Response 1: Michelle Nanouche
There is only one way to handle this kind of situation that is effective every single time - prayer. Tucked between two important By-Laws in the chapter “Discipline” in the Church Manual (Section 4. The Daily Prayer and Section 6. Alertness to Duty) is Section 5. Prayer in Church. Mrs. Eddy instructs, “The prayers in Christian Science churches shall be offered for the congregations collectively and exclusively” (p. 42). I find it interesting that she doesn’t say that prayers are to be offered for the members, or for the community, but rather for the collective congregation of members and non-members, exclusively.
Prayer is the divine means of feeding the famished affections, of forgiving and helping others to forgive faults, so that we are all free to move forward in the work as healing Christians in the community.
Each Sunday we hear the words of Science and Health correlate the Lord’s Prayer with “And Love is reflected in love” (p. 16). But do we really pray this prayer, affirming each congregant’s capacity to hear, feel, and express Christ-love, whether they are members, regular attendees, once a year visitors, or first-timers?
Church is not a performance. It is a practice. Everyone has a role in it that counts. While an orchestra consists of many instruments, in any given piece we may hear from some more than others, and from time to time one may hit a sour note. But if we remember we come together to feel the love of Christ and to put into practice what we know of this love, we will see each one’s participation as essential and we’ll put into practice our best, while forgiving the sour notes until each one gets his part right.
One thing is sure, adding judgment to judgment – no matter how righteous one may feel - doesn’t heal. It just turns up the heat. And the frustration over someone else’s growth and practice curve will only mount until we forgive, and give up the anguishing thought that the Christ is not meeting, or cannot meet, each individual need.
I remember a man once saying to me, jokingly, “Don’t prey on me!” I was giving a lecture on prayer. We then discussed the difference between the healthy practice of prayer and the mental malpractice that has a personal agenda and tries to induce others to bend to our will. Once he was clear on the difference, he welcomed all the prayers he could get.
Don’t give up on your regular attendee. By his presence, he is accepting the full benefit of your prayers for the congregation. Pray for him, but don’t prey on him – that is, include him in the full benefits of association with your church without a hidden agenda of expectation that he do more than accept God’s love for him. God is caring for every member of your congregation. And your prayer will help you see the fruits of His care.
Response 2: Michael Fish
I can relate to this question. In fact, I have lived this question. When I joined church at the age of 12, I loved doing church work. When I was first reader for the first time, I had a non-member come up and explain each week the words I was mispronouncing. I will not tell you my first thoughts, but I will tell you the thoughts that healed it. I felt such frustration for the hours I was putting in just to hear complaints, and then I realized that taking this personally was not helping me or my view of the individual who was complaining.
I began to remind myself that we are all dedicated servants of Christ. As servants we submit to the Master’s view, the view of Christ, not personal sense. Personal sense, our own sense of things, creates a heavy burden for us. We might wonder if church work is worth the effort, especially when you hear criticisms of what you love. But all personal sense results from the human consciousness’ ignorance of the Truth about man. We are not here to please ourselves or others. We are here to please God, glorify God and then we find only good exists. To replace personal sense or condemnation, whether self inflicted or by others, is to be aware of man’s spiritual being, and Christ Jesus showed us how to see that image here and now.
Mrs. Eddy presented to us an allegory illustrative of the supposed laws of matter and personal sense in the chapter on Christian Science Practice to help us understand personal sense is always the belief of life in matter (Science and Health, p. 430-442). Personal sense is the plaintiff and false belief is the attorney for personal sense. Whenever we start with personal sense, then false belief is our attorney, our mouthpiece. Our whole case is based on lies.
I realized I was actually taking this so personally that I was making myself a god of what was correct or not. Once I recognized that I was the plaintiff and rehearsing false beliefs, I began to reverse this lie about the individual and myself. I started to know what was true about my identity and the individual's identity. I would identify each of us as God made us. My frustration stopped and so did the criticism. We were both in church to learn more about God. Mrs. Eddy says, "Silencing self, alias rising above corporeal personality, is what reforms the sinner and destroys sin. In the ratio that the testimony of material personal sense ceases, sin diminishes, until the false claim called sin is finally lost for lack of witness" (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 67).
Once we stop being a plaintiff for personal sense and bearing false witness, then nothing can affect us because we are not listening or being a false witness to a lie about others or ourselves.
Personal sense tries to hide our true identity and bear false witness of our neighbor. It tempts us to see a critical person instead of seeing a brother or sister honestly seeking God through church attendance. Personal sense would have us spend time ruminating, or rehearsing a lie (false beliefs) about ourselves or others, and that keeps us from focusing on the truth about God and man, about harmony and good.
As students of Christian Science we can rebuke personal sense testimony because it attempts to credit either good or evil to person. We remind ourselves we are the sons and daughters of God and our church is here to lift all who attend out of a dormant understanding into the spiritual understanding seeing only what is true for ourselves and others.
Church is encompassing Truth and Love. Christ Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). The answer has been given to us all. We eliminate the personal sense that tries to say we have been harmed and burdened, and we continue in the Christ love. This impersonal sense of the allness of God’s love dissolves critcism. To heal instantaneously Mrs. Eddy said, “It is to love! Just live love- be it-love, love, love. Do not know anything but Love. Be all love. There is nothing else. That will do the work. It will heal everything; it will raise the dead. Be nothing but love” (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy: Expanded Edition, Volume 1, p. 49). You are loved as a church member and as an honest seeker.