STA Commentary From us and our Readers

April 21th, Carole Schierholz: (Her comments are just her take on things not her Society's)

How to start telling you about our Society?  Each one of us has arrived in this Society as the result of our own growing understanding of what Church is.  Church is to be lived daily and not just something limited to attending once or twice a week.  We started as a "group" who had an ever wider view of Church.  We did not "break" away from any certain Branch Church. 

Our bylaws for organization as a legal group in order to get a bank account established required about a page of things including a reason for existing.  We formed a vision statement that we still cherish.  To date we have about one and three fourth pages of bylaws which TMC accepted when we applied to become a Society.  Our application for membership requires that you love and study The Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writing.  We all know what this study has done for us and we trust it to be sufficient for other's guidance, growth and progress.  This application is one page.   We do have an unwritten Bylaw that we all live and blossom in.  It says, "If you criticize, you might be asked to leave the group."   Criticism is a product of personal sense and personal sense has no place in a healing structure.  We must meet this personal sense at home and not allow it to remain in thought.  As a result we have the most loving environment at Church.  Many tell of the healings that have occurred as they have learned to correct personal sense with true spiritual identity for everyone.    We give everyone space to grow and advance.  This progress is between God and themselves.  We feel the whole world could be a member of our Society.  The sincere study of The Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings will correct whatever needs correcting.

To start off we met in my home until we started thinking about becoming a Society and TMC let us know we could not have a practitioner's office in the Church.  So we started floating around from Library rooms, to others homes until we found a spot in The Girl Scout Regional office.  This traveling around is when we got the title of a church in a box.  We still unpack boxes, etc. and pack boxes after every meeting.    We each would see a need and step up to meet it and we continue to do so.

We sign up to read, so we have different readers for our services.  The Manual's requirement to read is that you be a member of TMC.  We have those who are not a member of our Society but a member of TMC that have read. 

We are a family, an informal gathering filled with LOVE.  We sit in a circle so we can see each other and embrace and cherish everyone.  We introduce our guest and visitors during the notices so everyone knows they are welcome and wanted in our gathering to learn more about God and our relationship to God.  Some of us even bring our dogs every now and then.  The children love the pets and it gives us an opportunity to interact with them and talk normally with them.  We are a family! And anyone is welcome in our family.  We started off having potluck lunches after Church and those were so wonderful to share ideas and have more love.  We will have some bring donuts, coffee cake, orange juice, etc for before or after church, however, The Girl Scout Center does not lend itself to a gathering after our services for right now. 

All of our services and some meetings are teleconferenced.  We love when someone on the telephone gives a testimony.  We have a web page www.ChristianScienceTampaBay.org which gives a lot of information about us.  We communicate by Email.  We have a yahoo group address for our members and another for those just interested in some of the things we are doing.  

There is so much more I could tell you, however….  If you have questions, please ask.  I am sure if you ask any member, they could tell you how they found their own way to our Society.  It has been so wonderful to watch God work and gather us together.   I am not the only practitioner in our Society.  There are others.

April 14th, Bob Gregson commentary

Dear Friends,

I don't have a report this week since I did not serve at the Bus Plaza, but do have something to offer that several of us have been talking about a lot lately: the book, "Consciousness Beyond Life: the Science of the Near Death Experience", by Pim van Lommel, MD. This book, representing over three decades of research by an eminent Dutch cardiologist, is perhaps the best outside affirmation of Mrs. Eddy's understanding of death and the oneness of Mind that most of us have ever seen. The book is a scientific endeavor based on medically-verified case studies whereas other books on the subject typically have been anecdotal. And the conclusions are remarkable, coming from a long-time medical doctor: death isn't what it appears to be and not to be feared; life is not in the body; we are all one in consciousness; time, space and matter are all subjective; unconditional love is the most prominent feature "on the other side"; cultural and religious differences on this plane have no bearing on our next experience; and so on. Much of the book is about convincing other MD's of the physiological correctness of his conclusions and is of no interest to students of metaphysics, but the first 100 or so pages, plus the chapters on how quantum physics relates to all of this are very readable and valuable. Quite fascinating to realize that Mrs. Eddy figured this all out 140 years ago! This is an important book for students of Christian Science to read, giving us another tool with which to talk to others about metaphysics, life and death.

Jan 5th, Two Year Assessment Report

Dear Friends,

This week marks the end of two full years of our weekly outreach at the Bus Plaza...which we'll continue, by the way. It's been a delightful, productive and growing time for each of us. Thank you for your supporting emails and prayerful assistance! In gratitude we offer this in-depth report and hope it stimulates thought and action throughout our movement.

