Response 1: Becky Buhl
This invites a lively discussion since there’s no Manual-mandated answer. I’ve been in congregations where silence prior to services was uncomfortably deafening, and others, where joyous fellowship promoted healing—and—vise versa. It’s as individual as members and churches.
But two phrases jump out from this question: “in their places” and “to silently prepare.” The place of a Christian Scientist is fundamentally mental—being immovably God-centered; perpetually prayerful. Are we coming to services (and meetings) embodying the power of church alive? What are we bringing to church?
In an article titled, "Healing the Multitudes" by Florence C. Boyd, (Christian Science Sentinel, July 1, 1916, p. 867), it says:
"Mrs. Eddy once said to a student that she longed for the day to come when no one could enter a Christian Science church, no matter how sick or sorrowing that one might be, without being healed, and that this day can come only when every member of the church studies and demonstrates the truth contained in the Lesson-Sermon, and takes with him to the service the consciousness thus prepared."
Dear friends, isn’t this our goal? It’s not accomplished in a few minutes. It’s ongoing. We can and must claim the ever-presence of this healing consciousness, the irresistible Christ-power active in our services. It’s ours by reflection, and must be demonstrated. During those 5 to 10 minutes prior to the service its acknowledgement may be silent affirmations of truth and denial of error; joyous fellowship; quiet reviewing of the hymns; thoughtful conversation with the friend or stranger next to you; gracious listening to the musical prelude—or all of the above and more!
At the Tampa Bay Society where I’m a member, the Sunday School joins the congregation in the first hymn. Rarely is there pre-service silence, rather, friendly conversation and palpable joy; and occasionally the little ones tear around the room before the service begins. This innocent vivacity couldn’t possibly interrupt the healing power of the Christ! Speaking of the children our Master said, “Allow the little ones to come to Me, and do not forbid or restrain or hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven composed” (Matt. 19:14, Amplified Bible).
Choosing not to scrutinize congregants ten minutes before services, or any moment, frees us to see everyone embraced in the infinite oneness of God’s Love. That heals.
Response 2: Tim Mitchinson
For many years I played clarinet with various ensembles. I played with large orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, jazz groups, and clarinet quartets. We always “warmed up” before every performance and practice session. Why? We needed that time to make sure our instruments were “in tune” with each other. If they were not, the music would be discordant from the beginning.
The same is true for church. It is very important to have the time to mentally prepare for each service, to turn to God and harmonize with His thoughts before the service begins. It gives us the opportunity to turn away from all the mental clatter that takes place outside the edifice (and sometimes even inside), and go into the closet Jesus spoke of in the Bible (see Matthew 6:6). Often it is helpful for usher committees and Sunday School officers to have a meeting where silent prayer and a brief reading from The Bible or Mrs. Eddy’s writings is offered as a “tuning note,” similar to a concert note given so that all members of the orchestra have their instruments in tune.
One time Mrs. Eddy invited the Countess of Dunmore to visit her. In the conversation, she and her family asked Mrs. Eddy how she was able to heal so proficiently. In essence, Mrs. Eddy answered that she was always ready to heal—her thought was always attuned to God. Then she told them very emphatically, “Keep your violin in tune” (Christian Healer, p. 265). Taking those moments before the service begins, is our opportunity to come together to get our thoughts in tune with God.
Silently praying for the service—knowing that the Word of God blesses each one who attends—is a powerful way to bring the harmony of divine Love more clearly to the mental atmosphere. It naturally brings out the “notes” of joy, spontaneity, grace, compassion, and affection to the service. This blesses the congregation, as we all feel the beautiful harmony of the sermon, readings, and testimonies. We want every service and meeting in our churches to be full of healing—so let’s keep our violins (or clarinets) in tune!