Questions worth heeding

BY SUSAN MOLLER Greenfield, New Hampshire, US

"The test of all prayer," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, "lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer?" (Science and Health, p. 9 ).

While I had passed over these momentous questions before, that day several years ago, they suddenly loomed large. The test of all prayer, I thought? Those questions gave me a new way to look at the effectiveness of prayer. I began to apply this test to my own prayers regarding health, work, home, and social contacts. Often, after praying about a situation, I would just stop and ask myself: Do I love my neighbor better now? Have I pursued old selfishness in any way? Am I living consistently with my prayer?

I had been praying, "Father, help me learn how to improve my prayers so my answers to these questions are acceptable." Then I moved to a new town and joined a local Church of Christ, Scientist. Right away I knew that joining this congregation was another answer from God.

I approached the opportunities my new membership gave me—to serve on committees, teach Sunday School, participate in church-sponsored activities, work in the local Christian Science Reading Room, take part in services—as my opportunity to learn more about prayer. Through all these activities, I consciously prayed to love my neighbor better, to give up selfishness, to live consistently with my prayers.

Wonderful things began to happen, and continue to happen, resulting from this approach to church membership. I now understand more fully the nature of spiritual healing for myself, for supply, friendships, and for employment. I find it natural to see church activities, my fellow members, and others in the light of a new unselfish love.

When I joined that church, there wasn't a Christian Science practitioner in the local area. So I began to make myself available to help members of the church through prayer. Doing so has broadened my healing practice to include others in our community, as well as individuals in other states. And today I am advertising in The Christian Science Journal as a full-time healer.

Those are just some of the much-cherished results of my heeding two momentous questions!

Church—teaching me to love


Church to me is not a material structure but a spiritual idea— permanent, perfect, and eternal. Learning about Church in Christian Science, as "the structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle" (Science and Health, p. 583 ), has taught me to love more.

Whatever else I may be doing, being an active participant and worker in my branch Church of Christ, Scientist, here in India, has helped me achieve that goal of learning to love more and be a better healer.

For example, several years ago I felt hassled at my office. But when I attended our midweek testimony meetings, going straight from work to church, I would be comforted and would leave the service feeling peaceful. Also, I prayed to love more and to understand these statements from Science and Health: "Principle is absolute. It admits of no error, but rests upon understanding" (p. 283 ). As I thought about this, a situation at church that was troubling to me improved considerably.

As well, I've realized more and more that we can take Church—that structure of Truth and Love—wherever we go. And as a result, I've come to expect to encounter opportunities to pray and heal.

In 1999, I was appointed the executive president for the completion of a large industrial complex. Finding there was a lot of infighting due to ego clashes, I took this as an opportunity to pray with Mary Baker Eddy's description of God as the only "I, or Ego" from Science and Health (see p. 588 ). Also, I could see that divine Principle, Mind—in other words, God—governed every detail and every individual. I'm convinced that when we give God the glory, good solutions come to light. As I prayed, the infighting reduced. Harmony was restored, and our work was successfully completed, ahead of schedule.

For several years, I have organized Bible classes in Hindi for local workers, at my home. I share spiritual truths that I've learned in Christian Science. Healing ideas have resulted, relating to work, finances, and relationships. This has helped me express love, and attendees have told of being healed as a result of what they're learning.

As I continue to understand Church better, my view of healing continues to expand, and shows me how to utilize spiritual healing everywhere.

Finding personal best in spiritual workouts

BY KENDRA NORDIN Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, US

Because I like to compete in triathlons and road races during the summer months, I spend a lot of my free time swimming, biking, or running with various groups of people. For singles especially, athletics provide both a structure for breaking limitations and the warmth of community. Structure supports discipline, and discipline brings progress—and I find it easier to do this in the company of friends.

In a similar way, my local Christian Science church supports my spiritual progress by representing "the structure of Truth and Love," which is part of how Church is defined in Science and Health (p. 583 ). Worshiping with others who are focused on bringing comfort to humanity forces my own prayers outward, beyond my own needs.

There is something remarkable to me about gathering twice a week in church with a group of people who love the idea that effective prayer can change lives for the better. As a result of this participation, I feel I'm a more helpful family member, friend, and teammate.

While I always strive to improve my time in races, I find that lately I'm more interested in seeing teammates and workout partners make progress in their lives. Cheering someone on to a personal best in sports is fun, but encouraging someone to take a new step beyond a fearful limitation—such as reluctance to pursue a new career or to change course in a harmful relationship—is infinitely more rewarding. Mary Baker Eddy stressed the importance of learning how to comfort hearts before we can heal the body: "If we would open their prison doors for the sick, we must first learn to bind up the broken-hearted" (ibid., p. 366).

