Removing a ‘traffic light’

There’s a story about a town that was so small it only had one traffic light in the entire town. In fact, after some time the people of the town realized they really didn’t have a need for even that single stoplight, so they decided to have it removed. But in the first weeks following its removal, the town experienced its first traffic problems because half of the drivers, out of sheer habit, were still coming to a stop where the traffic light had been, even though it was no longer there.

We recently experienced something similar with respect to a small change in the printing of the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lessons. For decades upon decades there had been a small notice that served as a kind of traffic signal to help transition between the Responsive Reading and the Lesson-Sermon. It simply read, “The following citations comprise our sermon.”

As a practical matter in Christian Science church services, it is helpful to have the First Reader, who is charged with conducting “the principal part of the Sunday services” (Mary Baker Eddy, Church Manual, p. 31), include some such statement, indicating when the Lesson-Sermon is beginning. But as we looked into it, we found no evidence that Mary Baker Eddy wrote this particular sentence or wanted this precise wording preserved. However, because the Church Manual does specify that Readers “shall read all notices and remarks that may be printed in the Christian Science Quarterly” (p. 32), the only way to give Readers the freedom either to continue using this familiar sentence or offer an alternative statement that feels more natural to their own unique church setting, was simply to remove it.

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One boy’s food fed thousands
March 17, 2014

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