METAPHORS : INTRO There are a number of ways to understand church through metaphor: LIGHT - as in “ Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16) RIVER - a current of thought that we are immersed in and that we move with; Constantly moving, active, fresh, and sustaining life all along its shores TREES -For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:8) REFUGE as a safe place; an “everlasting Light; / (where) The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee”. (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 222:1 2nd The) SLIDE 16 . ROCK as in THE FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST, IN BOSTON, MASS., is designed to be built on the Rock, Christ; even the understanding and demonstration of divine Truth, Life, and Love, healing and saving the world from sin and death; thus to reflect in some degree the Church Universal and Triumphant. (Manual of The Mother Church,, p. 19:1) Built on the rock, our church will stand the storms of ages: though the material superstructure should crumble into dust, the fittest would survive, — the spiritual idea would live, a perpetual type of the divine Principle it reflects. (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 140:28)
What about Church as the kingdom of God within? That is a metaphor rich with meaning! “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). And as the kingdom of God is within - yes! Church can be likened to the kingdom of heaven “the atmosphere of Spirit, where Soul is supreme (Science and Health, p. 590). Let's look at the parables of the kingdom. Now there are many parables, but these eight specifically include the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like '' Five are unique to Matthew (the tares and the wheat, the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, and the net, the workers in the vineyard) and the other three have parallels in Mark and Luke (the sower, the mustard seed, and the yeast hidden in the three measures of meal) Here’s a takeaway from each parable (with some of this research coming from the Bible Lens Research of the weekly Bible Lesson).
With the parables of the mustard seed and of the leaven hid in three measures of meal (Matt 4: 31-34), we learn the kingdom “is active and transformative even though invisible or nearly imperceptible.”
The leaven parable shows how a little leaven leavens the whole. It“teaches that with Jesus Christ and his gospel a new force has been let loose in the world, and that, silently but inevitably, that force is working for righteousness in the world.” The parable of the meek mustard seed (Matt 13: 31, 32) is echoed in Science and Health “A grain of Christian Science does wonders for mortals, so omnipotent is Truth…” (Science and Health 449: 3), and in Christ Jesus “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…. Nothing shall be impossible to you.” (Matt 17: 20, 21).
This speaks of the absolute faith, the compassion, and the meekness that accompanies it. There is no such thing as only a little effort, a little prayer. “Love giveth to the least spiritual idea might, immortality, and goodness, which shine through all as the blossom shines through the bud. All the varied expressions of God reflect health, holiness, immortality — infinite Life, Truth, and Love” (Science and Health, p. 518:19).
Both the short parable of the net ( Matt 13: 47, 48) and the longer parable of the sower and the tares and the wheat (Luke 8: 4-8, 11-15) speak of gathering or sowing the good seed/fish, and casting the bad tares/fish away. These parables teach of the willingness to leave our nets for Truth, and actively gather and grow, while also discerning between good and evil. And in this way, we learn and practice Christian healing.
These parables teach patience and persistence in developing and expressing our love for each other by seeing in ourselves and others through the lens of reality - how God sees us.
The two parables of one – finding treasure in the field and then selling all he had to buy that field ( Matt 13: 44, 45, 46) and the other parable of the pearl of great price, who, when a man found, went and sold all he had to buy it are so similar. Bible Lens research has this to say:” While the two parables share the actions of finding, selling all, and buying, there is a distinction between the two. The treasure in the field is found by chance, whereas the pearl is found by diligent searching. One commentator remarks that "however people discover the will of God for themselves, whether it is the lightning flash of a moment’s illumination or at the end of a long and conscious search, it is worth anything to accept it unhesitatingly.”
There is no one way to enter into the kingdom; whether you are learned and experienced or newly engaged, the kingdom of heaven is open to all ( also illustrated in the parable of the workers in the vineyard where all were paid the same regardless of when they started working ( Matt 20: 1-16). It is the heart and motive that matters above all else
UNDERSTANDING Church through the lens of these parables kind of expands one’s concept of it, yes? Church is a healing force let loose for righteousness ( right consciousness/right thinking) in the world.
Church is filled with those who are willing, discerning, tolerant of the tares, expectant of the wheat, knowing that Church is also there for the unchurched - for people you might not see - but knowing that they are working for the Christianization and health of mankind.
