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Primary class instruction: A foundation for spiritual progress and healing

From the November 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal

This interview was originally recorded as a podcast on June 20, 2018 and was adapted for the November 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal

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At the heart of Christian Science practice is healing, and to be an effective healer takes a constant commitment to spiritual growth, including gaining a better understanding of God and of man’s relation to God. There are many ways to do this: through individual study of the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s primary text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures; by attending Christian Science church services on Sundays and Wednesdays, or Sunday School (for those up to the age of 20); and by reading weekly and monthly Christian Science magazines. But what about a spiritual learning experience in a classroom setting, with lessons taught by a teacher of Christian Science who has a proven record of healing as a public practitioner? What if you set aside about two weeks of your life to focus on nothing but gaining a better grasp of how to heal? 

If you are actively studying Christian Science and this sounds compelling to you, then you are feeling drawn to Christian Science Primary class instruction—taught by a teacher who is authorized by the Christian Science Board of Education. These classes don’t introduce ideas that you can’t encounter in your own sincere study of the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s writings, but they give you an opportunity to go deeper in your understanding as the class focuses on the chapter “Recapitulation” in Science and Health, which was formed out of Mrs. Eddy’s own class book. The goal of class instruction is to become more practical in following Christ Jesus, through gaining a better grasp of how to practice the divine Science of Christ. It is the kind of teaching that has a healing impact on our own lives and enables us to have a healing impact on the lives of others and the world.

In this special podcast of The Christian Science Journal, four experienced Christian Scientists talk about the impact this unique form of education has had on their lives.


Eric Pagett: With me here at the table are Susan Stark, Dilshad Khambatta Eames, Heather Worley, and A. J. Kiser. All have had Primary class instruction and are actively serving the Cause of Christian Science—including the public practice of Christian Science, Christian Science nursing, and active membership in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist.

If you are actively studying Christian Science and yearning to learn more about this scientific system of divine healing, you might be asking yourself, “How do I know when I’m ready for Primary class instruction?” and, “How do I go about finding a teacher?” So, let’s start with how each of you decided to take Primary class instruction. Susan, what was your experience?

Susan Stark: I was very new to Christian Science when I started thinking about taking class instruction. I had planned to go on an overseas trip my sophomore year of college, and I thought, “What a good preparation it would be if I could have class instruction before I went.” I was the only Christian Scientist in the group, I wouldn’t be near a Church of Christ, Scientist, for part of that time, and I wanted to be able to give myself Christian Science treatment. I also, of course, wanted to get to know more about God, more about man, anything more about Christian Science—and class instruction seemed like the logical step. And, there were times when I was overseas that I needed to pray for myself, and some of the healings that resulted are still fresh in memory; I’m very grateful for them. So, it did make a big difference—for that particular year in college, for that trip, and then for my whole life.

Dilshad Khambatta Eames: Like you, Susan, I am a first-generation Christian Scientist, and I found Christian Science in another part of the world—in Asia. I was nurtured by a wonderful branch Church of Christ, Scientist, that helped me along and taught me so much. But then when I moved alone to the United States, it came to me very strongly to think more about taking class instruction. The bottom line was that I really wanted to know more about God—what God is, and what that means about my relationship to God. I wanted to know more about infinite Love, and His unfolding goodness. It was just this hungering and thirsting for God that led me to actively try to find a teacher. But somewhere along the way, I just had to sit back and listen to God’s direction as to how I would do that, and it all fell into place, slowly but surely.

I wanted to be able to give myself Christian Science treatment.

Heather Worley: I grew up in a Christian Science family and was used to the practice of Christian Science being something that was surrounding me. At a certain point, though—I would say in late middle school and into high school—I really started seeing how it could be not just something that I benefited from because of my parents’ support for me, but something that I could actively put into practice on my own. As I started doing that more and more seriously late in high school and then into college, Christian Science really became a way of life for me. As I was growing and learning more, I started to have more and more questions—wanting to have a deeper sense of Christian Science, wanting to know how to pray with more specificity for myself and for others if they were to ask. I had questions about the ethics of giving prayerful treatment, and questions about how to be equipped to handle error—erroneous suggestions in challenging experiences. 

I had voiced a lot of these questions to Sunday School teachers in college and also to my mom, and they all gently suggested that I start thinking about class instruction. It seemed like something that would come later, but I did start giving it a lot more thought and really just listened and prayed about how it would unfold. And, I will say, one of the sweetest things for me about class instruction was that when it was time and I did go through class instruction, all of those questions—every single one of them—were answered. There were also many more questions that I didn’t know I had at the time, but I found as those questions came up, the answers were fully there because of the preparation and the teaching in class instruction.

A. J. Kiser: When I took class, it was all about continuing down a path of finding this new and exciting relationship with God that was unfolding in my life because of Christian Science. I hadn’t been studying Christian Science for very long at the time that I took class. It was just the natural next step to keep moving in the direction that was clearly blessing my life in the biggest way. 

