Week 49: "Does it say anywhere what Mrs. Eddy's instructions were for the content and length of the Scriptural Selection the First Reader reads at the Sunday Service?"

Response 1: Mike Davis

Reading a selection from the Scriptures has long been a part of Sunday services in many Christian denominations. And it’s been an official part of Christian Science Sunday services since August 1889, when Mary Baker Eddy published the first Order of Service in The Christian Science Journal. She wrote “I recommend that you . . . adopt this simple service. Before the sermon read one hymn, sing once. Read a selection from a chapter in the Bible, and, if agreeable to pastor and Church, a corresponding paragraph from SCIENCE AND HEALTH. Repeat alternatively the Lord’s Prayer, the pastor repeating the first sentence and the audience the following one. Unite in silent prayer for all who are present. Close with reading hymn, singing, silent prayer, and the benediction” (p. 210).

In 1889, Christian Science churches had pastors who preached sermons they’d written themselves. But even after reading a Lesson-Sermon from the Bible and Science and Health took the place of personal preaching in 1895, a Scriptural selection, separate from the Lesson, remained in the Order of Service.

Other than her initial recommendation to “read a selection from a chapter in the Bible,” we’ve not found any statement by Mrs. Eddy in which she gives advice on what verses, or how many, to include in the Scriptural Selection. And we don’t know of any documents in which she discusses its purpose. But we do know the supreme importance Mrs. Eddy gave to the Bible. It thus seems appropriate that a reading from its inspired pages is featured early in the Order of our Sunday services today.

Response 2: Jill Aaron

Mrs. Eddy left no particular instructions as to the content and length of the scriptural selection. Even so, the context in which it appears in the “order of service” tells us much about its role.

Opening the Sunday Service with reading from the Bible supports the First Tenet (see Science and Health, p. 497). Because the scriptural selection comes before any mention of Science and Health, it demonstrates to those attending the primacy of the Bible to Christian Scientists. And it is a fresh Bible perspective for those who have been studying the Lesson all week.

I love to think of the Sunday Service as a spiritual meal in which the Bible Lesson Sermon is the main course and the scriptural selection is an appetizer. The scriptural awakens thought—whets the mental appetite—for the feast that is to come.

Like a culinary appetizer, the flavors — ideas— in the scriptural should harmonize with the rest of the meal. So you’ll want to select Bible passages which are consistent with and support the theme of the Lesson or a significant idea brought out in the Lesson. A good scriptural selection is simply an introduction, which opens thought to the ideas to come in the Lesson. It isn’t a Lesson summary or another Lesson section.

Of course, as a skillful chef would not want to over-feed guests with appetizers, leaving no room for the main course, the Reader will want to pay attention to the same thing. Between two and three minutes or twelve to twenty verses is a good range. The key is to keep the whole service in balance, considering the relative length of all the elements together.

The scriptural selection is also the primary opportunity a Reader has to connect the congregation with the Bible Lesson. For example, something might be happening in the community or church family which needs healing or redeeming. The scriptural selection can relate the ideas in Bible Lesson to meet that need.

For me, choosing a scriptural selection (and a benediction) is really fun and inspiring. It requires focusing on the complete message of the Bible Lesson and humbly listening for divine direction to choose passages that will bless the congregation. And doing this makes for good reading and inspired services.

So have fun cooking!

  1. First, let me say that I am a bit baffled by the question for this week. I may be wrong, but I see it as a complete non-issue. I find it hard to imagine, with all of the very serious problems faced by branch churches today (e.g. declining membership, large empty buildings, etc.) that this is a "burning" topic faced by many branches.

    That being said, I think that both Mike Davis and Jill Aaron have responded very well with extremely well thought out answers.

    I would like to discuss a point that Mike raised in his background discussion of Mrs. Eddy's ideas re: the Scriptural Selection. With most of what happens in the Sunday service strictly laid out in the Manual, the Scriptural Selection is one of the few places in the service where the First Reader has any creative input. I think that the concept of the Scriptural Selection made more sense in 1889, when CS churches still had Pastors who actually were responsible for writing their own sermons. At that time, the Scriptural Selection would have provided a Biblical text upon which the following sermon could be based. This is what is done in most main-stream Christian churches today.

    It is my feeling that Mrs. Eddy, for all of her foresight and wisdom, probably made a "mistake" when she instituted the Lesson-Sermon to be universally read in all CS churches (as the "Sermon"). I have no problem with the idea of a universal Lesson to be studied during the week, but then let each individual branch have the creative opportunity to come up with a fresh and innovative sermon for their church. This "cookie cutter" approach ("one size fits all") is partly responsible for the atmosphere of a dull "stupor" found in most CS churches today. They are definitely "not where it is happening".

    I know that many who post here will come back at my remarks with comments like "We have such a healing atmosphere at our services". While this may possibly be true, they are still "DULL"!!!

  2. When I read a few years ago, the First Reader I read with would often choose scriptural selections that would give the back story or add to the Bible stories in the lesson that week. She didn't do it every week, but when she felt inspired to do so, it really helped set up the Lesson and give a deeper understanding of the stories in it.

