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Worthy Activities: Background of Two Church Manual By-Laws

From the March 2009 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Mary Baker Eddy believed that wholehearted participation by Christian Scientists in the activities of the Church of Christ, Scientist, was essential if the Church was to fulfill its role in bringing healing and salvation to the world. But it's not surprising that dedicated church members sometimes wondered how much time they should give to activities of other groups promoting worthy goals. Mrs. Eddy counseled and corresponded with members about this issue, which resulted in two Manual By-Laws: "Church Organizations Ample," and "Joining Another Society" (Article VIII, Sects. 15 and 16, pp. 44-45).

Mrs. Eddy's admonitions and advice consistently stress that studying and demonstrating Christian Science and working in church must come before being active in other organizations. But she recognized the value of a Christian response to human needs. On June 8, 1892, Judge Septimus Hanna wrote her about a Committee on Prohibition he had joined. He wondered if it was a good thing to take part in such organizations. Mrs. Eddy's qualified response: "If you are now sufficiently rooted and grounded in Christ, Truth, and all its sweet savors of patience, wisdom, grace, to bear the strain, you can do more good by occasionally working among politicians than to taking yourself away from them ..." [L04928, Mary Baker Eddy to Septimus J. Hanna, June 11, 1892, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library].

In April 1904, Mrs. Eddy received a letter containing a check for $100 from a "Christian Science Lunch Club" in New York City. On April 20, even before she replied to the letter, she directed her secretary to send the Christian Science Board of Directors the first draft of what would ultimately become "Church Organizations Ample." Titled "Unauthorized Societies," it read in part: "Members of this church shall not be makers nor members of clubs, or organizations not approved by The Mother Church" [L14660, Mary Baker Eddy to Joseph Armstrong, April 20, 1904, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection].

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