Church of Christ, Scientist (aka Christian Science)

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First Church of Christ, Scientist

Sunday #14 – Church of Christ, Scientist, 501 N. Alamo, San Antonio, TX

After last week’s “toe dip” into Scientology, I thought I’d check out one of the other religions often mistaken for Scientology – Christian Science. The church is one of several on the decline in America’s religious landscape. However, you might be surprised to learn that some pretty well known people were raised in the Christian Science faith: Doris Day, Robin Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, Andy Rooney, Bette Davis, Gene Autrey, Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers, Val Kilmer, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, and on and on.

Though the church doesn’t publish its membership numbers, I’ve read membership estimates in the 100,00 to 500,000-range worldwide. However, many feel the number is closer to the lower level. Why is this? I can only guess that its due to the unwillingness of the mother church in Boston to pivot toward the desires of younger generations who expect a more contemporary service with musical tastes that stray from traditional hymns, along with an expectation of being able to “come as you are.” However, after reading this blog, you may discover what I found – a service that would be difficult to adapt to a contemporary service.

My Preconceived Ideas of Christian Science

Having only known of one person who had been involved in a Christian Science church, my knowledge of this faith is quite shallow. I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought had it not been for an accident that this fellow student had one summer. As I recall, she fell off the diving board at the pool and cut open her chin. My neighbor, who was in her class at the time, shared that this girl was taken for medical treatment for the wound, but due to her belief, or non-belief in healing treatments, doctors sewed her chin up without any anesthetic. OUCH! So beyond that, I’d say my only preconceived notion is that Christian Science believers shun all medical intervention and medicine.

Arrival

Knowing that the church is dwindling in numbers, I chose the bigger church downtown. Can’t say the 20 plus miles made any difference in that regard. I parked in the lot to the side of the large white building where a sign said “Reading Room.”

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However, I didn’t know if I were to go in that door, so I walked around to the front and up the stairs to three sets of double doors, all locked. Oh well, guess people aren’t invited in the front door. With a few minutes to spare, I walked back to the side and in toward the sound of a pipe organ. Two men greeted me – one must have known I was new, because he held up a finger and said, “Let me get you something.” I followed him to a place down the hall where he grabbed a pamphlet, handed it to me and said, “This will help you understand who the players will be this morning.”

Didn’t know what that meant, but I’m always game. I then walked up a staircase entryway, closing in on the pipe organ sound. That organ was the first thing I saw as I entered a huge expanse of an auditorium that probably had 500 cushioned seats and ….wait for it…..nine to ten people spread throughout the auditorium.

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Okay then. Guess I’ll take a seat right here. Oh wait….maybe over here directly in front of the hymnals. Didn’t matter, I had a clear view from ANYWHERE that I chose. 

Service Begins

The overall look of the church experience reminded me a bit of the Mormon LDS church I had visited early on in this process – no altar or stage, just a white barrier between the congregation and the speakers. A woman came to the microphone on the left and announced the hymn written by Mary Baker Eddy. She then proceeded to read it. That was a new one on me. So apparently Christian Scientists read the hymn before standing and singing it? As you’ll soon learn, reading is a big thing in this church.

With the beautiful pipe organ playing, we sang the hymn and I conspicuously looked around to see what people were wearing, if any more had arrived behind me. No to the later, but I did discover that the men all had on a suit and tie, while the women wore nice dress clothes. And oddly enough — not one single person in attendance was younger than my 53 years!

Then came a reading from the Bible, then a reading of the Lord’s Prayer interspersed with some commentary that came after each line. Wasn’t sure what that was about. Perhaps it’s Mary Baker Eddy’s interpretation or commentary? I remain clueless on that one.

After that came another hymn, first read through, then sung, followed by the reading of Notices. This gives people an idea of what’s going on in the church. Must be boring for the members, because it didn’t sound like it changed from one Sunday to the next.

Suddenly…I got one of those awful tickle feelings in my throat every time I took in a breath. I’d been sick since Friday with a sore throat. That tickle feeling, of course, led to a louder-than-wanted cough. GREAT! I probed my purse and grabbed a cough drop, popping it into my mouth. Then this overwhelming feeling of guilt struck me. Here I was with a group  of people who don’t believe in medicine. Do they believe in CVS over-the-counter medicine? My mind then went on a tangent of whether or not anyone saw me pop the lozenge in my mouth and whether it would melt in my mouth before the end of the service when I might breath menthol on some unknowing Christian Scientist. Geez! Why couldn’t I just pray this away before I came? However, I felt a little redeemed when later on doing the readings (yes, there were more readings) when the woman reader coughed once, sneezed, then blew her nose. Pheew…maybe my misstep wouldn’t be noticed.

Fortunately, I had done that before this older gentleman got up for his solo. He had a beautiful traditional voice and I would have hated if my coughing had interrupted that.

Then came the Subject of the Lesson – Sermon. Since the Christian Science church doesn’t have ministers or pastors, it uses two readers to deliver the scriptures from the old and new testaments and readings from “Science and Health with Keys to the Scripture by Mary Baker Eddy.”

