Week 51: "With so many people working remotely, using the Internet for communication, and even holding meetings over the internet, should more Christian Science churches be looking into online services, online lectures, etc? Is something lost by not gathering together in a building?”

Response 1: Kevin Graunke

This question is right at the leading edge of what many churches, not just our own, are confronting in today’s wireless, instant-message world. How do we balance the value of connecting and sharing online with the invaluable blessing that comes from gathering together in person to exchange spiritual ideas and build on common goals?

I love this statement from Mary Baker Eddy in The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, because it’s so relevant here: Commenting on “the pursuit of modern material inventions,” she said, “Oh, we cannot oppose them. They all tend to newer, finer, more etherealized ways of living….They light the way to the Church of Christ.” (p. 345).

Today’s digital communications—websites, blogs, social media, etc.,—have incredible potential to “light the way to the Church of Christ” rather than competing with it or diverting us from it (The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, p. 345). As we use the tools effectively, with the goal of “preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15) we won’t stop coming together. Instead, I’ve found they can help kindle a spirit of Christian fellowship that naturally draws us together. Letting our light shine virtually invites sharing that light in person.

In my own state, we’ve just launched a new website: http://christiansciencewisconsin.com. Its purpose is “…to share the healing message of Christian Science and connect Wisconsin Christian Science churches with each other and their local communities.” In the few months the site has been active, it has already helped our branch churches communicate more effectively with the public as well as with fellow church members. A few examples:

  • Providing a calendar of events including lectures, Reading Room open houses, and many other special activities like hymn sings.It uses Google Maps to pinpoint locations.
  • Listing every branch church and society in the state with photos, times of services, and maps.
  • Linking visitors with other online resources for spiritual study and enrichment, including those on The Mother Church’s Website.

This concept, to me, seems so in line with what Jesus said: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, New International Version). Communicating with the whole world via the Internet is an amazing way to lift up the healing activity of the Christ. It’s helping bring our global village together to talk, worship, pray, and sing in one another’s company, heart to heart and face-to-face.

Response 2: Lindsey Biggs

It’s important to think about our motives when considering what the right outreach activity is for our church, including Internet activity. Church supports and blesses our communities. If sharing the message of Truth and Love online is the right way to aid this mission for a branch church, embracing people in the community who wouldn’t otherwise be able to join, then it is “blessed of our Father, and it does not return unto us void” (Science and Health, p. 2).

No one can miss the healing message of Truth and Love because they are not in the same physical location. “The ‘still, small voice’ of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe's remotest bound” (Science and Health, p. 559). When church members actively love one another, and Love governs the preparations and activity of the service or lecture, then the love they are expressing will be felt by those who are joining online. The same Love that has impelled the sharing of this activity is bringing together those who are in need and supplying their hearts with the pure perception of divine, ever-present Love. The voice of Truth is speaking to everyone in just the right way, and it transforms those who are listening in person and online.

There is no limitation that can get in the way of anyone hearing the message of Truth. There are no limits of time, space, or distance; there is no imposition of technical glitches or feeling inadequate to understand new technology. Our love of Truth and oneness with the Holy Spirit is what impels us to share, reach out, love our neighbor, and heal, and Love supplies just the right way to do this. Nothing can stand in the way of Love being fully expressed and manifested because “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (Science and Health, p. 13)

  1. I dated a boy for several years who became involved with a fundamentalist religious group. They told him that Christian Science was a cult, and we eventually broke up because of his negativity toward my religion. Then I began dating someone new who also asked me about my religion. He had never heard of Christian Science, but he immediately went to the library to find out more about it. On the shelves of the public library, he found Science and Health and a book about the Christian Science Way of Life. He skimmed through these books and found nothing objectionable. We eventually married and now have three teenage sons who attend Christian Science Sunday School. If my sons mention Christian Science to their friends, do you think these teenage friends will look up Christian Science in a card catalog in a library? If these friends are really interested (or if they have to write a school report on this unique religion), they will surf the internet, and I am so glad that The Mother Church has progressively shared our religion with the public through this new medium.

