Week 53: "What was Ms. Eddy’s vision for Christian Science societies? Does one have to be a society to be 'progressive'?"

Response 1: Mike Davis

Christian Science Societies were first listed in The Christian Science Journal as small unincorporated groups of Christian Scientists who were holding Sunday services. While the word "unincorporated" was eventually dropped from the description, the concept remained that Societies were groups of Christian Scientists who did not at the time have enough members and/or money to meet the requirements of being a Church—requirements that involved things such as having a Journal-listed practitioner in their membership, holding Wednesday testimony meetings, or having Reading Rooms. Mary Baker Eddy left decisions as to what requirements Societies would have to meet to be listed in the Journal to The Christian Science Publishing Society, and thus these requirements have changed from time to time over the years.

There is no evidence that Mrs. Eddy and Christian Scientists in her time viewed Societies as somehow having more freedom than Churches to be “progressive” in their activities. On the contrary, Societies were seen as lacking elements Mrs. Eddy felt were essential for Christian Science Churches, and it was hoped that Societies would move toward Church status as quickly as possible.

Response 2: Lynne Buckley-Quirk

To answer the second part of this question, I’d like to suggest a third way of viewing Christian Science societies. It’s based on a model set forth by two groups of churches and societies that gathered early in the 20th century— one in Missouri; the other in greater New York.

During this time, no one was questioning if church was alive nor doubting if Christian Science was shepherding thousands from oppressive human doctrines to the healing freedom natural to primitive Christianity.

In the two accounts, there is no distinction between churches and societies. A telegram to Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, stated: “The representatives of churches and societies of Christian Science in Missouri… pledge themselves to strive more earnestly day by day, for the clearer understanding and more perfect manifestation of the truth which you have unfolded to the world, and by which sin and sickness are destroyed and life and immortality brought to light (The First Church of Christ Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 207).

A letter from churches and societies in New York noted: Readers of all the Christian Science churches and societies of Greater New York, for the first time gathered in one place with one accord, to confer harmoniously and united in promoting and enlarging the activities of the Cause of Christian Science in this community” (The First Church of Christ Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 362).

Plainly, both groups were committed to uniting with the church “built on the divine Principle, Love” (Science and Health, p. 35). And as we read in Science and Health, this can only be done as “we are new-born of Spirit . . . bringing forth the fruits of Love—casting out error and healing the sick” (p. 35). Healing!

By not making a distinction between churches and societies, except as conveyed in The Church Manual, Christian Scientists are protected from falling into the trap of being “separated by labels”—whether they are part of branch churches or societies.

And for the same reason shouldn’t the labels “conservative or progressive” for a branch church or society be avoided? Neither are suggested or inferred in the spiritual definition of Church (see Science and Health, p. 583) or The Manual of The Mother Church.

In talking with those who attended Church Alive Summits this past year, and from my own experience, there is a common thread of gratitude for the session on The Manual. That inspired message was interspersed with the reports from branch churches and societies. These reports made it abundantly clear that when members unite in prayer and are guided by The Manual and the teachings of Christian Science, right decisions and activities emerge that bless individual memberships and communities.

When members unite in love and loyalty with fellow members and focus on revelation and progress, all are “new-born of Spirit” and the lost element of healing is restored, conserved, and preserved. And by obediently following Christian Science, and foregoing human judgment or opinion, the question of progressive and conservative branches and societies disappears and in its place, we find Church Alive—forever preserved, safe, and spiritually progressive.

  1. This is an interesting question. I think that both positions given in the opening remark are probably correct.

    First, it is quite obvious that, as a branch church declines in membership, there must be a point at which realistically a decision must be made as to whether to continue with a listing as a "church" or change the listing to a "society". Because there are fewer requirements for a society to meet (Sunday School, Reading Room, Wednesday service, sixteen members, a practitioner) this would seem to be a logical move. (Of course, there is always the option of closing altogether.)

    What I am not clear about (and perhaps Mike Davis could answer this question) is whether a branch church is required to become a society when it can no longer meet the requirements of a full church listing, or whether it is a decision which is solely left up to each branch church.