In all these readings are many references to overcoming illness and sickness. The only thing that came to my mind was that if you talk about sickness so much, don’t you summon more of it to you? Guess that thought came from years of study in the Mile Hi Church in Colorado.

Then came the offering. As a gentleman took the offering in the oddest looking device I’ve ever seen – reminded me of my great grandfathers’ cushioned cigarette butt holder – a rigid ring that had some kind of soft material hanging down from it. While he finished taking the offering from the other nine people, I wondered how on earth the church keeps its lights on with this level of attendance. Without a pastor to pay each month, I’m sure expenses are low, but this is a big place and cooling it in the San Antonio summer isn’t cheap.

Then came another hymn to be read and then sung, the scientific statement of being and its correlative scripture and the benediction.  At this point, I wondered about the numbers I saw to the left of me. Baptists usually put numbers up for attendance in church and Sunday School, but these didn’t make any sense based upon the numbers I worshipped with in church today. Then it stuck me…doh….these were the hymn numbers. #feelingstupid

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Post Service Commentary

At the end of the service, I met some very nice ladies who stopped and asked me if I was just passing through. We talked for a minute and I relayed what a friend had shared, to which they agreed – I should come back on a Wednesday night to hear the testimony of healings that have taken place during the week, so I might just do that later.

What’s Next?

I’m excited about next week. I’ll be going to a Methodist church that has an orchestra that plays on Easter Sunday. Haven’t heard an orchestra in church yet, some I’m excited for this one. I wonder if I can get away with wearing my same old dress. Will be new for everyone else, right?

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54 comments on “Church of Christ, Scientist (aka Christian Science)

  1. To fill you in on a few points:

    – the Lords prayer is interspersed with Ms. Eddy’s “spiritual interpretation” (http://christianscience.com/bible-lessons/related-information/for-church-services/the-lord-s-prayer)
    – they usually read the first verse of the hymn (I guess to make sure everyone is on the same page), and they read ALL of the hymn when it is written by Ms. Eddy, there is usually one MBE hymn per service
    – it is my understanding that the collection bag is so that people can’t see how much is being donated (as opposed to a collection plate where everyone can see the $$ being put in)
    – the church building was likely paid off while the congregation was larger, and is probably being maintained by a fund (or funds) from deceased member’s bequests

  2. Reblogged this on kindism and commented:
    I love when non-CS go to a CS service and share their views, it is always refreshing to get a new perspective and to hear what stands out as “odd” to them.

  3. […] to those who provided feedback after last week’s posting about the First Church of Christ, Scientist. I’m truly grateful to hear from people I know, and those I’ve never met who take time to share […]

  4. First Church of Christ, Scientist, ( A.K.A. Christian Science )

    I am the usher that met you in the foyer at First Church, gave you the Christian Science Quarterly which has an outline of the worship service for that Sunday. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was healed instantaneously from understanding the system of mental healing that Christ Jesus taught, and that Christian Science interprets today as the Comforter promised by Jesus in the last chapters of the Gospel of John. She comprised 26 Sunday Lesson Sermons from the King James Bible and her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The first citation in Science and Health has been the theme of the Lesson and teaches those who follow this traditional Christian Science service, to have a healing and to heal others by understanding that the male and female in Genesis, chapter one, still holds the Father-Mother God, the only Creator, at one with His beloved creation. All mankind is precious to God and to the remnant believing that Christ Jesus was resurrected to start Christianity in a time of much turmoil, and his resurrection and ascension is also our resurrection and ascension.,

    Thank you for visiting our church service and know that you are most welcome to visit us anytime, where God’s loving care for you will heal your tickling throat so you can sing along with us our precious hymns that have been healing many for almost 150 years.

    Elden D. Stalnaker, C.S.
    Member, First Church of Christ, Scientist
    Christian Science minister
    Lackland Air Force Base

    • mhn125 says:

      Yes, Elden, I remember you well. Always wonderful to be greeted by a friendly face when first walking into a church you are unfamiliar with. You were a delight. And my throat pain is much better now….thank you much.

  5. Thank you, mhn, for your review. I enjoyed hearing your observations. I joined the Christian Science church a few years ago, after studying a book called “A Course In Miracles”.for 20+ years and practicing something called Knowledge for 40, Both books speak a great deal about healing and Knowledge provides the shift from mundane consciousness to the divine. There is a great deal of confusion about how healing works – among those who try to figure it out from the outside – and even among the insiders.

    It was undoubtedly the elusive nature of the subject that inspired Mary Baker Eddy to write her book and to design two church services each week that tried to keep the congregation focused on what works. Successful healing does not entail praying/begging for relief of suffering but rather to see things rightly and once we are perfectly honest with ourselves and see things rightly, healing is a natural result.

    Again, thank you for writing this. It inspired me to write a lot in response but SO much that I think I’d better simply finish my book about healing rather than to bore you here. 🙂

    • mhn125 says:

      Patricia, thank you for your comment. I know The Course in Miracles well. However, I’ve not heard of Knowledge for 40. I’ll have to look that up. Though I’ve not read Science and Health by MBE, I think much of what you share is true. By changing your thoughts, you do change your situation. Yes, write the book on healing!