I’d just stepped into the new world of college. I’d finished high school a couple years earlier and gone out to work on my own, and I thought that I’d never go to college—I didn’t have a lot of ambitions, and I kind of partied my way through high school. But when I started going to the Christian Science Sunday School when I was nineteen, my Sunday School teacher had such an impact on me. He was a Christian Science practitioner, and his life example was moving. I hadn’t met anyone like him before, and I thought, “If I could be anything like this guy, that would be the most fulfilling life I could ever live—helping others and striving to live upright and strong morally.” 

I saw that by putting Christian Science into use in my life, so much good was coming, not just to me, but to my family and to the people around me. I thought, “This is really good—I want to keep going in this direction.” And then somebody mentioned class instruction to me.

So, how did you find your teacher?

A. J. Kiser: I found my teacher through a Journal interview. A friend had given me a copy of this Journal. I read the article, thought it was inspiring, and put it aside. It was a little bit later that I heard a statement that I really loved, which was, “Farmers make good practitioners because they know the meaning of hard work.” Jesus gives us so many parables and ideas about farming, and about helping and healing others, and the relationship between the two as an analogy really spoke to my heart. Particularly the promise of hard work, that idea of honest, fruitful labor—that’s what I was recognizing the value of, and craving more of in my life. 

I started to have more and more questions—wanting to know how to pray with more specificity for myself and for others.

So, when I heard about class instruction—that this was a step you could take to continue your growth in Christian Science—I went back and pulled out that Journal article and read it again. I saw that this Christian Science teacher had a farming background, and I thought, “That’s the kind of person I want to learn from.”

That’s such a great experience! Well, thank you all for sharing your experiences. 

For anyone that’s considering taking class instruction, we know that your heart’s desire is certainly known to God, and the channel for fulfilling that—of finding the right teacher and then the practical details being demonstrated—is supported by divine Love, God. Everyone’s experience is individual, of course. Some people go through class instruction where they’re living, others travel out of state or out of country, even to the other side of the world. But no matter where we’re led to take class instruction, every detail of that experience is led and supported by God. I like to think of it like a flower—God plants the seed in our hearts, and then brings that seed to fruition, and continues to nurture it as it blossoms beautifully. 

I know we all would agree that taking class instruction is an experience we cherish deeply. Heather, I know you have some thoughts about this sacred experience.

Heather Worley: I remember giving some quiet and prayerful time to securing in thought what I had learned in class instruction, securing things about this sweet and holy time that was filled with a lot of growth. I was guided to pray with the ninety-first Psalm, and for me, it so encapsulated the experience. The psalm speaks to me so clearly about the allness, the protection, the power, and the might of the one divine Mind. I really felt through the time of class instruction, and then going forward, that sense of being in “the secret place of the most High,” to quote part of the psalm.

Immediately after taking class, I found that I was experiencing very quick healings as a result of being swift to turn wholly to divine Mind. The teaching in class really guided me in being able to swiftly and practically put this Science into practice.

That’s really sweet, Heather. Thank you. 

Would anyone like to speak to the value of association membership?

Susan Stark: Associations are an association of the pupils of an individual teacher. I feel that there is a unity of having a similar goal, which is to help and heal humanity. It’s kind of getting in the harness together, and pulling in the same direction. The fellowship of anyone who has gone through class instruction means that we’re brothers and sisters, and I cherish that. When the teacher is no longer there, the association continues, and so does the support, and so does the love, and so does the growth of the pupils.

A. J. Kiser: I love what Susan was saying about the togetherness of everyone who has had class instruction. I can totally relate to feeling connected and unified in a mission, and in the purpose of being a better healer—that’s something Christian Scientists all over the world are thinking about. Class instruction really solidifies that purpose in your life, so it makes sense that there would be a unity within that. 

Taking class was all about continuing down a path of finding this new and exciting relationship with God.

For me, coming to an annual association meeting is like coming to a meal of inspiration on a regular basis, where I’ve been refreshed and have had new ideas that inspire more courage, conviction, and clarification—which I bring back to my practice.

Heather Worley: On that note, I think it has been wonderful to see how it isn’t just the experience of class instruction that is the end point or the pinnacle of how you’re going to grow as a Christian Scientist. After you go forward from that, the association meetings each year lift thought higher and higher and expand thought broader and broader. The other thing that has really stood out to me is that the yearly association meetings have supported having a wider embrace of the world’s needs through scientific prayer—to really embrace the world with Christian Science in a way that is tangible and practical. I’ve grown so much because of those yearly meetings.

Dilshad Khambatta Eames: My association meeting has been a rock for me. I very much look forward to these yearly meetings! I look forward to the unity in Spirit with everybody joining together in this one holy purpose of seeing the perfect man and healing as Jesus taught. I think about the Gospels, where Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” Everybody doing that together is humbling, because you’re growing together, and there’s something humbling about growing together—it’s part of church.