    Second, correct or not, I think that the perception today in the CS field is that society status carries with it the freedom for more progressive and liberalizing moves. In fact, on this website I have, a number of times, seen that very opinion expressed. I am a bit puzzled by this idea, since I am not quite sure as to what "progressive" steps a society could take that a full branch church could not. Perhaps some fellow posters could shed some light on this issue.

  2. Brad,

    I've been aware that, as you say, there is a perception in certain parts of the Christian Science field today "that Society status carries with it the freedom for more progressive and liberalizing moves." I would like to see that perception disappear from the field, because it involves a false concept of what a Society is. What Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Scientists in her time meant by a "Christian Science Society" has nothing to do with the ability to be either progressive or not progressive. A Church of Christ, Scientist is as free as a Society is to be progressive. In fact, it might well be easier for a Church to be progressive since they would have more resources to carry out their progressive activities than a Society would.

    I would also like to emphasize that remaining indefinitely as a Society was not viewed in Mrs. Eddy's time as a desirable state of affairs, as it would indicate a lack of progress on the part of the group.

  3. Brad wrote:

    "What I am not clear about (and perhaps Mike Davis could answer this question) is whether a branch church is required to become a society when it can no longer meet the requirements of a full church listing, or whether it is a decision which is solely left up to each branch church."

    Brad, I don't know what policies the Christian Science Publishing Society has about this. I've always personally felt, however, that for a branch of The Mother Church to remain as a Church of Christ, Scientist without currently meeting all the Manual requirements to be a Church would blur the distinction the Manual makes between a Church and a Society. To me, the title, "Church of Christ, Scientist" implies that you're going to find there everything the Manual requires of a Church, and that if you see the title "Christian Science Society," it will mean that you will find there one or more things missing that the Manual requires of a church.

    I want to emphasize that this is my personal take on it and not the articulation of a policy of any kind. Perhaps someone who knows what the current policy is could post here and answer your question as to whether changing from Church to Society status is a branch decision or a Publishing Society decision.

  4. When we ask questions such as this it reveals an underlying assumption that needs addressing as much as or more than the question. The assumption in both this and some past questions appears to be "Now that the CS movement is in decline, its branch churches rapidly losing the members and resources required to maintain its mission, what are the best ways to adapt to this decline? To reduce branch churches to societies, to abandon conservative (or even cranky) congregations for ones that are more progressive, to be more humanly progressive in order to keep members and visitors awake during our services?"
    When I came into CS from a mainstream religion there were over 500 practitioners listed in the Journal for my city at that time (Los Angeles) and today the city has doubled in size and yet there's only half a dozen if we don't count all the references to those in other cities. (Quite a Gideon-like decline, but Gideon did end up winning the battle.) I went to one to get some advice and she, Andy Rooney-like, sent me packing with the instruction to go read the books (S&H and the prose works) and if I still wanted to talk to come back after I'd read them (testing my sincerity?). Hardly what one would call a progressive approach.
    Reading S&H was the most difficult task I'd ever undertaken, not because of the language but for what it did to me. After a few pages, the resistance was so great I would physically black out, unable to see - but what little I had imbibed revolutionized my consciousness - an Arab Spring in spades as the pervasive dictatorship of material concepts was crushed by the divinely Christ logic that figuratively slapped me across the face and showed me what real freedom meant. After a few days of persistent effort the blackouts ceased and have never bothered me again. I went back to the practitioner truly born again, a totally different person, and our talks were a deep spiritual education, as were my regular visits to a branch church and my later class instruction. The education I got in this archaic way gave me a lasting spiritual foundation that made me realize the real purpose of church: not to popularize or placate but to challenge and awaken (sometimes roughly) what is in each of us to be challenged and aroused. As Edward Kimball pointed out in one of his essays, CS is an educational system: an obligation we have to extend ourselves out toward new generations and show them the Christ in action. That's all they really need to see.
    I learned that the most important paragraph in S&H begins on Line 6 of Page 1: "Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation (getting our own concepts, judgments, gloom, self-interest and prognostications completely out of the way), are God's gracious means (not our means, gracious or otherwise) for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done (and what will continue to be successfully done through the coming generations) for the Christianization and health of mankind (including us).
    I am so grateful whenever I see tucked away in many of the answers to these questions the overriding recognition that the church problems we face need to be, can be and must be healed, by following the Christly direction given us by MBE, and that the answers will come via divine direction that none of us are able to predetermine. "Stand still," said Moses, "and see the salvation of the Lord." He didn't know what it was going to be but he knew enough to be still and trust God to come up with what was needed. And God did.
    Got a problem with church? If all the spiritual resources available in the smallest branch church can't be focused on destroying anything dredged up by material sense we're forgetting who and what we are. "It (CS) is not a search after wisdom, it is wisdom: it is God's right hand grasping the universe, - all time, space, immortality, thought, extension, cause and effect; constituting and governing all identity, individuality, law and power." Mis 364:13
    We are not searching for answers in human conservatism or progressivism, we are the answers and we have work to do. Pick up whatever needs to be picked up and let it rather be healed. Christ will show the way.

