“The Bible and the Christian Science textbook are our only preachers. We shall now read the scriptural texts, and their correlative passages from our denominational textbook; these comprise our sermon.”
December 22, 2019 10 AM
The beautiful early 20th century church building is situated in a upscale neighborhood. It’s well-groomed appearance belied the paltry congregation inside and I wondered if there might have been an endowment for its upkeep. When I entered the doors, a woman greeted me with a “Christian Science Quarterly” booklet for October-December 2019. The order of service was printed inside the front cover.
The good news about this worship was that they had a single song leader with a strong voice who lead the congregational singing. She also sang a lovely solo during the service. That’s all I can compliment about the service.
Apparently, the Christian Science tradition relies wholly on the interpretation of scripture by its founder, Mary Baker Eddy. She started the denomination in 1879 with the Mother Church in Boston Massachusetts. All other Christian Science churches are branches of the Mother Church. She wrote the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and together with the King James version of the Bible, these two elements comprise their weekly sermons.
In the service, two readers take turns; one reads the scripture and one reads Mary Baker Eddy’s interpretation from the CS textbook. An explanatory note was also read before the sermon time. In part, it said: “The canonical writings, together with the word of our textbook, corroborating and explaining theBible texts in their spiritual import, and application to all ages, past, present, and future, constitute a sermon undivorced from truth, uncontaminated and unfettered by human hypotheses, and divinely authorized.”
That’s quite a lot to assume, for me anyway.
However, thumbing through The Christian Science Quarterly, which was located with the hymnals in the pew holders, I discovered that this denomination is spread across the globe with seemingly thousands of churches, reading rooms, nurses, practitioners, teachers and other facilities and organizations. At one time it was the fastest growing denomination in the United States. However, the church has lost membership in the last century and is now mainly known for its newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, which has won seven Pulitzer Prizes.
I imagine the emphasis on healing through prayer helped many people who could not find deliverance through traditional medicine or therapy. I can attest to the power of prayer in my own life and work, so I cannot fault them for emphasizing this aspect of faith.
As to the worship service, however, it was entirely uninspiring and even boring. Two people reading a series of passages is just plain dull. The whole service, with its reliance on a set pattern, without room for spontaneity, dialogue, creative interpretation, imaginative speculation and, I daresay, for the Holy Spirit to move, is a setting for failure. IMHO.
Perhaps the denomination has much to offer in terms of understanding the role of prayer in healing. Maybe Mary Baker Eddy uncovered deeper truths to the healing ministry which can be gleamed by studying the textbook. Yet, I still think they’ve made a critical mistake in making her work the sole preacher for their worship services. It devalues any new Word from God and it keeps the service in the dated language of the King James Bible and MBE’s 19th century lingo. It’s not surprising that this church had a smattering of attendees and that the larger church has declined considerably in recent years.
Also, with no greeting time and little interaction with anyone else, this church FAILED the WELCOME TEST.