THESE DAYS CHURCHES EVERYWHERE LOOK FOR MEANINGFUL WAYS to meet the needs of their parishioners while trying to keep pace with a world changing faster than the latest version of iPhone. In such a rapidly changing environment, how does a church remain a dynamic and yet stable constant in a world in flux? For the last 2,000 years, Christians have looked primarily to their churches for spiritual sustenance, guidance, and companionship. Worshipping in congregations knit generations together and provided communal support, both in good times and through the hard times.
Mary Baker Eddy deeply valued church. A lifelong churchgoer herself, she recognized the spiritual growth that individuals experience by participating in church. But she also knew that when churches rely on the personal charisma of a pastor or on the opinions and dictates of church elders, the true meaning of Church can become distorted, and eventually lost. And while change comes to all of us—and that surely is a good thing when that change means progress—most of us look for some stability, some reference points that we can count on. Jesus knew this. And he, too, recognized the need for church, a community in which his followers could band together to accomplish all that he envisioned for the salvation of humanity. He asked his disciple Peter, "Whom say ye that I am?" And his devoted follower replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This answer must have assured Jesus that Peter did indeed perceive the legacy of Jesus' mission on earth, that his message of healing and of eternal life would be carried forth into the world. He said, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:15—18).
This month, the Journal explores the powerful promise of Church, built on the rock of Christ—what Mary Baker Eddy called "The structure of Truth and Love ..." (Science and Health, p. 583). And what our authors find is that Church in the 21st century—regardless of inventions, theories, technologies, and advances in communication—continues to provide solace, strength, and community. Nearly twenty centuries after the founding of Jesus' church, Christians still find Church essential, relevant—and healing.