  5. As manager of church and society advertising, I’m happy to chime in here on a couple of these issues. As far as the perception that societies are somehow allowed to be more progressive than churches, Mike’s answer sums up my own feelings beautifully and I don’t feel I could improve upon it.

    I am happy to respond to Brad’s question about whether a church is required to become a society when it no longer meets the requirements of a full church listing.

    The short answer to your question is that if a church is able to continue offering all the church activities it advertises and do so in compliance with the Manual, then they don’t need to become a society or close. But to me there seems to be more to this issue.

    The By-Laws in the Manual are very practical as well as inspired. Those found on pages 72-74 seem especially practical to me. From my perspective these minimum requirements are designed to help guarantee a church's success. To advertise in the Journal, a church should have enough active, local members to do the work involved as well as to financially sustain the activities of church services, Sunday School, Reading Room, lectures, and, of course, having those among the membership who are dedicated full-time to the public healing practice. The financial and day-to-day responsibilities of maintaining a church should be shared by enough members so that it is doesn't become a burden, but continues to be a joyous expression of love and gratitude for Christian Science -- gratitude that is shared with our communities!

    So, practically speaking, if a church no longer has 16 active members, 4 of whom are also members of The Mother Church, it can become difficult to keep all of the activities going, while continuing to devote time and attention to the spiritual healing that is the foundation of our church. Mrs. Eddy says on the top of page 136 in Science and Health that "Jesus established his church and maintained his mission on a spiritual foundation of Christ-Healing." I love the word "maintained" in that sentence! As our Way-Shower, isn't Jesus clearly showing us how to establish and maintain the mission of our churches and societies?

    The integrity of each of our churches is important and we trust the members to understand and uphold the requirements in the Manual, and to make adjustments to their activities and advertisements if necessary.

  6. Thanks to everyone for your very good thoughts on this question, and especially to Mike for his very clear and concise explanations.

    I was thinking further on the question as to why CS societies have, for some reason, come to represent, to many in the CS field, a more progressive trend than is evidenced by many of the CS branch churches. I think that sometimes it may be that by the time a church has declined to a point where society status has become the "next" step, the membership, faced with difficult circumstances, may be more open to trying new and innovative ideas. Their attitude might be something like, "If the more traditional methods have not worked very well, then why not try something new and different." Circumstances have, in a way, made them more "daring".

    Definitely not in a state of decline, and probably with more than enough qualifications to have a full church listing, the Society in San Juan Capistrano, CA is on the cutting edge of innovation in CS branches. Their situation, however, is atypical. It is no doubt due to their creative attitudes that this society is so active and vital.

    Another society in a similar circumstance is the Lafayette Square Society in St. Louis. Like the group in San Juan Capistrano, they are not timid in trying new approaches. Hopefully, these two societies will provide encouraging examples to other CS branches facing difficult situations. If they can be successful, why not others?

  7. Thank u John Daniels. Yours was one of the best comments I have read on this forum. I like the way the practitioner suggested you do some work yourself rather than just be spoon fed. I think we all might need to dig deeper to see some results from this great religion.

  8. What a wonderful forum. I learn from all of you. Yes, thank you John Daniels. What a profound blog.

    We all have the absolute Truth, and yet, as a child goes through stages (in the human picture), so the Christ comes to each of us right where we are and helps us move forward spiritually. This may be awakening, jarring, gentle, breathtaking - but it always moves us forward right where we need it and understand it.