      • Thanks, mhn. i wrote a book as well about Knowledge… by “for 40”, i meant i’ve been practicing Knowledge for 40 years. My book is “Knowledge, The essence of world scriptures”. That book does not address healing, but rather the ultimate experience – of God AS Light and Love and so on. I didn’t really write it as much as collect quotations from writings – they are so beautiful and inspiring. The experience of God has been described through the ages by those who had access to it…. or at least they tried to describe it. It’s really beyond description. And ancient reports jive with near-death experiences and the stories of some mystics and some very positive drug use stories. There is a state, a condition, beyond the body… see in ACIM, chapter 18, “Beyond the Body”. 🙂 I also quote from ACIM in “Knowledge”.

  6. EG says:

    Reblogged this on Emerging Gently and commented:
    As a former Christian Scientist myself, I find the observations of those unfamiliar with Christian Science to be very interesting and refreshing.

  7. mhn125 says:

    Thanks for sharing your insight into that, Patricia.

  8. Paul Sedan says:

    Nice reporting. Non-judgmental and objective with some humor thrown in. I left the Christian Science church at 16 and explored Eastern mysticism, psychology, pharmacopeia, and the Great Outdoors. At 27 I started to read Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy because I was seeking peace of mind. As I read I had a theophany and was instantly healed of all desire for tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and immoral behavior. In the textbook are 100 pages at the back of others who were healed of every disease and addiction imaginable by simply reading the book. My individual view is that our job is not to fill up the churches or to convince people to become Christian Scientists. We do, however, need to find ways to get the textbook out there so that people who want to read it can.

    • mhn125 says:

      Thank you, Paul. I appreciate that. I know that this blog was not overly exciting, but I tried to convey a sense of what someone can expect when they attend a Christian Science church. I do want to go to a Wednesday evening service, to see how that is different. I appreciate you sharing your views. 🙂

  9. Anne says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and visiting different congregations and sharing your experiences with them and the public. I am sure that all congregations can benefit from what you observe. I have found myself praying for all the congregations in the different religions to support the purpose and work they are doing in their churches, being there for the community. I belong to a Christian Science church in another part of the country and we have asked ourselves the question of what are the needs of the community and our congregation. Newcomers come practically every week and comment on the love they feel expressed. The congregation has commented on the support they feel from each other. Nurturing the idea of church family and fresh inspiration, we have found new ideas for serving the community with our committees and services naturally develop. We have been using new music with the traditional too, organ, piano and occasionally other instruments, a variety of Bible translations, as Mary Baker Eddy studiously did, The Wednesday testimony meetings are full of accounts of healing each week, including the inspiration and spiritual growth of the congregation being shared. On Easter, there was barely a seat available in our fairly large congregation. I have found fresh inspiration, open thought, ongoing spiritual growth, non-judgmental and genuine support, unselfish,Christly love and the natural result of all that, healing, to be the some of the key elements to growth within a church.

    • mhn125 says:

      Anne, thank you for sharing your thoughts about how you prayer for the other faiths in your communities. I wish more people did that and didn’t isolate themselves from their neighbors who are taking the same journey on a different road. Blessing to you.

  10. Anna Lisa Kronman says:

    What an eye-opening and interesting experience this must be, visiting 50 churches in a year! I think it would be a very useful window for readers of your blog.

    As a member of a Church of Christ, Scientist, in California, I found your observations about your visit to the Christian Science church helpful. Sometimes things that happen each service seem pretty routine to folks that come regularly, so seeing these things from the perspective of a newcomer gives us some good direction in explaining a few of these things a bit better.

    If you want a good sampling of testimonies from folks all over, and why they are sometimes passionate about this teaching, you might tune in to the live broadcast of a testimony meeting originating in Boston each Wednesday, 2PM Boston time. They also broadcast the Sunday service. It is a service I love listening to, in addition to attending my own local one. Find either one here: http://christianscience.com/church-of-christ-scientist/the-mother-church-in-boston-ma-usa/sunday-church-services-and-wednesday-testimony-meetings.

    Blessings to you!

    • mhn125 says:

      Anna Lisa, thank you for your comments. I’ve been wanting to experience the Wednesday testimonials, but find that Wednesday evenings are much too packed to get out of the house. I will definitely tune in and check those out. I knew the services were broadcast from Boston, but didn’t know that the Wednesday testimonials were, also. Thank you!

      • mhn, hi again! The services are also available on the web for 24 hours after the 2pm EST Wed service. I often listen on the web and attend the live service as well, because i am new to CS and I want to learn as much as I can about how those who were raised in it, think. In general, they are some of the kindest, gentlest, most rational and intelligent people I’ve met.

