The writer recently met a student of Christian Science who remarked that his Association was to meet shortly in a city some little distance away, but that he did not think he would attend it, as there had been some slight differences between himself and his teacher, and he did not feel that he would get much benefit from such a trip. This conversation clearly revealed the personal viewpoint in regard to Students' Associations, many members of which seem to regard the subject in this light. They often feel that the Association belongs to the teacher exclusively; that the teacher is its leader; that the members must necessarily accord with all the teacher's personal views in order to find benefit from attendance; and that any disagreement with the teacher or with another pupil of the Association furnishes something of an excuse for not attending the meetings, or for feeling that there would not be much benefit in so doing. In other words, it seems to many pupils to be a personal matter: they can attend the meetings of their Associations or not as their personal feelings dictate, and if personal suggestion or disinclination furnishes them with reasons why they need not, or do not care to, there is no greater obligation to be considered and no higher demonstration to be made.
The members of The Mother Church have, however, passed through experiences which have turned them more earnestly than ever to the study of the Church Manual; and it may be that this view has been corrected by faithful study, since it must have been discovered, if not realized before, that the education of teachers in Christian Science, their subsequent instruction of their pupils, and the forming and maintaining of Associations, is not a personal matter at all, but is as much a part of the general government of our movement as are the operations of the Board of Lectureship, the Bible Lessons Committee, and the Committees on Publication, or of any other of the many provisions for growth in genuine Christian Science and its practice. When a Christian Scientist is called upon to become active in any one of these departments, he feels it incumbent upon him to discharge the obligations belonging to that activity. A Christian Science lecturer does not regard the giving of his lecture as a personal consideration; he regards it as a question of Principle to be present at the time appointed, and to do his part in an important demonstration. Only very unusual circumstances would justify him in failing in his agreement.
A member of The Mother Church taking up any one of its activities feels himself responsible to divine Principle, and refuses to let any preventable circumstance cause the failure of his agreement. Several pages of our Manual are filled with By-laws governing teaching and the Associations of pupils; and it would not appear that these By-laws are any less binding upon the pupils than they are upon the teacher. It may have been held, perhaps unconsciously, that the teacher was morally obligated to be present at his Association meeting, except under unusual circumstances, but that the By-laws were not so binding upon the pupils, and that they could attend or not as seemed easier, with, in some cases, very little effort put forth to make the matter one of demonstration. But a teacher does not exist without pupils, any more than do pupils without a teacher. The relationship is interchangeable; and both should feel a clear responsibility to divine Principle, and to the By-laws of our Manual, on this subject, in order that the full benefit of the divine purpose may be felt by all on these occasions.
Recently a band of pupils met together to discuss the question as to whether it was advisable to disband their Association because the teacher had passed on. It was evidently felt to be a personal matter, which they could dispose of by a vote, apparently not understanding that by accepting the instruction of a loyal teacher the pupils are placed under the government of the By-laws for the continuing maintenance and conduct of their Association. It is not a situation that can be disposed of at the convenience or preference of the pupils, any more than a teacher of Christian Science could decide no longer to care for his pupils, because it involved consecrated effort, or because for personal reasons he found it inconvenient. It would seem to be true that the benefit which is derived by all who attend their Association meetings is primarily the blessing which all receive from obedience to the Manual. Our dear Leader has said that these By-laws "were impelled by a power not one's own" (Manual, p. 3), and in this case may we not believe that our Associations, with their loyal teachers and earnest pupils, are one of the wise and tender provisions of God's love for the establishment of Christian Science in the world? Have they not their important place in the great constitutional government of our church; and are they not as sacred in their own work and place as any other activity?
The suggestion sometimes comes to pupils who live at long distances from the places where their Association meetings are held, that the financial obligation prevents them from attending. In some cases it may be true that the pupil's understanding is not equal to the overcoming of this obstacle; but, on the other hand, it is often noted that pupils who live at a distance are more faithful in their attendance than those near at hand, who often allow comparatively small obstacles to prevent their being present. It may be that pupils at a distance recognize that demonstration is necessary in order to fulfill this obligation and partake of its divine privileges, while those near at hand feel that it is quite easy to attend (if they want to), and therefore do not make provision ahead, or protect themselves from the interference of mortal events. In one Association a pupil from a long distance was present punctually for many years. Her financial advantages were no more than those of many others; and when she was asked by another pupil, "How is it that you always manage to be here?" her reply was, "When I am going home from my Association meeting I begin my demonstration for the following year."
Our beloved Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, has said (Message for 1901, p. 34), "Follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ." May it not also be said that the services of our loyal and devoted teachers all over the world are valuable only in so far as they follow the Leader of the Christian Science movement "as she follows Christ"? Their labors are not personal, but are in demonstration of the truth as contained in the Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Again, our Leader has said (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 84), "The less the teacher personally controls other minds, and the more he trusts them to the divine Truth and Love, the better it will be for both teacher and student." The teacher goes to the Association meeting prepared to assist the students in the direction of divine Principle; and the students also contribute to this feast of Soul. They obey the Master's instruction to his disciples, "Bring of the fish which ye have now caught;" and their part in these great occasions is vital. Personal differences do not constitute any reason whatever for any one absenting himself from privileges provided by divine Love and wisdom, and such should be buried out of sight when the question arises of making this demonstration. All are present to learn a lesson of the one Teacher, the infinite intelligence, and must be clothed with the humility which forgets personal sense, if the great blessing of these times is to be realized. As we labor to be of one Mind in our church services so that our Lesson-Sermons may heal the sick, so may we labor for impersonal unity and faithful attendance upon the meetings of the Students' Associations, until we there experience, as a reward for fidelity, a veritable outpouring of the Spirit.
Copyright, 1922, by The Christian Science Publishing Society, Falmouth and St. Paul Streets, Boston, Massachusetts. Entered at Boston post office as second-class matter. Acceptance for mailing at a special rate of postage provided for in section 1103, Act of October 3, 1917, authorized on July 11, 1918.
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