Week 63: "Is increased mobility a detriment to commitment to the Cause of Christian Science and church activities?"

Response 1: Dawn-Marie Cornett

Travel is fantastic! I wish I could do more of it. But if my vacations began getting in the way of my service to church, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with that. But that's just me.

I can't say whether or not someone travels more than they should, serves church adequately, or is committed enough to church. That's got to be between the individual and God. For myself, I think about Mrs. Eddy and her expectations of those who lived in her home and those who served her church and its branches. Those expectations were pretty high.

Mrs. Eddy did take a few trips, though, and she certainly had her daily hour long carriage ride. But what defined Eddy's life was her incredible commitment to God and mankind. Her deep love for others, and her intense gratitude for God and Christ Jesus impelled her to work, and work hard.

Maybe this is the key to the question here. What are we serving? Is it really that we need to be devoted to church, or is it that our fellow man needs to know about God, about Christian Science, about the healing that comes from this knowledge? Christ Jesus said that the two most important commandments were to love God and love each other. If this is being expressed in our church work, then I think we're good. However, if we find that we've minimized or forgotten this sense of inspired purpose, maybe there is more we can do.

Again, it's up to each individual to determine this for themselves. We never know what God is telling someone else. All we can do is judge our own thoughts and actions. And maybe remember a little thing that Mrs. Eddy said, "We are all capable of more than we do” (Science and Health, p. 89).

Response 2: Dave Stevens

What a thoughtful question! In many ways, the memberships’ prayerful consideration of it is more important than any one person’s attempt to answer. But I’m happy to share a few thoughts.

Mobility and commitment are both expressions of infinite Mind. So they are not inherently in opposition but complement one another when rightly understood and exercised. They must both be resources, aspects, of this holy and complete idea called Church.

Thank goodness “rightly” in Christian Science means spiritually. As usual, the demand is for a refreshed spiritual view of the activity of Church, its purpose, and scope.

I often refer to the definition of Church on page 583 of Science and Health, and think, okay, here’s Church. How am I valuing the practical spirituality of it? How am I seeing its universality? How am I giving evidence of the proof of its utility? Does my commitment really express my love of God and of my neighbor or am I going through the motions without the “vital part” which Science and Health explains is Love? (see Science and Health, p. 113).

Focusing on what we love the most takes conscious effort. I have to maintain an inspired vision of Church as the mouthpiece, workshop, laboratory, shelter, greenhouse, and champion of freedom for all mankind in order to love it. When I do, it’s much easier for me to hold it as a high priority. Of course this is doable because the message is Christian Science, the demonstrable law of good for all; and I grow in this practical spirituality through church commitment.

Maybe some say, “Yes, but my life doesn’t always let me do what I love most. There are demands and complications." Two points are helpful here. First, Paul’s statement “in him we live and move , and have our being;” (Acts 17:27) means that the causative forces and reference points all belong to God, Mind, Love. So, Science and Health makes sense in stating: "Truth, Life, and Love are the only legitimate and eternal demands on man” (p. 184). If the only legitimate demands come from God, and all the resources needed to meet them come from the same source, we really are in business. This is where--and how--we can see mobility and commitment supporting each other, where a blessing for one blesses all, and the practice of Church is the essential nature of whatever we are doing, wherever we are.

The living of Church does lift up the living Christ in our communities and proportionately shows the same fruition Christ Jesus promised, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).

  1. If we are away from the home church for extended periods, we can still support it prayerfully and financially (!) A former Sunday School teacher of mine always felt that Christian Scientists should be abreast of the most modern technology. Today she would probably have the latest smartPhone and computer connectivity. Members should stay abreast of the latest communictions techniques and stay connected.

    There have been articles of Sunday School students "attending" class from across the ocean via Skype or other audio/visual transmission capability. Like our periodicals, all Christian Scientists need to keep abreast of the times. We must embrace change, not fear it.

    There probably isn't a precise answer, but keeping up with new ways of doing things, especially communications, can help us keep united and be attractive to simple seekers who use social media and electronic media.

  2. What is most important to me is to take "Church" with you wherever one goes or is. My life has included and demanded tremendous mobility. I am grateful our Church denomination has Branch Churches around the world where those of us who must travel are able to share our understanding and love of Church wherever we are. If we all share our individual love of Church and participate in others' love for Church (no matter what denomination of those who believe) we are doing what we're supposed to be doing as a disciple of Christ Jesus---go out and preach the Gospel to every creature.