Church is filled with those who cherish the things of God - knowing it is worth it all to do all and accept God’s will unhesitatingly, making it a priority above all else.
Here is one of our Association-mates who will share her thought processes when having to choose what one of two events to attend, and her thoughts on Church; FROM JILL!!! One day, I asked God what to do and then, without waiting for a response, went about my daily activities. I just wanted to do the right thing—for everyone. Several days passed before I thought about it again. I still did not know which event I was supposed to be at. I asked God again for help. Then, I thought about how grateful I was for church. I love it so much because it helps give me purpose and guidance. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that it was the most important organization I’ve ever been a part of. I appreciated how it fostered my spiritual understanding of God and, therefore, my purpose and place in life. I realized that, as a member of the church, in order to contribute to its functions & wellbeing in our community, I would have to make it a priority, even schedule other activities around our services and meetings. And suddenly it was crystal clear. There was no conflict at all. I would attend the Church business meeting.
FOUNDATION and FOUNDER of the Christian Science church ( Excerpts from Mary Baker Eddy and the living church By Lesley Pitts From the June 2011 issue of The Christian Science Journal)
Why is it important to know about the founding and the Founder of the Christian Science Church? It represents the trajectory of discovery that echoes the creation story and the numerals of infinity; it is knowing the prayer that fulfilled prophecy and deepens our love and appreciation for Church.
“Religious life for Mary Baker Eddy in the 1820s in rural Bow, New Hampshire, appears on the surface vastly different from the amazing array of religious beliefs found in this country today. In the colonial era, most families worshiped God at least once a week and held twice-daily prayers and Bible reading in their homes. …. Her father, Mark Baker, was a staunch believer in Calvinism ….which included the doctrine of election or predestination—meaning that through God’s grace you were already chosen for either salvation or damnation. Nothing you could do on earth could change that even if you lived the most selfless and moral life…..
“Challenges to this teaching began to surface as soon as the new colony became settled. New England pioneers in the seventeenth century, like Mary Dyer (Puritan turned Quaker in 1650s) were executed and Anne Hutchinson (Puritan reformer who argued against preaching a covenant of works rather than a covenant of grace in the 1600s) banished for trying to add progressive elements to these traditional beliefs. This was thought to challenge the authority of the Bible and the clergy.
“These were both women preaching their beliefs in public, heretical at the time, which probably led to their untimely deaths. In Mary Baker Eddy’s childhood and young adulthood, religious change was sweeping through the country in what has since been called the Second Great Awakening ( 1795-1835) . Revival meetings encouraged people to consider personal salvation through conversion and many believed they heard God’s voice speaking directly to them. This movement stirred some women, of all races, to become itinerant preachers because they felt compelled by God’s voice to stand up and declare God’s Word. ….
“Mary’s mother heard God speak to her before Mary’s birth; Mary herself says she heard God speak to her as a child—this is not typical in a strict Calvinist home. Of all the Baker children, Mary seemed to be the only one drawn to spiritual things. To her, prayer was as natural as breathing. She loved to read the Bible and obviously strived to live by its teachings, so it is of no surprise that almost immediately she ran headlong against the beliefs of her father and her local church. These are the human underpinnings of her heart in protest - like others before her!
“These waves of change that touched Mary Baker Eddy and her family in New England can be seen as fueling her questioning thought. There are examples of much earlier religious thought currents bubbling up during this period in and around New England. There were Shakers, Quakers, and the beliefs of Native Americans, then the rise of spiritualism, the Millerites (those who believed the world would end), the Adventists, and many, many others being discussed in the first half of the 19th century in America.
“So it wasn’t so different from today, was it?—a time of change when the established church of so many years changed, just like today.” And just like today - both times were immersed in a climate of thought ripe with the receptivity to receive a radically new discovery.
Much has been said of Mrs. Eddy’s education which was largely homeschooling, and her struggles with health….. As she sought better health and a more active life, she remained devoted to her study of the Scriptures, but delved into medical topics of the day such as homeopathy, hydropathy, mesmeric healing, and many other alternatives. Seeking, experimenting, proving, replicating, discovering—even when she found herself in straitened circumstances, her search never stopped.
