Week 80: "How can our church move beyond gridlock?"

Question: "I'm a 
member
 of 
a 
branch 
church
 where some
 members 
look 
at 
outreach 
efforts 
as 
human
 solutions,
 not 
spiritual solutions. This opinion tends to keep other members from pursuing these opportunities. How can we move beyond this church gridlock?"

RESPONSE 1: LINDSEY BIGGS

One of the most valuable things about church is the opportunity to share our unique gifts and talents with one another as a membership and congregation. Church brings together such a diverse group of people from various backgrounds. Each member and participant has something unique to offer – a unique light they can shine. Some feel called to teach Sunday School, while others may want to engage in community service activities, while some others may simply want to attend church services. The inspiration that leads each church member how to express church is unique and it should be nurtured, not stifled.

Paul wrote, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:4-7, NRSV).

I love how Paul points how the gifts we each have all come from one God. This signifies that there must be unity within our unique gifts and talents. Even though we may feel called to express church differently than someone else, we can still be so grateful for each individual and the common good to which they are contributing. This enables us all to feel valued, loved and supported as church members. And this appreciation for one another enables us to be receptive to God moving us forward.

RESPONSE 2: LOIS HERR

Think what a blessing it would be to our world at this very moment to be free of gridlock. Have we really lost, as a society and as a world, the ability to hear God’s gracious voice moving each of us forward in creative unifying ways, instead stuck in the tired old “them and us?”The discipline of our “distinctly democratic” (see the Church Manual, p. 74 ) branch churches demands not only that we do the work of Christianity, as exemplified by Jesus--in preaching the Gospel, healing the sick, cleansing the leper, and raising the dead--but that our work together has the same radical standard of Scientific Christian practice. We are caused to contribute to the mental atmosphere of society by our collective demonstration of church.

Some years ago, when my job involved reporting directly to the Board of Directors of a non-profit, there was nothing but division in the governance of the organization. This resulted in stagnation and inaction. I so wanted the organization to go farther and faster. But my approach to progress was way too personal and mortal. A good friend gave me one sentence that revolutionized my frustrated, sometimes self-righteous approach: “Unity is not many coming together to be one, it is One (God) expressing Himself as All.”

Suddenly I had a new approach.  With this view, we were all “on the same side.”  Instead of revving up my engines to come up with just the right arguments for why we should do something or other, and despairingly listening to all the counter-arguments as to why all of that was impossible, I earnestly prayed to know how that One was expressing Himself as All. That caused me to properly heed the commandment “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” I could see there was no truly righteous justification for the  “them and us” view.  Instead there was plenty of room for expectancy of good, for consistently identifying “the others” as God’s children, and eventually for a hard-won humble willingness not to be in charge.  Others were praying, too.  And we saw the most wonderful transformation of the organization.  Some false representations that had ignorantly been permitted to stand as the Gospel truth were seen and removed. We moved past gridlock. I believe our organization made a stronger contribution not only in fulfilling its mission, but in its restored robust practice of Scientific Christianity. This was a testament to unity being “God expressing Himself as All.” Perhaps this idea sheds some further light on this vital question of moving forward.

  1. Human solutions should be a result of spiritual solutions...more prayer to unveil what should be done. A comment from Mrs. Eddy in Misc. Writings is helpful: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in
    turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for tomorrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present
    help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment." Once we do get the right idea through prayer, we do have to act on it humanly; something those who advocate prayer only sometimes forget.

  2. I grew up in a protestant church and had no knowledge or understanding of healing. I was attracted to Christian Science when I learned enough about it to know the CS Church has something unique no one else is teaching. I thank God everyday that I belong to a Christian Science Church where we focus on demonstrating scientific Christian healing, which of course, includes prayers for the world.

  3. Isn't it OK for each to offer what they are inspired to do, and for respect to prevail? This is of course still in lines with following the Manual. Sometimes I've been so on fire to move forward with outreach, implement fresh ideas in church, etc. and other times it has been God's command to "sit still and pray non-stop." We can't hatefully judge each other. Freedom from human will is such a holy feeling. It IS Spirit that guides us all and maintains individuality. If churches find themselves stuck in gridlock, lift the vision higher and soulfully ask: "What do the young adults, or vibrant young thinkers in society, see and feel when they come into this church?" That should be a good guiding post as to what needs to be done if we want church to survive.