  3. At present I'm more concerned, not with vacationers or snowbirds, but with how branch church members spend "church" time in general. Mostly on building maintenance and repair? On interior decorating? Both needed, but not the purpose of church, which is to show "proof of its utility." Which to me means healing, and to me healing includes responding to the community's wanting to get to know us. To value what we all, Christian Scientists and those of other faiths or no faith, bring to the table. Without the love that is alert to embracing folks other than those who could be perceived as part of an elite group, what compassion and mutual respect will draw others to us?

  4. It seems most CS churches meet at 10:30 11:00. By the time I prepare, attend, have lunch, and get home from church it's often 2:00 PM and most of my useable "outdoor" day is over.I know things like this can just be an "excuse" but sometimes it's very tempting to stay home so that I can "get more done" on my day off. I'm wondering if it wouldn't be practical for church to close for the summer and start up again in the fall or meet earlier in the day. Many members vacation or kids go to camp in the summer anyway.

  5. Loved this question, loved the answers by Dave and Dawn-Marie and and loved the answers by the bloggers. Yes, we can take church with us and share it anywhere. Other people often step up to take positions knowing it is a temporary spot while someone is traveling. My branch church has to be very flexible. We all wear lots of hats. It works somehow as we allow Mind to be the architect of schedules. Don't you find that one someone has been "out and about" traveling he/she returns refreshed and revitalized, with new perspectives from their travels?

  6. A thoughtful question indeed!

    I don't think that today's mobility is a detriment to church. As long as its not being used as an excuse to not fulfill ones responsibilities to their branch, both prayefully and financially, as we have all literally signed up to do.

    While today's technology is wonderful in so many ways, we need also to be alert that we're not getting sucked in by it as well. Hours and days can get chewed up and wasted sharing mindless details of life online. Then we wonder why we don't have time for church.

    I think that Sharla's comments are well stated, and probably at the heart of many branch church problems. The building is not church!

    Your desire to be more consistently involved in your community is admirable, but don't let a lack of numbers get you down. Often times there are opportunities in our communities to be involved that we don't see. Perhaps because we've never looked, or because we have turned our thought and heart away, due to traditional ways of thinking. These openings often don't take an army of people to participate. One such example. Is there and interfaith group in town. One person can be invloved, and it can result in new community activities that we may never considered.

    Your branch church's willingness to make adjustments in how you do things shows an open thought. You may say, well we were forced to, but there are church's that have been faced with similar issues, and have refused to change and have since closed, so give yourself some credit. It's that same open thought that will lead you into new activities, that will bless you and your members in ways you can't imagine,... so don't give up!

  7. I am reminded of mrs. Eddy's article in Retrospection (page 86-92) entitled "Exemplification" in which she states "A student desiring growth in the knowledge of Truth, can and will obtain it by taking up his cross and following Truth. If he does this not, and another one undertakes to carry his burden and do his work, the duty will not be accomplished." and "Experience has taught me that the rules of Christian Science can be far more throughly and readily acquired by regularly setteled and systematic workers, than by unsetteled and spasmodic efforts." Are we committed to the mortal dream or are we committed to waking up from the dream? What are our real desires? Don't they express our sense of religion? If all we desire is to feel good on this plane of existence, we will reap the rewards of that desire and our rewards will be limited by this plane of existence and not rise higher. If we desire to be of service to our fellow man, to open the blind eyes to the true nature of God and man, we may have to make sacrifices of self to achieve that goal. But the price we pay for having higher desires is more than balanced by the higher rewards we automatically generate. Each one is guided by God in his earth mission, and none of us follow the same path as another. Therefore it is wisdom to resist judging others and listen carefully for one's own direction, and then follow it faithfully. AS church members we can fill in when another is required to travel, knowing that the hand of God is leading and guiding both the traveller and the substitute. We can pray for our church to affirm the presence of the Christ regardless of the human appearances, knowing the complete idea of church is God's will not our own. So grateful for every member expressing his/her Christliness by their committment to blessing others.

  8. This is a very important question in many churches, including mine. It's hard to find people to fill in as Sunday School teachers and Readers. I joined this church a few months ago, moving there after my former church closed, and I attended my first membership meeting last weekend. The problem they're having filling slots was discussed. I learned that one person has read (with a year off in between each term) for 15 years. There are a dozen Sunday School enrollees and up to ten guests, so the need there is obvious. One Sunday, older pupils were sent to church because they had no teacher.

    I was asked to substitute as both a Reader and Sunday School teacher and agreed, but I am often away for business on weekends. (When I travel, it's always for business, never vacation.)