“…… Her life moved on with many highs and lows culminating in the discovery of Christian Science with her healing. Although at first she didn’t fully understand how she had recovered, she did know that it was thoroughly grounded in the Bible’s teachings. Her desire to see this system of healing available to all became paramount.”
FLASH FORWARD to her founding of Christian Science and the foundation for her Church!
“After she established herself as a healer and teacher, Mrs. Eddy and her students met together to worship—modeled on the New Testament Christian communities that we read about in the Gospels and in St. Paul’s letters. It evoked a sense of family, a community that pulled together with a single goal and pooled resources.
“That goal was to do the works of Christ Jesus—the core mission being not only healing the sick but, as she states, “. . . the higher mission of the Christ-power to take away the sins of the world” (Science and Health, p. 150). This church began in a rented hall, then in people’s homes, and then again to rented halls as numbers grew.” HEALING, HEALING, HEALING as a foundation So we can see that church is not necessarily about a building. As the movement grew, Mary Baker Eddy’s choice was to have modest buildings for worship, but she didn’t impose that wish on the growing movement but allowed the branches to choose for themselves.
But she could be very direct; she once wrote, “Are you striving in Christian Science to be the best Christian on earth or are you striving to have the most costly edifices on the earth. Are you striving to make the most possible of matter which you admit is unreal or are you striving to make the most of Spirit which you admit is all . . . The more modest and less imposing material superstructures indicate your spiritual state of thought and vice versa. Now show yourselves to the world honest in what you say and do or withdraw your name from the list of Christian Scientists” (L07169, Mary Baker Eddy to Archibald McLellan, November 1908, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).
In many of her letters written for the dedication of branch churches, you see her pointing the members away from the building to the Rock, the true structure it was founded on. Parts of a letter from one of Mrs. Eddy’s clerks record her thoughts: “Healing, healing, healing is what is needed, and if healing is not constantly being done the mere organization of a church will not count much for the success of our Cause” Sincerely yours William B. Johnson.
Never abandon the organization or the by-laws So what did she expect of us? She was reported as saying “she longed for the day to come when no one could enter a Christian Science church, no matter how sick or how sorrowing that one might be, without being healed, and that this day can come only when every member of the church studies and demonstrates the truth contained in the Lesson-Sermon, and takes with him to the service the consciousness thus prepared” (Florence Clerihew Boyd, “Healing the Multitudes, Christian Science Sentinel, July 1, 1916, p. 866). This is what she expected of each and every one of us: Healing.
But what of those who misconstrued her belief in the continued organization of the church? She wrote about organization in a way unique to our times and focused more on “organic” or an organic operative method and not on buildings “Organization is a simple matter, for all of its importance. It is simply a matter of doing things by working together” (Reminiscences of Judge Clifford P. Smith, p. 6).
When she heard that some members were interpreting her as meaning that the time would come that organization would eventually pass off or that they no longer believe in organization, she said, “I learned that nothing but organization would save this cause for mankind and protect it from the devouring disorganizers. ” (L07892, Mary Baker Eddy to Joseph Adams, April 27, 1887, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection), and “Never abandon the By-laws nor the denominational government of the Mother Church. If I am not personally with you,// the Word of God, and my instructions in the By-laws have led you hitherto and will remain to guide you safely on. . .” (L00325, Mary Baker Eddy to the Christian Science Board of Directors, February 27, 1903, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).
A LIVING CHURCH - about the leaven of Church impacting all churches ( Excerpts from “Living Church every day” by Ethel Baker)
Where and what is Church “Christianity alone comprises ….more than two billion congregants worldwide. That’s a lot of buildings, and members! But is it Church? We know that Christ Jesus’ church was not a place—not a building or even a particular location, though “as his custom was” (Luke 4:16), he was a regular at the local synagogue on the Sabbath, and he often preached and taught in Jerusalem’s Temple. But he instructed, lectured, and healed in lots of other places, too—in fishing boats at the seashore, on roadsides, in marketplaces, and in people’s homes. (See Retrospection and Introspection, p. 91). “To Jesus, church hinged on one thing: the ever-present Christ, the truth and spirit of God and His creation. When Jesus asked his 12 closest followers who people thought he was, they cited prophets of the past—Jeremiah, Elijah, and John the Baptist. But when he asked these same disciples who they thought he was, Peter couldn’t get the words out fast enough: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16).