    Thanks for your responses, Mike and Jill!

  3. Some of the scriptural selections I find are rather too long. I don't know why some first readers find it necessary to have an inordinately long scriptural selection considering it precedes 6 sections of the Lesson. I think this is asking a lot of the congregation in terms of paying attention.

  4. I put in a post last night which was a comment on Babs' post (#3). After I pressed the Submit button, I looked and my post was displayed, but alas, this morning it is nowhere to be found. This has happened before during the past year, and I really don't understand what goes on up there in Boston at the Church Alive "Station Central".

    Oh, well, here goes again. What I had said last night was simply to add to Babs' remarks. In the "old days", (prior to 1895) when CS branch church Pastors were expected to write their own weekly sermons, the concept of a lengthy Scriptural Selection made more sense than it does today. It could function as a text upon which the ensuing sermon was based.

    I agree with Babs. The CS congregations already have to sit through 35 minutes of non-stop reading (half of which is taken from the Bible). Isn't it a bit too much to expect them to sit through another unnecessarily long passage from Holy Scripture?

    Oh, and one other point. How many of the mainline churches today expect their congregations to sit through a 35 minute sermon? We are not living in the time of the Puritan "fathers" when lengthy sermons were the norm and most of Sunday was spent in church.

  5. Near 20 years ago as 1st Reader I built my scriptural selections using the sentiments of the lesson, as Mike and Jill articulated so well. What was important to me was to "feel" the power of the service and the office of reader as indicators of being on the right track. Today, thanks to the Church Alive site and the current TMC Readers I would approach the entire service differently, but still with the ideas above. We use the term "readers", but as holders of the Office of Reader, it is more than reading and it's important to approach our duties with conviction, dedication, freshness, and humility such that at the end of the service, the congregation knows it has had an exciting holy and uplifting experience.

  6. Hi Brad,

    When you click submit, your post will be visible to you, but has to be approved on our end. We're usually pretty quick on getting comments approved, but on weekends we don't check in as frequently-- particularly on long weekends. Hope you can appreciate our need to step away from the computer every once in a while :) I just posted your second comment since it looks like a duplicate of the one from last night, but let me know if you'd like the original posted as well.

    As an FYI, on the very rare occasion that we aren't able to post a comment for some reason, we generally are in touch with the commenter to let them know why and give them a chance to re-post if they like.

    Many thanks to you and everyone else who participates in these discussions and is a part of the Church Alive community!

    best,
    Inge
    Church Alive Team

  7. If one feels that "sitting through" the reading of the Lesson Sermon in church services is difficult, tiresome or dull, consider Mrs. Eddy's statement from the Church Manual, under the heading "Services Uninterrupted". She wrote: "A Christian Scientist is not fatigued by prayer, by reading the Scriptures or the Christian Science textbook." (p. 60) Can't this promise apply just as well to listening to the reading of these books in church?

    You might ask yourself: "Am I accepting the carnal mind's suggestion that I or anyone else can be lulled into thinking the ideas in the Bible or Science and Health could seem dull, tiresome or boring or that there could be something more interesting or satisfying to do than listening to God's Word?"

    Instead of accepting and submitting to these subtle suggestions which would try to rob us of the blessings of Church, we can reverse them with the prayerful affirmation of the truth. The whole service is a healing treatment, the activity of the Christ. And the Word of God is infinitely thrilling and engaging beyond any limited human sense of things. If this is done, nothing can close our eyes and ears (our spiritual discernment) to the awesome transforming and healing power of the Christ in any Christian Science service. And not only will we be blessed, but all those attending Christian Science services will be too.

    In praying for church services, I have found very inspiring and helpful Janet Clements' article "On watch with the Christ" from the April 2011 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

  8. It is already Wednesday morning (11 A.M. Eastern Time) and I have to comment that this Week's Question does not seem to be generating much interest in the Church Alive "community". I can sort of understand why that is. How much "controversy" can be evoked when the question under discussion is the length of the Scriptural Selection in the Sunday service?

    If so many of the CS branch churches did not have such a "cookie cutter" ("one size fits all") way of thinking about such things, this kind of issue would never rise to the level of being discussed in this church-wide forum. I guess in some branches the length of the Scriptural Selection might be a real problem, but I have a hard time imagining it. If this sort of thing is really an issue in some branches, then one can only wonder at the level of thinking in those branches. If every small point has to be put under the "microscope", no wonder there is not much of genuine excitement happening in the CS field.

  9. Brad, why do these questions have to be about stirring up controversy? The way I see it, any question that relates to thinking about church (any aspect of church) in a new way warrants discussion. As a former Reader, I appreciate Jill and Mike's responses. Gives me new food for thought for the next time I substitute. And thanks, Jill, for your follow-up comment. So important for us all to be alert.

  10. Anybody in a branch church where the Scriptural Selection comes from a Bible other than the King James version? In the weekly lesson, there is now use of other Bible translations in the Golden Text and Respon-
    sive Reading which I find refreshing.

