RECENTLY, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN approaching the Christian Science Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees with questions about conducting church services based on the order of service in the Church Manual but deviating from the traditional forms we are used to. Gratefully, none of us has to create standards for what it means to be a part of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Mary Baker Eddy has already done that when she tells us the purpose of her Church is to "reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing" (Church Manual, p. 17). When we think about what gives our Church its identity and structure, it can be wonderfully sobering and empowering to contemplate the words of Jesus that surround the Cross and Crown emblem on Science and Health: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons." Quite simply, the standard by which our Church is measured is whether or not healing is taking place.
Mrs. Eddy knew how important it was to keep the teachings of Christian Science pure and to maintain a spirit of worship that promotes healing through the operation of divine Principle, not personality. Hence, she was quite specific about certain issues, such as the fact that members can organize churches in order "to have church services conducted by reading the Scriptures and the Christian Science textbook" (Manual, p. 72). She also made it clear that the readers of these services should read from the books, rather than manuscripts, and that there should be an established order of service that people could rely on and recognize as a Christian Science church service. She further explains that a church's readers "shall make no remarks explanatory of the Lesson-Sermon at any time ..." (Manual, p. 32). Mrs. Eddy's numerous statements about the Lesson-Sermon speak to a membership that is strengthened through a united study of the current issue of the Christian Science Quarterly. Other items she was less specific about, such as whether church members could gather and conduct informal programs following the service, or what kinds of music could be used for hymns, or what constitutes necessary notices and the pronouncing of the benediction.
When we hear of members who are exploring ways to add more vitality to their churches, we applaud their energy and enthusiasm, while at the same time encouraging them to find their core identity within the activities given to us by our Leader in the Manual. The bottom line is still the standard Christ Jesus established, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20). Christian Science churches will ultimately be measured by whether or not there is healing occurring in their services. And we'd probably all agree that one of the most serious deviations from Church standards would be for members to mechanically go through the motions of a church service without feeling the spirit of Truth and Love that truly gives our Church its unique form.