  4. Prayer always leads our human footsteps in right directions. The one leads to the other. It may be that those of you who are like minded in wanting to reach out to the community will have to do it on your own. After all, you want to share Christian Science, not your branch church specifically. Go ahead. Reach out to the world without your branch church. Do it just as Christian Scientists, not as branch church members. That may mean you will have to come up with finances without the support of your branch church but Love will open up the way for right ideas, and you need not fear. If your RR won't support you, get your own table and set it up on the street corner. We all have old issues of the periodicals and pamphlets. Pass those out and engage your community one on one. It may not mean more members for your branch church but that's not the point. You want to bless you community. Just do it.

  5. Not to be blunt or critical, but I have found that some CS Members, at times, have a narrow way of thinking about things. The Mother Church does more than any of us with outreach from the CS publications to the world for healing. But to help those who are not part of the CS Movement and need help in many ways, doesn't mean we are acting in a human solution aspect and provide not only prayer, but money and food if we can, for those who have nothing in this so-called material world to survive. The human solution is when we help to provide what we can materially, along with prayer for persons needing help in many ways; but however, some show no real graditude if helped, when they are ask to attend CS Services for improving their situation. Many just want a hand out and that is when we see a human solution/handout does not continue for some. Many church denominations do help people materially. But the CS Movement's main goal is to see "Divine Healing" happen for every situation. The old saying is: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink," or for some people to sincerely accept Truth and strive with God's Love for a better existence, requires a change of thought.

  6. When Mrs. Eddy consoled the widow of President McKinley, she didn't write, "My soul reaches out to you..." Instead she wrote, "My soul reaches out to God for your support..." (My.290) Perhaps she knew Mrs. McKinley and God were inseparable, so reaching out to God was enough. But this did not prevent her from writing the letter and then mailing it. Practitioner/poet Max Dunaway shows how prayer can lead to human footsteps. He writes, "In Thy way, Father, and at Thy command would I fulfill the purpose Thou hast planned. Oh, let my ears be open to Thy word, my heart prepared to DO what shall be heard."

  7. Today we can have lectures and multiple lectures as part of our outreach, and our Reading Rooms where we can have special events such as the tuesday internet talks from Boston, etc. And we can be more inviting about our church property and building with a kiosk with literature and healing article postings, and perhaps a place to sit near-by. Sharing CS is activity, sometimes just opening the doors twice a week is passive; Member inspiration makes the difference. In these situations I think of what MBE asks in S&H page 478: "What would be thought of the declaration that a house was inhabited, and by a certain class of persons, when no such persons were ever seen to go into the house or to come out of it, nor were they even visible through the windows?" Jesus, MBE, and many others let their light shine and be visible and those are examples we can emulate today.

  8. I like Gil's approach: if you want to outreach to the community, do it as a citizen of your community who happens to be a Christian Scientist. The Christian Science churches have their work cut out for them: we have enlisted to lessen sin, disease, and death. Do we really think that community service will ever take the place of scientific prayer to really heal social issues? Are we thinking that somehow scientific prayer is not enough? Our contribution as a church HAS to be in the way that Jesus taught or we are going to fall flat trying to fix the world through human efforts, as noble as they may be. Scientific prayer heals, uplifts, transforms, restores, and uplifts the human. We know that, right? There can be no conflict in our churches if we stick to our mission of healing human ills through prayer.

  9. Two excellent responses. I love Lindseys' reminder that we all have talents that benefit our branch churches. What a neat visual shift in Lois' quote: “Unity is not many coming together to be one, it is One (God) expressing Himself as All.” Instead of seeing a group of people coming together to form a church, we see people drawn to Love's expression of unity. Too cool!

  10. Can't tell you how much the responses and comments have inspired me. I've always thought that the ideas that flowed from prayer were the supply - the practical solutions - and that we should be willing to try new things. I've printed out this page and it's a keeper. Thank you all so much.