  11. I think Church Alive is about stirring the heart to greater devotion to church, not stirring up controversy. I for one appreciate having each element of the service brought up for consideration and refreshment, because every aspect of the service should promote healing. No one element in the order of service is unimportant, and every one of them can be an "aha" moment for someone in the congregation.

    When I was First Reader in our CS Society, I was astonished each week to realize how a Scriptural Selection that I found spoke to the theme of the lesson and acted as an introduction to prepare thought for the "meat" of the Lesson-Sermon. On some occasions I had people come up afterwards and remark on inspiration they received from the SS. Also, I prayed that the SS I found would meet the needs of my congregation precisely, just as a different SS read in another branch church would meet the needs of that congregation.

  12. I have often wondered why the hymn is read, then sung. As for the Scriptural Selection, I found as a past First Reader and as a member of the audience, it set a tone for the rest of the service. I really did enjoy researching an appropriate Scriptural Selection and benediction.

  13. I look at reading and rereading and hearing and rehearing familiar passages as a challenge to get fresh inspiration. Either fresh for something we are working on or a completely new and unintended interpretation of a familiar passage. I experienced that with the OT story of Absalom turning petitioners away from David, his father the king, and offering them to hear their case. I saw that as presenting a problem to God, but getting sidetracked with the promise of an easier, faster solution by enlisting matter to intercede. We know what happened then.

    P.S.: May I ask Brad Thurber a personal question? Brad, are you the B.T. who has a Master's in English lit. (thesis on a female writer) and lived in Boston in 1962? If so, we've met. Peter Dreyer

  14. Thanks Jill,I found your advice about "twelve to twenty verses" or "two to three minutes" very useful. I have been First Reader for quite a long time, and still "run over" by a few minutes sometimes. The analogy of a starter to the main course is also helpful. I like to have the opportunity to "tailor" the Sunday Service to the congregation at the Branch Church I attend, and the Hymns, the Scriptural Selection, and the Benediction each give those opportunities.

  15. @# 10 -At our branch church in Tempe, AZ, every now and then the Scriptural or the Wednesday night Bible passages have been selected from other translations, but not too often. We have a pretty large membership and attending congregation so we get a mixed bag of thought on it. Some like it more than others. But no one gets hostile over it. We did have one member move her membership to another local branch because of it. But there were no hard feelings about her doing so , from the other members. We have nine local branches here so there are plenty of choices for everyone.

  16. In addition to the comments already made as to the reasons we even have a scriptural selection, I would like to add the following. I find the scriptural selection to be a way of getting the congregation's thought from the worldly to the spiritual. We all come into church from our daily round, getting kids fed, driving in traffic, chatting with friends, etc. The scriptural selection is a "settle down" time, a time to put away the mundane and engage our thought with the scriptures, God's word. Most scriptural selections are chosen with the idea of blessing the congregation, not castigating or criticizing them, and it is a "welcome to my house" from God herself.

  17. To Big Mike in California (post #12) re Reading Hymns.

    Evidence in the archival collection suggests that during Mrs. Eddy’s time all the verses of all the hymns were read before singing them. The earlier versions of the Order of Service had “Read and sing a hymn” instead of “Hymn.” Mrs. Eddy at some point took “read” out of the Order of Service, yet the custom of reading all verses persisted during her lifetime. Eventually (we don’t know when) this changed to a custom of reading just one verse of a non-Mrs. Eddy hymn before singing it. The Order of Service as it is currently in the Manual neither requires nor forbids the reading of hymns before singing them. Whether the hymns are read or not is thus left the preference of the Reader or branch church, and is not the result of any kind of directive from Mrs. Eddy.

  18. I have to laugh to myself when I hear CS complain that they have to sit through 35 minutes of readings and they fall all apart if the service lasts more than 60 minutes. The denomination I belonged to before I joined CS had services that could last 2+ hours and there was no child care. We wrestled our kids for those 2+ hours trying to keep them quiet! 35 minutes of listening to the inspired word of God is not such a difficult task. Come on Brad...buck up buddy. It's a privilege to attend a CS service no matter how long or short; not matter which version of the Bible is used. CS is about healing, not whining.

  19. If we have studied the Lesson all week and we bring our consciousness of healing we received from this study into the service, the Scriptual Selection is the icing on the cake. (But it shouldn't be too long or take away from the Lesson Sermon.) My humble offering.

  20. Other translations for scriptural selections: yes...and sometimes accompanied by soft keyboard music or harp, and sometimes a hymn sung between Lesson sections
    Long scripturals: yes
    Short scripturals: yes
    Long services: yes...1 hr 15 to 1 hr 30
    Fun: yes
    Deeply spiritual: yes
    Controversial: from without
    Extraordinary love within and without: yes

  21. Gil (#18) I can't even imagine what it must be like to sit through a 2+ hour service!! You are right though; by comparison, the 35 minutes of the CS readings pales into a brief "interlude". I guess what really bothers me is the fact that it is simply a reading of what I have already been studying all week. I know that I am supposed to get something new from hearing it in church (beyond what I have gained during my private study), but wouldn't a sermon preached upon the text of the Lesson-Sermon be fresher and more creative? I know that Mrs. Eddy was trying to standardize the service, but I still think that it was a mistake.

