Week 94: "Does the Manual By-Law about not commenting on the Lesson-Sermon prevent Readers from sharing the inspiration for readings?"

Question: "I have recently been elected First Reader, and I am confused about the extent of this Church Manual By-law, Article III, Section 6, that Readers “shall make no remarks explanatory of the Lesson-Sermon at any time.” Does this apply to Readers sharing inspiration from the Lesson in a testimony? Or, commenting on why they were inspired to pick a topic for Wednesday readings?"
Response 1: Sandy Sandberg, CSB

As members, let alone as Readers, we each need to come to terms with our church by-laws through prayer and our sincerest desire to understand their spiritual significance and to obey them. The Mary Baker Eddy Library has conducted research on the by-law under consideration, focusing on the final two sentences which read, "They [Readers] shall make no remarks explanatory of the Lesson-Sermon at any time, but they shall read all notices and remarks that may be printed in the Christian Science Quarterly. This By-Law applies to Readers in all the branch churches."

The research states: "These final sentences relate to a notice that first appeared in the December 1896 issue of The Christian Science Journal, which advised Readers that the Bible Lessons constituted the entire Lesson-Sermon, and that no additional explanatory remarks were to be made during the service. This is really not too surprising; after all, the dual pastor had been in place in the Field for barely one and one half years, and both the Readers and their congregations were used to the commentary so often found in a sermon. The notice provided helpful and timely guidance" (quoted from a Mary Baker Eddy Library research document which you can read here: http://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/research/branchreaders).

The notion of "personal preaching" was removed from Christian Science services with the advent of the Lesson-Sermon read by Readers, not preachers. Mrs. Eddy seemed to place great emphasis on the ability of the books (as our Pastor) to do the work of preaching unaided by extraneous interpretation or remarks (see Article XIV in the Church Manual).

With regard to the question of a Reader making remarks about the Bible Lesson outside the parameters of the Sunday services, it would be helpful to consider the spirit of the by-law and proceed accordingly. In the course of a testimony or just a conversation, a student of the Bible Lesson, whether a Reader or not, might share a particular spiritual insight or inspiration they gained from some point developed in the Bible Lesson.

But would it be helpful for anyone, let alone a Reader, to imply that their insight into a particular verse in the Bible, or a line in the textbook, is what the text really means? It might be interesting to note something Mrs. Eddy wrote in this regard:

"The opinions of men cannot be substituted for God's revelation. In times past, arrogant pride, in attempting to steady the ark of Truth, obscured even the power and glory of the Scriptures, — to which Science and Health is the Key." (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 84)

In considering the question of whether a First Reader should make comments about the topic for Wednesday readings, while the by-law appears not to specifically apply, the spirit of the by-law undoubtedly needs to be taken into account. There is certainly precedent for making comments about the topic, as can be found in Hermann S. Hering's reminiscence in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Volume I (see p. 446). There could be many reasons why a Reader might find it desirable to discuss the topic of the readings during a Wednesday meeting, but it might be helpful to keep in mind that the inspiration which the Reader brought to the compiling of the readings might not necessarily be the same inspiration that a member of the congregation receives from the readings, owing, for example, to a particular problem occupying the individual's thought at the time. How helpful it is to know that "God's revelation" is able to meet any number of needs without the help of human explanation.

Response 2: Annette Dutenhoffer, CS

In taking a closer look at this by-law, I noticed that the term “Lesson-Sermon” is used in the Manual and Mrs. Eddy’s other writings, only in conjunction with Sunday services. The by-law in regard to Wednesday meetings says that the First Readers shall read “selections from the Scriptures, and from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” (see Article III Section 3). Although the Wednesday readings uplift us like a sermon would, to me, it doesn’t appear that the specific term “Lesson-Sermon” applies to those selections.

