"Being a Christian Scientist means I have to lead an abnormal, separate life— I can't have fun." "I feel guilty during the day if I don't do everything just right and I've read the Bible Lesson. In the Christian Science Quarterly. It's easier just not to read it." "My parents make me come to Sunday School; otherwise I wouldn't be here."
If these comments sound like yours, if you are at a point when you feel that Sunday School is not for you, you may also be at a point of trying to figure out if Christian Science itself is for you. Sunday School is a great place to ask the tough questions you may be asking yourself, to make some very strong demands on Christian Science. And it's a place where you can be open with other people who are trying to learn about Christian Science.
I'd like to share one teacher's point of view—mine—on teaching and learning in Sunday School. The best classes I've been in are those that sent me away still considering how to find answers to some of the questions that came up. The students challenged me and each other because they were straightforward and honest, even to the point of saying, "I don't believe there is any one religion that will get me close to God."
Comments like this and the ones I mentioned at the beginning have been the center of considerable prayer, discussion, and research in the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings for me and for the students. I really enjoy students who speak their mind, who are willing to be themselves in Sunday School. They expect Sunday morning to be a time for profound thought, mutual respect, and spiritual adventure. They remind me of what Mrs. Eddy says in her Preface to Science and Health: "In the spirit of Christ's charity,—as one who 'hopeth all things, endureth all things,' and is joyful to bear consolation to the sorrowing and healing to the sick,—she commits these pages to honest seekers for Truth."Science and Health, p. xii.
Honest seekers can find in the Christian Science Sunday School a focus for questions. Actually, in the Manual of The Mother Church Mrs. Eddy requires that classes be taught by questions and answers such as one finds in the Lesson-Sermon. See Man., Art. XX, Sect. 3. And if you feel put off by the Bible Lessons, I wonder if you have ever taken a good look at their titles. Look at them as a whole list—not just as separate topics. How could anybody really object to talking about Life? about Love? about the development of the universe? about defending himself from evil?
Sometime—in the privacy of your own room—make a list of questions that show up in your life, things that really interest you and things that hassle you. Take your list to Sunday School. Ask your teacher: How does Christian Science answer this question? How does the lesson answer that question?
We teachers need your help. Sometimes we're so delighted you've asked a question we fall all over ourselves to answer it. That's one of the biggest challenges for me as a Sunday School teacher—to keep a prayerful attitude that listens for Truth's inspired answer first. After all, students want and deserve Mind's answers, not my opinions. And the more questions there are, the more practice everyone in the class gets in listening, waiting, seeking for Truth.
Teachers have questions too—genuine ones, not just those designed to find out what you know. One of my classes helped me through some job changes, disposition problems, and relationship challenges. The practicality of Christian Science was clearly shown in the class's help for me.
Each of us in a Sunday School class is a student. Truth is our teacher, the same Truth that has taught honest seekers from Abraham, to Peter, to Paul, to Mary Baker Eddy. We each have wonderful insights to share, which is why Sunday School needs you, the unique person you are, now, with your questions, demands, experience. Don't hold back. Sunday School can be a gathering of good friends. But, as you know from friendships, everyone has to be willing to give something.
There's no guarantee that your Sunday School class will just take off and fly right away. One of the biggest lessons I've learned as a teacher is how much work has to go into Sunday School. I don't just mean study and research. I mean listening, quieting my shyness and my dread of silent moments. I also mean living. I couldn't go into Sunday School after a week of not relying on God and expect my responses to be convincing.
Next Sunday, when you are thinking about getting up for Sunday School, lie back a minute and consider what your class can be with your help. It can be a place where everyone gets some genuine insights into the very nature of being, where you begin to understand your relationship to God and your tremendous potential, where you get a hearing for really important questions.
Your Christian Science Sunday School class, if it has your honesty and attention, can illustrate what Christ Jesus, the greatest of all teachers, promised in his Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."Matt. 5:6.
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