    To Big Mike from California (12)-- As far as the reading of the first verse of the hymn (prior to singing it), I am quite sure that I remember hearing the Mother Church service broadcast over the Internet where the First Reader only announced the number of the hymn without reading the first verse. Of course, with Mrs. Eddy's hymns, all verses are always read. I have a question for Mike Davis on this point. When did this custom start? Has it always been this way with Mrs. Eddy's hymns? Is it in some way required or just a tradition?

    Hi Peter (#12) Yes, I definitely knew you back in Boston in 1962. You have a good memory. I was doing my master's thesis on an 18th century English writer, Fanny Burney. As I recall, you had a great interest in photography. Years later, I remember coming across a reference to a book of photography which you had published. Great to hear from you!

  22. To Brad (21)

    On March 3, 1903, Mary Baker Eddy wrote to the Christian Science Board of Directors, suggesting that it “would be a good thing” to have one of her hymns “read and sung about every Sunday” in The Mother Church. However, during Mrs. Eddy’s lifetime, the Christian Science Hymnal contained only five of her hymns. (“Love” and “Satisfied” were not added to the Hymnal until 1932.) At the time her letter was written, the First Reader of The Mother Church infrequently selected Mrs. Eddy’s hymns to be sung because many in the congregation disliked the music to which the hymns were set. The letter reads in part as follows:

    "That tunes liked or disliked should rule in or out of our church words like those in my Hymns — has been a sad experience for me and I rejoice that the Christian spirit is calling these words back to remembrance. One of the wealthiest and most devout members of this church has recently requested me to have my Hymns sung more frequently in the Mother Church. It would be a good thing to have one of my Hymns read and sung about every Sunday. It would spiritualize the thought of your audience and this is more needed in the church than aught else can be." (L00326)

    Regarding the phrase, “read and sung,” in the letter, it seems likely that Mrs. Eddy was not singling out her hymns for special treatment by asking that they be read as well as sung, since evidence in the collection suggests that all the hymns in The Mother Church during that period were read in their entirety before being sung.

    Mrs. Eddy’s suggestion to the Board in this letter is specifically directed towards the services in The Mother Church. We have not located any letter in which she gives any guidance on the frequency of singing her hymns in branch churches.

  23. I wonder if maybe many of those who are most unhappy about Church details are lifetime Christian Scientists. Maybe they think the grass is greener elsewhere or they need to rediscover the source of inspiration. Ask those of us who just found CS if we think it's dull or if we care if there are readings from a different translation. I love it all and I'm so grateful for the care given every detail and for the debates about change too. But don't be so sure that these "old fashioned" ways are a turn off. People leave other churches all the time because they're sick of hearing a preacher's personal opinions, for one thing, or they stay because they want to be told what to think. CS allows one to learn to think for oneself, argue with Truth, and discover the power and meaning of God's omnipotence. No other church I belonged to could give me that. The simplicity of a CS service is for nurturing the atmosphere for healing. Regarding other translations, those new to CS have been hearing other translations all along anyway and we were lead to find Science. They must have some good there! Listening to other translations helps one discern the Truth there -- or will lead one to a better translation. Until I began to attend CS services and study, I'd never heard of the concept of the spiritualization of thought. That was very intriguing to me and I discovered it's the reason for doing everything -- everything at church and in life itself. I began to pay attention to details behind planning the services and its organization, and my conclusion was everything is designed around its usefulness in spiritualizing thought. Everything is about spiritual progress. If progress is our only focus when we're at church or praying for church, the little details fall into place and everything makes perfect sense. You can't please everyone all the time, but with right motives, the big picture details all work out. It's all for good! Trust in the Lord with ALL thine heart -- no doubts, no conditions!

  24. Our Society reads scriptural selections, benedictions, and Wednesday readings from other Bible translations -- sometimes completely and sometimes in part.

    And we do it rather frequently. Sometimes we read the benediction from Prose Works. Everyone seems to appreciate the freshness this provides, especially for very familiar Bible passages.

    For hymns, we sometimes do not read any verses, sometimes part of a verse, sometimes one or two verses and sometimes the whole hymn. It is up to the first reader. WE find a phrase can be a very compelling introduction to a hymn.

    Maybe we have a very flexible and open congregation, but I have never heard a complaint. In fact, we love the creativity and inspiration that go into the selections.

    We also rotate readers so there is a different first and second reader each service. We sign up on a calendar. It is a great system for a small congregation.

  25. After singing God's praises, The Lord's Prayer,......then.....Harken.......Listen.....The Christ is here to talk to us. This leads into the lesson.
    About 2-3 minutes. No long stories to outshine the lesson.
    I just loved being First Reader. Thanks

  26. Coming together on a Sunday with all who have been studying the Bible Lesson that week is the high spot and climax of that study for me. It is the coming together as one with all our various inspiration we have gained and are there to share mentally and outwardly which makes it so precious and worthwhile.

    Once I was in a botanical garden with my husband and I look at a plant and remarked that it was a boring plant. His reply was -"There are no boring plants, only bored people!" That turned my thoughts around, and I never look at any plant in that way now, but see them all as God's creative ideas, and look for the interest and beauty in them.