Still, it’s helpful to consider Mrs. Eddy’s intention in appointing an impersonal Pastor when understanding the spirit of Article III Section 6. On December 19, 1894, during the construction of the original Mother Church, Mrs. Eddy wrote a letter to the Board of Directors asking them to hold the first Sunday service in the new church edifice on December 30, 1894 (see Building of The Mother Church by Joseph Armstrong and Margaret Williamson p. 72-73). In the same letter she said, “The Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures shall henceforth be the Pastor of The Mother Church.” What a great new beginning! A new edifice and a radically new concept of what a Pastor was. Her reasoning: “This will tend to spiritualize thought. Personal preaching has more or less of human views grafted into it. Whereas the pure Word contains only the living, health-giving Truth” (see same letter).

Obviously, Mrs. Eddy wanted to be sure human views weren’t mixed in with the Lesson-Sermon, which would be easy to do, considering that before this directive, a person wrote a sermon based on his current understanding and demonstration of Christian Science. We should not take for granted how naturally free our services are from any human viewpoint because of our Leader’s foresight in ordaining the Bible and Science and Health as our Pastor.

Announcing the topic of the Wednesday readings, or explaining why a person chose it, doesn’t necessarily interfere with the pure message of the selections. Rather, it could be seen as paving the way for thought to support what is about to be read, much like the Scriptural selection does on Sundays. It could also be helpful for the congregation to think more specifically about the topic once they’re home, and it could provide a helpful focus for testimonies and remarks in smaller congregations where individuals find themselves sharing something most every week.

As you’re giving these ideas more thought, you may also consider this passage from Mrs. Eddy’s Message to The Mother Church, 1901: “The Word of God is a powerful preacher, and it is not too spiritual to be practical, nor too transcendental to be heard and understood” (p. 11).

  1. thank you Sandy for your insights. As a First Reader I love the message different people in the congregation get from my Wednesday Readings and from the Scriptural selections and benedictions on Sunday. A woman came up to me on Sunday and said that the hymns, scriptural and benedictions handling perfectly the "mud slides" in the state of Washington. That did not even occur to me when choosing them. So everyone who comes to the services receives what each one individually needs. As a First Reader I pray and listen for what the Father wants to have read during these services, not what I want to read. When I approach the Wednesday readings this way and the Sunday scriptural, hymns and benediction the same way, it is truly wonderful what comes forth and meets every human need. I would hate to impose what I think the readings are about on the congregation. Christian Science is truly individual unfoldment.

  2. Thank you both for your answers. While I love knowing the topic of the Wednesday meetings, I, for one, am always uncomfortable with a Reader explaining his or her readings at all. As Janet said, it truly is individual unfoldment.

  3. I wonder sometimes if announcing the topic of the Wednesday readings makes the congregation feel they have to give a testimony on that subject. They may have brought along a beautiful healing and should not feel they cannot share it because it is not on the topic.

  4. Dear Sandy and dear Annette,

    I am so grateful for what you said about the First Reader's duties. It is sooo important to be clear about what our Leader says regarding a First Reader's duties.
    I have been a First Reader of my branch church several times during the many years of my membership in this church. The Manual of TMC has been at my side most of the time like a guide book. Also I have often been reminded and it has been my prayer before the services that my readings might be transparent like glass to let the Christ speak and not myself. Our pastor's messages are so strong and at the same time so comforting and loving, that we really don't need any personal comment. It would be completely unnesserary. The post of First Reader is the most beautiful and wonderful work a church has to pass out to its members. One learns so much during that time. And thus one has the opportunity to let the Christ shine through the reading.
    Thank you very much again for your comments. I am glad that you have spoken clearly to keep our reading pure and thus strong and healing.

  5. Wednesday night services should be inspired by Divine Love and come as one researches the lesson plan for the service. Healings from the church members (attendees) sometimes alert the attendees to recount some of their healings. I have found that after the services, healings I had experienced, attendees have come to me and say " You know, I experienced the healing of a very similar incident.
    This is the cohesiveness that brings us together and gives spiritual weight and understanding for us to share.