A person who very much supports the Spokane outreach recently asked, "How many of those six or seven thousand people you've shared Christian Science with at the Bus Plaza over the past two years now attend one of our CS churches?" Fair question. The immediate answer, incredibly, is that there have been visitations but we are not aware of anyone who regularly attends services at the several area churches as a result of talking with us or getting a copy of Science and Health from this outreach. more...

Reader Responses:

I was interested to read this. I've been thinking about church for a long time. When I first came into Christian Science, I attended The Mother Church as a local member for quite some years. Then I moved to New York and became a member of three different churches in Manhattan, but wasn't happy in any of them. Eventually I stopped going to church altogether until I moved down here (to Rio de Janeiro), where I attended First Church for awhile, but then gradually stopped.

I vacillated for a long time about whether going to church was important or not, and I had a lot of guilt feelings about not going. I would meet new Christian Scientists and they would always ask, "What branch church do you belong to?" But something in me just didn't want to go that route.

To me the issue and the question is "What is church?" MBE defined it for us, right?

"Church. 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."

She doesn't say one word in that definition about church services or orders of service or rituals of any sort. According to her definition, what you folks are doing in Spokane is church-- one of the infinite number of possibilities of how church can be expressed.

Of course what we think of as church buildings and services aren't excluded either, but I don't think they're the only way we can practice and experience church. I've often heard it said that the only way we can share Christian Science is through church, and that church is essential to our spiritual growth. I would agree with that, but I wouldn't limit the definition of church to a building and a group of people holding church services.

Are there non-church goers who are practicing and sharing CS? You bet there are. One of the finest metaphysicians I know does not attend church services and says she never will. But she runs a CS group on the internet where she shares her excellent writings and thoughts on the subject, and she is constantly healing, demonstrating and helping people. I have another friend here in Rio who is not a church member, but who has given many, many copies of Science and Health away to people who were genuinely interested and most of who are still studying, although I don't think any of them go to church. So how is CS shared? Essentially one-on-one, and you don't necessarily need a church service to do that.

Facebook is a great place to practice church. People post blogs, info about lectures, notices about the Daily Lift, items about Science and Health, and share their metaphysical thoughts and ideas. The Committee on Publication for Brazil has been posting a lot about Science and Health lately, and I've been sharing his posts for the last couple of weeks. So far a number of people have shown interest and two are planning on buying the book (in Portuguese).

With the way the world is changing today, especially in terms of information and communication, I don't see our future just in trying to fill up churches with people, even though there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm coming from Boston about that particular approach, with the "Church Alive" campaign, etc. I'm not against these efforts, but I think the definition of church needs to expand to catch Mrs. Eddy's full meaning.

So I don't think that the decline in the number of churches is a bad thing. Churches will probably be around for a long time, and more power to them. I'm sure they'll improve, and they'll continue to meet a need for people who like that particular concept of church and feel comfortable with it.

But for those of us who march to a different drummer (and I think there are a lot of us) it would behoove us to see how we're already practicing church and open our thought to ways we can broaden that and explore new ideas.

That being said, there are always going to be people dropping out of CS (not just out of church) because it's just too hard for them. These are the ones who think the purpose of CS is to improve our human lives rather than radical salvation. That's OK, we can let them be. God is still guiding them.

Keep up the good work! I love reading your messages and looking at the photos.

Hugs from Rio, Amy

My name is Sally Allan. I am a Christian Scientist and I live in Sointula, British Columbia. I am a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Victoria. I have just finished reading the letter you wrote to "Friends".

First, I want to thank you for a very well thought out letter. You have hit the nail on the head in so many areas. I am not able to attend church on a weekly basis. A couple of years ago I was asked to be on a committee at church that I could participate by speaker phone. I did and one thing led to another and now both church services can be heard by speaker phone and people from BC and other areas are able to listen to the services. That is what I do on Sunday and Wednesday. I don't have a church building; I just hear the services. I firmly believe that as a Movement, we need to come away from the traditional church building.

My two grown children were born in the 70s, both graduated from the Upper School at Principia but neither attend church. My daughter has left Christian Science altogether; she isn't interested in being so "different" from everyone else. I understand what she means. It is a tough path to follow. My son is a Member of the Mother Church, but is not able to attend church due to study and work commitments and he is pursuing his own spiritual path. I will ask if they are interested in talking to you about their take on this.