  11. Amy says:

    Hi mhn,
    I loved reading your observations and chuckled at your consternation over swallowing your throat lozenge….Your project is a fascinating one, and may inspire me to do something similar. You sound like someone I’d enjoying knowing. I have visited the San Antonio Reading Room, but only peeked inside the church building.
    I have been studying (and trying to live by) Christian Science for most of my life…I went to CS Sunday School. I even took a two week class in healing years ago, which CSists refer to as Class Instruction (MBEddy’s words). My life has been much the better for it. Something that apparently happens to groups of people over long periods of time– is that they develop a kind of ‘culture.’ This culture (as in, ‘this is the way ‘we’ do it’) overtakes the substance and the spirit of the original message. Other denominations have this problem too, I am sure. I love what the new Pope is doing to change some of the set-in-stone traditions of the Catholic church, for example. I know a number of people, including me, who don’t like the traditional, religious ‘box’ — whatever the denomination — and who are trying to get outside of it, or who are trying not to get sucked into it. That need to stay fresh and spontaneous and flexible and progressive — and inspired — is vital — I ask God to help me with that all the time. At this time in history, I hope more people of all faiths, are asking themselves how to stay true to, and inspired by their own spiritual teachings. And that in future, to ‘be religious,’ will not merely mean repeating words and living within a doctrine-defined mindset… but instead to be authentically living out from one’s beliefs–and that this will result in fresher, happier, more lighthearted worship! Thanks for posting this, and to all the other thought-provoking commenters.

    • mhn125 says:

      Amy, I’m touched by your thoughtful words. I couldn’t agree more with your ideas about “staying true to, and inspired by their own spiritual teachings.” Those are very powerful thoughts right there!

    • mhn125 says:

      Amy, I think you should take on a similar project. Would be fun to go to all the CS churches and see how they are different, if they are in any way. I agree that denominations need to stay flexible and progressive to meet the growing needs of people.

      • Heather K. Libbe, CS says:

        Mhn —

        Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to all of these comments!!!

        In the “Glossary” chapter of Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines “Church” as:

        “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.”

        One thing that I believe is unique to the Christian Science church is that every Sunday service and Wednesday evening testimony meeting conducted at The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, MA and branch churches around the world follows the same “Order of Service” as found in the Church Manual of The First Church of Christ, Scientist. For anyone else who is interested in seeing a copy of the “Present Order of Services in The Mother Church and Branch Churches” that Elden shared with you during your visit, it is below.

        As someone who has visited a number of Christian Science churches in the past year and a half in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, England and all over the US, I have been very grateful for how my concept of church has been greatly expanded. Why? Because I have quickly discovered how each Christian Science branch church is its own individualized expression of Church, be it the language in which the service is held, the culture of the congregation, the way church governance is structured, the location of the church and Reading Room or the actual building where it’s held. Nevertheless, one thing that every single Christian Science church has in common is its focus on healing & I am so grateful for all the healing that I have experienced in attending both Sunday services and Wednesday evening testimony meetings.

        Thanks, again, for including the First Church of Christ, Scientist in San Antonio, TX in your search to better understand all the different ways people chose to worship God.

        Hope you will be able to attend a Wednesday evening testimony meeting, as well — be it in person or online 🙂

        Much love & big hugs!!

        Blessings,
        HKL

        Present Order of Services in The Mother Church and Branch Churches

        Sunday Services

        1. Hymn.

        2. Reading a Scriptural Selection.

        3. Silent Prayer, followed by the audible repetition of the Lord’s Prayer with its spiritual interpretation.

        4. Hymn.

        5. Announcing necessary notices.

        6. Solo.

        7. Reading the Explanatory Note on first leaf of Quarterly.

        8. Announcing the subject of the Lesson‐Sermon, and reading the Golden Text.

        9. Reading the Scriptural Selection, entitled “Responsive Reading,” alternately by the First Reader and the congregation.

        10. Reading the Lesson-Sermon. (After the Second Reader reads the BIBLE references of
        the first Section of the Lesson, the First Reader makes the following announcement: “As announced in the explanatory note, I shall now read correlative passages from the Christian Science textbook, SCIENCE AND HEALTH WITH KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES, by Mary Baker Eddy.”)

        11. Collection.

        12. Hymn.

        13. Reading the Scientific Statement of Being, and the correlative SCRIPTURE according to I John 3:1-3.

        14. Pronouncing Benediction.

        The services should be preceded and followed by organ or piano music of an appropriate character in all cases where this is possible.

        On the first Sunday of each month Article VIII, Sect. 1, A Rule for Motives and Acts, is to be read.

        “A Rule for Motives and Acts. Section 1. Neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church. In Science, divine Love alone governs man; and a Christian Scientist reflects the sweet amenities of Love, in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness. The members of this Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously.”

      • mhn125 says:

        Heather, thank you for including that order of service for others. When I go into a church, I try to include everything, but I know I do miss some things from time to time.

  12. Lynn says:

    I attended this church with my family last Fall and loved being there. We are life-long Christian Scientists, but one of our daughters brought a friend with her. He enjoyed the service and was given plenty of reading material afterwards that he has since enjoyed and commented on. I would suspect that most downtown churches, as this one, might have a small congregation since the spread in larger cities to the outskirts. However, the small number didn’t take away the welcoming we were given or the love we felt by the members. I applaud this branch for staying open, working so hard, and keeping the faith — spiritual faith — that demonstrates the power of Christ Jesus teachings in healing today. Keep up the good work!

