RESPONSE 1: BEKKI BUHL
Reading your question I immediately thought of Jesus and his twelve disciples. What a family! Imagine sitting around with the Master-Teacher, listening, praying, and sharing deepest thoughts of Life together. It’s a rather goose-bumpy notion, isn’t it? They walked, talked, ate, and sang Church, nurturing, rebuking, gentling, and loving one another, probably unlike any other gathering of dearest friends since the beginning of time. They had their joys and insights, differences and betrayals, but through the constancy of Jesus’ love, words, and works, they were learning their unity of purpose and unity with God.
Here we stand, as present day disciples. Our church organization, not so unlike our human family, offers a laboratory for spiritual practice, and especially, for living love.
One definition of “family” includes “the collective body of persons who live in one house, and under one head or manager.” A Church Alive blog later reprinted in the Christian Science Sentinel defined Church as “the house divine Love built for God’s children to live in” (see The Christian Science Sentinel, Evan Melenbacher, April 30, 2012).
Church embodies a family of spiritual seekers, thinkers, and healers. So what qualities define this family, at its best? Probably unconditional love heads the list. And there’s spiritual sense, compassion, fidelity, forgiveness, unselfishness, purity, discipleship, edification, inspiration, harmony—to name but a few. In our dealings with one another in church, don’t we learn again and again that we can’t just talk about Christ, Truth, but that the divine must be lived? This requires a constant humble assessment of thought and actions. Never limited, the attributes of Love are forever broadening!
In my recent church experience, we break the bread of truth Sundays and Wednesdays, and we share meals within the church setting as well as outside of services and meetings. Individual needs are met prayerfully and through deeds of kindness and generosity. When an unfamiliar face walks through our door, we don’t see them as a stranger, but as a fellow sister or brother to welcome home.
There’s such a tangible sense of family-supporting-family, that recently when my husband was out-of-state on a business trip and I was involved in a serious multi-vehicle collision, one of the earliest roadside calls I made was to a member of our society. It felt natural to request supportive prayer from my church family. I trusted that these dear friends would fearlessly and understandingly turn to God in oneness of Mind. Isn’t this the highest sense of brotherhood that we yearn to experience?
RESPONSE 2: PETER JACKSON
There are indeed many things that both church and family have in common. I’ve found in my own experience that a love for church and a love for family are both essential in the healing practice. As with family, a successful church is certainly based on the loving unity of its membership, and I would say this is best maintained by members striving to demonstrate the Science of Christ in their individual lives, both within and outside of the church organization. A membership doing this can’t fail to express the unselfed love for one another, which “receives directly the divine power,” healing and transforming lives (see Science and Health p. 192). Everyone would want to be part of an organization that does this.
Some members will be content to build strong working relationships with their fellow members, without necessarily desiring to socialize much more beyond that. Other members will form deeper personal friendships and they will do many things together, both inside and outside of church activity. The two Christian Science churches nearest where I live, enjoy organizing occasional events such as music concerts or a garden party, which bring our community together. Certainly nothing can stop you, too, from taking the initiative to organize a social activity of your choice, and making an open invitation to the other members to join in. While it’s possible that not everyone will take part, I’m sure that many will enjoy the experience, and they’ll be grateful to you for your thoughtful efforts.
For me, the strongest bonds with fellow members have been formed through regular church activity, such as serving in the Sunday School, care committee visits, or organizing lectures. Any success in these activities has come through a genuine commitment to an unselfed love for others – the key ingredient for enduring relationships. And yes, it’s true, this takes persistent work, but the spiritual growth is well worth it.
So I would say, let God inspire you. The right ideas will come to bless your whole church family. As Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “We have nothing to fear when Love is at the helm of thought, but everything to enjoy on earth and in heaven” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 113).