Week 52: "At what point is it right to withdraw your membership from a local branch church, and either seek out another branch church or start a new society? Is it ever the right time to give up and move on?"

Response 1: Robin Hoagland

It can be hard when it feels like our local church falls short of the ideal we hold in our hearts–the ideal of the Day of Pentecost, where “they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). But the early Church had its own struggles, too, working through divisive issues from Jewish practices for pagan converts to enforcing morality and codifying theology. That Christianity survived those contentious church meetings is due in large part to the stalwart members who held to the spiritual ideal Jesus taught of God and man as the workable model for both the individual and the community.

Our Church reinstates primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing–healing not just the individual body but also the church body. While the Science of Christian Science expresses the absolute nature of divine Principle, Christian stands for the means and method for the human to yield to the divine as it uplifts, heals, and saves humanity. Each By-Law of the Church Manual flows out of the Christian ethos: faithfulness, forgiveness, humility, patience, and love. In the section dealing with ‘Complaints,’ for example, members are to utilize the Matthew Code, live in Christian fellowship, strive to overcome the errors within a local church (see Manual pp. 50-55).

This echoes “what the Spirit saith unto the churches” in Revelation (Rev. 2:17). To the six churches struggling with internal problems, there is great promise of spiritual rewards “to him that overcometh” (Rev. 3:21). The seventh church, which has already overcome its internal divisions, is the church whose door will never shut–the small, modest church of Philadelphia, of “brotherly love.”

Mary Baker Eddy was well acquainted with the shortcomings of human organizations, even those with high aspirations like a church. She knew Christian Scientists could “co-elbow” rather than “cooperate” and so counseled her followers to “remember that the first and last lesson of Christian Science is love, perfect love, and love made perfect through the cross” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 138).

I’ve thought how her counsel on marriage has application to our decisions regarding branch church membership: Be dutiful mariners through the storms assailing our ship and “stick to the wreck” until either “an irresistible propulsion” ends the journey or the storm ceases and the sea becomes calm again (see Science and Health, p. 67). Let’s never lose sight of the possibility of resolving issues with all still onboard. As only God can guide those addressing troubled marriages in the most progressive path forward, only God can guide those addressing troubled churches. Whether we feel our answer is to reinvest in our branch church in the hope and prayer that the moments of Pentecost become more and more frequent, or whether we feel impelled toward fellowship in a different direction will be individual. But either path demands that we practice even more earnestly the Christianity that is the essence of the Sermon on the Mount and that truly defines Christian Science.

Response 2: Louis Benjamin

On page 137 of Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy expounds the basis of Christ Jesus’ church. It was based on the disciple Peter’s understanding that the spiritual foundation of church was what Jesus represented: “Christ, the spirit of God, of Truth, Life, and Love, which heals mentally.”

Against this church, Christ Jesus told us that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matt. 16:18). The definition of hell in the Glossary of Science and Health includes the following: “suffering and self-destruction; self-imposed agony; effects of sin; that which ‘worketh abomination or maketh a lie.’” (p. 588). That is exactly what mortal mind (hell) would have happen to our church.

But Jesus gave us the solution: He based his church not on the personal Peter – and it then became evident (to Peter) that healing was the result of the action of divine Truth, Life and Love —and not human personality. That implies that church cannot be brought to the level of an operative or functional personal organization.

Animal magnetism, or the appeal of the physical, as opposed to the spiritual, works through personal feelings and impressions, which may be suggestions based on human will and self-justification sometimes exhibited as disunity and division–the false belief that a material selfhood has power to manage, rule, and regulate an establishment run by mortals. This error should be uncovered for what it is—the counterfeit of church. Error unexposed, and therefore not denied, tries to control us. It needs to be seen as powerless, having no Principle, which means no source, no law, and no cause. Then it can be destroyed by infinite Truth, the gates of hell do not prevail—and the basis of the questions (above) fall away.

The chemicalization—or stirring of thought produced when Truth is active in destroying evil—taking place in our movement needs our recognition and acceptance that “the truth of being must transform the error to the end of producing a higher manifestation” (Science and Health, p. 401). That higher manifestation is the human patterning the divine – the church established by both Christ Jesus and Mary Baker Eddy. Mrs. Eddy explains this “cleansing upheaval” clearly in Science and Health (p. 540).