    • mhn125 says:

      Lynn, thank you for your comments. It’s funny that I had the opposite opinion when I was deciding on which church to attend. I thought there would be more people in the downtown church than there would be on the outskirts. Guess I was wrong in my assumptions!

      I felt very welcomed, too. Wonderful people there.

  13. Marian says:

    What an interesting and uplifting project to visit so many churches! I was a visitor at a Christian Science Church the first time about 18 years ago. At the time I’d been investigating all kinds of Eastern thought while attending mass at a very liberal monastery. There were not many people at the first CS church I visited, compared to the Protestant Churches in which I grew up. But I was so intrigued with the concept of people healing themselves through prayer (which certainly must have been a prayer method I’d never heard of) that I didn’t care how many were there. In fact, it just made sense to me that there would not be a lot of Christian Scientists because, having no understanding of it, I figured it must take a lot of courage to try. I guess I’ve always been a non-conformist and the idea really appealed to me that there must be something to this. And, yes, a lot of the people in attendance are older. And by the way they looked wonderful. So, I concluded, they obviously are doing something right. I became pretty obsessed with reading the literature and after a short time, some really wonderful things were happening to me, including healing of allergies and an ear infection, and Science & Health became less difficult to understand — bit by bit. The idea that individually we all have an inseparable one-to-one relationship with our Father/Mother God which gives us dominion I found absolutely irresistible. I kept asking, “Why don’t people want to know about this?” Or, I’d be convinced I should share what I was learning with everyone I knew and be met with no interest. I didn’t care how many others wanted to attend, or what they thought of me for doing so — and there was plenty of ridicule and incredulous response from my family and friends, including begging me to stop — I was just so grateful to have found CS and have continued to study and attend today. So much love to you and all the best on your spiritual journey!

    • mhn125 says:

      Mari, you are quite the testimony. This is a beautiful story about your search for answers and help. I’m so glad you found CS and that it gave you the answers for your life. Such important information to share. Thank you for taking the time to do so with the readers of this blog. You’re the best!

  14. Carol Nelden says:

    I have read your comments and all of the blog responses above and am so pleased to be a part of this. I am a 4th generation Christian Scientist. Attending a CS Sunday School was where I learned a love for God, having been taught His great love and tender care for me, even in sickness. What hasn’t been said above in these blogs is that students of Christian Science read/study daily the weekly Bible Lesson that is then read on Sunday as our sermon. Other churches have Pastors, Priests, Rabbis, etc. The Bible and our textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, together are our Pastor. The Bible is foremost, Science and Health provides a spiritual interpretation or insight into the meaning of the Bible. Combined as our Pastor, our Pastor is always with us, no appointment needed. When we attend a Sunday service, we come prepared in thought to join with the congregation to be inspired by the read Lesson, often getting some new idea from the Readers’ own study and oral reading perhaps not gleaned during the week. This can be very exciting and helpful when a person is faced with some challenge. We all work together, supporting each other without judgement. Are we required to confess to others what is bothering us? No, but knowing that we are loved and cherished by each other gives an atmosphere of support. There are Christian Science practitioners around the world who have made this their life’s work by being on call 24/7 for anyone who does wish to talk and find healing answers. Personally, my family members have found freedom from lukemia, drug and alchohol abuse, financial lack, job placement, discouragement, to mention a few. Yes, we have challenges like any other person, but find God sufficient as our Physican. Can we see medical physicians? We have no rules or regulations saying that we can’t. Spiritual growth is individual and we don’t pass judgement. Thank you for your eyeopener article.

    • mhn125 says:

      Carol,

      Thank you so much for your explanation. Now, I understand so much better what I experienced there. You put everything into the frame that it needed. I really appreciate you enlightening me in that regard. So very helpful.

  15. Carol says:

    Although discouraging to read your observations, they were all comments I’ve heard before from guests I’ve brought to the CS church on Sunday. Wednesday evening is different. We share testimonies, so it’s more interesting to newcomers. I’m a lifelong student of Christian Science, simply because it heals. It’s a discipline really, to sit that still, and listen so intently to the words being read. We listen as our way of praying for the world, realizing these truths are true and can help others through this affirmation. But, I do wish the service was meeting the needs of visitors, and we didn’t come across as being so odd and antiquated. The founder of the Church, Mary Baker Eddy, didn’t want to organize a church. She thought that her revelations on healing, as Jesus taught – would be accepted by main stream theology. When it was scoffed at, the church took form. And, a Manual that dictates how the services are to be conducted was written by Mrs. Eddy to protect the purity of the Truths presented in her teachings. So – we have a century old format, which is not keeping pace with today’s need for more exuberant entertainment. Personally, I find ways to share C.S. in creative ways. Like you, I love going to visit other churches to learn about other traditions, engage in conversation, and seek our commonalities. I really appreciate your honest and fair observations.

    • mhn125 says:

      Carol, thank you so much for your insight. With each response, I gain a little bit more inside knowledge into the why certain practices are used. Also interesting to find out more about Ms. Baker Eddy’s original intentions for the church. I’m really enjoying reading more from the Christian Science Journal. It is similar to my past experience with Church of Religious Science.

