In March, Linda Kohler, a Christian Science nurse; Judy Wolff, C.S.B.; and Michael Pabst, C.S.B.—the three members of the Board of Trustees for The Christian Science Publishing Society—were interviewed by the Journal’s Rosalie E. Dunbar. Joining them were John Sparkman, C. S., Managing Publisher of the Journal, Sentinel, and Herald magazines; Jonathan Wells, Managing Publisher for The Christian Science Monitor, and Christian Harder, Manager of Bible Lesson Products. Part one of a two-part interview.
Many people are familiar with the work of the Christian Science Board of Directors, but they don’t really know a lot about the Board of Trustees. How would you define your role?
Judy: Actually, “trustee” is a legal term, and there is a legal document called the Deed of Trust organizing The Christian Science Publishing Society, which Mrs. Eddy used to convey the property of The Christian Science Publishing Society to the Board of Trustees in 1898 “for the purpose of more effectually promoting and extending the religion of Christian Science as taught by me [Mrs. Eddy] . . .” (p. 1). It is not the same deed of trust that is at the back of the Church Manual, which is the deed of trust for The Mother Church property conveyance. It’s a separate legal document that is not in Mrs. Eddy’s published works. As the successors to those original Trustees, we are legally bound to that document, and an early signed copy of it is in the public records of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, showing the Trustees as the holders and guardians of the property, the intellectual property, and the finances of The Christian Science Publishing Society.
Although this Deed of Trust, as well as the Church Manual, requires us to turn over profits to The Mother Church, the Trustees keep in mind that in managing this property for the promotion of the interests of Christian Science, it’s not just for “us here” in Boston. We’re in a constant relationship with members, protecting and managing these assets for the sake of the Christian Science Field, and for the world.
Michael: In a way you can say that the Board of Trustees is running the business of the Publishing Society on behalf of the Board of Directors.
John: I think it’s important for everybody to recognize that the way the Trustees manage the Publishing Society’s activities starts in a different place from most businesses or trusteeships.
Judy: While we are, obviously, responsible for the finances, the greatest way to protect and secure those finances is metaphysical. We watch and guard financially by allowing God, through the Christ, to govern our actions and to inform our decisions.
Of course we gain a lot of wonderful, constructive information from our colleagues and financial staff. But the key is really listening to God and His direction, which gives us a foresight and an understanding that wouldn’t come just from numbers.
Linda: And we take our direction from the Deed of Trust which states: “Said trustees shall energetically and judiciously manage the business of the Publishing Society on a strictly Christian basis . . . ” (p. 5). I love thinking about those qualities—the energy and the good judgment that undergird the work. We pray constantly to be inspired by divine Mind, to make decisions that are judicious.
Michael: On a Christian basis.
Does the mission of the periodicals that Mrs. Eddy gives in “Something in a Name” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353) have an application to today’s needs?
John: Absolutely—the idea of the Journal putting “on record the divine Science of Truth” as understood and demonstrated daily through Christian Science. Or for the Sentinel, “to hold guard over Truth, Life, and Love,” asking us to learn to watch, and to always be watchful—not for error, but for Truth—to hold guard, and watch for Truth. Then of course, our precious Herald, “to proclaim the universal activity and availability of Truth.” It’s interesting that each one of the purposes Mrs. Eddy gave the periodicals has Truth in it.
Michael: When the Deed of Trust was written, Mrs. Eddy singled out the two publications that were in existence at that point: The Christian Science Journal and the Christian Science Quarterly. She does not mention the Quarterly in “Something in a Name,” but she does mention the Quarterly in the Church Manual where she says that “the prosperity of Christian Science largely depends” on that publication (p. 31). The Trustees take that very seriously.
Judy: We believe that it’s the Word of God for each day and each week. Mrs. Eddy saw that it’s so important for the individual and the churches to be fed on a daily basis with the Christian Science Bible Lesson, and on a weekly basis with the Christian Science Sentinel, a monthly basis with The Christian Science Journal, and of course, with a daily understanding of what is going on in our world and how we can help solve its problems through the The Christian Science Monitor. These periodicals are part of her understanding of how the Christ would take shape in the world today—not so much as an individual, but as the Truth going out. She set into place, for perpetuity, ways for this Truth to reach humanity in very practical ways.
