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Church Alive

CHURCH. The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.
 The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick.
 – Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

Mary Baker Eddy initiates church services at a New Hampshire county jail

Notes from the Mary Baker Eddy Library: The history of Christian Science institutional work

From the February 2011 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Irving Tomlinson recorded in his reminiscence that soon after he arrived in Concord to serve as a secretary to Mary Baker Eddy, she spoke to him about the need to reach prison inmates with the message of Christian Science. Tomlinson, at Eddy’s request, began meeting with Sheriff Edgerly, who was at that time warden of the Merrimack County Jail. Edgerly had been trying to organize church services in his facility with little success up to that point.

Soon, plans had been finalized to hold Christian Science services in the jail. When Tomlinson wrote to Eddy to tell her that services would begin soon, she wrote back: “I am glad you have begun the C.S. Mission with faith that you can open the prison doors and set free the captive. God will bless you in this way of His appointing” (L03728, Mary Baker Eddy to Irving Tomlinson, May 12, 1900, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library). Tomlinson remembers that he and the other Reader of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Concord, would travel to the jail after they had held the morning service, and repeat the service for the prisoners. He also occasionally served as a Christian Science practitioner for the inmates when they asked him to pray for them.

Testimonies of healing began to pour in from the Merrimack County jail; inmates requested their own copies of Science and Health for study, and Eddy herself donated at least two copies of the textbook. One elderly prisoner named Meserve sought out Tomlinson after his release in March 1907, and asked to purchase a copy of Science and Health. Tomlinson offered to simply give the man a copy of the textbook, but Meserve declined, saying that Christian Science had transformed his life, and that he had saved money while in prison so that he could pay for a copy of the textbook himself. Tomlinson reported that the man never committed another crime and remained a Christian Scientist all his life. When Tomlinson relayed the story to Eddy, she was deeply touched.

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