Response 1: Ned Odegaard
There may be some practical steps available here, such as taking a fresh look at the job definition of these roles and stripping away excess steps that may have accumulated over the years. And there may also be a practical need to pay non-member musicians for their services. But my instinct is that this question isn’t really one of equity in compensation, but of commitment to Christian Science. My own prayers on this topic have been raising some pretty sobering and humbling follow-on questions:
- Has compensation become an unstated condition for church members to take on these roles? Do we each have a list of church jobs that we won’t accept?
- Where does church work rank in our own priorities? Is church our “first love,” or are we outsourcing our commitment by hiring others to fill these jobs?
- What does it actually mean to be a Christian Scientist? If we are followers of Christ, how does discipleship today compare to discipleship in Jesus’ day? Did Jesus’ disciples see their role as primary or secondary in their lives? Were they fishermen first and disciples second — or the other way around? Were they driven by commitment or by convenience?
- Is Christian Science just another activity in our lives, or is it a calling?
Grappling with these questions can be challenging, even uncomfortable—but there are answers and solutions. When it seems like the spiritualizing influence of the Christ is absent, human thought wants to be left alone to pursue comfort and convenience—to go with the human flow. But the Christ is not absent. The Father-Mother God loves us so much, so deeply, so directly, that we are not left to the drift of human thought. The “divine influence ever present in human consciousness” (Science and Health, p. xi ) is there to guide and direct us for any and all questions, even those regarding church work! So what do we do when asked to fill a job that we don’t want or when we can see that a role is unfilled? We turn to Love for the substance of our thoughts, for the tone of our words, for the direction of our steps.
Church is one of God’s specific provisions for the salvation of mankind. Therefore, our membership in church is a divine appointment, not simply a human step. The same divine impulse that led us to the discipleship that church membership represents is here to elevate our desires above the satisfaction and comfort of personal sense to selfless service to God. I know this to be true because I have experienced it myself. I can think of two examples where I was appointed to church roles that were very far from my own personal sense of how I wanted to spend my time. These church jobs forced me to grapple with the questions listed above. While growth was not always easy, it did come, and these experiences became life changers for me–blessings beyond measure.
Response 2: Pamela Cook
The phrase that came immediately to me in response to this question is “distinctly democratic” from this Church Manual By-Law: “In Christian Science each branch church shall be distinctly democratic, and no individual, and no other church shall interfere with its affairs” (p 74). Each branch church stands alone, an extension of The Mother Church, and is supported by all the divine power that impelled Mrs. Eddy to pen the Manual. Each branch’s decisions and actions are the outward expression of the members’ collective demonstration of Christian Science. If a branch’s purpose is to be “found elevating the race” (Science and Health, p. 583), then its demonstration must be based on consecrated prayer, and when it is, it inevitably fulfills its purpose, bringing healing to individual members and the broader community.
This By-Law also makes it clear that each branch church must make its own demonstration, without being influenced by what others are doing. As individuals, we can demonstrate only what we understand (see, for example, Science and Health, p. 323:14-16, p. 495:3, p. 254:16-19); similarly, the members of each branch church must pray to understand their purpose as an expression of the divine idea, church, relying on the textbooks and our Leader’s other writings—and not one another—for guidance.
The Bible cautions, “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10). It’s not money per se, but the love of it that causes problems. In considering the question at hand, a good starting point for prayer might be for the membership to examine its motives for paying or not paying for certain tasks. If your branch keeps a laser focus on its purpose as an expression of God’s eternal idea, church, and brings to this question a deep understanding of its motives regarding money, you will arrive at the decisions that are best for you and your community at this time. And if these decisions are based on the members’ individual prayers, “fitly joined together” (Eph. 4:16) in an atmosphere of brotherly love, they will have a solid foundation, and healing and prosperity will naturally follow.