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Inspiration from the midwest church alive summit

In April, over 1,000 people gathered at the Midwest Church Alive Summit in the Chicago area. Church Alive Summits are organized by local members to discuss issues and ideas about church that are pertinent to their communities. Here are some of the participants’ thoughts after attending the two-day event.

From the August 2011 issue of The Christian Science Journal

The Summit helped participants evaluate what is mandated and what is traditional in how we model our churches and their activities. Best of all, the underlying theme focused on looking at what we are doing in order to bring the freshness of Spirit to all that we do in and for church—keeping it all “abreast of the times” (Church Manual, p. 44)

Several aspects of the Summit helped toss out old concepts of church and discover what a branch church might really be. One exercise at the Summit—that I am undertaking for myself— was an examination of the Manual to identify By-Laws that relate to me as a member, and those that apply distinctly to a branch church rather than to The Mother Church. 

I came away from the Summit with nuggets of spiritual gold: 

• When problems threaten to divide us in our fellowship in church, hammer out the “dents” from the inside. Stay with it, and help with the healing, for yourself and for your friends.

• Church is not a period piece. It’s alive, vibrant, and growing. Don’t be afraid of change or new ideas, even if they are not your own!

• There are no templates for Sunday School, Reading Rooms, or church edifice designs. We can go forward with what is right for our churches. 

During a group session, I shared a story
 about a church member who told me that she had a few alcoholic drinks. Right when the “oh my” thought tried to sneak in, I stood firm in prayer about the truth of this woman’s innocence. In the group, another woman then exclaimed, “What if I am aware of a church member who loses their temper frequently—are they going to be kicked out of church because they haven’t demonstrated over this error?” “No,” many of my group members echoed, laughing. Well, then, the other member should also continue to experience such patience and love from her church family—because this is truly where healing occurs!

The metaphysical work of each church member is the basis of what makes a church alive, and healing is the key element that brings lasting results. As I was leaving the Summit full of warmth, harmony, and excitement regarding the many possibilities of seeing our church become more alive, I took a “carriage ride” home (in my thought) as Mary Baker Eddy did every afternoon. In this “carriage ride,” I saw and felt Love all around me. 

How do I fit in church? It may seem like an odd question for someone who has been profoundly blessed by church work. My answer started to emerge when Fujiko Signs [then President of The Mother Church] asked attendants to consider that we are “the beam of Truth [that] displaces / The darkness of the night” (Christian Science Hymnal, Hymn No. 2). This made me think of the five verbs in the definition of Church: affords, rousing, elevating, casting out, and healing (see Science and Health, p. 583). Could it be that my relationship to church is that my being corresponds perfectly to the mission of Church? What a relief this is to me, to know that my relationship to church is not determined by how many or few assignments I have. Instead, I am being invited to anchor my thought in the perfect correspondence of my own divine expression with the divine activity of Church. 

As members of the planning team, we had endless opportunities to not just talk about, but demonstrate that Church is alive! One day, the planning team came to a standstill on an issue. While each member expressed their thoughts, they were quick to yield to what was best for the group. This was a healing moment. In the past, I had grappled with what it meant to be “of one mind.” Did that mean that every one had to think the same way? No! Mind is creative and dynamic, so naturally as expressions of Mind or God, we are teeming with fresh ideas that need to be expressed. 

I came away from the Summit with brand new ideas: 

• Branch churches are “distinctly democratic”—egalitarian communities—and can and must meet the needs of their unique surroundings. I have a new view of the Manual’s directions for branch churches, and great expectancy for their renewal.

• Music in branches can be varied, regional, and still holy and healing! 

• Branch churches exist to nurture and strengthen everyone’s knowledge and practice of Christian Science, whether a person is connected to the branch or not. 

• I found sisters and brothers through working for this Summit, and came away so grateful for experiencing this family in Christ.

Seeing over a thousand Christian Scientists who were all there for the same purpose was just awesome. It was also a great experience to be a soloist and group singer for the music program. I loved practicing and singing with other musicians who love hymns and inspirational songs just like I do! One of my favorite parts of the Summit was when we shared gratitude. It made me realize that there is so much to be grateful for—especially for how Christian Science has made a huge impact on my life. I’m looking forward to sharing ideas with my own church and Sunday School in St. Louis.

Over the last few years, I’ve really been feeling “called” to explore the place music holds in the healing ministry of our church. When I joined the Summit planning team, I took responsibility for the music programming, as well as the lead for the program content team, aware that these two jobs could be overly demanding. Additionally, being responsible for both the program and the music could have appeared as a conflict of interest, especially if I were to also be a musical performer. As the Summit drew near, I had to make a choice: Set aside months of work I’d been doing for the planning, or set aside the music I loved. Intuitively, I chose to stick with the program content, but that night I wondered, “How can it be that God would deprive me of fully expressing what I love?” As I prayed, I felt the love and support of my fellow team members. By morning, I felt a strong sense of peace, and Love just washed the anxiety away. I knew that I never had been, nor could I ever be, deprived of anything good. I gladly handed over the music to others, and I was still able to participate musically after all. I’ll always cherish the mutual love and encouragement I felt working on this Summit.

At the Summit, I felt a spiritual energy and synergy, the activity of the Holy Ghost communicating and moving to action each one in new, fresh ways of cherishing Church. Whether it was singing, praying, sharing, or loving Church together, the animus of the divine Spirit united all in a holy purpose. I walked away glimpsing the universality of Church. If Church is founded on the Rock, Christ, then Church is just as universal as the Christ, for the “Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). So, there are no barriers to anyone, anywhere receiving the healing blessings of the Christ. And that is what Church is all about—healing. The more we humbly and joyously live the message of the Christ, the more alive Church is in our hearts, and the more healing activity we express! 

When I listened to a discussion on fellowship, I felt that my church was successful at relating to members and visitors, but I believed we could do more. I realized that our starting point could be the fellowship we express for each other. I am not referring to friendships—instead, fellowship to me is sharing the good news that Christian Science brings to everyone by acknowledging you are God’s perfect child right here and now. It is seeing evidence of the love we each have for Christian Science. This allows for diverse perspectives with a unity of purpose. I saw how fellowship would remove rigid, preconceived expectations and replace them with gratitude for everyone’s contribution to church. 

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