Many who sincerely love Christian Science think from time to time of joining a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, but that is as far as they go. They only think about it. They may think that at some future date they will be more worthy of such membership and that then their knowledge of Science will have so increased that they will be better members. Or they may think that they are not strong enough to uphold the standard of Christian Science.
Some people do have valid reasons for delaying for a time their membership in The Mother Church or in a branch church. For example, one may have a seemingly tenacious habit, such as smoking or drinking, which needs to be eliminated from his experience. Such obstacles can be surmounted as one trusts God as All-in-all and realizes the powerlessness of the mesmeric error that would attempt to keep an earnest seeker of Truth from taking a progressive step in his demonstration of true being. The honest desire for purity and progress, together with a greater love for Christian Science, will do much to win an earnest student's release from the belief that any unwholesome habit is satisfying or in any way desirable.
Mrs. Eddy provides for all earnest students of Christian Science the privilege and blessing of membership in The Mother Church, the Church she established through her sincere prayers and earnest endeavors. But she also provides for branch churches to be established. One's support of these branches offers a more direct and personal participation in church activity.
A dual unfoldment of the idea of Church came to Mrs. Eddy's inspired and receptive thought. In the Glossary of Science and Health she defines "Church" as follows:
"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."Science and Health, p. 583;
In essence the beautiful second paragraph describes the church Christ Jesus desired his followers to establish. "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give," Matt. 10:8; was one of Christ Jesus' direct commands. May we not correlate it with the above definition? Those to whom the Master gave these directions were not perfect in every human way, but they were sincere followers of Christ, willing to leave all to obey Jesus' commands to the best of their understanding.
Earlier, Jesus had said, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." 9:37, 38; These words indicate the necessity of being active followers of Jesus' teachings. Membership in a branch church helps us to obey his commands.
The student of Christian Science should ponder these words of Mrs. Eddy: "Sacrifice self to bless one another, even as God has blessed you. Forget self in laboring for mankind; then will you woo the weary wanderer to your door, win the pilgrim and stranger to your church, and find access to the heart of humanity."Miscellaneous Writings, p. 155. It should be the goal of each seeker of Truth to worship God by putting aside all thoughts of self. The establishment of true selflessness may not be possible all at once or all the time, but thought can be attuned to this goal; and, in a measure, we may consistently begin to put self aside. This is an exalting and purifying activity.
Having before us the above directives, we might examine some of the arguments which keep an individual from taking the progressive step of branch church membership. The belief that one must be perfect in every way before he joins either The Mother Church or a branch church is a subtle error which would delay one's progress. Christian Science teaches that man reflects the perfect Father and in reality is always at the standpoint of perfection.
However, to mortal sense it would seem that some human individuals have come much nearer to the goal of perfection than have others. To expect the same degree of progress for all church members would be unreasonable, for we are all at different stages in our demonstration of perfect being. Christian Scientists do not expect all church members to have reached perfection in all their human activities or modes of thinking; it is enough for all to have common goals and draw together to express in some degree the spiritual idea of Church in all its infinite meanings.
Some students who defer membership in a branch church may need a greater awakening to the need of purifying their motives for studying and demonstrating Christian Science. They must learn the importance of glorifying God in all that they do.
Sincere students of Christian Science daily study the Bible together with Science and Health. In addition they regularly utilize the inspiration to be gained from Mrs. Eddy's other writings as well as from the authorized Christian Science literature. If dedicated and earnest, they are daily adding to their store of spiritual knowledge and thus are progressing. Even advanced students of Christian Science are humbly searching for new unfoldment in this unlimited Science. This fact shows why it is a mistake to suppose that one must study Science extensively and become advanced in its application before becoming a church member.
The standards of Christian Science are demonstrable by all. No impossible rules or goals are set forth in a church whose divine reason for being is to bless all mankind. Science defines God as Spirit, Soul, Mind, Love, Principle, Life, Truth. These terms encompass the entire scope of true being. In identifying ourselves with each of these synonyms by reflecting them, we gain true strength of purpose; and in this gaining of purpose we find healing and spiritual advancement taking place. No obstacle can appear in one's experience that cannot be removed by the enlarged concept and deeper understanding of God as revealed through these synonyms.
A branch church affords opportunity for all sincere students to grow spiritually. We achieve new growth when we take the progressive step of branch church membership, and the branch church, the community, The Mother Church, and, in fact, the universe are blessed. Because God is infinite, so is His expression, Church. As we utilize the opportunity of branch church membership to seek and follow the guidance of Jesus and of Mrs. Eddy, laboring to heal, to love, to forget self in serving God and our fellowmen, we demonstrate perfection in an ever-increasing degree and receive infinite blessings.