We all need Church
Church enables us to pray collectively and effectively for ourselves and one another.
Looking to be a better healer? Then you’ll want to keep an eye out for articles like this one, appearing periodically in the Sentinel, The Christian Science Journal, and The Herald of Christian Science. Their aim: to correct some of the misconceptions about Christian Science that would keep us from having the results we so desire.
“Why would anyone need church?” someone might ask. I feel I am a living example of an answer to that question.
When I was about eight years old, at the end of a Sunday School class in the church my family attended, the teachers asked the students to pray silently. I closed my eyes to pray and felt an indescribable sense of love and peace, and unity with God. From that time on, I somehow knew I could feel that unspeakable calmness and certainty whenever a group of people wholeheartedly prayed to God. Collective silent prayer can be that powerful!
My mother passed on when I was ten, and when I was twelve, I started attending Sunday School in a Church of Christ, Scientist. Today I often say that I was raised by Christian Science. And, in fact, throughout my teenage years dealing with loss, sickness in the family, and my own depression, the Christian Science Sunday School was my safe haven.
A group praying with the same spiritual goals of progress and peace impacts not only its individual members but also its community and the world.
I remember a specific experience while I was attending college in Vienna, Austria. After several mental and emotional crises during the first weeks living by myself, I thought I was becoming mentally ill. I felt disoriented, as if I had no control over my desperation.
But I kept going to Sunday School, even though I wasn’t understanding much of the class discussion, which was in German. In a spirit of compassion and collaboration, a church member suggested that a member who had recently relocated from Panama become my Sunday School teacher. Being from Brazil, I didn’t speak Spanish either, but I found it easier to understand than German. Those classes sparked my love for and interest in the Bible. I felt so supported by what I was learning and so loved and appreciated by how I was treated in Sunday School that I was able to continue my college studies despite the challenges.
Participating in Sunday School, visiting the Christian Science Reading Room, and attending church services gave a solid structure to my life. I learned about my true identity as God’s beloved child. My understanding of God and of myself shaped my thinking so that I knew how to be true to others and myself and naturally expressed honesty, discipline, and confidence.
Because of those blessings, I know that church is not just for me. Church enables us to pray collectively and effectively for ourselves and one another. Through prayer, we can expect healing, transformation, and reformation. Such a group praying with the same spiritual goals of progress and peace impacts not only its individual members but also its community and the world.
Christ Jesus said to his disciple Peter when Peter acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, or Christ, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus wasn’t referring to church as an edifice but as his followers—all who had the common goal of sharing the good news, the healing Word of God that blesses the world. Jesus was able to inspire and empower his followers. Their spiritual work changed people’s lives and perceptions. That group of followers was his church, or society. This concept has helped me understand better this explanation by Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “. . . Jesus purposed founding his society, not on the personal Peter as a mortal, but on the God-power which lay behind Peter’s confession of the true Messiah” (p. 138).
Church is a fulfillment of Jesus’ words and Eddy’s understanding of these words. It’s a foundation that enables us to help and support each other and pray for the world with like-minded friends, our church family.
It can be tempting to think that our branch churches lack people and resources and that things used to be better. Certainly, every era brings its own challenges. I like to consider the fact that Jesus essentially started with a congregation of 12 and that Eddy founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, with “a little band of earnest seekers after Truth” (Mary Baker Eddy, Manual of The Mother Church, p. 17).
Supporting and participating in church isn’t a burden but a joy.
The transformative and revolutionary goals of Jesus’ mission required a lot from him and his followers and from Eddy and the early Christian Scientists, and they require a lot from us today. But the question that remains is how we can work toward and expect growth individually and as a faith community.
One way is to understand that spiritual growth is the basis for church progress. In Science and Health we read: “Question.—How can I progress most rapidly in the understanding of Christian Science? Answer.—Study thoroughly the letter and imbibe the spirit” (p. 495). And this is a step toward progress in our churches as well. As Christian Scientists “study thoroughly the letter and imbibe the spirit,” we can work together more effectively and harmoniously to heal and bless our communities. After all, Church is designed to elevate the human race (see Science and Health, p. 583).
When church members work together, praying for and appreciating each other and each church activity, we are letting the Christ-spirit rather than individual members lovingly lead the way. Then we are naturally able to know how to respond to the spiritual and practical needs of the congregation, the community, and the world. And from this activity we can expect healing. Those church members who knew I was struggling as a young person in the Sunday School in Vienna lovingly responded to my needs and helped my love for God and church grow.
Supporting and participating in church isn’t a burden but a joy. It’s an opportunity to transform lives for the better and to offer a safe haven, a place where anyone can experience unconditional love, humility, honesty, and healing. And we can bring these qualities of Church to our broader community by welcoming all, so that they experience the healing love of God with others.
Every time I participate in church and support its activities, I feel that I’m living and expressing the pure love that Christian Science teaches and imparting the good news of Christ’s power to heal sickness and sin. Imagine how powerful this can be if every member or visitor attending church feels that way. That is the Church we all need!