Week 72: "I know of several branch churches that are having a hard time staying afloat. Mine in particular is considering cutting back on key activities, for example, not holding a lecture this year or reducing Reading Room hours. I know we need to be practical, but this seems like a step in the wrong direction to me. We should be making this demonstration of supply! Maybe this isn’t really a question, but I’m just looking for ideas."

Response 1: Evan Mehlenbacher

When a branch church is faced with a declining membership and dwindling resources some deep soul-searching about what priorities are important to pursue, what unproductive activities should be stopped, and where attention should be focused to demonstrate growth can be very healthy. But above it all, it’s useful to remember that God provides freely and abundantly every resource needed for that branch to prosper. Beliefs of decline and lack can be overcome. The primary activity of a branch church is to heal neighbors. And what better place for a band of Christian Scientists, even a small band, to apply the healing truths of Christian Science and demonstrate abundance for the collective good than in the activity of their church home!

Jesus had Peter pull a coin from the fish's mouth to pay their tax bill. Manna fell from the sky for the homeless Israelites. Loaves and fishes were multiplied for the hungry masses in the desert. These Bible stories, and more, illustrate that in the face of lack there is supply to be seen and received. There is a supply of wisdom, insight, and intelligence coming from God that is ready to bless your branch and help members see how to successfully carry out their healing mission in your community.

The supply God provides is spiritual and typically doesn’t first appear in dollars, extended Reading Room hours, or numbers of members. It’s a state of divine Mind expressed where consciousness overflows with gratitude, love, goodwill, generosity, unselfishness, care for one’s neighbor, and other qualities that demonstrate the presence and power of Truth and Love. These qualities heal beliefs of deprivation, poverty, fear, discouragement, and hopelessness. They cause supply to appear where there appeared to be no supply.

Sometimes it’s tempting to blame other members for lack in church. But this should never happen in church work. Church activity is about blessing others unselfishly. It’s about seeing what God created in the first place. And we all have ready access to that vision,—including you!

So, from what you wrote, I’d encourage you to reject any argument of lack and focus on demonstrating ever-present supply. See the abundance God has already put in place, actively share your inspired vision with fellow members, and expect progress.

Response 2: Stephanie Johnson

In the Church Manual, Mrs. Eddy establishes that each branch church is “distinctly democratic in its government” (Manual, p. 74). This provides a system of governance that clearly outlines her intent to have a membership of thinkers. A keynote of Science and Health resounds in every Christian Science church, “The time for thinkers has come” (p. vii). Following the provisions in the Manual is not about passive obedience to these rules, but rather thoughtfully leaning into what Mrs. Eddy discerned to be the basis for spiritual progress both for a branch church and the individual church members themselves.

Clearly great good comes forward when we explore and consider fresh ideas. This dialogue opens thought to new ways of doing things that are infused with inspiration, freshness, flexibility and practicality. As the Bible says, “Come, now and let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). This reasoning is only enhanced when we turn to the Church Manual. She writes this counsel, “Of this I am sure, 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” (The First Church of Christ Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 230). Isn’t this healing impulse at the very heart of the purpose of a branch church?

The Church Manual was not intended to be used as a checklist to simply follow like a dull and repetitive drumbeat, but rather as guidance for thinkers advancing together toward a common goal of progress and healing. In reading the Manual, I find it eye-opening to notice what she outlines as being essential, as well as what she never mentions. For example, I find it thought provoking that not once does she mention the ownership and maintenance of a branch church edifice.

Over many years I have found it helpful to work out from the basic reasoning that if something is a right idea then there is a way to do it. Heeding Mrs. Eddy’s counsel is always an intelligent course of action. So with an eye toward spiritual growth the “do we have to?” question is replaced by the inspired inquiry, “How do we go about doing this?” This line of thinking brings forth creative solutions that are appropriate to our day and to each unique community. Interestingly, I have found that truly inspired ideas also bring with them all of the resources necessary to fulfill the idea.

  1. Thanks so much, Evan and Stephanie. I particularly like Evan's remark about never blaming - that is so, so important! - and Stephanie's perceptive comments about the Manual and the way we should see it. I hope many church members and supporters will be reading this and taking these helpful thoughts on board.