      I do want to get to a Wednesday night service soon. Wednesday’s are difficult for me to break away in the evening, but I’m certainly going to get there one day.

      Best,

      Marcia

      • Two weeks ago, I gave a talk to a group that studies Religious Science. We discussed prayer and treatment, learning that Ernest Holmes (founder of Religious Science) studied Christian Science. Unity is also an offshoot of Christian Science. It’s inspiring to see how many open to the idea of prayer as capable, reliable healing. Someday, we won’t need churches to sustain our faith. We’ll just all be of one Mind, working/playing together for the good of all. The bumper sticker will read ‘Life’s a church’. (-:

      • mhn125 says:

        Carol,

        Funny that you mentioned that. As I read another selection in the Christian Science Journal this morning, I was thinking how similar the teachings are to what I’ve previously read from Dr. Holmes. And I’d also recently learned that the Unity Church teachings developed from Christian Science, as I was with a person from the Unity church over the weekend. Yes, I do believe we are all the same, just in different places at the same time.

        Marcia

  16. Linda from NJ says:

    Bless you, Marcia!
    I just read your “profile” including your statement of your reason for visiting 50 different churches throughout 2014. You wrote, “I hope to gain a greater understanding of all paths to God,” and then you are taking the time to blog and share your open-minded findings. So, you followed that statement with, “I hope you will, too.” I join others in gratitude for your holy endeavor – for yourself and for others.
    I am also a Christian Scientist. I was raised, strayed in my 20s, and then returned, when an illness that medical treatment could not improve, reminded me of what I had left. I knew that nothing brought me the comfort and assurance that the understanding that Christian Science gave me. With the help of the book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, I saw the spiritual message found in the Bible, of the all-power (available to me!) of the good and loving God that Christ Jesus leaned upon, and the joy and harmony ever-present in a life at one with God and His goodness. I gained healing of those debilitating dizzy spells, as well as kidney stones, teeth infection, burns, bodily injuries, colds and flu, etc., and more healing and protection throughout the years my husband and I raised our two daughters. Whether the problem seems to be lack, relationships, employment, whatever – I am so grateful to find solutions when I turn in deep prayer to God, and then “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Prov 3:6)
    I really appreciate reading the impression the church service made on you – step by step. What a humorous (and sometimes horrifying) revelation for us! Other commenters have already well explained that since regular attendees have studied all that week, the Bible Lesson that’s read on Sunday, and worked to put it into practice, the Sunday service to us is an inspiring culmination and glorification. But, I plan to share your blog with our members, to see where we could find ways to stay with our required service order, but clarify and update in order to help the newcomer be clear and feel included. Our church family is the best, and being with them every Sunday and Wednesday are absolutely my favorite hours of the week. We surely want everyone to come join us, and feel comfortable.
    I am also our church’s Sunday School Superintendent, and some of our students (the brave ones!) recently responded to an invitation to meet with our community Methodist Youth Group. They had a great “stretching” experience, as some found their “voice,” asking and answering denominational questions and discussing together how they are leaning on God in their daily lives. It truly is so valuable to “understand the different ways people worship God, while simultaneously testing [our] comfort zones,” as you wrote in your profile. Who knows? If more strove to reach out and find our commonalities, and were willing to learn about others to build bridges instead of find fault, what peace and union could be achieved in our world? – letting God lead us all!
    Thank you, thank you!

    • mhn125 says:

      Linda,

      What a beautiful message you have shared! I told a good friend this morning that I’ve learned far more about the Christian Science church from the wonderful people who have shared personal stories and insights than I did in the service. I’d been warned in the beginning that I couldn’t “judge” a denominational service with just one hour’s visit. While I knew that going in, I didn’t expect these wonderful conversations that would lead to deep insight. I’m absolutely blown away by the thoughtful and insightful sharing that have come from all the practitioners who have reached out to me and the readers of SteepleStretch.

      Blessings,

      Marcia

  17. Hi Marcia,
    Thank you for writing the blog on your visit to a Christian Science church. You have a very impartial, unassuming, caring and humorous style that made me eager to read it all. I also skimmed most of the comments and your responses which are full of love and grace. How great that you are visiting 50 churches in a year!
    Guests and visitors that I have spoken with have expressed many of the same thoughts that you mentioned–though not all at once as you did! A small but warm, welcoming congregation; a stiff/outdated/foreign feeling of the actual service. These are comments I’ve often heard and feelings I’ve sometimes felt.
    Recently I’ve been to a lot of different Christian Science churches around this country and one in Canada. I’ve been to services where there were a lot of empty seats, to services where the seats are nearly full; from formal to very informal; from the use of traditional music to the use of contemporary music. To me, all of these services were inspiring because the readings were so inspiring.
    I enjoy that we don’t have a personal pastor but that we just listen straight from holy texts without someone’s interpretation. Another thing that I really appreciate about the Christian Science service is that it is rather simple. Its not filled with emotionalism and sensationalism. Its a nice oasis–a closet, if you will– in a fast paced world. It provides a quiet time to better pray, think about, and be healed by the passages that are read.
    However, I also think that a church with such radical, cutting edge teachings should have a contemporary feel to its services in order to connect with their community. Newcomers should feel as ‘at home’ as possible so that they can absorb the truths that are being read and spoken. I think that members in Christian Science churches throughout the country are starting to realize how their church appears to newcomers and many are taking steps to make the services more user-friendly. Your blog is a nice catalyst! Thanks.

