involvement with our church community's Ministerial Association have given me, as a student of Christian Science, many opportunities for compassion, but even more, for humility and admiration. To witness the metaphysical leaps being made by many of these pastors and congregations, even without the benefit of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has quite often given me pause!
    I have visited many of these church services in the line of duty, and wanted to drag fellow church members there to see!
    Just like the world's response to the Christ as presented by Jesus, the world is also feeling the "influence of the [Comforter, as presented by Christian Science] through every pore".

  10. To give just one example of what I referred to above; the rousing anthem I heard one Sunday in a Methodist church, regarding Jesus's resurrection [which is practically a paraphrase of points made in the chapter "Atonement and Eucharist"],:

    It's not the nails that held him to the cross,-

    It was the LOVE!

  11. Out of curiosity, I went to the Back to Church web address given in the introductory message to This Week's Question. I browsed through the list of churches participating in my area (south Jersey, up to a radius of 50 miles) but did not find any Christian Science branches listed as participating. Does anyone out there know of any CS churches which are taking part in this program (any where in the country)? I would find it interesting to know. Thanks.

  12. Loved hearing from you all.

  13. Our church in Florida decided to adopt the spirit of Back to Church Sunday with what we're calling Welcome Sunday. We had invitations printed up to send to family and friends who perhaps used to attend church or who we thought would be interested in visiting. Following the service, we will serve everyone lunch in the Sunday School building.

  14. Leslie (#13) --
    What a wonderful way your church has chosen to welcome former attendees back to church! I love the warm and welcoming idea of having a luncheon after the service in the Sunday School. I would enjoy hearing about how this turns out. We need more of these kinds of functions in the CS branch churches. There is nothing wrong in showing the world our "human" side.

  15. Brad, we had a wonderful time today with some family and friends attending the service. Blue and white balloons at the street brought attention to the church, which is set back from the street. The first reader welcomed everyone to Welcome Sunday, and his announcements were new, fresh, and geared toward the visitor. At the end of the service, visitors and Sunday School students received a cloth bag, imprinted with "Welcome Sunday," containing an invitation to our upcoming lecture and to another lecture in the area, our church brochure that tells about all of the services offered by our church and the CS movement, plus a Sentinel. Over lunch (catered, with homemade desserts), people were able to welcome visitors and to get better acquainted. I'd like to see us do it every year.

  16. Our church didn't do anything unusual with outreach or joining with other churches this last Sunday, Sept. 18th, but I have to say our service was OUTSTANDING! The church and Sunday School were well attended and there was a vibrant joyous feel. Singing the hymns was so fun, like being part of an energetic choir. There was tremendous uplift from God's ideas pouring forth. I talked to several happy children and young adults before and after church. Many of the congregation stayed a long time happily chatting. It was wonderful!!!

  17. Thanks for sharing, Leslie! Love how you not only invited people to attend, but took the time to get to know each other as well.

    I'm currently a local member of The Mother Church, but the branch church I was recently a member of used to offer its space to be used for First Night activities at New Years. It was always a great opportunity for the community to come and see our edifice, and many people were interested in finding out about the church's history and Christian Science.

    Love what you shared, too, Susie--simply living our Christianity and loving our Church speaks volumes!

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