    Interestingly, some of the most vibrant Christian Science churches I've ever seen are ones with very small memberships. I quite recently joined a small (member-wise) Society with one of the most active, lively, innovative and well-regarded Reading Rooms in the country. Another similarly small Society I know (also with a wonderful Reading Room) has just sprouted two new Journal-listed practitioners, inspired by a Church Alive Summit that was held in that region the previous year! In these and other cases I know of, the churches involved were turned around and revitalised after perhaps years of apparent stagnation, just by a few people turning their thought around first and actively looking for what God is already giving us.

    There is so, so, so much good going on, and so much evidence of new growth and fresh ideas in our Movement. I do hope all this will be an inspiration to the original questioner and to everyone else who is struggling with a similar situation. In the couple of years that the Church Alive initiative has been going on, it's left no doubt that Church really is ALIVE! And those blessings will keep on spreading to everyone.

  2. What a great question and perfect in every way to drop in my inbox today. I appreciate the answers with wonderful thoughts that lift us above the 'mortal' picture of lack in one way or another.
    Thank you so much for the inspiration that goes into this website to help me when I seem to most need it.

  3. Divine is always in time and on time and I sat that because a former building manager whom I believed to be indifference actually,was not indifferent, his thoughts were aligned with ideas steaming from Divine Mind. So, I believe, as you and other church members work together the solution will come. God wants us to work together and that is what Tony said, "we must work together to so eveyone gets help". This is a reflection of the Great Commission.

  4. I've been alerted by Michael Davis' article in the September 2012 Christian Science Journal (page 57) in which he quotes Mrs. Eddy in 1902: "I do not believe in much organization in church. The churches are over organized" (A11444, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library).
    Mr. Davis continues, "There's also no place where she requires a branch church to have an executive board, or an edifice, or to follow all the details of a parliamentary guidebook... She also warns agains branch churches adopting By-Laws from the Manual of The Mother Church that do not apply to branches..." To Judge Clifford who visited Mrs. Eddy, she is quoted by Davis as saying,"Organization is a simple matter for all of its importance. It is simply a matter of doing things by working together.".

  5. I sincerely believe that, when a church is faced with declining numbers and associated financial problems, the
    solution lies not in looking outward but rather inward.
    A static or declining membership requires a commitment to individual spiritual growth. An expanding awareness on each one's part of the true nature and substance of all thing including church
    A church cannot prosper and grow unless a commitment to spiritual growth becomes the desire and aim of its members.
    We truly are responsible for the condition of what we perceive of as our church.
    It will always reflect what we as individuals regard as its present state and condition.
    We can all change this, beginning today

    As Courtney points out some of the smallest churches and societies are active and vibrant. Quality not quantity being the determining factor

  6. Hi Rosalinda and others,

    Talking of Mike Davis's recent article, it was based on a talk that he and Lesley Pitts from the MBE Library gave at the Church Alive Summit in Boston last year. You can watch it here: http://members.christianscience.com/church-alive/our-church-foundation-boundless-basis-for-growth/

    We watched this at a Summit in my area some months ago, and it really shook up people's preconceptions about branch churches! It is one of the most eye-opening, thought-provoking discussions I've ever heard.

  7. I attended the Church Alive Summit held in Orlando,Fl. From private conversations with folks, as well as presentations, it was rather clear many Christian Science (CS) branch churches are having a rough time for membership/financial support. So all do pray about it, but why are these conditions present? First, CS healings do not seem to get enough "visibility" to the general public when they happen. Many non CS people do not even really know what CS is all about. When healings do happen, they are published in CS periodicals and presented on the AM radio programs etc. But the CS Movement has "nothing" on TV. We were on TV for a number of years, but the concept of the Christ idea for healing created a problem for local CS practitioners in some cases. Why, because people expected "instant" healings as referenced in the Bible without any CS study or attending church services. Divine Love is not unique, but very much misunderstood. First, people have to be honest and sincere for CS guidance and help. People are out there needing help, but we have not found out how to really reach them for more CS church attendance everywhere and apply CS in their daily life. Many churches beside CS are lacking attendance. This is because people find religion as a way to reduce some form of fear, or they take alot of drugs to reduce the so-called thought problems. It seems anyway, that some people find it easier to pop a pill, than to study what the Christ and God is really all about. In general, young people appear to lack interest in religion and therefore we see more older folks in the CS churches than younger people. Family living in many situations lack Father and Mother good guidance, as the general society have broken holmes or single parent support. Family values must become more stable in society, for all type churches to survive in the future.