When we turn from the sense of a personal organization run by mortals to the understanding that church is the spiritual idea of Truth and Love, we gain the right concept. It becomes clear to us that this church can never be a repository of personal opinions generated by material sense testimony. Church is the spiritual idea expressing itself in a form individually understandable to all men as harmony, holiness and health.

  1. I am sure that the "Question" this week will generate a very lively and spirited discussion. Say what one will about the spiritual nature of church, the practical reality of the situation is that no matter how high-minded the principles of the organization may be, there will always be differences of opinion and thought about certain issues.

    One such issue, I would think, would be the pull of liberalizing trends in a branch church, as opposed to the thinking of those who don't want to see any kind of change, no matter how obvious the need. Over the years, there has grown up a kind of CS "culture" where ideas and concepts, never laid down by Mrs. Eddy in the Church Manual, have become "gospel".

    I would think that this kind of problem would present a very difficult dilemma, especially to those of a more progressive bent. I have read a number of posts on this Question of the Week site where individuals have almost despaired of ever seeing any kind of progress in their branch church. It must be very discouraging when one realizes that "things are probably never going to change".
    At this point, it might be time to "jump ship" and set out in a different direction. The trouble is that unless one lives in a major city, there is not much choice in which CS church to attend, since there is probably only a single church in a large geographic area. As for starting a new Society, the existing branch church is probably already struggling with a very small and declining membership, so there aren't many other people left with which to form a new organization.

  2. I have a couple of concerns about the comments supplied by Robin and Louis. I think we tend to idealize the early church too much by substituting in our thoughts what should have happened for what did happen. As CS experience teaches us, Jesus certainly did base his teaching on the Christ rather than on the personal Peter, but as far as most of the Christian world is concerned, Peter the human being was retroactively identified as the founding father even though far outshone by Paul's more spiritual works and teachings. Christianity, as Jesus defined it, did not survive (many of its stalwarts left the increasingly bureaucratic church to become Desert Fathers or independent missionaries) but evolved into a materialistic philosophy with no practical road to the salvation Jesus outlined - until MBE came along.
    Along with John's praise of the church at Philadelphia came some hard-edged advice that we need to take to heart if we are dedicated to becoming true Christians rather than being made comfortable in church meetings. The open door set before us is surely our human consciousness, able, without Christian Science training, to ingest what is false as easily as what is true: to be converted as well as to convert. The Philadelphia church was a small enclave in the midst of hostile Turks and within eighty years was gone. Did John's comment mean 'use your spiritual strength to convert them before they convert you?' If we don't convert materialistic views to spiritual ones - by remembering what we have been called upon to do -materialism will convert us as it converted the early Christians, and our church will become a good natured philosophy having happier meetings but little or no impact on mankind.

  3. The two answers to this weeks question remind us clearly what Christian Science teaches us - namely, that there is nothing wrong with the spiritual idea called church - but it is our concept of the idea which is wrong.

    Mrs. Eddy tells us in Science and Health (page 47:4), that the disciples became better healers when they gained the true idea and then "They no longer measured man by material sense."

  4. To add a further note to Ed's comment: Jumping ship, whether from one church to another, one marriage to another or one place to another (or even from life to death) doesn't solve the problems that disturb our consciousness, which takes its disturbances along with us wherever we travel. The only answer, which is why CS is so valuable to human beings struggling with problems, is to purify consciousness by eliminating (with Christ's help) the limited concepts (of ourselves or others) that tend to fill it with the "friction of false selfhood until it is self destroyed" Mis 104:19. The only solution is to "pour in truth through flood-tides of Love. Christian perfection (including harmonious church meetings) is won on no other basis."201:17

  5. I appreciate the thoughtful comments. Personally, I've never seen much benefit to changing the location of the "dream" - waking up to the oneness of Mind happens right where we are.
    "Consciousness constructs a better body (church) when faith in matter is given up".MBE

  6. As with all issues of importance, one should seek Gods counsel.

  7. How grateful I am that we are able to have these discussions that promote our individual and collective spiritual growth.

  8. Purifying one's consciousness is always the goal however, the very act of doing that can lift one higher and sometimes to a different location. It's not up to anyone else to say that someone should just stay and work it out. That almost feels like old theology. God is demanding more of all of us now for church. God's ways are higher that ours and I've found, in life, that as I work and pray about issues, sometimes things clear out to stay or sometimes, I'm lifted up and out. One is not a better solution than another -- just different and individual. It is between God and each of His children.