I couldn't help people break through mental limits without the spiritual lessons I'm learning with the help of my church family. Through our weekly church services, I feel as if we are constantly working as a group to articulate the deeper, spiritual, meaning behind better relationships, healtheir lives, and better sports performances. Listening to ideas shared from the Bible or Science and Health, praising goodness with song, sharing a healing—or even just a hug from a friend after church—leave me feeling ready to help others throw off their burdens.

Staying physically active, I've found, keeps me connected to my community and opens the door to new friends and adventures. But it's through my "workouts" at church that I'm learning that having personal goals is not as important as gaining a better understanding of God. Seeing more of His goodness in our lives brings healing. It's what being an active healer is all about.

Church and healing—in a prison

BY JOHN MINARD Collingswood, New Jersey, US

Waiting alone inside the cold stone walls of the maximum security prison, I felt only the warmth and joy of the presence of the Christ. In a minute, the loudspeaker would echo: "Christian Science services in the chapel, Christian Science in the chapel." And the inmates would begin arriving.

As a volunteer chaplain, I met with many inmates at the services and during the week. Yet I replaced any feeling of fear or vulnerability with the conviction that Jesus would approve of having his church in a place like this. He met those in need right where they were, on their turf and in their thought. You might say that Jesus' church edifice was his pair of sandals and the dusty roads he traveled.

By all appearances, our Sunday congregations included some pretty tough characters. But the powerful healing animus of the Christian Science service brought visible peace, clarity, and redemption to these men. In a way, they seemed more like lambs waiting to be led to pasture.

After each service, I met with those who stayed to talk. Many appreciated the emphasis on the Bible in the weekly Lesson-Sermons, and they often shared insights or asked questions about what was read from Science and Health. To me it was clear that the spirit and purpose of Church—in spreading the leaven of the Christ—were helping and healing these men.

One man, who had been disciplined for committing acts of brutality, sat silent and immovable through several services. Then one day he approached me after the service. He spoke meekly, but his grasp of the ideas from that week's Bible Lesson was profound. I was impressed with his clear sense of the logic of Christian Science. As he spoke, I could see he was beginning to accept what it means to be a son of God. I had little to say—the Christ, Truth, was already giving him what he needed. We met a few more times until, after a few months, he stopped coming to the services. I later discovered he had been released to a minimum security facility.

Another inmate tried to detract from the service through acts of indecency. I prayed, along with the other volunteers, to know that he could only know himself as God knew him to be: pure, satisfied, and deeply loved by God. After a few services, this behavior completely stopped, and this man sat quietly through each service. Later he meekly apologized to the Readers who were conducting the service.

There were many signs of reformation of character among those who came to our church services: anger softened, a sense of purpose renewed, sensuality replaced with spirituality, increased honesty, value, and self-worth. I felt that Church was helping these individuals to be lifted up "...unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13 ).

And I grew as well. In the three years I served as a volunteer chaplain, I gained a real appreciation for what Mary Baker Eddy referred to as the "utility" of Church (see Science and Health, p. 583 ). I learned that we prove the usefulness of this highest concept of Church wherever we bring healing, through our practice of Christian Science.

One God, one Church


Before I discovered Christian Science, I had grown up with a concept of God as a father figure, an old, wise man with a flowing beard, seated on a throne in a place called heaven. I feared that after I died, He would have a record of all the sins I'd committed here on earth. The "Old Man" would then look at me sternly and condemn me to the everlasting fires of hell.

I'm grateful to say that as a Christian Scientist, I have gained a truthful, enlightened concept of God. He is the infinite Mind, the all-knowing, all-loving, eternal Principle, with nothing material about Him. And as I've deepened my understanding of God, my concept of Church has expanded to include less materiality, to be much more than a structure of four walls.

In a sermon to the early pioneers of the Christian Science movement, Mary Baker Eddy made the argument that our form of worship is intimately related to our concept of who or what God is. She wrote, "As our ideas of Deity become more spiritual, we express them by objects more beautiful." She went on to show that this spiritualization of thought improves not only our method of worship but also our bodies. "O Christian Scientist," she wrote, "thou of the church of the new-born; awake to a higher and holier love for God and man; ...and behold once again the power of divine Life and Love to heal and reinstate man in God's own image and likeness, having 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism'" (The People's Idea of God, p. 14 ).