    Every person in the community deserves to be touched and moved by this Christ spirit, to be included in church. We don't want possessive, self-righteousness or dark limited thinking to hide church. As each citizen is led by Christ, step by step, to the Church of Truth, they can enter and feel at home spiritually, morally, humanly, and even physically in "their" church.

    We change our clothes with the seasons and fashions, we turn lights on and off, we eat different foods each day, we appreciate heat and air conditioning, we love the changing colors of the sky, etc. The absolute Trutb of God and man is right here. The Creator is not "in" the expression but we certainly actively "reflect" in minute quality what God is doing.

    Creation appears in continuous newness. One way this translates is, 'don't be afraid to update the churches.' Playing new music young thought can relate to, having bright clean colors, reading with enthusiasm and zest, having modern Reading Rooms inviting to visit, trying new ideas within the framework of obedience to The Manual, being friendly, is OK. God is right there, living through us, as us. We can drop hints of resistant fearful thinking and allow ever-appearing inspiration.

    The heart-stirring sweet amenities of Life do not interfere with but are fruits of pouring over those precious books, praying non-stop and healing. If we do it right, churches will be full. God bless us all on our journey, His journey, one we can abundantly enjoy together.

  9. I don't think church is stuffy & old fashion and societies are friendly & forward looking.It's the members and their love of Science & their fellow man,always following Mrs. Eddy and the manual.

  10. Instead of verifying that church advertisements obey Manual requirements, the Journal trusts members "to understand and uphold the requirements in the Manual, and to make adjustments to their...advertisements if necessary." But does this happen?

    If a church no longer has a listed practitioner, do members obediently change their status to Society? Such humble obedience might quickly fill the vacancy in many branches and swell the number of listed practitioners, since Mrs. Eddy promised that "each Rule and By-law in this Manual will increase the spirituality of him who obeys it, invigorate his capacity to heal the sick, to comfort such as mourn, and to awaken the sinner." (My 230)

    Could the Journal increase directory integrity and encourage spiritual growth by gently reminding advertisers of Mrs. Eddy's specific requirements for listing as a church or society? Maybe Ronald Reagan was right when he said, "trust, but verify."

  11. I agree with Gary's comments. I also do not think church is stuffy and old fashion.
    I appreciate all the comments and the ideas relating to being a Society or becoming a church.
    My question would be that if a group or society has enough church members, the required amount of practitioners, a Reading Room, is holding Sunday and Wednesday Services, and has some sort of bylaws, what is the resistance to taking the step to become recognized as a branch church of The Mother Church.
    Mike Davis commented that remaining a Society when you could become a church was not seen as a sign of progress in Mrs. Eddy's day.

  12. A few years ago, I re-read Peel's, Years of Trial. I've thought about it often because Mrs. Eddy didn't begin with full churches or societies. She built from "scratch" -- with her clear focus. Mrs. Eddy's focus was definitely on God's omnipotence, God's love for man, man's nature as His perfect idea. She never became mesmerized by the resistance, apathy, hatred, etc. It seems that if one's focus is allowed to remain fixed on "decline", one's church experience will become greater decline. If one's focus is fixed on realizing greater understanding of God and man, one's church experience will reflect that effort.

  13. @John Daniels: Amen.
    As usual, it's not one or the other human concept that we must choose between: a Christian Science Society as less-than, or as better-than. The human scene is full of these false dilemnas, which Christian Science has regularly shown me the way around with a third way, a spiritual perspective that completely changes the question. "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." (John 9:2, 3) That's what we're called to do in both branch churches and societies: manifest the work of God. We heal our thought by embracing God's presence and power, and God shows us the way forward. The divine perspective on my fellow church members has certainly helped me genuinely appreciate and contribute to progress where before I saw shortcomings and impossibilities.

  14. The wisdom which lies behind the requirements of the Church Manual may not be fully understood at a given time. Each requirement needs our spiritual inspiration in order to be understood. Manual requirements are more and more being seen from a wider perspective which is all part of "keeping abreast of the times" [and probably also the place].