  9. I'm finding in my own church experience, it changes for the better as I resolve to work even harder to realize greater spiritual understanding in my own study. Looking outside ourselves at the "mistakes" others are making will never contribute to personal or church growth.

  10. I am so grateful for the answers given. They are so helpful to me in my prayers for church. Belonging to a
    little, old church that needs much in way of updates and modernization, I thought what was said about healing of church body was so applicable. As we apply same principles of healing that we use when we pray about our physical bodies, we can do the same for the 'church body'. We all know it is "a structure of Truth and Love" as our Leader tells us - nothing material about it!
    And I loved the verse 'the gates of hell shall not prevail". The entire atmosphere is filled with spiritual ideas and there is no room left for any other kind of thinking. Thank you so much as I pray for thie evening's services around the globe.

  11. I'd like to add to my comment that my church experience has improved as I've practiced more faithfully what I'm learning through study -- emphasis on practice.

  12. As one that has changed churches several times over a 35 year period, I can only say from my own experience that I prayed diligently before taking that step so as to be sure I was not doing it for the wrong reasons. In the article, "God's law of Adjustment," by Adam Dickey, he writes, "We cannot hope to work out of this human sense of existence without making mistakes. We may make many, but will profit by them all. We are at liberty to change our belief of things as often as we get new light," and he also states, "Is a general less fit to lead his army because in the heat of battle he changes his tactics under the guidance of wisdom? A too determined sense of carrying out a preconceived plan is more likely to be the enthronement of erring human will."

  13. The frequently delusional approach to sclerotic branch churches mirrors the (U.S.) nation's notion that it can continue to pay for existing government entitlements without end and without changes.

    Five-percent-full branches and empty Reading Rooms are prominent advertisements for the problems CS has in this and other advanced cultures. They should be reconstituted ASAP as Societies, get right-sized, lose The Edifice, allow membership for people with unsolved problems, as in Eddy's day. Empty buildings are anathema to at least one new and burgeoning religion: Environmentalism. Why hang on?

    Make dust or eat dust.

    The dinosaurs never saw it coming.

  14. Jumping ship?
    Positive, happy, churches are what I've looked for! Relocating to another part of the country found me joining a branch church with church members who
    disagreed with every thing The Mother Church was doing, and everything The Christian Science Board of Directors was doing. I was asked point blank, 'What do you think of what's going on in Boston?' (ie. Bible Translations? church magazines (photos of writer's of articles)? Hymnal Supplement? etc.)
    All the wonderful, positive, efforts being offered for consideration by The Mother Church is a breath of fresh air!
    However, some church members want everything the way it was 40, 50, 60yr. ago. Very, vocal members in church corporate meetings and in committee meetings shoot down any suggestion/any idea of doing anything other than the way it's always been done. And when the majority of church members in most CS Churches are 70-100yr. old it isn't difficult to see that they want the church the way it's always been.
    Yet, at their bank today, the cleaners, and the grocery store those same church members have had to adapt to the new, positive, easier way of doing things.
    Can't we hold on to our core values and principles
    and adapt in a modest way? Bible Translations?
    Hymnal Supplement? color photos in the church magazines? photos of the folks who wrote the articles?
    Every denomination uses Bible Translations. The Church Manual doesn't say King James Bible, it says The Bible. To castigate the writers of the words/music found in the new Hymnal Supplement? This is what's going on in churches I am no longer a member of. I couldn't take anymore distribes against TMC and CSBD.
    When it made me feel ill and awful to continue going to a CS Church I have always found another branch church.
    As a CS Church we have so much to offer! We have so many opportunities! Are they going unused? Have we any clue day in day out how challenging it is today for so many of our fellow citizens! I have my paperback Bible and Science and Health ready to share/offer/give/place often..
    Sign of the Times: A class offered this fall at our local community college was called "Spirituality and Healing" and in the course catalog the class description was given as ...you can be your own physician and learn how to heal yourself.

  15. There is no general answer to the question, and finding the answer remains a subject to be solved in the quietitude of our individual prayers, in which we can pray and say: Mother, it is all between You and me only! But the spiritual ideas are important. Thank you all for your contributions!

    I found thinking about "places" to be very helpful. In the Glossary of Science and Health places have a spiritual significance. And I love to work with those in my prayers.

    I have 27 or so on my list, and it is a thought opener to re-place the places-question to the Glossary to ask: Where is my thought right now? To where would I like to move. Where is "my" place? Where do I feel at home? Where should I feel at home? Where do I see others? Etc.