    I felt that our local churches needed to have something on the internet showing that Christian Science was alive and active in our own city. Due to our hurricane evacuations, more New Orleanians became accustomed to reading the local newspaper online than in any other community in the US. But, in order to advertise online, you need to have a website for viewers to visit when they click on your ad. So, www.christianscienceneworleans.org was actually started as a way to advertise our traditional lectures through the local online newspaper. We’ve also advertised our Thanksgiving services online. (Here is the link to last year’s Thanksgiving service: http://nola.stage.advance.net/sites/christianscience/ad.html) When the link is active, it brings you directly to the local Christian Science website.

    When the Gulf Oil Spill occurred last year, the local churches quickly held a lecture that we were permitted to record and upload onto our website. This allowed the lecture’s timely message to reach Christian Scientists all along the Gulf Coast who were too far away to drive to the lecture.

    My teenage sons and husband help produce this website. One son helped with editing a video about Hurricane Katrina because I had never done a youtube video before, and another son composed the music for a slide show about New Orleans with quotes from the Bible and Science and Health. My Sunday School class also starred in a video about a Sunday School game that we put on the youth page of the website.

    Currently one of our branch churches is trying Skype services on Wednesday nights to accommodate members who live too far away or who don’t wish to drive at night. We all have different types of computers, so it has been a learning experience with much patience and love being expressed by everyone! Having a local website was a way for us to learn more about our ever-evolving technology AND to share our love of Christian Science at the same time.

  2. The link to the online Thanksgiving ad in comment #1 is:

    http://nola.stage.advance.net/sites/christianscience/ad.html

    I just realized that it wasn't working because the closing parenthesis became part of the link!

  3. This is a very timely question. I think that the Internet will have an increasingly important part to play in the future of the CS church. Things are moving so fast in this technological age that it is difficult to say what the next steps will be.

    The Mother Church has been very pro-active in leading the way, with the Annual Meeting "streamed" over the Internet for the past ten years or so. They also broadcast the Sunday service (audio) over the Internet as well. More recently, the Wednesday service can also be heard online.
    I wonder whether it would be possible to do a weekly video streaming of the Sunday service, much like the Annual Meeting. That would be a big step forward. Think of all the people who do not live near a CS branch church. If the Mother Church Sunday service could be video streamed, it would be the next best thing to physically being in church for these people. I do not know whether this would be feasible from a cost perspective. Perhaps the cost would be prohibitive.

    The Mother Church Internet broadcasting of services will, I believe, become ever more necessary as more branch churches continue to close, making it a difficult trip for people in remote areas to get to a "physical" church.
    I don't have much information about branch churches currently using the Internet to broadcast their services. I know of one branch, the Society in San Juan Capistrano, CA which uses Skype to connect listeners in remote areas to their services. This Society has a very progressive approach to their outreach and has a very informal feeling to their services, which makes it easier for the newcomer to relate to.

    The last part of the Question of the Week asks whether something is lost by not meeting with others in a physical building. Well, yes, of course, something is lost. There is no substitute for meeting as part of a congregation in a physical building. But when this is not possible, then using the Internet is the next best thing.

  4. I am profoundly grateful for the brilliant internet sites The Mother Church provides. I think back on the Christian Science Movement's plunge into media in the 80's/90's as effort was made to magnify more universally the Christ message. Those in charge had a certain naive sense but a good vision. Mistakes were made. There was resistance within and without. But, as hard lessons were learned progress followed.

    Today, we are witnessing a fuller realization of this earlier vision through all The Mother Church provides on-line. My heart sings in amazed appreciation. This time, the venture is powerfully supported by the excellent metaphysical sites it includes. These angel witnesses keep relentless watch over the broadcast of universal Christ love as this Love encircles the world, pervading each corner of every heart

  5. Hi Colleen (#1 and #2)

    I used the links you provided and checked out the websites. Kudos to your husband and sons for their excellent and creative work!!

    It would be great if more CS branches followed the lead of the New Orleans churches in this endeavor.