  6. This is not a comment, but a question related to the reading of the Lesson Sermon on Sundays. I've been told that "Boston" no longer uses the First Reader's announcement on Sundays, "As announced in the explanatory note, I shall now read correlative passages from the C. S. textbook..." See Manual, p. 120, 10. This provision doesn't seem to allow for exceptions. I would like a clarification on this point.

  7. Thank you all for your insights. Perhaps a good topic for a future "Church Alive" question would be an explanation of what to do with the second part of the Manual sentence quoted, "but they shall read all notices and remarks that may be printed in the Christian Science Quarterly." There is a lot printed in the Quarterly today that is not read and would be silly to read. But some people even object to the First and Second Readers reading the Lord's Prayer and its spiritual interpretation from the Quarterly instead of from the books. Could someone give some insights about that?

  8. I do agree that sometimes we can find inspiration in Wednesday readings that was not specifically intended by the Reader. But at the same time, I have spent more than one Wednesday evening testimony meeting puzzling over the readings and hymns, trying to find the central theme. Of course, I always found inspiration in the individual passages, regardless of the theme. But I do find it helpful when the Reader announces the topic, to see how it all fits together. To announce a topic certainly does not throw human opinion into the Readings, unless the Reader announces something like, "The subject of the readings tonight is how we can re-elect (or defeat) our incumbent mayor in the next election," or something like that -- which I have never seen.

  9. From past experience as a Reader, it seems that the better prepared I was for the service, the clearer the message was and there was no need to make any announcement about the subject of a Wednesday evening meeting. On occasions where my selection of readings were not clear, I found that my own thought needed to be clearer. Of course, we have all experienced the times when a member of the congregation thanks us for a lesson on child birth when we had an entirely different thought in mind. Sometimes we do not know what is truly needed by the congregation!

  10. I genuinely appreciate hearing all of these wonderful ideas about this Manuel By-law...I love how each of us is gifted with what we "need" in our church experiences. I also have been very inspired to hear a Reader share their inspiration on Wednesday night readings beforehand...it has never shut down or trespassed upon my ability to experience my own communion with Mind. Rather my experience, when a Reader shares their inspiration, is that it feels like another example of divine Love in action expressing itself as graciousness, kindness and family. I am at home and get something out of every service I have ever attended in a vast array of Christian Science churches. For me though, I feel most alive and connected to Love's expression when a Reader shares their inspiration beforehand. Again, thank you for sharing your inspiration on this topic!

  11. I appreciate both comments. Regarding the Wednesday Testimony meetings I have found that announcing the topic, while interesting, has tended to lead thought in that direction and testimonies often follow that line of thought. Whereas, how many times has a person stood up and said, " I loved your reading on ----- and that wasn't the topic that the reader had in mind. This is where those coming are left to take from the readings the message that is most helpful to them. I have even heard people say after the meeting that they were going to give a testimony but the readings and testimonies were all about whatever the reader announced as the topic.
    I think leaving each member to have their own "topic" is more of what the revelation is about.

    We don't try and guess what our Leader had in mind. I guess part of me says that if she wanted the topic announced she could have easily put in one line that says, "Announcing the subject of the Meeting"

  12. In the same vein, I have been very grateful all of my life as a demonstrating Christian Scientist for the weekly Bible Lessons which we study. They are assembled with reference to the topics Mrs. Eddy denoted, but no explanation is given as to current theme, or reason for choice of citations. And we don't know who picked them! I find practical meaning in my study of them every day, throughout the week, and I utilize the thoughts that come from my study in whatever way they seem applicable and needed. If Wednesday meeting citations have a topic which the Reader announces prior to the reading, I feel the Reader's announcing of that topic may or may not influence the congregation's deducing of meaning from the selected citations, meaning that is both very individual and useful. Our receptiveness to Truth is governed by Love; the One Ego motivates both giver and receiver. Thanks for the question and all the responses, and for all who serve as Readers -- in our churches, societies, summer camps, college groups, the military, everywhere!