“Jesus blessed Peter, and then described why this true understanding of the Christ as the divine Principle, not personality was so vital In the weeks and months that followed this exchange, no one started gathering stones, mortar, wood, and craftsmen. No Christian church or building was constructed while Jesus walked the earth. Also, no one started signing up new members. In fact, in the last year of Jesus’ ministry, 70 students abandoned their teacher. The crowds that had followed, listened, and seen hundreds healed, also deserted this new movement.
“Finally, even the original band of brothers started to disintegrate. It looked to be the last chapter of a short-lived upstart sect. Instead, it turned out to be the first act of a whole new sense of God, man, and church. And that revolutionized the world.
CHURCH - a spiritual idea beyond denomination “In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy wrote of Jesus: ‘His mission was both individual and collective. He did life’s work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals,—to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility’ (p. 18). So, in following him, one finds that every person’s mission must be collective as well as individual—both aspects vital to one’s progress and well-being.
“Being a divine idea, Church is…. not material but spiritual, a union of hearts and minds more than a collection of bodies in a building. As an institution, it represents the highest form of shared, useful endeavor, illustrating, at its best, how all collective associations, how society itself, should and will one day function. Its purpose, even now, involves awakening human consciousness to spiritual understanding, improving communities and societies, and healing personal and corporate ills.”
Science and Health defines the ideal: “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle” (p. 583).
CHURCH UNIVERSAL and TRIUMPHANT Church has a role in bringing divinity to humanity. The tenacity of the spiritual thrust of Church is that it moves humanity to reach the higher realms of divinity. “The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity. (Science and Health, p. 571:19) On all such occasions, we embrace the Church universal and triumphant, and help bless humanity. SLIDE 17 . “The definition of Church as “the structure of Truth and Love,” cherished and lived, … lights the way—often quietly, always through demonstration of Christ’s Christianity and healing—for everyone, from governments to businesses, from schools to civic and cultural organizations. The definition continues “whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.” This is universal, since the Christ-consciousness is not dependent on culture, dogma, sect, and is spiritual, illimitable.
“Mary Baker Eddy believed this to her core, and once wrote to a Christian Science congregation summarizing her high expectations for what Church lived could accomplish: “You worship no distant deity,” she said, “nor talk of unknown love. The silent prayers of our churches, resounding through the dim corridors of time, go forth in waves of sound, a diapason of heart-beats, vibrating from one pulpit to another and from one heart to another, till truth and love, commingling in one righteous prayer, shall encircle and cement the human race” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 189).
HISTORY and CHALLENGES MET “Long hast thou stood, O church of God, / Long mid the tempest's assailing, / Founded secure on timeless rock / Rises thy light, never failing; / Shining that all may understand / What has been wrought by God's command, / O'er night and chaos prevailing” (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 176:1).
About the hymn: Its claims are bold, bringing out the tenacity of the mission of Church as this hymn sings out its significant challenges that are outshined by its tremendous transformative and triumphant blessings. “... / Healing and peace to all it gave, / Who in humility shared it. . Let there be light, the Word shines forth, ... / While Truth the wide earth enlightens.” (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 176)
Over history, Christians ( who were only so named after 300+ CE) started on in the Apostolic age, lived, healed, preached, and endured spiritual persecution. In the age of Constantine, around 300 CE when the Roman Empire made Christianity a religion of Roman rule, the healing record dropped significantly. Yet the Church as an institution lived on through corruption and abandonment in the age of Papal Apostasy and the political harshness of the Crusades to the period of Protestant Reformation 15-16th century to the Second Great Awakening prior to Mary Baker Eddy’s day to today’s claims of the Church’s colonization, allegations of abuse, and the politicization of Christianity as with Christian white nationalism.
It would seem that the humanity of Church is always under attack. And always dividing itself into new denominations, polarizing where it could be unifying. Yet its divinity stands.
Yet the Church has been the source of many blessings: for building community, giving individuals a life-purpose, and it has been the source of huge benevolence and answers to life’s most burning questions - these have been a constant in the life cycles of Church.
But today we are seeing some of the same theological arguments and human pitfalls, but now wearing new robes, so to speak.
The carnal mind’s pull is more of the same arguments against all that is spiritual, good, and true. Politics, changing social codes, divisions of men and nations; wars; pagan and Christian idolatry, — whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; inequality, and the very origin of man and what constitutes being born, being wed, having children, and dying – all are changing.