    Do we actually have "Christian Science churches"? I have only found one reference by Mrs Eddy in her published works where she uses this term (there may be others I have missed) and this is used where she says "Christian Science churches and societies. Don't we have Churches of Christ, Scientist? In my community Churches are often seen as hierarchical, proscriptive, controlling organisations charitable but offering little more, to their congregations, than a place in paradise after death. Societies are probably regarded as having a more altruistic and democratic approach which provide for present needs. I've always believed that Mrs Eddy did not want Christian Science to be seen as a denomination but more and more the term "Christian Science Church" appears. Perhaps Christian Science societies are a timely provision to correct the perception that Christian Science is a denomination and replace it with the view that Christian Science is a revelation and those who know of it, care sufficiently to organise themselves into societies in order to share what it offers with all people.

  15. I have been wrestling with this question--church vs. society--for many decades and from being a member of three different branch churches. Part of the confusion today stems from practices once mandated from Boston in the past that are no longer required. For example, at one time you had to elect readers for three years terms or you wouldn't be allowed to become a church. We have found that electing them for one year terms that are renewable for up to three years works much better. Then there is the requirement of how many hours a Reading Room is open to the public. I believe the current minimum required is 4 hours but it used to be longer. I have visited two of the most innovative branches today in the U.S.--San Juan Capistrano and Lafayette Park. They both tried a variety of formats as societies that at one time would never be acceptable in submitted by-laws to Boston to become a church. Some other old requirements which I don't think currently apply is restricting readers and Sunday School teachers to class taught students only. Also, all committee members must be members of the church. One limitation with remaining a Society is that people don't understand that word today and it makes you sound like a cult and not a church. Our Reading Room currently has a period of discussion over the week's lesson on Wednesdays. Many other churches have found similar discussion groups helpful. But in the past any such discussion groups were strictly forbidden and made you ineligible to graduate to become a church. I think it was fear of being able to try new formats that persuaded San Juan Capistrano and Lafayette Park to remain as Societies long after they met all the major requirements to become a church--annual lectures, a Sunday School, long hours for their Reading Room, a listed practitioner, and more than 15 members.

  16. My question is: what is meant by "progressive" or "innovative"? Are these Societies not following any of the Rules for Branches and Societies in The Manual? As for instance, do they read the Bible Lesson and follow the order of service for Sundays? Do they add comments such as announcing the books of the Bible in the middle of the Responsive Reading as well as at the beginning as printed in the Quarterly? Or does it just mean they want to have pot-luck dinners after services to entice people to join them? This discussion is truly interesting to me because in all my years (since the age of 4 in Sunday School) I have never found the services as Mary Baker Eddy designated them to be anything but enlightening and helping me to understand my relationship with God. And as I have increased my awareness, I feel more supportive of the services, including Wednesday evenings when the readings sometimes are not what I would like them to be, but I know that every word is from The Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, so each of the thoughts are healing. I am still working on this.

  17. Very useful discussion forum.

    Thanks to all for this discussion!

    Makes me think -- what is going on in my own thoughts of church? It is not just the legal requirements, it is more than that. It is the heart motives, and the willingness to commit hours of service to the work -- to bless not just the congregation but the public.
    To be available with open door.

    God bless the churches, the societies, and the informal groups -- God working with us to will and to do of His good pleasure!

  18. Rather than ask 'what was MBE's vision for societies' perhaps we should ask what her vision was for CS. "We, today, in this classroom (of sixty-five students) are enough to convert the world if we are of one Mind; for then the whole world will feel the influence of this Mind; as when the earth was without form, and Mind spake and form appeared." Mis279:27
    The key to being of one Mind, as she points out often, is not so much dependent on praying for it to happen as it is on self-immolation: getting rid of the enormous weight of human opinions and false values that clutter the consciousness we get from God, which, as John reminds us is the 'pure river of water of Life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb (self-immolation) - And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie' Rev 22 and 21): that is, until we stir it up into our human consciousness.
    Praying is a lot like taking a ride in a hot air balloon. We have to fill the bag with hot air, but if we don't get rid of the weights hlding it down, it's going to take an awful lot of hot air to get it off the ground. If every CS would undergo a weight control program, we'd come a lot closer to finding sixty five of them to manifest one Mind.
    We need to ask ourselves, if CS is to open the path to spiritual salvation for the world, how is this most likely to be achieved? By building and staffing enough small and attractive churches to entice seven billion people to join them and become Christian Scientists?
    It doesn't take thousands of converts to bring about a radical large scale redirection. The people who initiated and managed the movement of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised land, would fit comfortably inside a typical CS Society's building. The people who initiated and managed the passage from economic bondage to the most free country in the world would fit comfortably in an average Puritan church. The individuals who revolutionized Christianity by awakening it to the practicality of a universal salvation would fit comfortably on the Readers' platform of a typical CS church. What will bring salvation to all is the indisputable spiritual evidence of healing, our first priority. How many of us willing and able to devote ourselves to this task fit comfortably in our own churches and Society's? Far, far more than we have incorrectly learned to believe. This is the movement. We don't need even to convince a whole church or society, dilapidated or otherwise, to join it. Sixty five gathered in Christ's name can do it if they abandon their weights.