  13. Years ago one of the "pioneers" in Christian Science lovingly counselled me to read the Lesson Sermon with an eye to learning the lesson divine Love was teaching me as an individual. He reminded me that people all over the world with distinct challenges and backgrounds were reading the same Lesson, and that the point was not "group-think" but Love's infinite capacity to meet us right where we are and supply our specific need. As a First Reader, I, too have had testifiers refer to inspiration on a specific need of theirs that was unknown to me when putting the readings together, and not necessarily on the topic I had in mind. I am loath to intrude between our infinitely intuitive and loving impersonal Pastor and the congregation.

  14. So grateful someone asked this question and for the thoughtful answers. I, too, have found that the Christ speaks individually, to each one, every moment, and the more I hold this up in thought the more mortal mind's clamoring for human direction is quieted and the Christ permeates our precious, God-inspired Wednesday Meetings and Sunday services (and Sunday School classes, too!). I have more work to do metaphysically when First Readers have explanatory comments of any kind before the prepared Readings. Am always truly grateful for the devotion and willingness to serve, and I hold that up. Other commentary, Sunday or Wednesday, so often lands as personal preaching -- and the problem with that is it lets in the thought that our Leader's demonstration of church needs embellishment of some kind. SO GRATEFUL we are listening and praying about this together. We can rejoice that "the communication is always from God to man."

  15. How forward seeing when MBE wrote the Manuel. I can readily understand how different meanings could be received as the reader reads from the selections and how it could be confusing if the reader privately told his/her interpretation. Let the congregation become inspired by their own understanding rather than some one else's.

  16. I agree with Dave #9. As a Frist Reader I pray to be led to provide the very best lesson, benediction and hymns I can, and let that sincere seeker derive from it whatever they need at that particular time in their lives. It's not our job to direct but to share.

  17. How great to read all of these insightful comments!

    For the last three weeks we've had a couple attend our Wednesday testimony meetings who are brand new to Christian Science--they checked out Science and Health from the library and are reading it together. (I gave them a copy, so they could continue to read it after they return it to the library) I have always loved hearing the topic in advance on Wednesday selections, and am especially grateful we do that in our branch when I see those newcomers in the congregation. To me, the last few weeks, announcing the topic has taken on a new slant--one of kindness and naturalness. For me, it doesn't keep anyone from gleaning what they need from particular passages that are being read, and for the newcomer, perhaps it can make it more clear that we haven't just put together random verses and passages, but that we do have an overriding theme and that theme's purpose is to bless.

  18. I've enjoyed reading the comments. I don't have an opinion about a Reader announcing the subject. But a thought that I had was that the Sunday lesson has a subject announced each week, why not announce a subject on Wednesday? I think there is a difference between explaining why a subject is chosen before the readings, that could be seen as "self-justification", and just announcing the subject. I think if a Reader gives a testimony they should feel free to share what they are inspired to share. I can always feel the love that comes from the Wednesday readings. It is wonderful that there is so much respect for the Manual and such deep desire to be obedient to it.

  19. I have been grateful for the posting of a topic chosen by our First Reader for the Wednesday Service, as it inspires me to think and pray along those lines, and also opens up new vistas of understanding that might appear to be unrelated.
    Our Reader makes it clear that testimonies and remarks on other topics are just as welcome.
    I appreciate the gracious spirit of the commentators

  20. Hi Peter (#6),

    I'm fairly certain that the First Reader at The Mother Church does still lead into the readings from Science and Health with "As announced in the explanatory note..." but if you wanted to confirm that, the Sunday services are available online, live and as a replay. Just go to christianscience.com and click on the "attend" button on the bottom right of the homepage.