    Also, I would like to strongly suggest that some of the other branch church websites which I have seen over the years use a little more imagination in designing their sites. A site with printed information only, without any pictures, makes for a very dull "visit.

  6. I especially love having the Sunday church service and the Wednesday testimony meeting available on line. I feel a sweet connection with TMC each week; it literally comes to where I am and I feel so nurtured and safe tucked in this expanding structure of Truth and Love. I also participate weekly in my own branch church service and meeting which, of course, is lovely to have so close and provides the opportunity for me to specifically unite with others- members and friends- to serve and prayerfully support the spiritual growth of my community. I am grateful for the progress that is being made in the field of communication- it is becoming easier and easier to communicate and share the healing truths of Christian Science globally. This is what is needed. Christian Science is the Comforter the world is hungering and thirsting for. Everyone wants to feel the love of the Comforter and I am so grateful our Church is being proactive in "knocking on the doors" of our neighbors worldwide.

  7. I love connecting with Christian Scientists all over the world. Also , I love being able to encourage others to not give up hope that they can have a full and active branch church. We have one in Tempe Arizona and in fact there are ten local branch churches of varying sizes in the Phoenix AZ area. We have not done anything especially new and jazzy. For the most part, traditional services and Sunday School. So while some may feel we are the exception, I like to think we are proving the possibility in this day and time for all to have full active memberships. We love our after service fellowship that just naturally comes . I would miss having the hugs and laughing and sharing and the kids playing with a football on the lawn outside and all the babies crawling around our legs. But we also use internet a lot. We love the new techy stuff. We use email to contact our membership and regular visitors and our board has been having their meetings on skype conference calls and many of our members and regular visitors are friends on Facebook and we share and post the TMC websites. Even though I have an active branch to attend Wednesday nights, I also love the online Wed . test meeting from Boston. I also enjoy participating in the church community forums. So church for me has grown as an active concept because of all the online activities. I am so grateful that those without big branch churches at this time can connect and not feel all alone out there.

  8. The internet has only been a plus as far as I can see.

    I look after the music in our church and am constantly looking for fresh new music to inspire. Through the internet I made contact with a Brazilian Christian Scientist musician and composer. She gave me two MBE hymns she had rewritten in a contemporary jazz style.

    They were great and we have already used one as a solo in church.

  9. I think it may be time to change our definition of "reading room" to be an internet presence. The days when physical location meant everything are almost over. The amount of money CS churches currently spend maintaining physical reading rooms could be much better spent on providing on-line information, education, discussion, and assistance. What I would like to see is a good CS web presence for local interactive metaphysical discussion and education, something that now seems only to be available elsewhere.

    I am also curious as to why when I get the Church Alive e-mail that there are always responses even when I look at it immediately upon receipt. Usually 6-8 people have already responded. Should I expect there to be many more responses if I open the site a week later? If so, then I suggest that you tell people that they should check back in a few days should they want to "read more about it".

  10. Thank you for this wonderful insight Kevin and Lindsey. I’ve learned in my career as a software designer and programmer that good use of technology opens channels, connects ideas, and reveals better ways to go about our work. It doesn’t distract or isolate. It supports the idea that we are here to interact and learn with each other.

    Applications such as Facebook, Skype, and church web sites bring more of us closer together to share and explore. I have been face-to-face with abundantly more people since I started using these tools.

    My state’s new web site, http://ChristianScienceWisconsin.com , is already proving its worth by connecting people and ideas in and around Wisconsin. News articles keep us informed about Student Center activities at our universities, fellowship events with our new DiscoveryBound chapter, and fruitage from lectures, interfaith work, and community outreach. And most important to me, the site’s spiritual articles demonstrate the love for and practical application of Christian Science in daily lives of people right here in Wisconsin. The good use of technology invites everyone to share and explore in person.

    It is our natural state to want to interact and learn with others—to come out of our houses and give and grow side-by-side. Good technology affords us more opportunities than ever to do just that.

  11. Barbara. I love the fact that your church is proving that our church services are of themselves - without "new and jazay" additions - full and active. It is the Christ that attracts and for whatever reason your church seems to be proving that.