  19. To answer a question raised by Charlotte (#16): "Are these Societies not following any of the Rules for Branches and Societies in The Manual? As for instance, do they read the Bible Lesson and follow the order of service for Sundays?"

    To the best of my knowledge, both of the societies (San Juan Capistrano and Lafayette Square) mentioned by Dave Olson (#15) and me (#6) do follow the basic Order of Service given in the Manual. For the group in San Juan Capistrano, you can check out the Order of Service by going to their website and clicking on the "program" button. This will display their Sunday service bulletin. If they depart in any very minor way from the Order of Service, it might be to have an extra hymn or an additional vocal selection. Not exacly "earth shattering". I think where both of these societies differ more from a typical branch church is that they encourage an atmosphere of informaltiy. In the case of the San Juan Capistrano Society, they also have a fellowship hour (with refreshments) after the Sunday service. An excellent idea!
    (I don't know about the Lafayette Square group.)

    A number of months ago, we had a very lively discussion on this blog site as to whether the word "Present" in the Manual designation implied that changes were expected to take place in the "Order of Service" in the future. At that time, I very much supported the viewpoint (shared by many) that any reasonable reading of the word "Present" definitely suggested future change.

  20. I like John Daniels reference to a hot air balloon. It reminds me of Mrs. Eddy's, "We cannot fill vessels already full." I hadn't applied that specifically to church before.

    The story in the Bible of the one lone man saving the city is wonderful. The accounts of the multitudes being drawn to Jesus is wonderful. And, Mrs. Eddy certainly had an infinite sense of who the children of God were, expecting and witnessing an abundance of sincere seekers for Truth. A favorite promise in the Bible is that "all" will be saved. Each of these concepts deserve consecrated prayer in individual demonstration and in the whole of The Christian Science Movement.

  21. In Spokane WA, a small group of Christian Science church members has an outreach table at a bus station. Over the last three years , they have given away thousands of copies of Science and Health, donated by church members all over the country. They are not allowed to sell them there and people are often deeply moved by this free gift. Here is the link to their website with the latest weekly fruitage report. Anyone can do things like this.
    Church has to come alive in one's own heart before it can touch the hearts of others.

  22. This was very informative, enlightening and so very welcome! Thanks to each of you for sharing wonderful new
    ideas and at the same time valuing inspired Manual provisions.

  23. It’s a joy and very inspiriting to read most of these comments because they ooze of sincere prayer and listening!

    The response I offered to the editors (#2) may not seem to be as “practical” as some of these shared ideas but, in fact, I think it is.

    Practical because sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the seeming infinite ideas and suggestions that are coming my way or my branch's way. What direction should we be taking—what is best for our community? How can we all agree? Can we?

    So I’d like to expand on my response. I began to get a sense of peace when I thought about our those who came before us and their unified effort to be ”new-born of Spirit . . . bringing forth the fruits of Love—casting out error and healing the sick” (My above)

    In essence they came together as churches and societies to be unified in Love. I was struck that they didn’t see separation between the two groups which is why it seems important to avoid labels—societies and branch churches—which tend to cause separation. (Except as I mentioned, the only sense of being separate are distinctions made in the Manual—distinctions based on structure and duties, not motive.)

    And making the suggestion to avoid from the labels of “progressive and conservative” is for the same reason: (Does one have to be a society to be progressive?)