  8. I love this!! This past year I joined a "small" branch, which sometimes struggles to cover the bases for a service. But I am loving it. Each member is wonderful!! And I am blessed to know them and to work with them in love. I know my membership is blessing me, even though I live in a neighboring state -- a very long drive away. Thank you so much for your deep prayers and your sharing and your happy expectations.

  9. This is an important issue. The question is: Are the members sharing Christian Science or not? No growth can possibly occur if members are not inviting people to church. If friends and neighbors refuse, Jesus told us to "beat the bushes." This occurs in his parable of the invitation to the supper, Luke 14: 16-23. This means go where the needy people are. In my prison work I have found huge receptivity among the Spanish-speaking prisoners. Why not give lectures where Spanish speaking people reside? Prayer is essential, but without action prayer is not going to be effective. Christian Scientists are obedient to Jesus' command "heal the sick," but where is theri obedience to his command: "Preach the gospel?'

  10. "Temple.
    a material superstructure, where mortals congregate for worship." Science and Health, p. 595: 9

  11. we are visiting our local branch every Sunday for the past few months and plan to continue. The service provides spiritual uplift and loving members, but the routine is unbearably dull, monotonous without any uplifting music. The music brings the service Down! The routine messages in the service take too long & are lifeless. The readers are good, but robotic. I'm not sure Mrs. Eddy had this is mind for 200 years later!! People have evolved and the service needs to as well - to feel alive & relevant for church goers.

  12. How refreshing to hear these comments about Church....it is working together.!!! Holding that thought we move forward with God's grace and Love and ONE MIND leading us all with the revelation of this Grand Science. Thank you, Merri

  13. Number 11. You are visiting the branch church, but what are you bringing to the service? Gratitude that there is a Branch? Gratitude that there are Readers willing to try their best to bring the Lesson Sermon to the community? Active listening for the message?
    Gratitude that there is music at all? Gratitude that there is a Branch serving the community and the movement to show that the Christ, Truth is available here and now and that it only needs to be accepted and used?
    We all have a part to play for the success of the service.
    How wonderful it is to know that we do have an active part to play and that we are free to play it!!

  14. I read these posts by Evan and Stephanie as I was struggling with a work project. Many of the same issues had been part of my day (lack of resources, inability to accomplish the objectives, lack of involvement from others, etc.) After reading the posts, I went down to start dinner. And I was gently flooded with Stephanie's inspiration to open up to clear, fresh ideas - to know that progress is God's law - and to frame my questions for my task as "how do we go about doing this?" This listening just melted the resistance I had accepted in my project...and then the crowning grace. I saw this had raised my dormant understanding, so this mental wrestling was a form of church, which includes and blesses all. Thanks to all, as church is us..and it is alive and well!

  15. thank you martha for proving how living spiritual ideas touches every aspect of our lives for the better. There is no compartmentalization! Our prayers for church bless us.

  16. thank you LEM for your response. We will definitely go this Sunday with gratitude in mind. I can honestly say that each service we've attended in the past few months has been with thankfulness that the Church is there to attend! I grew up with Science and had a wonderful healing that no one can dispute - a complete curing of a scarred over face that no Drs. said could be healed - God did overnite!
    Still, as me and my husband (who is open to God's good) are honestly attempting to make Church a part of our routine at this midlife point. We are the youngest ones there! So I do believe this is what this discussion is about - the need for Church growth with new members. We do love having the Church available to attend. But honestly changes to make the service more relevant to 'today' are needed to attract more grateful participants.