I was born a few years after the Second World War. My mother was a Christian Scientist, class taught by Peter Biggins in Seattle. Her father and mother were both very dedicated CS s but the rest of the children were not. They came into CS when my grandad was down and out. my grandmother did practice work but did not advertise in the journal. my mother pushed cs down our throats. my older sister tries at cs but she has bi polar disorder, so that is another story. so i am the only one attending church when I can and I get the periodicals. My thought is that we have to take CS to those interested. The current generation will not go to church on Sunday unless there is something very interesting and they want it; so we need to move away from the present church building structure and find a different media. Getting together at summits, big meetings to hear people speak is all very well; but does it continue after they go home. It is like having a big party where all your friends are talking it up and having a great time, but then going back to reality. We need to focus on what the current generation is focusing on and it can't cost too much either. Definitely, we need to bring a younger generation into our church in whatever form that takes. They need to be able to bring their infants and small children and they need experienced care givers to mind those children while the parent(s) are able to listen and ask questions. There is a lot of media attention on how high profile illnesses can be treated. There is a lot of fear out there which is constantly and daily being fed.

I think you people are doing and have done a wonderful job of getting S&H out there; and from what you have written, people don't necessarily link reading S&H with going to a church service. Lots of those have very busy lives; they have jobs to go to, children to take to various activities and so on. Until they actually have a crisis, they don't give it much further thought. We are living in a world of change and transition. But we need to keep up with that change and transition and CS can do that if we take it out of the church and into different and unique spaces.

Here are some of my responses to the STA Outreach observations/questions about the Christian Science movement. I am really encouraged that these questions are being raised, as I think there has been a lot of inertia in the movement.

Consider that the Board of Directors, until recently, were/are older Americans (over 60) - many who have grown up in Christian Science. The main change this year is that a non-American woman over 60 is Chairman of the Board. The need for "young, new, different" voices is evident. The voices of all the Christian Scientists, I think, should be represented - maybe by continents. Maybe even a category for us - those on the fringe - would be useful. Deciding on whether the "fringes" get a vote is another topic.

Another note concerning "fringes" that pertains to us is the idea that non-members can't participate in certain activities. (What would Jesus say?) In the Quaker church, they just include us, assume we are members in almost every way. They send us their program from Sundays, invite us to their business meetings, etc. There is a feeling of inclusion and joy when they see us, even though we have told them we are not attending that church regularly any more, except to visit.

Now, what we have seen in our travels since we came to Christian Science is very demoralizing for the most part - huge gorgeous structures with very few people. It varies from sad to pathetic - when one thinks that at some time in history those pews were filled. I was even told that the original 2nd church in Spokane, which could compete with any present mega church today, was so filled that people had to come early to get a seat. I was also told that in the rather empty church we attended in Janesville, WI which was fully paid for in 1911, that they had to put extra chairs out in the foyer for the overflow for lectures. Even my former church in Libertyville, IL is half-empty and composed of mainly old people as of Sept. 2009, when in the 1950's it was full as was the Sunday School.

Here is a question that may be important? Would a new person in Christian Science feel better about the church if it meets in a small place, a house, a strip mall that has only a few, if any, empty chairs, or a big, huge structure with only a few people? I would think the former would be more appealing; it doesn't emphasize the bygone days when the churches were filled.

What I don't understand is why Christian Science didn't make many adjustments along the way. What happened to all those people who left? The trends are obvious. Don't wait until the church closes, as it has done in a number of places (e.g. the Beloit church closed and now they go to the Janesville WI church - so now they have about 12 people).

The question about the children growing up in Christian Science and leaving the church is really important - do they really leave, maybe physically, but still retain the ideas and maybe come back later, like me? Or continue to participate from home by reading the periodicals, listening to the radio, and/or going to Skype on the internet? Or, just leave and/or join another church?

There are only a few children in the 1st church, and the 2nd church in Spokane, and none in the Coeur d'Alene church the time we attended last August. No teenagers, 20 somethings, 30 somethings or 40 somethings. They are a crucial missing element to the 2011 churches and, I believe to the Christian Science movement.

For a start, I think that we should begin here at home in Spokane; there are a number of church members who have children who grew up in Christian Science. How about a brief questionnaire for each church member to give to their children? Now that there are few children in the church - and even those leave. This situation bodes poorly for the future of the movement. So, I think their answers should be given high consideration.

My take on the Sunday Service is that it has been stuck in the 50's - that is, in all places except San Juan Capistrano.