As I've discovered God for who He really is, I've also discovered my true spiritual identity, and I've been healed of many ills of the body. I stopped smoking nearly two packs a day without effort, was healed of a longstanding stomach problem, and continue to reap the benefits of a more spiritual outlook on life.

One of the foremost writers in Kenya, Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o, wrote a profound book titled Decolonizing the Mind. His thesis is that a people's critical appreciation of themselves in thought and expression leads to their emancipation from whatever shackles or binds them materially.

I am sure that as my fellow African people heed such calls as those of Professor Ngugi and Mrs. Eddy to begin to approach their challenges with a mental transformation, many will be led to a more spiritual idea of God and themselves. And this kind of thinking will lead to a less material form of worship, where the church will not be thought of as a material structure, but as "the structure of Truth and Love" (Science and Health, p. 583 ), as Mrs. Eddy taught. With this enlightened view, individuals and communities will experience healing.

Active loving


The first word that jumped to mind when I recently was thinking about Church was family.

Some years ago when I took Christian Science class instruction, a twelve-lesson course in healing, one of the things that stood out to me was the importance of loving your family—simple as that! Since then, I've endeavored to really appreciate the qualities my family members express as God's chil dren. That means not taking them for granted, or loving them just lukewarmly, but appreciating them for who they really are.

As a result of this recognition, I've seen former inharmonies dissolve into a more active love and togetherness. To me, this is seeking my own good in another's good, as Jesus taught us to do.

Here is where Church comes into the picture for me—including the importance of "church family." I admit that this is a concept I have had to get used to and to grow into spiritually in order to really understand it. I will never forget what my grandmother, a wonderful woman who was a Christian Science practitioner, once said to me when I was having trouble getting along with fellow church members: "This is just because you have not understood that Church has to do with seeing people as God's ideas. It is your job to see them as such. That's what Church is, and that's Christian Science." Loving my church family in this way helped me grow.

As "the structure of Truth and Love," Church is so much more than bricks and walls, or even the members of a congregation. According to my dictionary, the word structure means "inner construction, composition" and "the mutual order between the separate parts of an entirety." We could say, then, that Church expresses the unity of Truth and Love, and that each of us can express it in many different ways—alone as well as together. And this demand for our active loving goes on 24/7.

Keeping this idea in mind has helped me see that there is no place for disagreements, criticism, or aloofness among church members, but always reason for support, gratitude for what others are doing, and mutual appreciation. It has helped me carry out church activities with a growing sense of belonging to one family.

Church is my platform, the basis from which I actively try to live and use the healing ideas of Christian Science—each day a little more.

My Church outside of church


A few years ago, I was feeling very eager to extend my church activities beyond the church edifice.

After giving Bible classes at a juvenile prison for over a year, I embarked on a second journey of "Church outside church" when I volunteered in a local public hospital. I went there once a week during visiting hours, going from room to room and offering to read passages from the Bible and to pray with the patients. Many patients accepted my offer and gladly listened to me reading psalms and other passages from the Bible, and rejoiced to pray the Lord's Prayer out loud with me. Some patients just listened to me in awe, as if I were an angel visiting them, and others started happy conversations with me, asking questions and telling me about their faith in God to heal them.

I was often amazed at their receptivity to the Word of God and to the love I was bringing to them. When I entered a room, the patients were often sad, but when I left, they were usually happy—or at least had a smile on their face. Because of their great response to my visits, I felt I was really making a difference and at least sharing some spiritual comfort with them.

Sometimes, relatives who were visiting asked me to pray for patients, and then I would silently pray by their side. I didn't give them specific Christian Science treatments since they were receiving medical care, but I did recognize God's loving presence there, and its ability to cast out all fear. I would spiritually sense God's infinite love for each and every one of those patients, and I would also pray to see them myself as healthy, spiritual children of God, reflecting harmony and perfection. So in this way I was praying not to change them but to change my view of them, and to try to see what God was seeing there. This process of thinking also helped me not to be scared by the images of sickness that I sometimes saw, and to maintain my joy in the midst of sorrow, so that I could bring joyful and uplifting thoughts to the patients.

One woman who spent about a month at the hospital, whom I visited three times, told me that when I was talking and praying with her, she felt an immense joy and peace filling her, and she thanked me so much for the work I was doing. I felt really grateful for that.

I only did this volunteer work for a few months. But the experience stands out to me as a great opportunity I had to follow the Christ's leading, and to take Church as "the structure of Truth and Love" (Science and Health, p. 583 ) with me to that hospital. css

A great family feeling
June 5, 2006

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