Response 1: Pamela Cook
My answer to this question is pretty simple, but it’s the approach I’ve found to be the most effective in situations like this: Pray.
Let’s look at the question. It is unselfish—it implies a genuine desire to provide a nurturing atmosphere for everyone who enters the church. It starts from an assumption that everyone’s experience of church deserves to be protected and defended against negative influences. And it is compassionate, acknowledging a need to be gentle with one’s fellow churchgoers. From this, we can conclude that this individual is poised for prayer—and success.
In her pamphlet No and Yes, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “We should endeavor to be long-suffering, faithful, and charitable with all. To this small effort let us add one more privilege — namely, silence whenever it can substitute censure” (p. 8).
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy defined “church” as a mental space, not a physical one (p. 583). A sanctuary is commonly defined as a sacred place or refuge—descriptive of a mental environment, as well as a physical area of a building. It makes sense that we would defend the church sanctuary mentally.
So, every day—not just Sunday and Wednesday, but daily—pray for your church. First, establish your own correct view of church, affirming that you see only the innocence and receptivity of all who attend. Declare firmly that the mental church atmosphere is pure, not susceptible to negative influence. Identify the sanctuary as a refuge for all who desire to know God, a place that cannot be contaminated or infiltrated by offensive suggestions of any kind.
Rejoice that this church is safe—“there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie” (Rev. 21:27). Finally, love your fellow man by practicing the Golden Rule as best you can. You will discover that silent prayer works! You will have contributed to a higher sense of church and won a point in your own spiritual progress, as well.
Response 2: Todd Herzer
Let’s face it: We live in an age of distractions. So, perhaps more than ever before, people need opportunities to retreat regularly from the constant barrage of distractions, and our church services are designed for just that.
A key point in the definition of Church is that its purpose is to rouse our “dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas” (Science and Health, p. 583). A church service where spiritual ideas are apprehended is best achieved when the entire congregation has an opportunity to retreat from all distractions pressing for our attention.
Mary Baker Eddy described Christian Science as the “ ‘still small voice’ of Truth uttering itself” (Science and Health, p. 323). She wrote, “We are either turning away from this utterance, or we are listening to it and going up higher” (p. 323). So we have a choice to make as we sit in church: to listen for the “still small voice,” or to turn our attention towards the pressing matters of the day.
My preparation for the service often includes the phrase, “nothing inharmonious can enter being for Life is God” (Science and Health, p. 228). I found that this powerful spiritual fact counters the tendency of mortal sense to distract or be distracted—especially in church.
If a church is dealing with political discussions before and after the service, those who are alert to this distraction can deal with it head on as a form of aggressive mental suggestion (Mrs. Eddy’s term for a type of mental self sabotage) working to distract those who are unwittingly turning away from that “still small voice”.
It might be great opportunity to consider why Mrs. Eddy provided for a specified time for music before and after the service (see Article XIX, Sec 1 in the Church Manual). This is a great discussion topic for a church meeting because members might be encouraged to consider how to utilize the period before and after the service to retreat from daily distractions and to let the rousing power of church be first and foremost in thought.
Finally, like the rising tide that lifts all ships, uplifting your individual thought will also have a positive effect for you and your congregation.