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Church—looking forward

From the June 2021 issue of The Christian Science Journal

When my husband was offered a job in another city, I could see the definite advantages for our whole family, but I was reluctant to leave the church where I had been a member for almost 15 years and felt useful and needed. Going to a new city and a new church felt in a way like having to start over.

I prayed about this, supporting the rightness of the move and studying references from the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s writings to gain a greater sense of peace about it. Then the sweet answer came, “You will take your concept of Church with you.” The more I thought about this, the more valuable and comforting it became.

I knew that Church was first and foremost a divine idea, and so I couldn’t lose any good by moving forward. What I’d learned and demonstrated about Church during those years would accompany me wherever I went and to whatever branch church I joined. And that is exactly what happened. Instead of starting over, I found divine Love’s joy, spiritual inspiration, and an even greater sense of fulfillment waiting for me. 

This message points to how vital our concept of Church is. What thoughts are we taking with us about Church, into church, as church goes forward today? For example, is our concept of Church a spiritual one, or are we regarding it as merely a physical structure where human activity takes place? Do we see infinite possibilities or limits? 

Church is a spiritual concept, a divine idea. Mrs. Eddy, the Founder of our Church, identifies this spiritual concept in the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as “the structure of Truth and Love; . . .” (p. 583). A divine idea is never static but is ever vibrant and active, fulfilling the purpose for which Love created it. This divine concept is always with us, a part of who we are as the child of God, Love.

Church was just as much a revelation to Mrs. Eddy as was Christian Science. Her discovery is at the very heart of her Church, our Church—both the idea and the human expression of it. It was the outcome of unselfed prayer, and of what Spirit was revealing to her. 

“As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Corinthians 2:9, 10).

Only when we recognize Church to be a divine idea does the human institution begin to express the full purpose and power of Spirit. Mrs. Eddy, further defining the importance of Church to human experience, explains it as “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” (Science and Health, p. 583).

Attending a Christian Science church service, some might say it is very basic. They would hear no personal preaching, observe no ceremonies or symbols. The focus of each service is on God, Spirit, His spiritual creation, and the truth of divine being. But it is because of this very simplicity, this structure of Truth and Love, that there is a spirit of peace that opens the way for healing, an open door to Truth. “Our prayer in stone” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 320) is one way our Leader has referred to the Original Mother Church Edifice. The only distractions are those we might inadvertently bring to it. 

Jesus told his followers, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).

Speaking of the closet as “the sanctuary of Spirit,” Mrs. Eddy writes that its door “shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and Love. Closed to error, it is open to Truth, and vice versa. . . . To enter into the heart of prayer, the door of the erring senses must be closed. Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error” (Science and Health, p. 15).

During this past year when there were more online or blended services than in-person gatherings, there were times when we may have felt we were truly in that sanctuary of Spirit and relearning the value of what we know is foundational to church—the spiritual element. Like so many of us, you may have seen anew just how healing this really is.

The Annual Meeting theme this year, “Grace to go forward,” will continue to remind us that we aren’t going back to church but forward in it; and we can’t lose anything good by advancing. With the grace to go forward we gain more of the Spirit that heals, and we leave behind the unnecessary distractions. The same Spirit that revealed Church to its Founder is inspiring, strengthening, and continually renewing our concept and experience of Church today.

Church—what a precious gift! 

Barbara Fife
Member of the Christian Science Board of Directors

No greater hope have we than in right thinking and right acting, and faith in the blessing of fidelity, courage, patience, and grace. 

—mary baker eddy, the first church of christ, scientist, and miscellany, p. 209

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