    BTW, I love the definition of one of the places especially - wilderness (p. 597). It brings ease of thought because one can realize that there are two processes going on while on the move: a) a material sense of things disappears, and b) the spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence. So, we ARE moving! Change takes place already, and is cared for by the Love which brought us so far.

  16. God is closer than anyone and knows everything. We can feel safe in confiding in Him. God knows the answers to all questions.

  17. I agree making the effort to heal a negative church situation, marriage or job difficulty,at least in our own thought is desirable before moving on. Otherwise, we risk encountering the same problems wherever we go. Merely walking away, we may be bringing our own baggage of complaints to the next experience. If we feel change is necessary for our physical, mental and moral well being as well as spiritual growth, asking God for wisdom and quidance will help us make the right choices.

  18. This question is very close to my heart and one I have prayed over a LOT recently. My husband and I had access to two churches in our current living area. One of them won't accept anything altered from the way it was -- what? -- maybe fifty years ago, and another that embraces fresh application of spiritual ideas and new technology from Boston. We chose membership in the second one.

  19. It is easier to deal with church issues when we stay with the spiritual definition of church as "the structure of Truth and Love" as given by Mrs. Eddy. Recognizing that we are ideas formed around that structure, expressing God qualities, enables us to see past the concept of church as a human institution made up of many minds and wills. Keeping the spiritual sense of church in our hearts we can reach out in love to those around us and strengthen their vision as well as our own.
    I had one occasion in church membership, early on in my study of Christian Science where the church members were very lax in obeying the church Manual and even worse at complying with their own church by-laws. After much prayer and reminders that we needed to be obedient, it finally became clear to me that it wasn't even a Christian Science Church any longer, and i withdrew my membership. Within a few months i was asked to help them close that branch, and we did so, knowing that it was better to cherish church in our hearts than to try to prop up something that no longer was serving the community or the members. That situation occurred again in another church but I was more experienced and stronger in my own understanding of church and our prayers succeeded in turning the situation around. We changed some by-laws and reminded ourselves to become more familiar with the Manual and our by-laws, and that church prospered once again. Thanks No. 6 for wise advice. No two churchs are alike, no two situations are alike, but God guides faultlessly and gives us our direction in all cases.

  20. Our Church is alive with the intravitality that becomes or develops every Christian Scientist. When a move is necessary for the unlimited reasons that Life owns, provides and unfolds, the individuals' transfer or other formations of church should, does and will reflect the grace only of which membership bestows upon congregations that are definable as 'church on the way' and of course, the way is Christ. Now as ever before these needed moves are spiritually, metaphysically and eternally growing our church experience as a global entity. Essential to the true concept of church as alive is recognition of intellectual equality, while not the norm when seeking a church to attend or even while learning the lessons of benefit, utility and salvation, it is seemingly benevolent and beneficial when the need is consensus in achieving branch church goals. No denying, the setting our church into motion has happened and is not the result of human will, it is certainty of ones origin as the intellectual, moral and spiritual image of infinite Mind and quite apt to make new group formations manifest, I say support the closest church along the way and make prevalent and more harmonious the church because of you're being there.

  21. I have said it before and I say it again. In the Phoenix Az area we have 10 mulitigenerational branch churches of varying sizes . If we can do it , all can. Do not fear, Do not give up hope. Study, pray, love, heal.

    As legend has it, a Phoenix rises from the ashes and flies. So can all Christian Science branch churches. Study, pray, love, heal.

  22. Try reading SH through in one week, then make sure you read the lesson at least in it's interity 3 or 4 times, that week. If that doesn't do it, hike up to a tall mountain with your Bible and S and H and listen. You will hear what to do. It worked for me.

  23. The Church "body" must be treated in the same way as the human body. If the body is making discordant noises, is not functioning at its full potential, is having an individual part (head, eye, arm, leg) that seems to want to go in a direction other than the majority.., we MUST treat it all through prayer.

    Obviously, the more members that pray about Church, the better, but YOU should get down to your individual work of correcting the supposed material symptoms, and denying the reality of error in whatever form or forms it seems to appear.

    Moses had Aaron make a brazen serpent and put it on a pole, and bring it into the meetings every time the Church came together. At one point, I offered to make one, and bring it to every Board Meeting and Members' Meeting in order to reinforce the importance of handling Aggressive Mental Suggestion. We need to guard ourselves and our thoughts, against the action of error, the serpent, the great red dragon, or any plot of evil, and make sure that others protect themselves too.