Phyllis Tickle, author, speaker, and esteemed authority on religion in America, calls this a time of “the Great Emergence” ( like the Second Great Awakening prior to Mrs. Eddy’s time) and agrees with other theologians “that every five hundred years, the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale. And ( as one theologian says) we are living in and through one of those five hundred year sales.” (The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle, p. 16). Humorous as that is , Tickle writes that he makes a “deadly serious and exquisitely accurate point.” Old ways are getting ousted. Things are changing.
A survey by the Barna group discovered at the end of 2021 that 38% of pastors gave serious consideration to quitting, up 9% from the year before. Another Christian resource explained the reason behind this change is that many clergy are experiencing a deep weariness and exhaustion feeling trapped negotiating social issues and political divisions.
What does Christian Science bring to this larger discussion about the state and future of the global expression of Church? It starts with Church as being understood - not humanly, politically or even socially, but as a spiritual idea! “Whatever rests on and proceeds from divine Principle.” From this comes the practice of Christianity on the basis of one Mind, one God. No other Church does healing with the consistency that The First Church of Christ, Scientist, does. It is our “superpower” as one Christian Science lecturer puts it.
“One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, “Love thy neighbor as thyself;” annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, — whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (Science and Health p. 340:23).
Right now, we are seeing major shifts in all sorts of directions. But there is only one institution that takes the highest ideals of humanity and has the capacity to unite us – and that is Church.
There is a tenacity and insistence about Church that rises far above the so-called political dynasty and even Christian idolatry of statues, rituals, politics and personalities; a Truth and a light that the first disciples saw that shone so brightly through centuries.
Church unites us in our highest ideals and meaning. And united in meaning, there is a divine energy that brings out the fact that we are more together than we are apart. Church represents a collective demonstration that lifts thought into higher spiritual ideals. This is the collective institution that can bring healing - that can elevate the race and rouse the dormant understanding!
Christ Jesus built his Church on a spiritual foundation of healing and good works. Church, as a divine idea, reflects omnipresent Life, meaning that Church is everywhere. The idea from Matt 18:20 that “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I” illustrates the spontaneous everywhereness of Church based on one eternal God. With one God, Love, we look for and celebrate the divinity in ourselves and in one another and this shapes the humanity of our churches. It isn’t dogmatic, and is not about creed nor brought on by competing denominations. “Christianity is the summons of divine Love for man to be Christlike…. — to emulate the words and the works of our great Master…., by doing as he bade: “Go, and do thou likewise.” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 148:28) I loved reading Sharon’s report on Core Values of Christian Science Nursing as part of her nurses’ training. Christian Science nursing is an aspect of Church - with the Christian Science nurse by-law an integral part of our Church Manual. And it is an inspiring example of how the divinity of Church can shape our humanity. Sharon will share part of that report. After Sharon nurtured a harmonious resolution in which a patient finally agreed to proper care in the most loving way, our Christian Science nurse-in-training shared these universal ideas that are so relevant for all of us. She writes: “Although I did what I needed to do for the patient, what I needed was to nurse my thought toward the Christian Science nurse from the prior shift - I want to be a pillar of light - not clouded by the so-called personality of the mortal mind. Instead of being judge, jury, and executioner, I turned my attention to a marginal heading in Science and Health (454:18) “Love the incentive.” This instruction led me to know that I of my own self did nothing in the room. Wholesome Love was moving through me with each motion, moment by moment, to meet the need. I knew that I was a witness to divine Love's actions. That same love was also with the Christian Science nurse that I relieved. There was nothing to take personally, just a neighbor (a patient) needing to be loved and returned to a sense of normalcy. This situation has been beneficial to my understanding that I have been called to in Christian Science nursing. I am led to:
pray for a harmonious environment,
nurse fellow Christian Scientists,
support non-Christian Scientists (is anyone outside the Truth?)
And unify thought - in other words, to hold space for anyone open and receptive to Truth and Love and continue to rise higher and higher from a boundless basis.
The divinity of church is reflected in its humanity
I’ve been using excerpts from an article recently published in the June, 2023, Journal I wrote with the title: “THE DIVINE DEMAND FOR CHURCH: “GO, AND DO THOU LIKEWISE”and I’m including excerpts of it here, along with other inspiration and the backstory of this article, too, woven all together throughout this part of the talk.
