Week 81: The Manual states that Readers are to be members of The Mother Church. Why is this important?

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.

  1. Thank you for this article. Frankly, I was unaware of this requirement. I appreciate reading the logic behind the requirement.

  2. Love this (above)! Also, in a re-read of "TheManual" yesterday, I noticed Eddy listed in the first Article (i.e., "Article I") the Readers as Officers of The Mother Church. Yes, this is different than branch church Readers -- but shows her recognition of the importance of the Readers. Thank y'all again...

  3. This is such an important requirement. I hope that information on this subject is/will be available to any branch church asking this question.

  4. Thank you for all the ideas, especially the fact that you found 20 more helpful guidelines in the Manual. This brief Manual as we can see was certainly God-revealed to our Leader.

  5. Some CS Branch Churches find it difficult at membership quarterly business meetings to elect readers.Our church has the executive board select qualified people and see if they will accept. Certain branch churches have funds to pay the readers and this does help. Some have full time jobs and being a reader; especially a first reader, can be more intensive for preparation. Yes, the church manual states on page 32 sect. 6 readers must be members of the Mother Church. So it is not a difficult task to join since this is a requirement. But since many branch churches have smaller members these days, finding qualified readers has become more difficult, as some churches also do not pay the readers. Certain branch churches just have enough funds to stay operational. Some church readers use the full text version to save time for preparation, since modernization provides convenience and agreed by attendees at one of the Churchalive conference meetings, even though the manual says to read directly from the Bible and Science & Health on page 32 Section 4. So technology advancements have changed our church operations to be in step from the old way of doing things; like the internet etc.

  6. If there wasn't a Mother Church, how could we have branches? I love that this is being addressed. Mrs. Eddy gave us so much, I can't imagine not being a Mother Church member. I hope the answers given above break through any resistance to support The Mother Church. Thank you.

  7. Thank you Beth and Don for thorough answers to the Week 81 question. The pre- or post- question has to do with getting someone to read in the branch church. Instead of looking at the Manual requirement as a restriction to selecting a Reader, think of all the many Members of the Mother Church who might read. I was once asked to read in a branch church where I was not a member. I checked the Manual and found that branch church membership was not required but Mother Church membership was and since I was a long time member of the Mother Church and not currently a member of a branch church, I gladly accepted their invitation to read -- and was accepted as a branch member after one service. So, think of inviting a member of the Mother Church to read. "A member of The Mother Church is not entitled to hold office or read in branch churches of this denomination except by invitation." Manual 45:19 I received an invitation to read and enjoyed my years in that branch and that position.

  8. Thanks for this great discussion. May I offer some Biblical insight to the question as to why Readers should be members of The Mother Church?

    Jesus once told Peter to build his church upon the spiritual insight that Peter had shared. It came after Peter had answered the question as to Jesus’ identity,

    “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (John 16: 13 – 18)

    In his instructions to Peter, Jesus makes if very clear that the Christian church is to be built upon the Rock of spiritual understanding.

    Mrs. Eddy built her church upon “ … the Rock, Christ;… ” (See Church Manual, page 19)

    Being a member of The Mother Church, as others have pointed out, is a requirement that may stem from the point of following Christ Jesus’ example.

    There are broader aspects other than those just given. For in the Church Manual. In being a member of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, one is required, “ … to defend himself daily against aggressive mental suggestion … “ (See Church Manual, page 42, line 4, “Alertness to Duty.”)

    In this by-law what is Mrs. Eddy’s concern? That a member “ … not be made to forget nor to neglect his duty to God, to his Leader, and to mankind.… “ Could it be that Mrs. Eddy’s concern is for the members of The Mother Church, as with Peter, to remember to stay on the firm foundation of spiritual insight and Christ- like understanding.

    Are we the Peters of today, building on the rock of the Christ understanding?

    Another requirement is in the Sixth Tenet of Christian Science and the Church Manual and in Science and Health is that as members of The Mother Church, “ … we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus …”

    In these two requirements Mrs. Eddy is making sure Readers in Branch Churches are clearly standing upon the Rock of Christ?

    In this requirement for Readers to be a member of The Mother Church assures a close adherence for follow in the teachings of Jesus and staying in the path of the Christ.

  9. What a spiritual gift we all have been given the privledge to be a member of The Mother Church. The church Mary Baker Eddy established in the world as a symbol of the Christ Truth. What she sacrificed to give that curch to us. When I joined at the age of twenty years I had just witnessed my Mothers healing it was the first thing I did then I joined the Branch Church. The medical had given my Mother three months to live. The love I felt for this Church and the founder Mary Balker Eddy was so great I need to show it by joining. I wanted to give anything I could to support this Church, but most of all I wanted every one to know I was a member of the Mother Church I felt so blessed to be counted as a member of this beautyful healing Church. What I did not realize I would also be suported in prayer by all the members of the Mother Church too !!!. I learned early in the study of this Science for me to grow spiritually, it was all about how much I was willing to give not how much I was going to get. And it has truly been a blessing to be a member of The Mother Church.

  10. Once when we were on holiday we were near a small church where a faithful member had been both first AND second reader together for a while! It seemed the only way for the church to keep going. I knew her, and phoned to see if she would like a second reader that morning. Was she ever happy! I knew, as people have mentioned above, that it was membership in The Mother Church which was required, and that didn't cut out having a visiting reader. We drove quite a way to the little church, and my husband read the service with her. There was an usher, an organist, our daughter, and myself in addition. It was a complete, beautiful service, as good as it could have been anywhere in the world, and our daughter had a lovely healing right there during the service. But more than that, the experience opened my husband's thought to the joy of reading, and two months later he was elected as second reader in our church, and the following year stepped up to being first reader -- in spite of it being the most intensively busy period of his whole working life.

  11. This discussion inspires me to cherish my membership in the Mother Church all the more -- that it is indeed a privilege, and not a status to hide from others. I am proud and honored and humbled to me a member. To show my gratitude, I see how important it is to "let my light shine". Thank you for this discussion. And thank you to our hard-working readers in branch churches all over the world.

  12. I like the idea of being newborn of Spirit behind this outward sign of becoming a churchmember which Eddy mentions in SH. It is necessary to be newborn of Spirit in order to be a Reader.

  13. i agree with catalina: this discussion inspires me to cherish my membership in the Mother Church all the more. i have the opposite dilemma -- i'm a member of The Mother Church but not yet a member of my branch church! but even now i feel the wind of progress upon my back and see "the spirit of god ... hovering over the surface of the waters" (gen 1:1, NLT)!

  14. One possibility is that, only members of the Mother Church, which is the First Church, Christ Scientist, Boston, MA, would follow the rules of any Christian Science Church. Like with everything else, there are rules which have to be followed. If the readers weren't members of the Mother Church, they might preach the way that other denominations do, or read from books other than the Bible and the Sciecne And Health With Key To The Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. That wouldn't be acceptable.