    Do our bye-laws encourage people to join at the beginning of their pilgrimage, or do they insist that a new member must already have completed their journey from sense to Soul, and be an absolute saint in every way.? Are we waiting for a Journal-listed practitioner to join our ranks, or are we growing our own.?

    "Jesus beheld "in Science" the perfect man...." (Science and Health 476:32) See every Church attender, Organist, Soloist, Reading Room visitor, Family Member..., everyone connected with your Church as "in Science" already, as already the perfect child of a perfect God.

    Open the doors of your thought, your Church, your Reading Room (longer, much longer) and, most of all, open the door of what is possible.

    We had only three members in May 2011. We now have potentially eleven, of whom six are also Members of The Mother Church. (eight members, a further two approved Applications awaiting signing of the Members' Book and a further Membership Application completed today.

  24. Leaving my branch church (the one that I had grown up in and raised my children in and loved dearly) was not difficult at all when the church board did not appoint me to any committees. I had the time, the energy and desire to serve church, grow spiritually and bring church into the community. It seemed like a "irresistible propulsion." Although there were other branch churches nearby, I joined a group of like-minded people and we formed a Society, determined to follow the Manual, but also wanting to look at church experience with new eyes. We decided first to love and respect each other. This turned out not to be so easy when a mentally-ill Christian Scientist began attending church and made many demands on us. However, we decided that we were dedicated to serve and uplift whoever walked through the door. He gained some stability in his life, and moved on.

    We give each member the freedom to follow his passion. We rotate reading among the members, inviting everyone to participate. We hold church in our store-front RR. We are the only church in our area that goes to Health Fairs, takes the RR into the community and participates in interfaith groups. One of our members does our area Christian Science website. Another member is in charge of the committee that does the CS radio programming. Our community does both CS Sentinel Radio and El Heraldo on Sunday mornings.

    I feel that the entire CS community is better and stronger because of the Society. I have never regretted leaving my branch church, which, by the way, closed last year.

  25. I totally agree with WhatMeWorry (#13) when he talks about the need for branch churches to face "reality". When he speaks of five percent full churches, I suspect he is not too far from the mark.

    When I lived in Chicago, back in the 1980's and 90's, I did not realize at the time that there was a kind of seismic shift occurring in the CS branches in that city. During my time there, at least six churches closed altogether (12th, 13th, 14th, 19th, 20th and 1st) while one (11th) moved into its Reading Room. While this seemed quite sad to me at the time, I now realize that rather than mourning the closing of these large Greek temple edifices, I should have been satisfied that at least a kind of "reality check" had occurred. During that same time period 7th Church and 16th Churches moved into new, much smaller, modern and efficient buildings. Each of these churches had had at one time cavernous buildings.

    I also agree with WhatMeWorry that probably many of the existing branch churches would be much better off as CS Societies. The work load for a Society, as opposed to that of a Church, is much less and with a very small membership things would be much less difficult.

    The experience of Quiltmom (#14) probably is not that untypical of many branch churches, where the resistance to any kind of progress is staggering. I agree with her completely when she speaks of the resistance to the progressive steps the Mother Church has taken over the last few years. Instead of gratitude for the loosening of the bonds of "Manual Jail" (remember the last Annual Meeting?) these branches, like the dinosaurs WhatMeWorrry refers to, will never see "it" coming until it is too late. (If it isn't already.)

  26. Where there is resistance to change -- I wonder if the individual is deeply committed to experiencing as much spiritual progress as one can possibly have? If I am working to experience change in my life, why would I resist someone else wanting change? I would appreciate the desire to go forward and support that desire. I'm pretty new at this but I can't understand how an individual can be working to make gains spiritually and at the same time want to maintain a certain comfort level. That doesn't even make sense. How can that be?

  27. Church is an individual demonstration. It is the unveiling of man as God's image and likeness as each of us progresses spiritually. Trials often cause us to dig into our mental closets and begin discarding useless, non-productive beliefs and emotions--even though they may seem dear to us at first glance. The process of "resolving things into thoughts and exchanging the objects of sense (yes, even the beliefs in material places of worship) for the ideas of Soul" should be joyous. If it is a trial that motivates this forward progress (one you can identify as frustration, sense of personality, declining membership, etc.) be grateful for it and grow from recognizing it as a lie. Then find the truth being hidden by the lie. In other words, hold fast to what it is lying about (the truth of spiritual creation). Only then, will the material perspective be transformed into a higher experience, and harmony reign. This takes lots of love, love, love. "The kingdom of heaven is within you" and not in a building or in the people who appear to populate it.