  17. Talking of ideas, of working together, and of not worrying about physical distances, the Society branch to which I belong in southern UK was threatened with closure for lack of membership. A nearby Church was in the process of selling its church-building, and similarly heading for closure. With mentoring from The Mother Church, and professional legal guidance, the two branches effectively merged, the former branch Church members joining the Society, but retaining, in their own locality, their well placed Reading Room premises. Only one Reading Room has been permitted to be listed in the CS Journal, but the less well placed space in the Society's building fulfils a supporting role. The idea of working together in this way has blessed both memberships, and allowed a continuing outreach in each community. To be sure, there are significant distances to be covered for church attendance and Reading Room manning, and maybe this experience would not be regarded as an ideal working out from some points of view. Nevertheless, it has certainly 'bought time' for higher 'proofs of utility' (S&H 583:14 - Glossary). To us, it has definitely seemed to be a real instance of " …. whatever blesses one blesses all, ….. " (S&H 206:15 - Footsteps of Truth).

  18. Thank you, anonymous, for your reply. I am very happy to hear of your wonderful healing! It was healing, is healing and will continue to be healing that will bring others who are searching to our churches, isn't it?
    The other things can be polished for "today's world"; that is the easy part we can all enjoy, but the thought that each one of us is able to participate in the healing work is the greatest!
    Imagine what we can do as a congregation that is of one thought -healing- to support each other in the congregation, the community and even the world!
    So glad to read that you will be there Sunday "with gratitude on mind". Me too!
    With love, LEM

  19. Hopefully LEM - healing will bring others to CS churches, but it doesn't seem to be doing so from the original posters request. Many churches are prospering currently, why not CS churches?
    I only posted because I am a 'believer' in Mrs. Eddy's message. I have not been going to church for over a decade. Before that I took another decade break. Nothing not-a-thing has changed with the service in between my absence.
    I go as a willing participant to hear the truth. I love the church building, the feel of it, the loving members & the writings on the wall. It feels like home.
    But it stops there. The music is a downer, really depressing. The readers though warm & loving, but go thru the routine motions.
    We all leave quickly after a warm smile and a few hand shakes. Something is missing here.
    Recently I sang hymns with my dying mother and friends at a CS nursing home. We all chose the arrangements that are familiar that we grew up loving. We had a loving wonderful time. Why is it at Church - the arrangements picked are those that have the least melody? Why are the soloists singing such slow depressing selections?
    The message of CS is the same as always and a wonderful one - one that the world needs to hear!
    How that message is delivered seriously needs to be reconsidered. Just my humble opinion...

  20. O the gift that God had gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.

  21. All these posts are helpful and relevant. I recommend viewing this 17-minute video from the Board of Directors of The Mother Church, containing 3 vignettes about branch church experiences of progress (Berlin - "...a sense of church living within us", a branch &; society joining together; UK - changes opening up after creation of a metaphysical committee that focuses on "protection, one Mind", more love expressed, less criticism; Florida - connecting more with community with renewed purpose by opening a combined church/Sunday school/reading room in a shopping center). "Church is in the heart of every member", a board member concluded.
    Desiring to heal, grow spiritually, and witness the resulting magnification of good, with so much encouragement everywhere we look, "Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way" (S&H 326).
    http://members.christianscience.com/church-alive/letters-videos-clerk-board-of-directors/

  22. To No. 1, How refreshing to hear and see the words of encouragement, appreciation, joy, gratitude and buoyancy, that is all a part of living, worshipping, fellowshipping, and healing as a student of Christian Science.

    A former writer spoke of the daily concept of Church in our communities, we can truly be glad for each detail of activity. Expressing in our thinking gratitude and joy for the involvement, the desire for good, the application of even just one affirmation of the Truth of the relationahip of God and man.

