Question: "Our church has had a difficult time finding willing Readers. The Manual specifies that Readers in branch churches should be members of The Mother Church. We have a few willing members who are not members of The Mother Church. Why do you think membership in The Mother Church so important for Readers?"
Response 1: Beth Schaefer
It’s instructive to look at what Mrs. Eddy says in Science and Health about the Readership: “the readers in churches should be selected with as direct reference to their morals as to their learning or their correct reading (Science and Health, p. 235).” It’s not that members are more moral than non-members; but what’s important is to examine the thinking behind why someone who is active in a branch church may not have joined The Mother Church. In the paragraph just prior to the one cited above in Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy talks about the stress Jesus put on examining the thought behind actions (see Science and Health, p. 234:29). It is helpful to consider the spirit that is expressed through joining or not joining The Mother Church.
Becoming a member demonstrates an individual’s willingness to support the wider purpose of The Mother Church to bring the healing message of Christian Science to our world. In a way, the Reader is publishing the Word of God each week by reading from the Pastor – the Bible and Science and Health. It would be important, then, for the Reader to be aligned with the church that publishes the Pastor, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, The Mother Church. The relationship of The Mother Church to the local branch church is like a tree. The Mother Church can be seen as the root and trunk from which the branches sprout. Working together, they bring forth the leaves which the Bible equates with healing, “… and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). Having this unity in the heart of the Reader supports this healing mission.
By making the requirement that a Reader must be a member of The Mother Church, it brings the Readership under the jurisdiction of the By-Law: “A Rule for Motives and Acts” (see The Manual, p. 40). This By-Law demands that activities be carried out in a spirit of unselfishness, brotherly love, and watchfulness that divine Principle, God, governs thoughts and actions rather than personality.
Those willing to serve as Readers who are not yet Mother Church members certainly have a spirit of unselfishness--and that’s an important moral quality. Their willingness is something to cherish and build on. The impositions that would keep individuals from joining Mrs. Eddy’s church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, need prayerful attention. A branch church struggling to find Readers might want to take that up as an agenda for prayer. Blessings are sure to follow!
Mrs. Eddy states, “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). With these kinds of benefits, our eager friends with willing hearts have much to look forward to by joining the world-wide healing mission of The Mother Church!
Response 2: Don Wallingford
Just for fun I raised this question at the end of our business meeting in January. The members had really sincere comments – all in agreement with the By-Law. One member who joined The Mother Church just before he was elected first reader said preparing for The Mother Church membership was what made him ready to take on the reading. He wouldn’t have felt able to do a good job as reader without that qualification. Later I followed up this idea in the Church Manual and quickly found 20 helpful guidelines in addition to the By-Law in question – I’m sure there are more. The rule for motives and acts, how to speak of Jesus, how to speak in public about Christian Science, prayer in church for the congregation, and defense against aggressive mental suggestion were just the first few. These by-laws are vital guides for all Christian Scientists and especially helpful for Readers. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for a Reader if he or she wasn’t on top of these guidelines and diligently trying to apply them?
Another member said, “It’s only $1 per year. Why wouldn’t you join?” And though it was humorous at the time, it’s a key question. After studying the Manual to understand, weigh, and commit to its provisions, I found the final steps of obtaining the signatures and submitting the application to be simple and rewarding. One needs to ask, “If I understand and agree to what the Manual demands and yet am not willing to complete and submit the application, what’s standing in the way?” What objection could justifiably outweigh publicly identifying yourself as a Christian Scientist? Whether it would be procrastination, shyness, lack of conviction, or church politics, do any of these deserve to stand in the way of identifying with the Cause that represents the Comforter? If these (or really any) obstacles do have more influence on us than our desire to join the Cause, then we probably aren’t the ones to be reading at the services. To me, membership in The Mother Church is more than a ticket to ride – it’s symbolic of what it means to be a Christian Scientist, to pray all night in the garden of Gethsemane, or to spend forty days in the wilderness. And while we are all at different points of progress in our journeys, we can say we are willing to go on record as followers of our Leader. That’s why it matters.