    What you might be thinking about/have heard about is the recent decision to remove "The following citations comprise our Sermon" from the Quarterly. You can read more about this decision in the March 2014 issue of the Christian Science Journal in a News @ CSPS article titled "Removing a traffic light." Or, if you have access to JSH-Online, it's available to read online as well.

    Hope that helps!

    All the best!

  21. Thanks, Inge. I was about to respond to Peter and say that I had just double-checked to see that TMC First Reader does indeed read the required "As announced...." However, I found that I was surprised to hear her say "The definition of Holy Ghost." Isn't that considered an explanatory remark? I would appreciate some clarification on this. Thanks.

  22. The whole spirit of Church Alive is encouraging branches to make their individual demonstration with respect to the Manual By-laws. In that spirit, our branch has been introducing the Weds readings with a question. e.g.'s

    "How can we put an end to the slavery of heroin among us?

    "What is the scientific and permanent remedy for fatigue?

    "What can small things do?

    "Joy is self-sustained--how can this be true?

    "How can we challenge the belief of damage?"

    Sometimes the 1st Reader relates it to an article in the Monitor or the Chicago Tribune, but there isn't any
    commentary. The spirit is one of letting the Pastor speak to contemporary issues at hand.

    Actually the question is sent Weds morning to those who have signed-up for the email. People preparing for the meeting with the question and the RR workers enjoy having it to think about for the day. Members come with testimonies that relate to the question, but plenty of testimonies don't relate to the topic at all.

    In this downtown Chicago location we have a steady group of newcomers to the service, and RR who are clearly being drawn by the Christ. "I don't know why I stopped by today..." As these new seekers return to the services, they are the ones who say how much the question helped them to listen to the readings.

    People continue to hear individual inspiration, and report healings they have had from testimonies shared.

  23. I've served as a First Reader twice and on many Wednesdays in between. I usually announce my subject on Wednesdays, but not always, as feels right. In our little church, people come prepared with new experiences pretty much every week and share them regardless of the subject. Testimonies tend to follow inspiration from the first sharing more than the readings. I've also heard people give gratitude that the readings address something I didn't expect. But I have also noticed that when I don't announce the subject some people spend a lot of thought trying to figure out what it is, and I like to put them to where they can simply listen. They get what they need, whatever it is, if that's what they are doing. Even within the stated subject, we all get different ideas about it. Those different ideas sometimes come out in the sharing of testimonies and inspiration, and the First Reader is often surprised about what is being taken away.
    As for all the questions posed by others in their comments, I agree that answers to all of them would be welcome.

  24. When we spiritually address any subject, this blesses all situations. I notice from Boston on Wednesdays, that a subject is mentioned; it always comes across as a loving concern for the world. On Sundays, there is a subject, yet the Lesson-Sermon is an effective treatment for any need. The subject doesn't restrict my view, but helps broaden it; there is nothing to which it does not apply. This is how I also find the Wednesday readings - gaining specificity, yet broadening my universal recognition of the spiritual applicability and effectiveness of the truth borne by the readings.

  25. When we read the Lesson, it is quite evident in the book, on the printed page, by the format, the type of material being read. It is kind to give to the new listeners of the service a clue that a change is taking place. It is done briefly, and certainly with consideration that the service is worldwide and reaching newcomers and a wide variety of cultures. A loving and gracious help.

  26. Thank you for addressing this important issue. And, thanks to #1. I feel the same way. The congregation should be able to come and apply the inspiration from the readings to their own lives.

    I have a big challenge with first readers making the services about them as a personality; which comes out in explaining CS, the lesson, why they chose certain readings on Wednesday, etc. Also, it is confusing to me that they read from different Bibles and go back and forth from Science and Health. I never know what they are reading from. Also, I don't feel readers should read from Manuscripts. Our first reader even wrote his own speech in addition to the President's Proclamation for the Thanksgiving Service. Many feel that if the Manual doesn't say you can't do something that it is OK to do it.