It is so comfortable there - they play cd's, have a guitar player, food after the service, trips for teenagers to work in other countries, and more. The church is held in a strip mall, and the kids' rooms are colorful and modern. Their readers sit down on chairs at the same level of the congregants, and are changed every 3 months. There was even a dog at one of the services. Children read the "Scientific Statement of Being". and the correlative passage.

There is a great effort to outreach to the Spanish-speaking people - print the Lord‘s prayer in Spanish on the inside of the hymnal. I talked with some people there, and they moved to the CA area especially to be able to attend the church. The service is lively and full of people of all ages. How relaxing and refreshing, yet exciting and energizing!! (We were told about this church before it got into the headlines by a member from the Willows.)

Do they follow the manual? Yes, I believe. The manual gives a lot of wiggle room and I am sure Mary Baker Eddy intended that to be so. She would probably be aghast at how the church has calcified. I don't know how much the manual can be changed, but I don't think it should prevent modernization.

We have gone to the mega church (Life Center) over on Government Way. In one of their services - and I think they have 2, there were about 2 thousand people. There are lots of young people, and little kids (around 800). Cool music, informal pastor (wears jeans and hiking shoes) coffee available to bring to your chairs, etc.

If I came into the 50's-style Christian science church newly, things would seem so weird to me. The readers hiding in their rooms, and coming out of the doors at the same time, the soprano soloist that you can't see, the silence whereby you are reluctant to swallow or you would draw attention, no program to hand out to read.

We are giving honor to Mary Baker Eddy by reading every time "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy". Yet, we are told that there is no desire for "personality" in Christian Science. Maybe it is in the Church Manual, but it sure seems unnecessary that when you see everyone at church has been coming for 3 years or more and those 12 words are always announced. Hasn't the time for thinkers come?

When one mentions the empty seats to people in the 50- style churches, which have few people, they respond in this way:

1. "It's okay to have 12 people - after all Jesus started with 12."

2. "The music is just fine with me, why change it?"

3. "The Church Manual would not allow these changes."

4. "The other churches are only for entertainment."

I realize that the old guard may not like changes and may leave the church so that is a dilemma. Do we leave the old guard to run everything the way it has always been and they feel comfortable, and then see what happens when they are no longer around or do we start making changes, maybe with or without their approval, now? (By the way, some of the old guard aren't that old, either)

By the way, the new hymnal supplement has "same old hymns" except one from South Africa that they tout as being an example of how much the supplement has improved. What about Mindy Jostyn's songs - just one? How about a "Negro spiritual"? How about some more African songs, Mexican songs, as these groups are growing segments of the movement.

It seems like when there is a wonderful, outstanding Christian Scientist who would "talk" to people outside of our movement and is absolutely inspiring, she/he is shut down and shunned, e.g. Myrtle Smith. I bet she is responsible for a lot of people, especially in CA, taking an interest in Christian Science. We should find those voices and encourage them - without envy or jealousy.

Maybe we should brainstorm. Just this morning, Jeremy and I thought of some things to do - hold a testimony meeting downtown in that room where we had lunch off the STA - invite those people that keep coming back to talk to the STA group. Have a church service in the 1st Church's Reading Room. As ideas come forth, they will stimulate others - some may be useless, but spark off something that may be useful.

As I see it, either the church has to modernize or a parallel church develop. We see it started in San Juan Capistrano. I see no other way for the viability of Christian Science. As was pointed out in the letter, minor changes are not going to do it.

Sometimes, I feel so sorry that Christian Science is not known by everyone as our society is so hurting. In testimony meetings, people say over and over, they are grateful for Christian Science. Me too. Let's get the word out. The STA is a great start and I admire all who are involved - so dedicated to doing this outreach every week.

These are honest and frank observations that I have thought about considerably, with an honest love for Christian Science and should not be interpreted as complaints but rather a springboard for improvement and action. Count this letter as an encouragement and hopefully constructive.

You may remember that I visited you all, and spent most of a shift with you at the bus station, last June; then Robert and I went to the Wednesday evening service.

I haven't been to church since.

And that tells me that, at least in the mind of this particular seeker of Truth, you folks at STA are succeeding where the Church, as an institution, is not.

And my lack of enthusiasm about the Church stems from these basic practices that are built into the very structure of the church, as created by Mrs. Eddy. If this sounds heretical, so be it.

First, the English language keeps changing. I am an editor, and I have watched this happen in my lifetime. Our practice of having readers of archaic language is causing the Church to fail to communicate with anyone who hasn't spent decades studying, and talking about, both S&H and the King James Bible.