Dilshad, that brings us nicely to the next question I’d like to ask: How has class instruction supported your work with church?

A. J. Kiser: The way that class instruction has supported my work with church is by giving me a real sense of God. Because of the way I’ve been taught about God, and the opportunities I’ve had to bring that into my own life in real ways, church feels less and less like just getting together with a group of other people to play some music and hear some readings—it becomes more of a living power. With this sense of the reality of God’s healing power in your life, church becomes a magnifier that shares that with the community.

Heather Worley: One of the things I often think about when praying about church is a statement from Science and Health where Mrs. Eddy says, “The best sermon ever preached is Truth practised and demonstrated by the destruction of sin, sickness, and death” (p. 201). Eric, when you asked the question, it made me think about how what we’re given with class instruction—in terms of it being a way to show us more readily, more practically, and more specifically how to pray for ourselves and how to heal—relates directly to what’s so important about church: to have practical demonstration and healing being experienced.

And, speaking of the practical demonstration of healing, Heather, you’re a Christian Science nurse, which is a role that is a part of Mrs. Eddy’s church, provided for in her Church Manual. Can you speak to how class instruction and association membership have supported your work as a Christian Science nurse?

Heather Worley: This unique role is clearly defined with the By-Law “Christian Science Nurse,” which reads in part, “A member of The Mother Church who represents himself or herself as a Christian Science nurse shall be one who has a demonstrable knowledge of Christian Science practice, who thoroughly understands the practical wisdom necessary in a sick room, and who can take proper care of the sick” (p. 49). A Christian Science nurse gives care in a way that’s completely in accord with Christian Science healing. I’ve always cherished this unique role, that while I’m not the one praying for or giving treatment to the individual, I am actively supporting their reliance on Christian Science for healing. I’m bearing witness to and reflecting that which heals, and I’ve seen so many healings in my work with Christian Science nursing. 

I’m really in awe of how Mary Baker Eddy provided for our growth in Christian Science.

One of the things I’ve given a lot of thought to is this passage from Second Timothy: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2:15). The support of class instruction has given me the ability to rightly divide the word of Truth—to be quick to recognize and keep my thought in line with what’s true about man as God’s idea. And also, to be equally quick to dismiss, deny, and refute the false testimony about man. The instruction and guidance that I was given in class instruction, and that I continue to be given in the yearly association meetings, has so easily facilitated being able to be clear in my own thought about what’s presented as I go about my work as a Christian Science nurse.

That’s really helpful, Heather. Thank you. I have one more question for the group. How has class instruction supported your work as a healer?

Susan Stark: I think that class instruction makes us familiar with discipleship, and being a disciple is being a servant. Jesus talked about himself as serving others. The best way to serve is to help and heal. The healing really is getting to know God and man better, and then the physical healing, or healing of emotional problems—whatever it is—is the natural result of an uplifted thought. Class instruction certainly puts its emphasis on becoming more Christlike, on being a disciple.

Dilshad Khambatta Eames: Susan, it’s very comforting to me that it’s a discipleship—it’s the letter and spirit coming together. When I took class instruction, one of the things that was told to me right away was that the Christ-spirit is what heals—and it’s still speaking.

Heather Worley: One of the ways that I have found class instruction to be so helpful, in terms of being more effective with my healing work as a Christian Scientist, is that it gave me the tools to turn to so I can be much more specific in the way that I pray. Being more specific has enabled me to more quickly identify what I need to be praying about, and to more quickly experience the healing results.

Would one of you like to share a final thought with us?

Susan Stark: I’m really in awe of how Mary Baker Eddy provided for our growth in Christian Science. A person might say, “Do I really need to take class instruction? I’ve got the Bible, I’ve got Science and Health, I’ve got periodicals, I’ve got branch church friends. Do I need class instruction?” And, I thought of the example of a naturally talented musician who may be able to play up to a certain level from natural talent, but anyone who’s a musician and wants to truly play to a full potential needs instruction, and class instruction from a teacher of Christian Science does that. So, the answer to the question, “Do I need class instruction?” is, “Yes!”

That’s a perfect note to end on, Susan, thank you! 

We know that your heart’s desire to grow in your spiritual understanding and demonstration of Christian Science is blessed by God, and He will lead you forward in this sacred step. As Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her book Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896: “When a hungry heart petitions the divine Father-Mother God for bread, it is not given a stone,—but more grace, obedience, and love. If this heart, humble and trustful, faithfully asks divine Love to feed it with the bread of heaven, health, holiness, it will be conformed to a fitness to receive the answer to its desire; then will flow into it the ‘river of His pleasure,’ the tributary of divine Love, and great growth in Christian Science will follow,—even that joy which finds one’s own in another’s good” (p. 127).

If you have any questions about Primary class instruction, you can contact the Board of Education by email at boe@csps.com, or by calling +1 617–450–3662.

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