    With Loving Regards,

    Rejoice

  23. I have been especially moved by the comments posted by Anonymous. I have experienced several churches with similar issues and I think we have to face the fact that newcomers may be repelled by poor reading, slow music and automatic announcements. It's clear from these postings that churches are trying to make their services more vital and healing. My wife and I have both held two full terms each as readers and we substitute often at 3 regional churches in our area. It has always been my policy to re-write the announcements frequently and, in fact, to have different ones each week. I happen to work in theatre and have vocal training and 30+ years of teaching, so I have been told I'm a very good reader. I'm not sure I have a solution to offer if you encounter uninspired reading. It may be cruel to suggest to a reader that s/he should get training. I do agree with others that what we MUST bring to church is all the love we have in our hearts, and to come early and pray for the service, pray for those present to reflect love and to allow the Lesson-Sermon to bless each one, the community and the world.

  24. I, too, am grateful for this Lift as well as for the thoughts expressed following. Two in particular come to mind. One expresses the importance of worldwide peace. The other looks at the importance of healing our neighbors. Many more great thoughts are expressed. And, what is church? Actually, church participation, i.e., going to church each Sunday, is declining overall. While at the same time internet activity devoted to christianity, especially CS, is increasing! Perhaps we are to devoted to churches, i.e., the buildings. Are not our various thoughts directly or indirectly related to healing our neighbors and as conveyed by Church Alive. It was noted above that Mrs. Eddy felt that to much attention was being paid to church organization, that is, the buildings and what happens therein. Our Mother Church will have to answer the question as to whether the CS church membership, that is the customary membership, is expanding or declining. But, they should also let us know the extent of growth in internet CS church activity. I read my lesson each day on the internet. I consider Church Alive and Daily Lift as very important.

  25. How wonderful this coming together, supporting one another, this is church alive and will certainly not be empty, as one can see here in all these wonderful ideas, that are manifested.
    Reading room and giving lectures both are ways to open up to mankind and they are precious opportunities, we need not to be afraid of. The appearing stranger is a friend, we haven't met yet. I loved listening to the chat by Shirley Paulson, Chet Manchester and the Board about the universality of Christian Science, given at the Summit at Cedars these days: http://time4thinkers.com/summit-events/collegesummit12/
    Shirley Paulson pointed out something very comforting, she showed, how we open up and others too and how finally we all meet, demonstrating this enfoldment to be a big circle including all and demonstrating true unity in Spirit. Margret Rogers mentioned, that we worship the Father in Spirit and Truth cannot be changed by listening and working together with others. I'm sure that this opening that is going on is divinly authorized will therefore have its full supply. This supply is Love, selfless Love, that enables us to overcome selfish thoughts and fears. This selfless Love inspires us to seek the own good in the good done selfless to others. Somehow, yes, there is nothing greater than that in all the world, it has its reward in itself!

  26. [...] “Eu conheço várias igrejas filiais que estão tendo dificuldades em permanecerem sem dívidas.  A minha, especificamente, está considerando cortes em atividades básicas. Sei que precisamos ser práticos, mas parece ser a direção errada para mim.  Alguma ideia?” leia mais » [...]

  27. Our individual lives and our church experience must be filled with fresh, active, inspired thought at all times and in all activities. No matter how important the healing, no matter the success of a one to one sharing experience, no matter how inspired the church service or the lecture or the day in the Reading Room, the goal is always to move forward.

    In our church work we should be grateful for what others have done before us. But we must remember that they never did our work for us. Approach each day as a fresh pioneering opportunity.

  28. To the administrator of the Church Alive Website: September 20, 2012
    A couple of weeks ago, I responded to a blog on your site. In my response, I inadvertently referred to the title of a chapter in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy inaccurately, mistakenly inserting the title of a weekly Bible Lesson, instead of the chapter title (which should have been “Animal Magnetism Unmasked”). For that I apologize. When it came to my thought what I had done, first of all I did not have access to a computer to quickly make the correction; and second of all realized that the chapter so encompasses the concepts of that “Bible Lesson title” that I discovered that I was surprised to have too closely related them in my thinking at that time. Hopefully, it caused neither you nor anyone else any difficulties or confusion. Regardless, of our depth of our activity, we can always do well to be alert.
    I do appreciate the opportunity that this site brings forth for people to express not only their joys, but also their concerns and opinions.
    Sincerely,