Second, the segregation of youngsters during the Sunday service has always seemed strange and disappointing to me. In my local CS churches, I seldom see anyone under 20, or even anyone who is young enough to have offspring under 20. The congregation looks like a bunch of old folks, all cramming for final exams! The students, who have been speaking two languages all their lives, are probably breathing a sigh of relief once they get out of Sunday School and can now concentrate on talking and thinking in modern English. When the language of religion is not the language of everyday intercourse, the tendency is not to think about religion during most of our daily activities.

Third, the physical layout of the Wednesday services has always seemed spooky: you sit in the pews, facing forward, listening to a disembodied voice (usually over a loud speaker) giving very personal testimonies. In these (unfortunately) tiny groups, why not have the folks sit in a circle, facing each other?

I recently discovered a Meetup group called Law of Attraction. I was immediately struck by the fact that I could find nothing in their tenets (except for the words used) that was materially different from Christian Science. Yet the atmosphere of the weekly meetings is entirely different: we meet in someone's home, we eat a meal, and then we actually talk to each other about spirituality, about ourselves, and about each other. We have actually helped each other to learn more about God and man, and I have seen lives improved thereby. In my mind, this is the future of religion, and I wish the Church would embrace it.

What you folks are doing at the Bus Plaza is miraculous. Keep it up!

I totally agree with your reasoning and questions. Thank you for putting them out to the Field. The 21st century church needs us to see the Church Manual as a foundation, not as a ceiling. We need to build a new church on the foundation of the Church Manual. And it does need to include much more love, compassion, humanity, flexibility, openness, innovation. All based on the timeless truths of Christian Science.

Your emails are a breath of fresh air in my inbox every week. I trust you will keep up the good work with joy. My prayers are certainly with you.

I thank you for this thorough and thought provoking report. One of my favorite Bible verses is the last in John. It says that if all that Jesus did was written down, the world could not hold the books. I find comfort in considering that all our good work goes way beyond anything we can humanly measure. Every good thought and deed helps to leaven allof human consciousness and only good comes from good. Perhaps a little more patience is needed to see more of the good that will continue to unfold as a result of your loving efforts. Trust your work, even if youthink its not visibly fully appreciated in all the forms that you would have liked. I often find comfort in these words found in Science andHealth, in speaking of Christ Jesus:

SH 54:5

"The world acknowledged not his righteousness, seeing it not; but earth received the harmony his glorified example introduced."

No loving effort is ever in vain.

I hug you all with my heart

Embrace the best;erase the rest

Thank you for this thoughtful, well-articulated report on the work you have been doing at The God Table these last two years. And particularly for the courageous and clear-eyed deep probe into why the 4k+ eager recipients of Science and Health continue "un-churched." Every church is indeed and inevitably having its unique and needed healing – including the "star" churches and societies. Truth is urging us all to finally and absolutely embrace its "resisted claims." (cf SH 223:25) There is a tangible and evident "over-turning" afoot! Stale, unproductive, restrictive church cultures are being uprooted, freshened and replaced by Spirit's vibrant, clarifying outpourings. Individuals are taking inclusive action and churches and societies are being poised and readied to bless their communities and the world. Just as the gates of hell shall not prevail against Truth's activity, neither will stubborn resistance prevail. Mind's plan for Its Comforter to succeed in healing the sins of the world and blessing Love's kids – ALL Love's kids – is as unstoppable as the sunrise. Thanks again for all you're doing.

I have been a student of Christian Science now for the past 15 years and feel most of the time like I'm just barely scratching the surface of the truth of it all but I've seen how intensely practical it is in meeting the challenges of everyday life--especially in my relationships with others. I'm not "preachy" or even close to it but I find extending silent prayers of blessing to all and working with the consciousness that God is the only power at work really brings changes in the situation at hand. I had a small part in encouraging the outreach at STA and am thankful for every loving contact made.

I feel that the problem of declining participation in the organized Christian Science churches needs to be seriously thought about and made a matter of prayer. I don't think jazzed up music and more entertainment such as many popular churches are now doing to fill up their pews is the answer. But on the other hand is the vibrating, pulsating Presence of the Christ currently in our services as was once the case? If not, why not? I'm willing to be a part of seeking answers to these perplexing questions. Unless we seriously address a challenge with spiritual means we'll spin our wheels and go nowhere. In Divine Mind there is a solution for every challenge both individually and collectively. Let's work together to find answers in God's way, not some shallow forms of human planning and scheming.

Tom Durst, Spokane, WA (509) 487-1991

tomdurst1@msn.com