    I feel these new practices are not in accord with the Manual and what Mrs. Eddy had in mind, Didn't she want to get away from personal preaching?

  27. Meg #21 - I haven't checked what you heard, but if so, that does sound exactly what MBE was looking to prevent: the expression of a First Reader's personal interjection. It can lead into personal opinions. And if that were to happen regularly, the essence of the CS Lesson Sermon would inevitably become subverted by personalties and by personal sense. The impartiality was one of the things that first attracted me to CS services. Strange if this idea of personal interjection is being introduced consciously. Not a good example for branch churches across the world to follow? Controversies arise - even controversial discussion such as this that we are indulging in. But as I said, I haven't heard how it occurred.

  28. I found a balance in the matter of announcing the subject on Wednesday evenings that seemed to work well: rather than announce the topic, I placed it on a 4x6 card on the bulletin board in the foyer. Those wanting to know ahead of time and those curious about the intended topic afterward were able to find the answer. Those who came seeking answers to their own needs weren't knocked off course or forced to hear answers they weren't seeking. This seemed to allow individual inspiration to prevail.

  29. I am enjoying all the comments and find them most interesting. I love hearing how some churches announce or don't announce the Wednesday topic. Putting it on the bulletin board is certainly a good solution so that if one doesn't want to know it, it isn't forced on him. And yet, for those who do, they can check it out. Our church voted to have it announced a number of years ago and I have never heard anyone object to it. And I find as some of the others have said that people give testimonies on any topic, regardless of what the Reader has announced. And I loved the comment from Chicago that says their topic is in the form of a question and is sent to those who have signed up for it. Great idea!

    I must say that Dee's (#26) comment about the Reader inserting his own speech in addition to the President"s Proclamation on Thanksgiving Day is a good example of what happens when we get away from the Manual in the slightest detail.

  30. Regarding balance, and personal interjections, perhaps there is a feeling that there is a difference between, say, the subject of Wednesday meetings, the notices etc etc on Sundays, and the Lesson Sermon above all remaining totally 'uncontaminated and unfettered by human hypotheses'.....?

  31. Must add: David #28 - that sounds a great idea!

  32. Speaking of personal interjections, I recall someone saying their church had a Reader who would insert divine before Mind, when it wasn't there - to be sure that the listeners would know which mind/Mind it was.

  33. These comments are all very interesting. I would like to add several more points for us all to consider.
    1. In the order of services for Wednesday where is there a provision for the First Reader to make any remarks about the readings or announcing the topic? The very first item in the order is to begin with a hymn-- no greeting of "good evening" and no announcing a topic or asking questions. Mrs. Eddy knew that bylaws empower people to do things. What is not included cannot be done.
    2. Mrs. Eddy in her Message of 1901 lines 13-25 talks about the Pastor preaching, not readers. Let us let the Pastor preach the sermon. It's words will reach each individual in the right way. We may err in trying to do it and offend some in the process.
    3. Mrs. Eddy says "the time for thinkers is come." To me that means everyone who enters the church is a thinker and does not need to be told what to think. By announcing a Wednesday title of the lesson is telling people what to think. That goes against everything our Leader states.
    Finally, Christian Science is based on freedom and liberty as this weeks lesson brings forward. The word is to free the enslaved mind not enslave it more by someone's view point. So as we allow the Pastor to speak, we are honoring freedom, individuality and the intelligence of those who attend our services.

  34. Although the Order of Services does not specify a greeting, it seems a normal and natural thing that one would do and does not, to me, depart from the spirit of the bylaws., It is what is done after that we need to be watchful about.

  35. Thank you Janet.
    This clears up questions I have had and have been asked.
    I've been First Reader many times and I will always think of myself as an explorer of these two books!
    I love the thought in your least sentence!

  36. Thank you Janet. You have answered questions I have had... and been asked.
    I've been First Reader many times, and I so appreciate what you have said here.