  28. As I have been thinking about this, a few things come to mind. The person submitting the question says, “our business meetings are always spent disagreeing about different things, and that people aren’t really interested in moving forward.” If people are disagreeing about different things, it at least sounds to me like there are issues being wrestled with, and that’s always a good thing.

    Might the problem be that patience is needed as this wrangling over issues takes place? It says in Science and Health, “The fermentation even of fluids is not pleasant. An unsettled, transitional stage is never desirable on its own account.” It may be that the church in question is simply experiencing growing pains.

    As far as feeling like members aren’t really interested in moving forward. For any organization to move forward there has to be some give and take. In this branch church process the decision making is the result of what the membership wants, not the individual(s). That old adage, the right idea at the wrong time is the wrong idea.

    Just because a group doesn’t change at the speed someone else feels they should, doesn’t mean they don’t want to. Again from Science and Health, “The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories…” Seems that a good first step for this particular branch church, would be genuinely LISTENING to each other, and then taking whatever issues that arise to God for HIS resolution.

  29. I really join in my heart here with Brad, Marion, WhatMeWorry and Sharon -- thank you for your honesty. These things have to be said whether they are easy to hear or not.

  30. Boy, Brad and Whatmeworry, the dinosaur comparison is a bit of a downer-- seems like there's pretty good evidence around here that people are committed to really healing and improving and progressing.
    That said, it hardly seems to me like all CS churches becoming societies would do much for fixing any problems. Maybe it would alleviate some of the responsibilities, but if at the core, there's still a sense of lack, that's going to be there regardless of what a church calls itself.

    I can relate to what the questioner is asking, though. I recently was a member of a branch church where the membership was filled with lovely people, but could get so bogged down on nit-picking about little details. Business meetings were long, and never seemed to accomplish much. I regularly asked myself "What's the point?" Being one of the more "progressive" members, constantly getting push back, could be tiring. I stuck it out because there were things that I loved about both the people and the church itself. Through much prayer, I learned not to resent fellow members, not to accept that the church was stuck in the mud, and to live my highest sense of Church in my own life. Ultimately, I ended up relocating for reasons entirely unrelated to the church. I do think that there was a great deal of progress that took place while I was there, and know that they're continuing to progress as they need to. And, my new church home has been a productive growing step for me as well.

    So I guess my response would be-- keep praying. Sometimes moving is the right answer. Sometimes we have more to learn and grow where we are. Sometimes we're needed as that agent of change and fresh thought helping to move things forward. Regardless, you will get a clear answer, one way or the other.

  31. FCCS & Misc 40

    Nothing will be lost, how‐
    ever, by those who relinquish their cherished resentments, forsake animosity, and abandon their strongholds of rivalry.

    Through rivalries among leaders Christendom became divided into warring sects; but the demand of this age is for peacemaking, so that Christianity may more widely reassert its pristine power to bring health and a cure to pain-racked and sorrow-worn humanity.

    "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, . . . And the fruit of righteous‐ ness is sown in peace of them that make peace."
    "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called
    the children of God."

  32. "Who remembers that patience, forgiveness, abiding faith, and affection, are the SYMPTOMS by which our Father indicates the different stages of man's recovery from SIN and his entrance into Science?" Misc:100

    Watching these SYMPTOMS brings a sense of peace.

    A calm, confident sense of trust in God is evident in many of the comments above. Those band of pilgrims who pray, obey and practice the teachings of the Bible and Science and Health and who don't let fear be the cause for their actions.

    Thanks to those who stay grounded in the Truth and are quietly doing their work!

    I see the symptoms of much spiritual activity going on instead of symptoms of doom and gloom!

  33. For decades I have seen dedicated people follow advice "to know the truth about the situation" by digging in and struggling with unloving or bossing behaviour of their fellow members and I have seen a lot of those dedicated and fine people sooner or later walk out of CS - frustrated, sometimes heartbroken or even sick. I know from experience how quickly constant resistance to my standing for my best understanding of right can wear you out. Because usually there are a few other things in life you have to attend to and not just your branch church in today's fast paced world where you would just need a big hug from your fellow church members.

    So, my heartfelt sympathy for all the struggles you and others have already gone through. I know it can be tough. And my big appreciation for not giving up but putting this central question up here and going on.