  11. I think we may do it differenlty at different times/stages in our individual experience. As a young mother, I felt led to take foster children into our home. Later I spent many professional years teaching adolescents w/many kinds of disabilities. That was followed by a successful run as a grant writer to bless a rural school district. I relied on CS through out all these experiences, but they were not directly connected to my membership in a branch church. They were simply my individual expression of my best understanding of CS & in my thought supported by my understanding of church. Now, my focus as a so-called retiree has changed, perhaps has been purified/uplifted. I no longer see my need to support humanity in he same way. My approach is more spiritual. I believe that God leads each of us at each stage of our experience. Whatever I may have accomplished in the past could only have blessed my branch church & the movement. I believe that we can let the Christ define & direct how each of us can support our fellow man & our sense of church. I believe we must let it evolve as we grow spiritually.

  12. I’ve been trying hard to understand what is meant by the question "Are we thinking that somehow scientific prayer is not enough?" Is it just that the question hasn’t been framed sufficiently accurately or are there differences in the understanding of what Mrs Eddy taught and how she led by example?

    Did not Mrs Eddy do her praying and then carry out a great number of things that may be called human actions? And then continued praying and continued acting humanly again and again. Read the biographies.

    If she had prayed without responding to the results of that prayer, the Mother Church edifice would never have been built or the church’s activity spread throughout the United States and abroad. Prayer and healing went hand in hand. Jesus did say that mountains could be moved, but we need to be suitably modest in our aims.

    The insistence on praying only (if that is what is really being said) is difficult to understand. This approach means that Eddy would have recognised the need to raise standards in the newspaper industry in the US but would have been content to continue with her scientific prayer and view that as enough. Instead, she was not afraid to set an example by founding a daily newspaper with uplifting ideals – when she was 87 yrs young!

    Should we recognise perhaps that, with the current degree of spiritual understanding, a useful distinction needs to be made between praying for physical and other healing (where God’s law is invoked and changes in consciousness do result in real healing by a metaphysical healing process) and carrying out normal human activities, guided by divine law, where human actions (e.g. outreach) must still be taken?

  13. An ability to see things from another's perspective is priceless -- for a very experienced Christian Scientist to see things from the standpoint of someone newer to the practice, and for someone with a noble thought of loving help to the community to be patient with those struggling to know how to put that into practice. Also, everyone has to have the humility to yield to the Christ in allowing others (as well as themselves) to learn the important lessons that must be learned to practice Christian Science in our communities. That's why we have churches, so we can grow together.

    When I was a new church member, an experienced Christian Scientist shared a healing where the toes on one of his feet had been regenerated after having been cut off by a lawnmower. With good-natured humor he said that if it had happened when he was new to Christian Science, he may well have gone straight to the emergency room. If it had happened when he had just joined the church, he would've probably STILL gone to the emergency room...in the next town, out of fear of what his fellow church members would think! But because it happened when he had already demonstrated Christian Science healing in many situations and had full confidence in Science and in his own ability to practice it, that was his first course of action and the healing was complete -- damaged toes were healed and at least one toe that had been cut off grew back completely.

    I've thought about this healing and his explanation of the different courses of action he honestly admitted he might have taken, many times over the years, because it seems like a perfect example of what goes on in a church. Each one is looking at a course of action to be taken by the church from the standpoint of what he or she has individually demonstrated up to that point. OR they are blindly following (without having demonstrated it for themselves) the advice of a Christian Scientist they admire. But in either case, every member needs to look to the needs of their fellow members as well. Would yielding to someone else's point of view and allowing them to learn a valuable spiritual lesson through experience really harm the church, even if it takes time and resources? Do we really trust the Christ to guide us and correct any mistaken course of action?

    I love the desire by church members to attend to the needs of our community, AND I deeply appreciate the solid conviction of church members that, through consecrated prayer, the answer to those needs will be revealed. And I'm fully convinced that, even if there isn't presently a clear discernment of how the church can presently meet the need, if all members deeply love the desire to do good each of the other members expresses, a course of action that will bless each church member as well as the community will emerge.