    I am certainly grateful for this discussion and the ideas shared, since it has come up in my own church experience so recently and is a major prayer-topic for me.

    Question: Has anyone out there been part of a church where, occasionally, an older Sunday School pupil filled in as teacher, either leading a discussion in his/her own class, or taking a class of younger students? (This thought just now popped up.) Perhaps someone could make a list of discussion topics to have ready for teen leaders if a regular teacher was not available?

  9. In response to Alan's post (#4), maybe a church/society could change to or include an early morning service (7 a.m.? 8 a.m.?) This would give members and potential visitors an opportunity to support bright &; early worship services & Sunday School and still have a large chunk of sabbath time for other praise activities like sports, family gatherings, prison ministry, serving lunch to the homeless, etc.

  10. When on travel I tend to take my practice and my church "work" with me, at least the metaphysical part. And often my travel is related to church anyway, as in institutional meetings and workshops, and of course Association.

    With the spiritual definition of Church in mind, I'm not sure we can leave church at home anyway. It goes with us wherever we go.

    And if this travel is a blessing to anyone, we can also know that it is blessing all, including those filling the slots back at our church home.

  11. "Citizens of the world, accept the glorious liberty..." It appears that we are free to express being citizens of the world. I have had interesting experiences of healing others when out and about in the world, whether in Europe, or picking up hitchhiking women, or young people. Others at church have related similar opportunities at our testimony meetings. We live in an age of Love's divine adventure to be All-in-all. I love the adventure.

  12. What an interesting, timely discussion. I appreciated the responses from Dawn-Marie and Dave, and all the comments, particularly Christine and Jan. What first occurred to me, when reading Dawn's response, was that the world has come to regard travel as an entitlement. And I suspect we travel for pleasure much more frequently than we used to.
    Once the assumption is made that recreational travel is a legitimate activity (one we've earned through all our hard work), church commitments then come to be regarded as secondary, as needing to fit around that. I really appreciated being reminded how hard Mrs Eddy worked, with scarcely any travel.
    Regarding embracing new technology: To be able to attend a skype Sunday School class, or tune in to a tele-conference Testimony Meeting still requires a core church membership who are "settled and systematic" to provide that service. We can't all be "on the wing", absent from our posts, and still have a viable branch church.
    Bottom line: I think we might have to clip our wings somewhat, and not whinge self-righteously like the Prodigal's older brother about our entitlement to considerable periods of recreation.

  13. I think it all depends on whether we want Christian Science to continue into the next centurey. You may not want to hear this, but Mary Baker Eddy never took a vacation. Her travel was for the Cause. I recommend two amplified biographies: Tomlinson's Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy and vonFettweis and Warneck's Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Healer. Being a Christian Scientist involves work. It also involves some form of outreach. We can't take just the candy of Christian Science. We need workers in Christian Science not dabblers.

  14. To pressure people to attend Church is absolutely not the answer to maximize Church attendance. It is the person's feeling about church that is more important than anything else. "Do I want my Church to succeed in my community in helping to spread the word." The answer is "Yes I do." If that answer is sincere enough, the Church will be successful. We should be ever alert to Mortal Mind's temptation to force people to attend Church and make them feel guilty if they don't.

  15. Broken sunlight and Sallie...RIGHT ON!

    It doesn't seem to me that anyone is talking about pressuring people to come to church. For any church to be successful, it takes involvement, first by prayer, and second by your participation, (in all the ways that entails). When we agree to join a branch, don't we agree to support it services, activities, and to financially back it (as best we can)? I think that answer is yes. If this commitment is not something that one can do for whatever reason, then maybe just attending the services when convenient could suffice.

    No you don't have to attend 52 Sunday's and Wednesday's a year, but a church will not prosper and continue without as MBE says and as broken sunlight reiterated,settled and systematic workers.

  16. To #8 LR: There was an article in the Christian Science Journal, I believe this past year about a church in Wisconsin that started with one adult, all the members and workers were teens. Trust and creative solutions are always with us.

  17. Two of our members cannot come to church on Wednesday evening, so I use my phone to do a conference call. They can hear the hymns and sing along, listen to the readings, and when it is time for testimonies, I check with them to see if they would like to share something. If they do, I put them on the speaker phone and we can all hear their testimonies. It is working just fine. They are full participants even from a distance.

