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One of a series of articles by the Research Staff of The Mary Baker Eddy Library, giving the historical background of the By–Laws of the Manual of The Mother Church.



'Relation and Duties of Members to Pastor Emeritus'

From the October 2009 issue of The Christian Science Journal

WHAT KIND OF "relation" can a member of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, have with the Church's Pastor Emeritus, given that she has been deceased for nearly a century? The focus this month is not so much on historical detail as answering two questions: Why do the By-Laws constituting Article XXII of the Manual of The Mother Church (pp. 64–70) remain relevant and significant? And, did Mrs. Eddy think Manual By-Laws would help those who wished to understand her better?

The By-Laws in Article XXII cover a range of topics. The dictionary (in this case, a 1905 Webster's) tells us that relation can be defined as "connection" and duty as "a moral obligation," and perhaps this gives a more timeless sense of the intent of these 18 By-Laws. One way of looking at this Article is to see the By-Laws as falling into three groupings.

Six By-Laws are focused on honoring and respecting Mary Baker Eddy and her role as Leader of the Christian Science movement (see Sections 1, 2, 9, 10, and 18). The critic of Christian Science might be surprised to find the theme of this Manual Article is not at all about the worship of Mary Baker Eddy. In fact, several of these six By-Laws are clearly intended to prevent this! Consider, for example, "Duty to God" (Sect. 10, p. 67). Mrs. Eddy had asked her followers for years to cease sending her holiday cards and gifts, and to give further emphasis to her message. This By-Law first appeared in December 16, 1905 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel, surrounded on the page by two short but definitive articles by her on the same subject. (These articles are found in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany as "Principle or Person?" [p. 233] and "The Significance of Christmas." [p. 259].) All three are centered on the still–relevant premise that the spiritual significance of holidays must take precedence over gift giving.

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