Looking to be a better healer? Then you’ll want to keep an eye out for articles like this one, appearing periodically in the Journal, the Christian Science Sentinel, and The Herald of Christian Science. Their aim: to correct some of the misconceptions about Christian Science that would keep us from having the results we so desire.
Have we moved past the need for church? Is church outdated? Has the pandemic dealt the final blow?
When I hear questions like these, my response is to ask whether humanity has moved past the need for healing, for loving all that is good and noble and right in life, and for uniting with others in loving and valuing one another. These deep spiritual desires are not going to go away. The spiritual idea of Church undergirds the singular nature of this institution that awakens humanity in fulfilling these needs, and advances all humanity in doing so.
Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures defines Church in two parts. The first part explains its spiritual nature: “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle” (p. 583).
Principle, Truth, and Love are synonyms for God. This spiritual structure is specifically defined by divine Principle, triumphant in Truth, and universal in Love. Just as “the divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus” (Science and Health, p. 25), so the spiritual idea of Church is made manifest in the humanity expressed in and by our churches.
This humanity is defined in the second part of the definition of Church: “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” (p. 583). It is proving the words and doing the works that Christ Jesus taught that makes our churches honest, active agents of healing—viable and relevant.
The core work of a Church of Christ, Scientist, is healing. Spiritual healing lifts thought into holier, higher realms, where good is not only possible but provable. We unite with Church by doing the Christly works—by taking action based on our prayer and inspiration. Church feeds us spiritually, satisfying our deepest hunger for holiness, health, fellowship, and meaning, bettering our lives and the lives of our families and communities.
Science and Health tells us, “Jesus established his church and maintained his mission on a spiritual foundation of Christ-healing” (p. 136). As a spiritual idea, Church reflects God—omnipresent Life. I see this to mean that Church is not limited to a physical location but is everywhere, as Jesus’ words indicate: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). This enlarges our concept of Church from definitions of location, culture, ethnicity, numbers, or buildings, to the spontaneous “everywhereness” of Church, based on one eternal God, and we recognize that the Christ, Jesus’ spiritual selfhood, is already active in “whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.”
With one eternal God, Love, we look for and celebrate our spirituality and others’; and this shapes the humanity expressed in our churches. Practical Christianity isn’t dogmatic, about creed, or brought about by competing denominations. Eddy writes: “Christianity is the summons of divine Love for man to be Christlike—to emulate the words and the works of our great Master. To attain to these works, men must know somewhat of the divine Principle of Jesus’ life-work, and must prove their knowledge by doing as he bade: ‘Go, and do thou likewise’ ” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 148–149).
Church feeds us spiritually, satisfying our deepest hunger for holiness, health, fellowship, and meaning, bettering our lives and the lives of our families and communities.
Today, humanity is experiencing a great need for healing and unity, and the world is seeing a major departure from the human institution of church. Perhaps this is due to what Science and Health describes as, “Contentment with the past and the cold conventionality of materialism are crumbling away” (p. vii). Deadened, dualistic, and politicized theologies, a misguided focus on whom to exclude instead of how to include, a material orthodoxy focused on self-preservation and pride of traditions, have led to a growing distrust of the institution of church. But these are crumbling away. Change is happening and needs to happen.
Writing toward the close of the 19th century, Eddy noted: “This closing century, and its successors, will make strong claims on religion, and demand that the inspired Scriptural commands be fulfilled” (Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 12). Church meets these strong claims and requires honest self-examination of present religious practices; it demands a focus on the core Scriptural commands of loving God and our neighbor as ourselves.
My husband and I have had experiences with a number of branch Churches of Christ, Scientist, because of our several moves around the country. To different degrees, and in various ways, we have seen members rise to meet these strong claims. They saw their churches as churches of healers—a unique and healing resource to all people. Many resolved to go beyond their comfort zones to pray and love more inclusively, get to know their communities more intimately, and act more prayerfully and practically. And they saw results.
For instance, a former inmate came to the Christian Science Reading Room to explain how he had been healed of hot oil burns by reading and applying the healing ideas he had read in a Christian Science periodical he received from the church’s prison outreach ministry.
A Sunday School teacher’s keen insight and love encouraged a distraught student to continue coming to Sunday School when she wanted to quit.
A Reading Room librarian introduced herself to the employees of neighboring stores, letting them know the Reading Room was a healing resource, and asked what they felt needed healing in their community. This resulted in new Reading Room displays and holding a Christian Science lecture that dealt specifically with a topic that addressed the community’s need, reorienting the Reading Room to become more involved in the community’s well-being.
A month-long effort of the church to pray specifically for children resulted in welcoming new and returning children to the Sunday School; and a church member found a new job helping children in the schools. Recently, the governor for the state announced an initiative to better serve children and families, and this gave the church more ideas about what needs to be prayerfully addressed.
Members of several churches joined interfaith efforts in their communities to find ways to combat racism, help heal the opioid crisis, and respond to global climate challenges through prayer, thoughtful actions, and a heightened sense of the mutual responsibility to serve our communities.
Will our collective need for communion and community ever be outgrown? No. And this need is increasingly and effectively met as the coldness and oldness of material mediocrity is dropped, and the humanity expressed by churches advances and patterns Christ’s church. The spiritual basis of church is ageless and will always demand of us integrity, authenticity, and proofs of divine Love, in actions that heal and redeem. The way forward is healing—in all places, for all people, and at all times. We fulfill the potential of church by following Jesus’ words: “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).