  18. Thanks to all who are praying about this important and timely question. Our beloved Leader was an early user of the telephone as were others, but who ever heard of a vacation in her time? We can be settled and systematic on vacation taking our cell phones and "techie" devices with us to support Mother Church and branch church activities online and on the road - sharing Monitors and other publications as a way of saying thank you to those we meet in stores, restaurants, gas stations - you name it. Still when my husband wanted to travel and I became more involved in serving in the Reading Room without enough substitutes or an important meeting was coming up guess what happened. Divine Love continues to meet every human need!!!

  19. What a wonderful question! (The one clear at the top of the blog) I think the answer is given in the question itself, "all of the above". Every problem has a solution. The source of the solution being divine Mind. Yep, that means prayer. And prayer means listening. Don't be afraid of an out-of-the-box answer. Be a trend setter and share your solution with the rest of us. I really enjoy some of the answers above. As far as the SS challenge, remember one room schoolhouses? All grades one teacher? The younger learned from listening to the older students answers and the older can learn from the younger by being their teachers. I think we all have had to improvise some Sundays.

    There are lots of ways to fill Reader slots. I know churches that have more than one 1st Reader. One for Sunday and one for Wednesday, or several Readers to take turns for Wednesday services. Whatever works for your circumstances works for all of us. Just keep the light shining!

    See you in church!

  20. Everyone's posts have been quite creative and interesting. Some really good ideas here!

    However, underlying this question of "travel", etc. is one which has been only very lightly touched upon. Namely, that many of the branch churches and societies are struggling with declining memberships and are having a difficult time simply staffing church positions, notwithstanding the issue of travel, "snowbirding", etc. I feel that this is a problem which affects churches of all denominations, not just the CS churches. I am very familiar with our local Episcopal church and they have had to cut back on many of their traditional church activities due to a declining membership.

    I will say that the many comments on this issue have shown that the branches are dealing with this issue in new and creative ways. I particularly liked the use of a "revolving" roster of First and Second Readers, and also having the older Sunday School students teach the younger students when no substitute teacher was available.

  21. Everyone works out their highest sense of spiritual activity. Wherever that takes one, I know I'm happiest with long sessions of uninterrupted communion with God and subsequent prayer time for His world. The inspiration and new views that come are unsurpassed, Life itself

    I love traveling our gorgeous world. But, I have to say, my happiest moments of travel and friendship are right in church. The mental revelations and overpowering love that come after a week of consecrated study, including our Bible lesson and prayer for the world, are phenomenal. Branch church services are both revolutionary and nourishing, Life itself.

    With zillions of interests, spiritual growth is critical in maintaining a healing vision of God's incredible world. Church enables spiritual discipline, focus and productive lives. It broadens our place in God's world, never limiting the adventure. It is Life itself.

    Church membership is a tender marriage, supporting wonderful growth through unity with God. This strong grounding promotes interesting useful endeavors. There is no deprivation in consecration, just progressive traveling in divine consciousness. This travel is never dull or stagnant but exciting and inspiring, while at the same time including wonderful home-cooked meals. For me, regular church activity is incredibly satisfying, Life itself.

  22. Whenever reading in the Bible how multitudes followed Jesus, it helps me to remember there were no mobile phones, no advertisments or posters put up,no televison or radio, but word of mouth was the main communicator, and we will never know how many were attracted to come and they came in their mutiltudes to be healed. The main purpose of Church is about healing as Eddy says her purpose was "To organize a Church designed to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Chriustianity and its lost element of healing." Manual p 17.
    Healing is what keeps a Church Alive, it's main purpose, it is unselfed Love understood, an individual experience as Dawn says, when Love is at work and submitted to it free's up from other attractions and for me Church became a place where I was drawn to, wanted to be and to be part of its activity.

  23. I like the idea of more than one first and second reader
    elected at the same time so they can rotate and will know they will be called upon and not as just a sub. The conference call idea is great for those who cannot attend on Wed. eve. When my parents traveled they attended many a branch church in other countries, particularly in Europe. They had many healing experiences to share upon their return. Since they had been seperated for almost 14 years (in total) during a 27 year Air Force career, they sincerely wanted to travel and so they did. They were faithful workers to their branch church and they
    shared C.S. with people during their travel times.
    I think we should re-configure the assignments challenging
    us due to travel and get recent S.S. graduates to teach
    and maybe begin training to become readers and reading room librarians very soon. There are many of them out
    there- the question is: do we, as a church keep in touch
    with these recent S.S. graduates and let them know we
    need them and actually they need us just (or more) than
    we need them. The seed is planted- encourage growth
    spiritward. Keep them "in the loop" even if they have
    not technically "joined" yet.