    I began to see that when a group of Christian Scientists turn to God in prayer, The Manual and the teachings of Christian Science, they are of one accord (may have differences of opinions but still of one accord)! And with that sense of unity comes the message of the Holy Spirit that guides them to the most effective activity that brings healing to them, their church/society and their community. Some of these activities may seem progressive, some conservation but only to the human sense of things.
    On the level of divine Science we know that:

    On this fundamental point, timid conservatism is absolutely inadmissible. Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized. (SH 167)

    Jesus walked among the people, healing. Mary Baker Eddy, the same. He promised we would so the same. She discovered his promised Comforter so we can. All we have to do is radically start with God and listen and follow, as they radically did.
    This is one of the starting points to spring board a Family Church Meeting scheduled for out branch after the first of the year. I can hardly wait!!!

  24. "Mortals move onward towards good or evil as time glides on. If mortals are not progressive, past failures
    demanded will be repeated until all wrong work is ef‐
    faced or rectified. If at present satisfied with
    wrong-doing, we must learn to loathe it. If at present
    content with idleness, we must become dissatisfied with
    it. Remember that mankind must sooner or later, either
    by suffering or by Science, be convinced of the error that is to be overcome." MBE

    Looks like being progressive means getting rid of error.

    In this week's CS Sentinel Ron Ballard writes: "When new forms or models forge to the surface, we have a basis for discriminating what's right and truly progressive. True progress in life doesn't throw aside what is fundamental, but rather builds upon it."

  25. In the context of divine Science, I totally agree, Alexandra. And getting rid of error is a great way to define progressive. I'm just saying that ideological political labels tend to cause polarization (which has happened within the movement from time to time and can be very destructive). When we take the higher road (spiritual sense of things) and use the term progressive as Mrs. Eddy describes it, we are a united front building on the fundamental truth about Church.
    Thanks for you comments.

  26. I think "conservative" as applied to church outlook, is another name for fear. I have discerned, in the thoughts of those who typically want to do things the way they have always been done, the fear that if we make a mistake by doing something new, they will hurt the Christian Science movement. There is a fear that CS will be lost. This fear usually results in a rigid interpretation of the Mother Church Manual. Besides fear needing to be handled, there is a type of fundamentalism that has creeped into branch church practicess over the years; a kind of black and white interpretation of the Mother Church Manual. Like in the case of any patient requesting treatment, the first thing to handle is fear. When our members cease being afraid, new ideas and means will come naturally, and spiritual progress continue unabated. Secondly, handle animal magnetism in the form of fundamentalism or false theology. Fear and false theology are powerless to inhibit the structure of Truth and Love.

  27. A frw years ago the CS Board of directors met in our area, and was very enlightening. The thoughts they expressed were about expanding our thoughts about manual provisions. The manual does not say. for example, you cannot have a quartet do the solo. or that that the congregation cannot repeat the Scientific Statement of Being and !st John with the Readers. It does have guidelines which are necessary, but there is also much flexability to be found in it.
    I also appreciate it when our readers read as though they are talking to friends rather than just reading solemn words,
    Society or church, lets all lighten up a little. After all, aren't we all one structure?

  28. What said... 100x

  29. I seem to have mis-typed just above; retry:

    What 'gloworm usa' said... 100x.

    And I'll add ditto that for 'alan' also above.

  30. WOW! I am filled up full. Thank You.

  31. Cheeeeeeeer for us, and how we are adapting new media for these conversations re: the progress of Christian Science. No need to be Luddites.
    Ah, 'conservative' and 'progressive', what trickey concepts.
    My summary regarding traditional church services is not about changing the order of services, it is about the ATMOSPHERE of the service. Those of us who are restless with services don't want to change the order, but refresh the mood, the warmth, the earnest -reflective sincerity of conversational reading. It should be the best reading of a sermon in town. Not a mechanical mantra striving to be 'impersonal', but flowing with full voice range. It should endorse the value of the message from the distinctive life experience and character of the reader, not a robot.
    The atmosphere of reflective logic that is warmed by the open, inclusive fellowship with all who join in this congregation.

    Following the Manual, YES, ... AND the definition of church: 'rousing dormant understanding, elevating the race" & the affections.

  32. It is thrilling for me to read all of these comments, each one so dedicatged, so honest, so full of tolerance and love, so foward-looking ans past-appreciating. What a civilized, considerate, open-minded and decidedly spiritual discussion is represented here! I feel enriched and deeply encouraged by the tenor and Christ-like support of eachother expressed by each one. Thank you.