Christian: As readers work with the Quarterly’s Bible Lessons, they can expect to retain the ideas and inspiration that have come to them. Then, their study won’t be something they close the book on as they go about their day. Instead, they’ll still be in that mental space where the Christ is operating in them, and they’ll see how to apply the ideas they’ve drawn from the Lesson, or from the Sentinel, the Journal, the Herald, or the Monitor. [See sidebar interview with Christian regarding the Bible Lesson on page 43.]
John: The other thing I love about the Quarterly is that it presents the Pastor—the Bible and Science and Health—while the Journal, the Sentinel, the Herald, and the Monitor are all basing their watch on Truth, and on monitoring, proclaiming, or putting on record, spiritual insights into Truth.
Judy: John, you once said that the core of the magazine activity is the Pastor—the Word of God—and that the Quarterly provides that Word of God to us on a daily basis (our daily manna) in the Bible Lesson. The Journal puts on record the fruit—the healing that comes from working with that Bible Lesson. The Sentinel watches and guards that fruit, and then the Monitor feeds us with what we need to be working on and healing. All of them are interconnected. We need every facet to see the full revelation of how the Christ comes to humanity and bears this fruit.
Linda: Each one has a different facet that is essential to a balanced practice of Christian Science.
One of the ways in which the Sentinel, the Journal, and the Herald support, encourage, and nurture our practice is through the testimonies. All you have to do is read the testimonies on a regular basis, and you can’t have any sense that Christian Science isn’t healing the way it used to, because there are so many quick healings. Even healings that take more time offer powerful evidence of a testifier’s persistence and steadfastness in holding to Christian Science.
What about the Monitor’s role?
Jonathan: In “Something in a Name,” Mrs. Eddy says, “The next I named Monitor, to spread undivided the Science that operates unspent,” and she gives, “The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” One thing that struck me about this entire paragraph is that we’re dealing with divine activity. I think we all strive to remember each day that we’re dealing with divine activity.
This is the Christ operating in society. What does the Christ enable us to do? At the Monitor, we’re providing tools for people’s prayerful approach to the world, and enabling them to look beyond themselves and contribute to humanity’s progress and salvation.
Mrs. Eddy has a really interesting passage in Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 where she talks about the baptism of the Holy Ghost. She says, “The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the spirit of Truth cleansing from all sin; giving mortals new motives, new purposes, new affections, all pointing upward” (p. 204). That ties together so nicely with the Christ operating in society, enabling us to think above ourselves, and giving us new motives and aspirations.
Judy: Christian Science, seen through what Jesus gave us, is the Holy Ghost, or Christ, come to humanity today, in a form that humanity can recognize. Jesus said about the Holy Ghost, “He shall teach you all things” (John 14:26) and “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
Christ coming to humanity this time is not so much the Christ represented by a man, which we had in Christ Jesus, who did a beautiful and perfect job. Rather, it’s the Christ represented as Truth and Love, which is so vast that it needs multiple channels to get that Word of God—that Love—out. This Christly vision has many facets. One is represented by our periodicals, the organs of The Mother Church. Lectures and Reading Rooms also have a part to play. All of them provide an opportunity to reach the Christian Science Field, and as they share it with the outside world, there’s an opportunity to get the Word out on a much larger scale.
Michael: I love to think of the periodicals as not being the invention of one woman who lived 100 years ago, but as the natural, gradually expanding form that the Holy Ghost takes in human thought. Mrs. Eddy, being the closest to this revelation, naturally saw the need for those periodicals first, but they are really an unfoldment of a divine idea. This idea takes the form in our everyday life that’s necessary in order to meet our needs.
Linda: The missions that she articulated so timelessly in “Something in a Name” don’t change. Yet, one of the things that she requires in the Church Manual is that the periodicals be kept abreast of the times. So, there are aspects of the work that do not change, and there are others that have to be constantly evolving and unfolding to keep pace with the way that thought is unfolding collectively for mankind.
Is there a difference between monitoring and watching?