Mary Baker Eddy defines Church in two parts. The first part explains its divinity: “The structure of Truth and Love. Whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.”
This divine structure is specific in its Principle, triumphant in its Truth and universal in its Love. Just as the divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus, (see Science and Health, p. 25) so is the divinity of Church made manifest in the humanity of our churches.
The humanity of our churches is instructed in the second part of the definition of Church: “The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick.” (Science and Health, p. 583:14). It is proving the words and doing the works that Christ Jesus taught and did that makes our churches honest, active agents of healing – viable and relevant.
The core work of a Christian Science church is healing. Healing spiritually lifts thought into holier, higher realms, where good is not only possible but provable. We can unite with this Church by being newborn of Spirit (see Science and Health p. 35) and walking our talk. Church feeds us spiritually and in turn, meets our deepest needs for holiness, health, community, and meaning that betters our lives, and the lives of our families and communities.
So when the questions are asked “Have we moved past the need for Church? Is Church now outdated? Has the pandemic dealt the final blow?” –we would also have to ask if humanity has moved past the need for healing, for loving all that is good and noble in life and for being loved and valued found in the love and valuing of others - these deep spiritual desires are not going to go away. The divine idea of Church wakens humanity in fulfilling these needs and elevates all of humanity in doing so.
Today we are experiencing a great departure of many from the institution of Church. But we are also seeing what is described in Science and Health that “contentment with the past and the cold conventionality of materialism are crumbling away.” ( p. vii:13–17). And there seems to be a lot that is “crumbling away:” deadened, dualistic, and politicized theologies, a misguided focus on who to exclude instead of who to include, a material orthodoxy focused on self-preservation and pride of traditions, all of which has led to a growing distrust of the institution of Church.
But change is happening, and needs to happen. Writing toward the close of the nineteenth century, Mrs. Eddy noted: "This closing century, and its successors, will make strong claims on religion, and demand that the inspired Scriptural commands be fulfilled.” (Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 12).
The demands of Church Church requires a discipline, an honest self-reflection, and a focus on the core Scriptural commands of loving God and our neighbors. We can look at our churches just as we look at our practice of Christian Science. “We should examine ourselves and learn what is the affection and purpose of (our church), for in this way only can we learn what we honestly are. ..(Science and Health, p. 8:28–30;)“Ask yourself: (Is our church) living the life that approaches the supreme good? (Is our church) demonstrating the healing power of Truth and Love?” (Science and Health, p. 496:9).
Church demands that we show up. Wake up. Pray. Heal. Be kind. Repeat. Following Jesus’ example and practicing a Christ-like humanity fulfills the divine demand to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Little by little, step by step. Each healing prayer and action - continuous and consistent - adds to others and becomes a movement reflecting the divinity of Church that blesses all humanity.
There is a tenacity and insistence about the divinity of Church that pierces through the ages and stages of Christianity’s history and continues to purge churches of material, personal, and political diversions. It is the divinity of Church as keepers of wisdom, and shapers of a vision of heaven on earth. It is calling and nurturing all healers and demanding that "the inspired Scriptural commands be fulfilled.”
Right now, these purges do not mean that Church has now become irrelevant, but it actually points to a demand that churches return to their dynamic and healing roots. The divine power and purity of Church, understood and demonstrated, can break new ground for humanity’s progress and reform, and is needed more than ever. It is a singularly unique institution whose sole focus is on God, Spirit, and our relation to God and all that is sacred and holy. It is designed to elevate the race, unite us in Love, and rouse us to new levels of spiritual activism, healing, redemption, and transformation.
Following Christ Jesus’ lead, we can unite with the wide diversity of God’s creation, love with open arms, heal our most stubborn discords, diseases, and divisions, and unleash a creative, graceful, inclusive, and multiplying momentum of Love that is unstoppable.
The divinity of Church is ageless and will always demand of us honesty and authenticity and proofs of divine Love in actions that heal and redeem. Will our collective need for healing, holiness, communion, and community ever be outgrown? No. And this need is increasingly and effectively met as Christian idolatry, orthodoxy, politicization, and stereotype are removed, and the coldness and oldness of material mediocrity are dropped. Then embracing the brilliance and universality of the Christ, the humanity of our churches advances as it patterns the divinity of Church. The way forward? Healing. And in Jesus’ words: “Go and do thou likewise.” ###
How are churches “do(ing) likewise” now?