    I love to go to church with the attitude of looking for fresh views of everyone and everything within that service. I like to listen for what else God is unfolding for us to understand and demonstrate.

    Thanks for all the comments - they are very thought provoking and help us to strengthen our own understanding and faith in what Mrs. Eddy has wisely given to us to help us to demonstrate healing more effectively in our own lives.

  27. First Church San Jose, CA, has a very fresh presentation. I had a son with me who really didn't want to go to church. He left that service with a happy attitude. I found it sparkling and uplifting. The First Reader used a verse from a hymn,for the benediction and plugged in text from other translations, and the Second Reader, a man with an authoritative voice, also had a fresh approach. The last time I was in that church, it had a colonial decor. Now it is trendy with light and happy colors, befitting the .com folks who live and work in that area. The selections were all expressive of the Lesson.

  28. I came upon this wonderful answer to the often repeated concern about church growth. It is from a letter from Mrs. Eddy, written to a pupil, dated 1895." What you and all students need most to advance their growth is practice healing the sick. Sea captains on the shore are of no use."

    @ Marian 23- Ditto, ditto, ditto. I get from Christian Science church services what I expect to get- joy, inspiration and healing. Christian Science saved my life, more than once, and gave me a life purpose exquisite beyond my wildest dreams. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Mrs. Eddy once said something like if she was the only CS left in the world , she would still stand fast in it. Me too. I know what it is and I know what it does and that's good enough for me. The power of one heartfelt prayer goes way beyond what anyone can measure. The best way to maintain this church is the same as it always was. Study, pray, love, heal.

  29. Thanks so much #23, sweet Marian! Mrs. Eddy based her church services on the Bible and Science and Health b/c she early saw how personal preaching could adulterate the message of the Christ. I attend other church services with my children who belong to other Christian services. We attended a Christmas Eve service with one young family that was just awful.There was no reference to Jesus or the Christ (this was a Christian church).Now, I'm sure that pastor was sincere in wanting to share his personal interpretation of Christmas, but my kids were so upset they never went back to that church. My point is:Mrs. Eddy was absolutely right that personal preaching was not the way to go. A Christian Science service is not designed to be entertaining. It is designed to as Marion points out: spiritualize thought. Dull? The Christ message dull? Sorry, don't buy it!

  30. Sorry, I meant "who belong to other Christian churches."

  31. Thank you so much for 1 & 2's answers as well as for everybody's comments and sharing. As I was reading them it came to me about by wish before I was called to move to where I am now. A neighbor's daughter committed suicide and I went to give what I could do. As I saw how much the parent's expressed how hurt they were I was so touched that I felt a wish deep inside me that if only I had the understanding- healing power like Christ Jesus had I would have broken "death's spill" and its agony. This became my goal in life since then. Nevertheless, with Truth and Love's guidance I was able to encourage the mom and she was inspired herself and was able to comfort her children. Our beloved Leader, Mary Baker Eddy was able to do likewise and had never ceased healing as evidenced in the book - Mary Baker Eddy Christian Healer. This book was not written by her, it was written through memories of those who worked with her as well as others who were healed even when they were not directly talking with her. To me, who am I to question how she perceived her church government would be since I haven't still found God's grace to heal as she was able to? Shouldn't I keep following her footsteps then and not to let "little foxes"- questionings intrude in my upward flight? She was able to found her church by being an earnest student on how Christ Jesus was able to heal and she found how and shared to us, the whole world-who will earnestly follow her footsteps unquestioning her movement. I remember that in the Bible those who were healed by Christ Jesus were those who unquestioningly obeyed what he said. Most often he said "rise up and walk" "go and sin no more" and so on. And in 11 Kings Chapter 5, Naaman, the Syrian king, was told that Elisha, the prophet, would recover him of his leprosy. So he went on his horse and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. But Elisha sent a messenger unto him , saying "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean." And as Naaman was wroth and went away questioning Elisha's direction, he wasn't healed until he humbled himself and obeyed and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God.

  32. @ #1 Hmmm, Mrs. Eddy made a "mistake" in 1895 and didn't notice or correct it for 16 years? I don't think so. We have the best pastor we could possibly have, preaching the best sermons each week. They're so deep, I'm glad I have the opportunity to preview and work with them ahead of time.

  33. Dear Brad, have you never come across certain statements made by MBE re what she expected of her church service?? It comes across to me as "HEALING" both implied and explicitly. Let me quote something she once said to a student: "...she longed for the day when no one could enter a Christian Science Church, no matter how sick or how sorrowing that one might be, without being healed, and that this day can come only when every member of the church studies and demonstrates the truth contained in the Lesson-Sermon, and takes with him to the service the consciousness thus prepared." (CSS Vol. 18, p. 867) If the service is dull to you, where is your consciousness? Are you preparing to give and not just "hear" ...and perhaps criticize? "More effectual than the forum are our states of mind, to bless mankind." (Pul. 87:21-23)

  34. Brad, didn't you mention in one of past blogs that you go to the Episcopal Church? It is apparent that you disagree with pretty much everything there is in the Christian Science Church Service. Do you equally blog on the Episcopal Church web site? Does the Episcopal Church have a Church Alive site?