    • mhn125 says:

      James,

      Thank you for your comments. It’s good to know that some of the CS churches are doing some more contemporary services. I can’t help but think that would appeal to more people. Though I can’t say I’m a fan of this band music that many churches are playing at the beginning of their services, I will say that services filled with only hymn music same antiquated. I guess it would be similar to only quoting from the KJV of the bible. All the ye’s and thou’s are a bit hard to process and understand the true meaning of what is intended. Just my opinion. I think the service did a great job of trying to help others understand what was going on in the service. But there will always be questions. Though I haven’t been to a Wednesday testimonial service, I think stressing that event for first time visitors would go a long way toward helping newcomers understand the emphasis placed on healing.

      You bring up some great points. Thank you for jumping on and sharing your thoughts.

      Blessings,

      Marcia

  18. Jane says:

    Thanks for sharing your opinion. Christian Science was there even before Jesus Christ come to the world. It’s the Christ spirit governing all, and the 24/7 pastor preach to us any moment through reading this impersonal poster. I am a Christan science Teacher, a practationer because l know the truth share to the world by Mary Baker Eddy is true, it s what Christ Jesus used in healing, when demonstrated with understanding, its Christ sprit that heals, for Paul said; the spirit that is in you quickens with the spirit of God. Being God’s image and likeness is to live a light in thought and deeds.
    If you love God, know God is Love and you reflect this love from divine power that is God.
    Please understand Christian science has been is and will ever be the still small voice voicing good in ones life.
    Where on earth will you get “Key” that can open up the Bible in understanding that heals as Jesus healed?

  19. PAUL FOTIE CS says:

    je suis de meme avis avec jane la science chretienne existe avanc la naissance de Jesus dans la mesure où le Chist à toujours éte là .

  20. Heather K. Libbe, CS says:

    In response to what you shared in your “My Preconceived Ideas of Christian Science,” I might suggest speaking to the student who split her chin to learn more about her experience at the doctors and why she chose not to use an anesthetic. It’s not uncommon for Christian Scientists not to experience pain in these types of situations as a result of their prayers and the Christian Science treatment they might request from a Christian Science practitioner. See Nate Talbot’s testimony of healing on Time4Thinkers.com after having a tree fall on him in Idaho: http://time4thinkers.com/putting-things-back-together/

    Also, as a note, neither The First Church of Christ, Scientists in Boston, MA nor its branch churches have any regulations in place in terms of banning members from taking medicine or pursuing medical treatment if that’s what they feel led to do. It is an individual choice and is completely between that person and God. And, in one of Mrs. Eddy’s other writings called “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany” we read, “A genuine Christian Scientist loves Protestant and Catholic, D.D. and M.D., — loves all who love God, good; and he loves his enemies.”

    While I can attest to the efficacy of Christian Science treatment and, in addition to healings of severe depression, homesickness, discordant relationships, financial challenges, dangerous situations and feelings of hatred, guilt, self-deprecation, judgement and shame, have experienced many physical healings such as colds, coughs, poison oak, stomach pains, rashes, chicken pox, knee injuries, cramps, soar throats, hearing problems, migraines, flu symptoms, painful sores, altitude sickness, shin splints, sprained ankles, exhaustion and food poisoning through prayer alone, I often like to remind people that both doctors and Christian Science practitioners are all in the same business — healing 🙂

    • mhn125 says:

      Heather, thank you for the clarification on the church’s opinions around medicine. That’s good inside information I did not have. I also loved the link you sent.

  21. rlplum7 says:

    Hi Marcia. Good to read your blog about the Christian Science church in Austin. I like visiting other churches as well. Graduating from a Christian Science College, one of the highlights for me was a comparative religion course. We visited many worship services in the St. Louis area from Mormon and Jewish to Unitarian and Pentacostal. There’s much good, steeplewise, to become aware of and familiar with.

    I too am a child of the early 60’s like you. My occupation has turned out to be, Christian Science nurse. Did you know that folks having spiritual treatment from a Christian Science practitioner relying totally on God for healing have access to practical, non-medical care from skilled Christian Science nurses? Our standard and authority comes from pg 49 in our Church Manual, written by Mrs. Eddy.

    We travel to homes or work in facilities generally, giving assistance with mobility, nourishment, cleanliness and other normal stituations like bandaging.
    We also do plenty of reading aloud from the Bible and the CS textbook, as well as hymn singing [or playing on a cd] with those facing a physical or mental challenge.
    Since we expect healing, it’s a joyful ministry! As Carol above said, “Life’s a church”.

    • mhn125 says:

      Thanks for clearing that up. It’s good to know that there is additional resources for people beyond practitioners in the church. Illness can be such a mental thing, beyond the physical.