An article written in the June 10, 2022, Monitor “How young people are transforming worship” points out that there is an evolution of church happening and it is defining church in more vigorous, engaging, ways of love and fellowship: of coming together, finding a higher meaning in life, a more satisfying direction, and community. Church engages. “We make church together” concludes one paragraph. “That doesn’t mean that young people have stopped asking the big, age-old questions, which, at their heart, are “religious questions,” says the Rev. Benjamin Perry, a minister in his early 30s at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. “‘Who am I? Why am I here? How do I know that what I do has value?’ Those kinds of questions young people are absolutely asking,” he says. “They’re just not looking [for answers] in all the same places that people did 30 years ago.
My husband and I have lived in many places in three different states and have had experiences with a number of branch churches that could answer a humble “Yes!” to those questions. Love is the foundation of Church, and “Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power” (Mis 250: 20). They were led to see their Church as a church of healers and as a healing resource to all, and resolved to go beyond their comfort zones to pray and love more inclusively and do more actively. Here are some of those little actions taken and some of the results. (See the Journal article for even more examples.)
As the church was exploring to see if the city’s libraries had copies of Science and Health and Mary Baker Eddy’s bios accessible to them - a couple came in who had found one of her bios in a library and wanted to know more.
A member’s involvement with the local hospital’s chaplaincy team resulted in a lecture to that hospitals’ Bio-Ethics Committee. It was so helpful that a follow up lecture was requested and was made to all the BioEthics Committee chairs and staff of that hospital's 14 branch hospitals. After the lecture, all hospitals received a copy of Science and Health for their chaplain libraries.
An usher's regular practice of praying for the Church service helped a Reader overcome nausea during a Church service.
A couple was intrigued with a Reading Room exhibit they found on the Church’s website, and came and visited for more information. They have attended a few services and a lecture and are even sharing Christian Science with others.
A Reading Room re-oriented their approach to seeing that they had a role in the betterment of their community. The librarian would go to their neighboring stores to ask what needed healing. This resulted in displays, lectures, and pop-up Reading Rooms with those topics and brought in more sales of Science and Health, more visitors, and more commitment of the members to be out there and heal! (Note: having “literature sold” is an authorized demand for Reading Rooms as put forth in our Manual by-law on Reading Rooms. Having literature like Science and Health sold means an individual has recognized its value, and given an exchange of value by buying it. This person now owns the Comforter - no ties, obligations or secret agendas attached. )
Branch church members re-thought their approach to their members and those who sought membership. Slowly and steadily they simplified their branch church application form and grew to not include issues of gender orientation or medical or substance involvement,but to stress commitment to living and growing in Christian Science and willingness to serve Church and to serve others. They also increased the scope of their Care Committee to make sure that all members and visitors felt included, cared for, and loved. This resulted in a Church whose joy and love is tangible.
Church is a verb. Church is an active response to humanity’s needs. It is a think tank for spiritual activists serving a growing number of thinkers that may be outside of denominational territories.
There is an increase in the demand for healing and inspired solutions for meaningful change and spiritually- tested and sound answers to life’s challenges. There are millions of unprejudiced minds. And Church can meet that demand.
Church is real. To be experienced. It is an expression of Truth and Love. And in closing:
Church can actually be everywhere if you’re thinking of Church as the kingdom of God within each of us, burning brightly within and shining forth.
Conclusion To experience Christianity in its fullest expression - it cannot be done individually but needs to be done collectively. It needs “two or three gathered in my name.” It cannot exist alone - like happiness - it is spiritual and requires all mankind to share it.
I attended a conference for clergy - all of whom were looking for ways to more earnestly and effectively meet the needs of their congregation. A Protestant minister and I talked together about our churches. He said his church was at a crossroads - coming from two polar opposite views over a major social issue that had become hotly politicized. I shared with him this statement from Science and Health:
“CHURCH. The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle. The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick” (Science and Health, p. 583:12–19).
He listened thoughtfully and then said, yes, that really gets to the bottom of it, doesn’t it? I said yes.