    Readers in our church on Wednesdays sometimes enjoy stating I'll read from the Bible and Science & Health all at once. Then the Reader proceeds to read parallel passages from the Bible followed with a S&H segment. It is refreshing and keeps me on my toes! It's wonderful!

    Sundays our Second Reader at the conclusion reads the I John, Chapter 3, from a Bible Translation (different translation each week). It's so refreshing!

    Our church organist plays equally from the piano and organ! The music in our church is so rousing! So invigorating! When the folks in our church stand up to sing it sounds like the we're going to sing the roof right off the building! I love it! My church is a loving, giving, and caring church!

    Once a month the First Reader announces that Fellowship and Refreshments follow the service today downstairs and all are welcome! There is so much joy and genuine heartfelt love expressed and I'm just so glad to have found this CS Church!

    Oh, and Protestant Church Services that last 1 1/2 hr. or 2 hr. are common. I've visited them and folks are up and down/singing/praying at least 5x, but that length of service is routine in most all Christian churches. Sermons are rougly 8 -10 min long in those Protestant Churches, lots of announcements, lists of members facing life threatening illnesses, grape juice/crackers, etc.etc.etc. In fact, it's a joy to make the effort to visit other churches. It's makes one humbly grateful for the deep, spiritual nourishment so generously poured out in CS Church Services.

    Brad, I invite you to consider visiting a Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Bible Church service sometime.

  35. To Mike Davis:

    Mike, thank you for the thorough historical research on the reading of hymn verses. I also enjoyed reading Sharon's response (#24)where the readers had the latitude on hymns, benedictions, etc. Sharon, your description was perfect-fresh and creative.

    Mike, do you work at the MBE Library/Archives?

  36. To Big Mike from California (35)

    Yes, I'm a researcher in the archives at The Mary Baker Eddy Library.

  37. I am a fairly new reader, having come accross this site by accident. As a priest in the Episcopal Church and having seen occasional references made to my denomination I wonder if I may offer a few comments?

    Marion#23 wrote something with which I strongly resonate: 'the grass is always greener...' How true! I am not, as they say, a 'cradle' Episcopalian. I went through a long spiritual journey before arriving here. For me it has become my home, for others it might not be. Regardless, it is tempting to compare one's church, religion, understanding of Jesus, way of doing things, with others and appearing to come up short. One need not be influenced by that.

    Our church also uses prescribed readings from Holy Scripture taken from the Book of Common Prayer, a resource that is hundreds of years old. We do have personal preaching; I as rector (pastor) in my church preach weekly but the scriptures upon which my homilies are based are the same as used in every Episcopal Church for a given week. Our weekly (and daily)readings also go through three year cycles in our lectionary, but the inpsired material upon which they are based, the Bible, is so deep that they are not exhausted.

    I come from one of those backgrounds where sermons were a minimum of 30 minutes, but in our denomination they are far shorter. I see the dangers of getting the same perspective from the same individual every week, having human-centered rather than Spirit-centered messages. In our congregation we have a couple others who are liscensed to preach and they occasionally 'spell' me. It is a danger in every religious circle to over-emphasize the human at the expense of the Divine.

    We, too, have a prescribed order of worship (with areas for creative variations) in the Prayer Book; and, as well, some find that confining. I find it liberating compared to the relative chaos I've seen in some places that are quite preacher-centered, of the moment, and entertainment-oriented.

    I love the healing emphasis of Christian Science. There are theological points upon which we may differ, but the quiet, peaceful, comforting atmosphere in a CS service is a far cry from chaotic self-centered free-for-alls that tragically are becoming fashionable in certain Christian circles. By no means does that need to rule out the desire for sharing and fellowship!

    My humble suggestion is to enjoy, appreciate, keep, and capitalize on your strengths. The 'world,' i.e. what is popular, is not the final arbiter of the effectivness of the Christian faith. The are many paths to Christ, and He is the way to the Father.

    My apologies for the length of this blog and for intruding with the perspectives of an outsider.

  38. Robert, so glad you joined the discussion! No need to apologize-- you're absolutely welcome here. The question of what is relevant, vital, and exciting about church is certainly one that so many churches are asking, and it's so helpful to talk with others from different denominations to truly appreciate that fact.

    I love what you shared about your church's readings-- how they are prescribed and come from the Bible as well as your Book of Common Prayer, but that the inspiration is so deep that even with some repetition and familiarity, there is still so much more to be gained from hearing those sermons. That's certainly something I can relate to as a Christian Scientist. Just when a Bible verse or citation from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures becomes familiar to me, I hear it again and it takes on a totally new meaning. That Holy Ghost experience can't be underestimated.

    Thanks again for sharing, look forward to having you chime in again sometime in the future :)

    Inge

  39. Robert, I, too, loved what you wrote in such a gentle, humble and encouraging manner. Bless you! I especially love what you wrote about "the world" NOT being the final arbiter.