  22. Anni Ulich says:

    Dear Marcia,
    and everybody who wrote. I too am a Christian Scientist. I decided to go to a Christian Science Sunday School when I was 12. The other church my friends went to, talked too much about a God that punishes and even about the devil. Well, as a small child I went on a refuge together with my mother and my brother and sister. It was the last days or weeks of the Second World War. Among other things we had to take the last rather small boat to escape the socalled enemies and so we “Sailed” out to the Baltique at a wind speed of abt. 10 or more. During this very dangerous trip (the two former refugee ships with 3000 and 4000 people had run on mines and drowned. Well I will never forget how my mother at one point stood outside on the deck and sang. I did not know that this was a Christian Science Hymn, but what she sang impressed me deeply: “… and over earth’s troubled angry sea I see Christ walk, and come to me and tenderly, divinely talk.” I looked out toward the stormy Baltique and back to my mother and was wondering where does mumy see the Christ? I think somehow the entire experience of the refuge which took months until we were reunited with my father and had found a home – it just has showed me and deeply impressed on me the fact that honest and sincere prayer shows me my oneness with my Father-Mother-God; always.
    Christian Science is very radical; it is absolute, sure. But then I have often told myself that studying Christian Science can be compared to general education: some people are satisfied if they know how to read and write and do simple caculations; others finish middle school; others go to college; and still a few others go to University and some even become doctors or professors. And I realize that the way “to the doctor” may be long and stony and connected with hard work. But at the same time it is filled with the light of study and knowledge, This es exactly how I feel about my study of Christian Science. Spirituality has a seeming adversary called materiality. This is what tries to keep people away from deeply understanding Christian Science, because this is pure divine Science.
    And what we feel in our churches and what we experience is this spirituality which at its best is illumined with divine Love. And this love must be so strong that it does not care if we are an audience of 10 or 50 or 500 but how one’s heart (not just the intellect) is touched and moved by this Love. Then, and only then we are able to share this gentleness and at the same time power of this divine Love with others.
    Marcia, thank you so much for starting this conversation across the continent and the ocean.
    Much love to everyone from Anni fom Berlin.

    • mhn125 says:

      And thank YOU, Anni, for your heart-felt response. I, too, have enjoyed the conversations from across the world about Christian Science beliefs and personal stories about how the faith is changing lives. Your comments were especially profound. Such interesting history you have shared.

  23. […] Churches have their hats, buckets and boots; evangelists have their deep white pails, but like the First Church of Christ, Scientist in San Antonio, Bobby’s church has an “offering pouch.” It has wooden handles with a […]

  24. Kathleen Smiley says:

    Dear Marcia,
    So enjoyed your blog and reading about your big adventure in attending so many different church services. Great idea! Just wanted to share that I came into Christian Science in 1991. I was a Registered Nurse at the time with 4 young children and a very miserable marriage. I was desperate to find some peace and love in my life as there was none in my marriage. I was given one of the CS magazines, The Sentinel, and as I read the first article I just began crying tears of joy for I had finally found what I had been searching for my entire life. I was filled up full with love and joy and hope. My family experienced many healings at that time as well, including conjunctivitis, hand slammed in a car door healed immediately, headaches, menstrual cramps to name a few. My marriage did not work out but my new understanding of my relationship with God carried all of us through those difficult times. I have since become a Christian Science Nurse (never renewing my RN licensure) and have never looked back. Thirty-six years of nursing and these past 14 as a Christian Science nurse have been the most fulfilling and joyful of my life! Thank you for this wonderful blog in which to share! KS

    • mhn125 says:

      What a beautiful life story, KS. Thank you for sharing it with the readers of this blog and for sharing your deeply personal experiences with healing and your marriage. I can feel the sheer joy of your life in your response.

  25. […] Church of Christ, Scientist — San Antonio (Christian Science) — This church service remains one of the least enjoyable for me, yet the […]

  26. tobypetzold@gmail.com says:

    Mrs. Eddy was mentally ill and an absolute hypocrite and intellectual property thief. But this was a charming post and I admire your ecumenism.

    • mhn125 says:

      Dear Toby,

      Thank you for your comments to the blog. I personally haven’t read any biographies on Mrs. Eddy. Do you have any source material that you’d like to reference and share with readers?

  27. Marian says:

    My favorite biography is one called, Christian Healer Amplified Edition, by Yvonne Cache von Fettweis & Robert Townsend Warneck. To me, this biography illuminates Mrs. Eddy’s clear understanding of the nature of divine Love and how turning to this power alone heals.

    Before I learned about Christian Science, I’d been reading some books on the NYT bestseller list which included a bit of spiritual healing and that intrigued me because at the tine, Hillary Clinton was working at revising the healthcare and I innocently thought spiritual healing is on the horizon and we’re going to discover we don’t need the healthcare! I was visiting with a neighbor about the books I was reading and she suggested I read a book called, A Century of Christian Science Healing and she gave me a copy. Then, for dipping deeper into CS (before reading Science & Health), I found two books especially helpful: Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age by Robert Peel and The New Birth of Christianity: Why Religion Persists in a Scientific Age, by Richard Nenneman. Peel also wrote a 3 volume biography of Mary Baker Eddy — a more scholarly examination of her life, which I loved reading. All of these are available in the Reading Room.

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