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'What exactly is a Christian Science nurse?'

From the August 2012 issue of The Christian Science Journal

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Over a hundred years ago, Mary Baker Eddy realized the need for loving, spiritually intuitive nursing care—in line with Christian Science healing. The seeds were sown, and since that time Christian Science nurses have become a vital link to the healing message of divine Science.

So here’s the question: For those of us who haven’t had the need of a Christian Science nurse, either for ourselves or our loved ones, do we really understand what they do? When and how they’re available? What kind of practical help they offer, as they listen for Mind’s guidance?

As Manager of Christian Science Nursing Activities for The Mother Church, Caroleen Scholet has the vital role of supporting Christian Science nursing worldwide. And eager to take up some of those questions, she shines some light on what Christian Science nursing is—and isn’t.

What exactly is a Christian Science nurse?

A Christian Science nurse is love in action, though to some, “Christian Science” and “nurse” might sound like two contradictory terms—even to those who have been students of Christian Science their whole lives. And yet to nurse someone means to nurture and tend to, to comfort . . . to love. This tangible evidence of divine Love meeting an individual’s need is an integral part of what Christian Science nursing is all about. So in this way  those three words are entirely compatible. And because it’s a vital aspect of Church, Mary Baker Eddy provided for it in the Church Manual (p. 49).

I like to think of Christian Science nurses as embodying that spirit of caring that Christ Jesus inspired: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). They are ready to give in a way that heals and uplifts thought, no matter what someone’s age, whether the patient is dealing with the belief of illness, disease, or injury—not reactive or judgmental, but continually beholding the individual’s spiritual identity.

Why isn’t a Christian Science practitioner enough to support healing?

Oh, a Christian Science practitioner is definitely sufficient to support healing! But sometimes what appears as a physical condition or symptom is such a distraction to thought that the patient might require additional help. How this help comes in each case requires deep, spiritual discernment on the part of the Christian Science nurse. Tending to a patient can include reading out loud thoughtfully from the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings, assisting with bathing and mobility issues, preparing special meals, bandaging, etc., while at the same time responding calmly, patiently, and, most of all, compassionately. It also includes remaining unalarmed by any picture of discord being presented. 

Both the Christian Science nurse and the practitioner strive to “realize the presence of health and the fact of harmonious being, until the body corresponds with the normal conditions of health and harmony” (Science and Health, p. 412). Cherishing this realization of God’s grace is the joy of the work.

Though a Christian Science practitioner and a Christian Science nurse are both employed at the request of the patient or someone acting on behalf of the patient, it’s important to understand how their roles are different. The practitioner prays specifically for the patient, while a Christian Science nurse prays to heal his or her own thought about what appears to be going on—at the same time tending to an individual’s well-being in a practical way. This continual turning Godward, expectant of quick and complete healing, contributes to the mental atmosphere encompassing the patient. 

What is a Christian Science nurse not?

They don’t make a medical diagnosis or offer a prognosis, and they don’t administer drugs, use medically oriented techniques, or alternative medicine such as vitamins, herbal remedies, etc. In other words, they fully support what Mary Baker Eddy says in Science and Health: “Our system of Mind-healing rests on the apprehension of the nature and essence of all being,—on the divine Mind and Love’s essential qualities. Its pharmacy is moral, and its medicine is intellectual and spiritual, though used for physical healing” (p. 460). 

What might determine that I need a Christian Science nurse?

It begins with an individual’s desire to resolve a problem from the premise of “perfect God and perfect man,—as the basis of thought and demonstration” (Science and Health, p. 259). And then they will be led to the type of Christian Science nursing care they may need at the moment. Sometimes a family member or friend can provide the necessary care. 

But at other times more is required—more skill, patience, and discernment in regard to the patient’s well-being—and it’s at this point the Christian Science nurse may be called upon to provide continuity and follow-through. In still other cases, it’s conducive for someone to be in an environment where there’s time away from family or work responsibilities, in a place dedicated to quiet and prayer, where more resources are available—and that’s when a Christian Science nursing facility might be considered. 

The variety of possible needs is why a wide range of services is offered—anywhere from simple and brief, such as sharing healing truths and applying a band-aid, to round-the-clock ministering, which may require immediate and on-going attention. And no matter what the particular details of a case are, a Christian Science nurse is always ready to respond with gentleness and assurance to any questions and concerns, no matter how minor they might feel at the time.

Who’s qualified to be a Christian Science nurse?

Essentially someone is qualified when they prove their commitment to living and practicing Christian Science consistently, with depth and understanding; when they show their ability to properly care for others with competence, compassion, and wisdom; and when they demonstrate their skills and talents to which others can attest. Christ Jesus was right on when he said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). 

In regard to Christian Science Journal-listing, those who apply and are accepted have the opportunity to advertise their availability. Anyone who upholds this Christian Science nurse By-Law, those representing themselves as Christian Science nurses, whether listing in the Journal or not—as well as church members whose lives epitomize what it calls forth—help maintain the dignity and defense of our Cause.

There are times when having a Christian Scientist nearby whose thought upholds a spiritual viewpoint, and is able to see and nurture an individual’s innate and present abilities, is a great blessing. I smile when I think back to the first time I needed Christian Science nursing care—since it was when I was learning to be a Christian Science nurse myself! I was out for a walk in a park, and was attacked by a large dog. I received immediate care in the dorm where I lived at the Christian Science nursing facility, and though I felt faint and wasn’t able to communicate, I remember that while one Christian Science nurse cleansed and bandaged the wound so tenderly and unobtrusively, another held my hand and reminded me so clearly and confidently of God’s love for me. It was like being ministered to by angels, and the fear dissipated right away. I became fully conscious and was able to continue on with my day, and within a few hours there was no need for any bandaging. All was well.

To me, Christian Science nursing is—pure and simple—love for humanity. It’s exemplified in a passage from the Bible: “If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth” (I Peter 4:11). That’s the great gift a Christian Science nurse offers the world.

A directory of Christian Science nurses is found in the back of every Journal, on JSH-Online.com, and at http://christianscience.com/christiansciencenurses

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