  37. I had a wonderful healing of an infected hand after listening to the Wednesday readings which were all about hands. I shared this healing at another Wednesday Meeting and afterward the First Reader came and thanked me but said she had never used the topic of hands in her readings. We each take what we need from the readings whatever the topic is.

  38. I have not read all the comments made regarding this subject (perhaps someone has already addressed it) but, as far as the Wednesday lesson is concerned, I cannot help thinking that I would not go to a movie, read a book, or any published article in a newspaper if I did not know what the subject was. I find it very helpful to know in advance - then I can use the ideas to pray for the world and myself.

  39. Announcing the Wednesday subject can also be a huge distraction. One time a reader announced that the subject was, "Sin, Disease and Death." I'm sure what was meant was "How do we heal sin, disease, and death?" But as it was stated, it troubled me and I wasn't able to focus -- probably my fault. Another time the subject was announced as, "How to heal allergies." If one has never had a problem with allergies, it might make you think that you don't need to be there that evening.

    As other comments have said, the congregation gets what they need. When I read I was always interested to hear testifiers who identified the topic, as I could see that Love was meeting each one's need -- sometimes it jived with what I had chosen as a topic, sometimes it specifically met a need they were thinking about. That's why our precious dual-Pastor is so perfect -- it always meets every need.

  40. As a First Reader, I do not announce the topic of the Wed readings or make any comments in my own words. However, I have introduced the readings with a passage from Prose Works that may capture the theme without being personally directive. Then I say, "And now, the readings from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook," to differentiate the Prose Works passage from the readings. I wonder if others have done this. For example, "The human history needs to be revised, and the material record expunged," (Ret. p. 22:2) was helpful as an introduction to readings on healing our concepts of the past; and "Mortals will lose their sense of mortality — disease, sickness, sin, and death — in the proportion that they gain the sense of man's spiritual preexistence as God's child; as the offspring of good, and not of God's opposite, — evil, or a fallen man," (Mis Wrtgs 181:28) was helpful as an introduction to readings on pre-existence. I wonder if others have had experience with this approach?

  41. I read for many years, and most of the time the Wednesday readings had a topic. But there were a lot that did not. Sometimes I didn't know why I was picking out passages and it all became apparent during the readings. Once, I felt strongly that I should read a whole book from the new testament. Every word. (it was one of the short ones!) Afterwords, people were excited to tell me that they felt how thrilling it must have been like in the ancient churches to get a letter from Paul and have it read to them.

    Many times people thought the topic was different than I did, and I think thats ok.

  42. I am just now catching up on reading Church Alive and appreciate this question. When I go to church on Wednesday, I am looking for spiritual ideas to work with in praying for the world. To know the subject, in advance, to me, is most helpful, in focusing my thought on that particular issue. I would not go to a movie, a lecture or read a book if I did not know first the title or what it was about. I have thought it a good idea to post the subject of the Wednesday lesson outside our Reading Rooms and Churches - it might catch the eye of someone who needs help with that particular issue.

  43. IIn that hour, we are not playing church. The 'rule' to let the books do the preaching simply means that when we read aloud in the congregation, we are effectively, literally, reading to God and to ourselves (the tri-une Person) so we know God hears us as clearly as we hear ourselves. The Revelation is the literal truth so take it and let it be heard fearing no critics. Elohim reigns.

  44. Have you noticed, the ones who are most fearful of 'rocking the boat' usually rock it the most as they try to adhere to some arbitrary rules they perceive to be hard and fast and set in stone . God's law is harmony and love, literally 'love thy neighbor as thyself' period, and Jesus tells us every law hangs on that, so it's including church bylaws. So we have His permission to let the dignity of our humble, warm individuality shine as readers, afterall He is Infinite Person and we express Him in infinite warmth and humanity. The By-laws were not written to foster rigid robotics, fear and formula, nor undignified hell and damnation preaching; but to ensure the expression of God's love progressing humanity.