    Although certainly all metaphysical citations above are correct, I think we need to dig much deeper into the subject because it is probably a really big question to the movement. For lack of space just two points I would like to contribute:

    It is NOT a question of building details or conservative vs. progressive. As long as you just differ on that but get along in a Christian way I would certainly agree to the many answers above to keep on working. The challenge starts in HOW we interact/debate/"fight" with each other. Are we holding "ENMITY over doctrines and traditions"? (No and Yes 8)

    If what you get back from other members are constantly (not just once in a year!) unfriendly No's or just disrespectful or even aggressive reactions this certainly violates what Eddy "enjoin(ed) upon (her) students". It is certainly not love and that should not be ignored or painted over.

    a) Eddy counsels us to be careful of our mental conditions! You must be sure that you CAN handle an "unkind" church situation in your own work and that you DO handle it daily. If you are not making quick progress with that, to me her advice to enlist the help of an experienced CSist seems to apply here, too. Beside other practical reasons just because you are then "two coming together in the name (=character) of Christ". Thus you AND the other CSist do embody and actively express working together in a structured way in the name of Christ. Isn't that the heart of Church? Thus you are working in the positive direction of true Church (alive) - even if you are just trying to get free from the mental pull downward. And I think there is a big potential in that. What we are doing here in this exchange is already a start in the right direction! We are working together in a structured way to bring to light that the question above has answers and that we care for the need of someone feeling cut off from Love.

    b) It is important to understand that if other people get aggressive at you (or your ideas) they often do so because you demand of them to discard some of what might be some of their dearest beliefs - and that can very well be cherished concepts of church work of the 1950s. They might even identify themselves with those concepts. (Just a reminder: We all find getting rid off some parts of a mortal "me" difficult from time to time...)

    I have had the privilege of seeing senior members let go some old stuff and I have seen how BIG a step that has been for them! We cannot force others to make progress - especially if they do not want to make that progress at the time we want them to make it. And we sometimes just do no know how far the other(s) have to jump! Usually a million times wider than we would believe in our wildest dreams.

    c) But Eddy was also very clear about aggressivness or powerplay! There is a big need today to seperate hostility, powerplay and unlovingkindness from discussing different viewpoints! Just look at the US political scene or other places in the world - Iran vs. Israel etc. etc..
    We all need to check daily in all areas of life where WE "semi-consciously" justify before ourselves that we behave unlovingly or deprive others from their legitimate rights. It is never God's child that gets aggressive or disrespectful and it is always the Christ to conquer that behaviour - and not "me". (To make sure we are totally out of that me-vs-them-game, we need wisdom.)

    to be continued

  34. 2)

    Eddy often points to PRACTICAL WISDOM in the form of many provisions and counsels. If you criticize "unwise decisions" at your branch church there definetly is a particular need to express wisdom practically in that situation in your own motives and acts!

    Eddy says somewhere rather forcefully that she does not want the CSist to stay in a burning house. She also warns us to try demonstrations we have not understood (mentioning not only walking on the water) yet. I understand Eddy's advice in relation to your question of this week to say - yes -: work dilligently to clear your own thought and do listen for guidance for a longer time (Jesus' "seventy times seven" might have a meaning here). But I also understand Eddys insistence on wisdom not to blindly or naively digg in to "make the demonstration now" but to ask how much you really and honestly CAN handle and how much you actually DO handle each day. In "No and Yes" Eddy also advises us to get out of the way if others are unwise and let them pass by (and she also says a few even stronger things on that page 8)!

    In "An Allegory" (MW) she lets the Stranger (the Christ) even shout (!) to those on the way upward when they try to help those with too much luggage "stumbling and grumbling, and FIGHTING EACH OTHER":

    'Let them alone; they must learn from the things they suffer. Make thine own way: and if thou strayest, listen for the mountain-horn, and it will call thee back to the path that goeth upward.'" (Again: it is not you calling someone back but the trumpet call of Truth).

    If you go a step further you can also try to put yourself in the others' shoes! The more aggressiveness is going on the more disturbing or even distressing "you" (or your ideas) might be for the others as well! Very often they have sleepless nights, too. There might be situations when the most loving thing you can do for both sides actually is to withdraw in the spirit "let there be no strife between my brothers and sisters and me". As long as "the others" focus on "you" they do not pay attention to the "mountain-horn" calling them to let to let go certain concepts. Sometimes all we can do is to move out of the way.