    Lorna Walker

  29. I believe the views of Anonymous, above, are shared by others who may be too timid to speak out. S/he apparently adores Christian Science, as I do, but sees the need for more camaraderie and joy to bring and keep new members in attendance. Our family is new to our state, and we drive 30 minutes to attend the closest CS church. While some of the members (the Readers and SS Teacher, in particular), are warm and friendly, giving welcome hugs and conversation, others simply leave. On our way home last week the thought occured to me that it would be nice to have coffee after the service, as so many other congregations do. I always looked forward to the "community" gathering when attending those other churches. It would be especially nice for those of us new to CS, to have extended contact with other CS members, to learn & talk with them. We don't know many in our
    town yet, so this is the only contact we may have with them during the week.
    I have also often thought that the healings - like those printed on the back of some Daily Bible Lesson pamphlets - should be published in magazines or other public media, to entice interest in CS healing. On the other hand, a new church in our town features very joyous, uplifting guitar & drum entertainment, which nearly blasts the congregation across the street!!! The music is full of praise with a wonderful beat, but there needs to be a happy medium between uplifting and ear-splitting. That new church, however, has already outgrown its original location, and now has TWO church sites. Obviously it is working to draw people in. While I understand completely Mary Baker Eddy's vision for Readers to read the exact words of Science and Health, in order to alleviate human conjecture and opinion, the readings are only part of "church". As we were waiting for our child to come from the Sunday School last week, I got the uneasy feeling that we were holding people up who wanted to leave, as they stood by, holding the door. Don't get me wrong, these are wonderful people, but the service sadly doesn't do much to encourage lingering and communicating. People spend so much isolated time on the internet, computers, Facebook, etc., that I feel this face-to-face relationship is important to nourish in our churches, and may serve an important function in our church communities.

  30. Thank you, Terri and Anonymous. I think these issues have to be addressed. I don't think it's that simple to say "be more grateful." Most CS'rs I know give a great deal to their church and are very grateful for their branch church. I've been in CS all of my life, have given to church in various capacities as and we need to keep "abreast" of the times. We can evolve without losing what Mary Baker Eddy envisioned for her eternal church. Some new music and new ways of saying announcements from the platform are good starts but we have a ways to go. We can be safe and continue to grow and evolve.

  31. Dear All,

    Our church has let the financial need be known. Each business meeting begins with readings and has a financial statement given. The combination usually encourages people to give more. Some members divide the money spent by the number of members and figure out what he himself should give and give exactly that or more. I have never heard a member tell someone else what s/he should give. We members notice on the financial report where the money is going. Over the years we seek the biggest bang for the buck. Though our financial reports are private I would say the investments have been sound. We have cut things like advertisements (as these were not bringing college students to the church in my opinion), and moved from out location on Main Street for the reading room. Interestingly the month after members moved the reading room books to the church building, the reading room building was sold and knocked down and a beautiful new building now stands in that space. So by moving when we did we avoided a strike (put on by neighbors) and being kicked out anyway. I don't want to go into it in a public forum, but we have made an adjustment as far as music goes. Another huge expense is buying just enough Quarterlies for those who attend, plus a few more. For a while the reading room bought only what a member ordered to purchase, this at a time when the shelves were full of books. We concentrated on finding good homes for the multiple copies or older versions of books, before buying new stock, which we now do again. As far as maintaining the building, some members maintain it. Repair and yard tasks were divided among members who volunteered for the jobs they felt they could do. There used to be a leaf taking day, but not in recent memory. Basically, other members of the church work hard. Much of what is bought for the church is out of pocket, with each person covering what s/he can of a project of his interest. As for decorating, people donate tasteful things. The readings at business meetings, reading on supply or Rise up [life your thought], have made us see more money, more supply, and more work.

  32. I used to be a branch church member, now I am not since I became bed ridden. But that hasn't stopped me from contributing to church activities, thanks to the Internet and I-PADS, which I have and summit comments to the various C/S websites. After that introduction, the thought came to me that a church that is having trouble staying afloat should never fall into the temptation of doubt. One way of doing this is to make a budget based on the past year expenses. This will enable the church to focus on what to cut and what not to cut. When the whole picture is seen, it will help one not to be tempted to discouragement.

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