    My uncle is a retired Episcopal priest, which makes your presence here extra-meaningful to me. I join Inge in hoping you will "chime in again" with your thoughts, which show your obvious devotion to God, to good!

  40. Robert (No. 37),
    I visited an Episcopal Wednesday morning healing service in Kapa'a on the Island of Kaua'i in Hawaii. I was warmly welcomed and even invited to read from the Common Prayer Book even though I was an "outsider."
    The prayers were familiar scriptural readings which, without the prejudice of worldly teachings (medical/social/religious) which water them down by the time they reach the human ear, could be strong spiritual healing truths. If the congregation grows to understand that the Christ is the ultimate healer, even today, they will recognize the healing message in what they read.
    I love in your last paragraph, "The ‘world,’ i.e. what is popular, is not the final arbiter of the effectivness of the Christian faith." Keeping it scriptural, thoughtfully read and through whatever translation, prepares the listeners for the Christ-touch that uplifts thought and sends the congregation out the door singing the songs of a spiritual life lived.
    Thanks so much for your comments.
    I have close family members who are active workers in the LA Diocese. We love each other through our appreciation of the Word.

  41. The inspiration in our lessons keeps me always looking for more ways to experience them. The inspired reading on Sunday makes it a complete experience. Our readers have the duty and privilage to make the lesson alive with meaning and inspiration. And our prayerful presence and support enhances the blessing for all.

    I have had considerable experience reading. I find that there is plenty of opportunioty to bring a fresh feeling to the services. Personally I have found that relatively short meaningful Scriptural selections work well. As to Benedictions the Order of Services simply say, "Pronouncing Benediction". I have often found that the most inspired blessing (a benediction is a blessing) is a simple loving expression such as, "May the Lord bless thee and keep thee". Recently I visited one of the most inspired healing church services that I have ever seen. The first reader used a short appropriate statement from our leaders Prose Works.

    And may Life, Truth, and Love bless all mankind.

  42. Poor Brad, seems you're under attack from just about all sides. But know that there ARE a few who are on board with you and I'm one of them. With WhatMeWorry, too.I know people who, after just one service have sworn they never sill set foot in one again. As I read the majority of the posts on this forum, and not just about this week's question, I realize that the general opinion is that things must go on as usual. But I can't imagine that 500 years from now we will still be using a Bible translation already vastly outdated(except for those with a Master's in English). How on earth can we expect the enormous immigrant population that is already changing the face of the USA and the English language, to find the KJV useful? And that's just one issue.
    I love the comments about different initiatives in branch churches, that make them more attractive and keep folks on their toes. But I know for sure that in my branch church, if even one of those innovations were implemented, we'd lose half our members.Perhaps that would be a good thing; maybe the dead leaves should fall and leave room for more youthful thinkers...
    Anyway I always read your posts with the greatest of interest and look forward to hearing from you.

  43. Nancy, I don't think people entirely disagree with you, or Brad, or some of the others. Change is not a bad thing, not something to be feared. I do think that some people, myself included, feel that it's important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater so to speak.

    As you note, there are a lot of branch churches that are growing, and finding new ways of doing things. Maybe you're right, maybe the dead leaves should fall. time will tell on that one. But what this discussion has brought out to me is that we all love God, and are looking for a worship experience that supports that love for God. We may not all find it in the same place, even in branch churches. But we're better for thinking about and discussing it together, even when we don't necessarily agree.

  44. At one time I was the bookkeeper for a Christian Science nursing facility. One day, while new at the job, while handing out the paychecks, I had to tell the employees that they were not being paid in full because we did not have the money that day. The administrator and all the supervisors voluntarily contributed to the payroll fund our entire paychecks and still there was not enough. The non Christian Science employees-cooks, housekeepers and maintenance crew, all said, "We are not worried. Christian Scientists always know how to fix things." I was so humbled by their trust. I went back to my office and the idea came to thought that Gods children could never be short changed. That very day, funds came in from unexpected sources and we had more than enough to cover the entire shortage and we all got paid in full. I was a single parent at that time and it would have been a great hardship to not have my pay for those two weeks. In the nearly five years that I remained at that job, we never ran short on payroll again. It has been many years now and that facility is still in business. So I saw that Christian Scientists"know how to fix things."
    @Robert- Welcome and thank you so very much for your respectful and generous input.

  45. Very interesting discussion.

    1.Occasionally our church's First Reader chooses the opening Bible reading from a translation other than KJV and I love that. Lively and awakening. In some few cases that selection could also be the same reference as the Responsive Reading or some other bit from the Bible Lesson that week, and offer a different way to think about the passage. I wish other translations were used for opening readings more often. (I also love the idea of Wed. readings chosen from other than KJV.)
    2.I, even today, hear comments by friends who belong to other denominations about sitting through too long or boring sermons. Some have spoken of changing churches for one or both of those reasons. In restaurants on Sunday I sometimes hear people waiting for tables complain about being late because their pastor talked too long. As for ritual? Other denominations have that, some much more than others. Also, how about a service where attendees sit in silent meditation for long spaces of time?
    3. Yes, there are some Christian Science Churches still glued to "habitual ritual," and I think those could benefit from a fresher and more lively outlook. So much is possible without any step outside Manual requirements. Posters here on Church Alive have described many ideas--background music at new times, reading the initial Bible passage and the benediction from a translation other than KJV, and so on. HOORAY!
    4. Readers can also liven things up by the way they read--what is chosen for emphasis, and so on. This can help listeners understand a passage in a whole new way.