    Remember that Eddy once dissolved the first church-organization and she wrote that the immediate result was that love among the members welled up again!

    To me it boils down to put practical wisdom into action and see what is nearest right under the individual circumstances. If you decide to lay low for a while or to resign - that is the smallest step though. Much more important is HOW christianly-scientific you go that step! Again that is a very individual demonstration. And it does not stop there. If you do not continue to embody church and try to join hands with others and bring all you have learned from your previous church into that different demonstration of church, you miss the best part.

    There are many (!) other aspects to that question, but this entry has become too long already. I see this conversation as a start to think much deeper about this important issue. If CSists do not - who else will?

    God bless you and all those who contribute their prayers for those who have a difficult time with their fellow CSists at the moment.

  35. "...But why should we stand aghast at nothingness?" S&H563

    Those who watch and pray are always led to take the right steps....whatever they be!

    Basically what "those in the know" have said above.

  36. Maybe we should start each business meeting with hugs all around!

  37. "If mortals are not progressive, past failures will be repeated until all wrong work is effaced or rectified". Here... or there. One thing about change - not all change is progressive. But all progress involves change ( at some level).
    Is this a riddle? No, this just requires quiet, courageous, meek, patient, loving listening - and then following. Sometimes you go. Sometimes you stay another day.

  38. I truly appreciate those here who put their hearts out there and on the line. I think those of us for the most part have been in CS for most of our entire lives -- we know all the metaphysics by heart, from SS to class instruction (excuse me and welcome to all new to CS here - glad you are joining us). It's time to speak what's in our hearts and to stop the nonstop quoting from the books -- it doesn't help. Church is demanding different, VERY different things of us now in this day. To quote the books to each other can almost feel abusive. To hear each other, to feel, love each other or as a writer says here "hug each other before business meetings," to bind up the broken hearted -- that's what's needed. There are people in our churches in great pain over the lack of love in the CS churches. So have some heart and quote a bit less and just share some loving thoughts. Life is very demanding and we need love, hugs, understanding, unconditional love from our church. The reason Church Alive came into being is because there's a revolution of thought going on -- a demand for true communication, not hollow quoting of the books. We all know the books and are living the truth as best as we can. It's love, heart speaking and hugs that are needed right now to further the healing - not quotes.

  39. The Books: Bible and Science and Health, are the foundation of church!

    If you're studying the Books and practicing what's written in them, i.e. The Word, you ARE "loving" your neighbor, whatever the form it takes outwardly.

    Remember this is e-mail....when in person: HUG!

  40. I just must say a very big "Thank You" to Louis Benjamin for his response to this question. I deeply felt a "cleansing upheaval" in my thought after pondering his statements for some time. Thought was led naturally and gently to page 456:20-24 of Science and Health. Thank you.

  41. Choosing another church or building a new society pales in comparison to the need of progress. If man lays dormant before the resounding call of change he falls short in his demonstration to champion new ideas or nurture opportunity. A church, Mrs. Eddy states to the effect: is worthy of its utility- being the structure of Truth, Life and Love... it seems then that church must be dynamic. I have had occasion to see members leave or attend less who were once on fire with new ideas and creativeness. When church becomes to feel like the personal property of certain members it looses its welcome. When a Sunday school student commented to me years ago: "Things never change" "It will always be the same because that's the way it's always been". I was sad. The purpose of church is not to concur with ritual and habit....but with inspiration, love and progress. Sunday school is one of the most important activities of church because it reflects the values of Christian Science thought and enables an individual to grow and create a relationship with God in a practical and purposeful way. Like Marriage- church is the center of affection and affection is expressed in many compassionate ways. Call for change is not radical; often, it is just the next forward step.

  42. I always think," If the churches were healing the way Mrs. Eddy thought that they should be, at every service, then no one would be thinking about changing anything about anything. Everyone would be rejoicing over all of the healing and be bringing their family and friends and neighbors to the services." I'm not opposed to new ideas (I have lots of them) or changes per se, but healing is what we need to do first and if everyone is sitting in church slightly annoyed over some little thing, as in a Bible translation or hymn from the supplement,etc, how is healing going to take place?

  43. Thanks for the insightful sharing.....Science and Health informs us that prayer in Christian Science is the Science of Being ...........perfect your prayer........establish the Christ in individual consciousness....this is the six days of "work". This is what perfects "church". Jesus said, "the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Therefore the son of man is Lord also of the sabbath." (Matthew 2 :27-28)