  12. church services on line has been a blessing asIdon't drive to far anymore. Church truly is the structure of truth and love.thanks so much .

  13. Thanks, Kathy # 11. I know that we are blessed. A few times a year instead of the organ we have a guitar playing for the solo. I really can't think of anything else that we do that might be considered especially innovative - I mean there are no brass bands or flying monkeys-lol-just pretty basic stuff. But we are loving and friendly and cheerful. I know we should not number the people but just as a sign of encouragement to you all, in the last few months we signed up six new members, all but one appearing to be under the age of forty five or so, with one young man just graduating from Sunday School. I have posted b4 here that there is a standing sule that all members are to watch out for newcomers and make sure they do not sit alone or go away without being greeted. We also have a transportation committee that offers rides to church to members and non members. And most of us are good friends away from church. Just lots of study, prayer and love love love.

  14. Our Services are Wednesday Testimony Meetings are friendly, joyful and welcoming. We have been on line for anyone to phone in on Sundays and Wednesdays and listen for a while now, and we set aside a time for anyone to contribute on line if they wish on the Wednesday meeting.

    We are located in the South East of England, and we do have a regular party of listeners- in from the North and one we know of from Stockholm - generally I think people who are too far away from a CS Church, or can't get to one for some reason. They have all expressed gratitude for this service. We also make a recording available on line for anyone who is unable to attend or listen in live.

    Recently we attempted to provide our lecture on-line but at the last moment couldn't make the connection unfortunately. We intend to attempt this for our next one.

    We have a computer in our Reading Room ( which is open every day during the week from 10am - 4pm and sometimes on Saturday mornings). We find that most people want either to browse the shelves, or sit quietly and read, or speak to us one to one either to find out more about us, or to ask for help with problems. Some people say they find a lovely peaceful atmosphere in this room.

    It is helpful to hear what others are doing and achieving, because we are all looking for better ways to share CS with our community. Each church will find its own way forward from the point they are at, and it is very good to exchange ideas.

    Thank you everyone for your input.

  15. As our consciousness advances so is the technology. This is the time and age to show what virtual interconnection is all about. After all, we are spiritual, so virtual reality is more real than physical reality. Isn't it just a natural outcome of our growth as far as human consciousness is concerned? We cannot go backwards in a physical way but marching toward mental realm and ultimately, as we keep advancing in Christian Science as MBE said, into spiritual realm (our true home).

    The warm feeling of physical connection is mental based anyhow. Our old habit still cling to things physical including human contact. It takes a giant step to reach to an upgrade in human consciousness but the beat of advancement keeps on going with no turning back.

  16. the curch alive newsletter is a great blessing.for me it means, god is alive, his healing power and love is present
    without limitation. I like to read the articles and ideas .
    its my little "church service" and I feel connected with christan scientists around the world.
    I dont no what kind of church , branch church services is needed for me or others and what the future will show. but im shure , a god given spirituell idea never will give up or never dies.
    In the meantime I see a lot of opportunities to let my little light shine and give love and aid to people in my area.
    that makes me realy happy.
    Some days ago, I joined the community. I am greatfull for this way of communication. Thanks also to Barbara AZ for your comment.

  17. Each of us have had significant experiences with Christian Science in communicating with others. Some of these connections have led people to the understanding and appreciaton of the fruit and the joy which come from the practice of our faith.

    My own communications have usually been limited to one individual at a time. Mrs. Eddy expressed her great joy at
    seeing thousands of Truth seekers reach out to Science and be blessed.

    Truth, Life, and Love need to be demonstrated. Not to ourselves alone, but to the millions of needy across the globe. The Internet is a ready tool.

    Our branch has been advised of this, and we can be assured that only by reaching out can God's goodness be expressed and reflected.

  18. The internet is certainly an important tool for CS outreach to the world community. I find it a valuable complement to my spiritual search engine. Guests in our Reading Room often have found CS first on the internet.
    With regard to the last part of the question: It's helpful to see the "walking and leaping and praising God" of those healed (coming and going). Perhaps my avatar could do this in a virtual meeting, but it might not be the same.

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