  46. First, I just want to say what a great discussion blog Week 49 has been. I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments. While I agree with some more than others, I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed them all.
    Nancy (#42) -- I always appreciate your support so much!! I don't feel that I am being "attacked" even though, as you point out, most posters don't seem to share many of our views.
    I think that this Church Alive website is so important to the future of the CS church. Although the progress may seem at times "glacial", there are definite signs that things are beginning to change. Who would have thought, for example, that so many branches are starting to host weddings or have memorial services. Not so many years ago, you never would have heard of either at a CS branch church. Also, some branches are beginning to have social/refreshment hours after the Sunday service -- not so many years ago, a definite BIG NO, NO!!
    So, you see, there is hope for the future. Truly, I am amazed when I hear about all the new things that are being done to enliven the spirit of the CS services. Unfortunately, there are some branches (like yours, Nancy) where change is very hard to bring about. It must be very discouraging for you. Keep the faith!!
    As to using different translations (other than the KJV version), as mentioned in these discussions, many branches are now using other translations for the Scriptural Selection and the Benediction. I have even gone to Sunday services several years ago in the summer (Riverton, NJ) where a different Bible translation was used for the entire service. One time, I recall, the Message Bible was used. I can't remember whether other translations were used. Unfortunately, this rather "progressive" church closed a few years ago. After these "special" Sunday services, a refreshment/social hour followed.
    Robert (#37) -- I so much enjoyed reading your comments. I have attended the Episcopal Church for many years (yes, Quiltmom (#34)) and very much love the service. I have no difficulty at all reconciling what I have learned in my CS upbringing with the beliefs of the Episcopal Church. I think that we are all striving to progress in our spiritual journey, and each individual has to choose the best path for him/herself. Thanks so much for joining in the discussion!

  47. Thanks, Brad #46. I totally agree with your closing remarks. A French theologian once wrote, "That which rises, converges". True, when you thnk about it.I believe we are all "seekers of the light" Robert's post illustrates that nicely.
    Salutations to all.

  48. This is the first time I have visited this site and enjoyed the discussion. I go back to pre war services and the formality of the dress of Readers, soloists and ushers. Glad that is no longer the norm! When my husband and I were getting married in 1948 we chose a Methodist Chapel and we had to attend their service for two Sundays to have the Banns of our wedding announced. At the end a lady in the pew in front turned round to welcome us.I explained I was a Christian Scientist and my fiance a Congregationalist. Her reply "we are all on a journey,some walk, some drive some by bus but we all reach the same end". I think this applies to our present way of organising our services. Gwyn Wilson, Western Australia

  49. Robert #37 - I found your comments most interesting. Thank you for sharing. I wish you were in my town, (Winchester, VA). There is no Christian Science church here, and I would love to attend a protestant church where I knew that the minister felt my C.S. upbringing and study thereof was a worthwhile endeavor, and that our services were peaceful and comforting. I definitely value the sincerity and effort that the people of the Methodist church, where we sometimes attend, are putting into their service. But I sometimes get a sense that some people feel that Christian Scientists are not really Christians. This makes me very sad. Nobody wants to follow Christ Jesus any more than we do. He was and is the Son of God "one in quality, not in quantity".....or something very close to that. Because we believe he is the Son, reflecting but not the source, of God's infinite power and presence.....that takes NOTHING away from him at all. He had and utilized through reflection,(his AT-ONE-MENT with the Father) THE FULL POWER OF GOD....THE ONE MIND! God was the mind that Christ Jesus had. His thoughts came directly from the Father. Why do some people hate us or believe we are not Christians? I don't understand.

  50. Sometimes it is a challenge for me to look through the personal readers to the Pastor--the inspired word of the Bible and the wonderful illumination Science and Health brings to the inspired word. Likewise, as a reader, it's challenging to witness the Pastor--God speaking & the message of Christ coming to the human consciousness in exactly the ways needed in our church for our congregation and community on a given day. But, when I do and always when I come with a hungry and loving heart, blessings come. Church services seem most often a trip to the mountain top. I am so grateful to hear the truth of the Bible lessons, Wednesday readings, scriptural selections, hymns, hymns, hymns and the benedictions. The comments on the scriptural selections that launched this discussion were helpful. The church services are, for me, an opportunity to prize the pearl of great price.

  51. I appreciate this question being addressed because it helps me think about the purpose of the Scriptural selection, and has given me background that's very helpful in preparing for Sunday services.
    I have to say that we have the best pastor in the world! There are no sermons more inspiring than our sermons, coming straight from the Bible and our textbook which itself springs from the Bible's inspiration. Where else can we hear these most radical, life-changing sermons? Reading can certainly be animated. Coming to that post with the "hungry and loving heart" mentioned by Mary (50) is, I think, the way into more animated and interesting reading.

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