John: As good sentinels we become so familiar with the landscape in front of us—the Truth in front of us—that there’s no ability for error to enter in. As the Sentinel helps us hold fast to that way of watching, to seeing only Truth, that separates it a bit from the idea of monitoring. Monitoring would be holding very close watch over all the things that are changing in the mental environment. So while the Monitor is working in the news environment, and is monitoring all the things that are changing, the Sentinel is holding guard over all those things that don’t change—all things that are Truth. One is bringing our thought to things that mortal mind or error is trying to tell us are volatile and changing—and the other is reinforcing our dedication to holding only to that which is true.
Judy: A Christian Scientist I know once told me that certain types of fighter planes are equipped to see over the arc of the world, so they can sense what’s coming up over the other side of the horizon before it actually comes. They can give that information to other people, so they are ready for what’s coming.
In some ways, that’s a little like the Sentinel. It holds guard—it protects those wonderful ideas of Life, Truth, and Love. There’s an interesting reminiscence by Lida Fitzpatrick, who worked in Mrs. Eddy’s home and wrote down the things she told them. Mrs. Eddy told her how to watch, to look for the enemy before it comes. She gave an example of a Union soldier during the Civil War who was on duty and felt intuitively that he was in danger, so he sang a hymn.
Years later he learned that at that moment, an enemy soldier approached, but when the soldier heard him sing, he found he was unable to shoot him and turned back. Mrs. Eddy said, “That was watching; we must feel the danger, and lift our thoughts to God; He will save us” (Lida Fitzpatrick reminiscence, pp. 42–43, The Mary Baker Eddy Library). That’s really how we’re seeing the Sentinel as opposed to monitoring world events.
Linda: Mrs. Eddy speaks so often about watching, as did Christ Jesus, and it’s in the Tenets that “we solemnly promise to watch . . .” (Science and Health, p. 497). She said in Science and Health that “. . . those who discern Christian Science will hold crime in check” (p. 97). So, there’s a very high expectation that we will be watching the Truth, that we will be so aware of the Truth that we can’t be taken in by error, and also, that we will take responsibility, not just for our own thought, but for watching the world’s thought. Mrs. Eddy said Jesus “held uncomplaining guard over a world” (p. 48), and expected us to follow. The Monitor and the Sentinel really help us do that.
What about the member who says, “I’m so busy with my life, just trying to survive. I feel burdened by the thought of having to watch.”
Linda: I think we only feel burdened by the challenges in the world when we’re not meeting them with the Truth. But if we start with the Bible Lesson, which equips us to see and know the Truth, and not be impressed by the lie, then we are impelled to be obedient to what the textbook calls upon us to do—to challenge the lie when it appears.
John: If we start with that acknowledgment of Truth and Love, at the very beginning of our day, and continue throughout the day, the burden of watching is lifted.
Michael: A good friend of mine served some time in the military, and he told me that somebody who’s on watch—their very first job is to look out at the environment, and to get a very firm mental picture of what the environment looks like, so that they will notice half an hour later if there’s a bush somewhere that doesn’t belong there, because chances are it’s not a bush.
So, as we start our day with the Bible Lesson, we get the lay of the land—what’s really happening in reality, what is evidence of Truth here? That makes it a lot easier for us to monitor, and see what’s happening in human thought that does not correspond with reality.
Jonathan: We are flooded with information from so many sources these days, and it can be quite daunting. One of the things that I love about our periodicals is that they put on record healing. That evidence of healing can strengthen our resolve to move forward, confident that the Christ is here, and we’re all cared for.
One of the things the Monitor is trying to do is to capture progress, and there actually has been an enormous amount of progress—there’s less war, there’s less poverty, and more higher education. People need to be reminded of this. So, the approach and tone of the Monitor is to be one of encouragement; that helps to ease some of that sense of burden.
Christian: Often the sense of burden goes along with the feeling of personal responsibility that we somehow need to bring healing to a situation. The periodicals are really a manifestation of the Christ that lifts that burden of responsibility from us. So, when Jonathan talked about the large quantities of information that are coming at us, it made me think of the Golden Text from a recent Bible Lesson, which says, “The Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalms 116:7, New King James Version). We have a bounty of good ideas coming to us—not a bounty of burdens.
Next month: A spiritual-first approach to profitability; discovering the value of God-inspired periodicals.