Adapted from a Q&A that Chris Orndorff assembled with some input from fellow students in his Christian Science association. To read the original post, and the discussion that follows, visit http://community.christianscience.com/message/8528.
My wife is not a Christian Scientist, and as I was preparing to take class instruction, I thought about the questions she asked me and the answers that I gave. In the spirit of helping someone who may be in a similar situation of explaining the class to someone unfamiliar with it, I thought that I would share these questions and answers for the benefit of anyone who is considering class instruction.
What is class instruction and why would someone attend?
Class instruction is “the elucidation of the Principle and rule of Christian Science through the higher meaning of the Scriptures” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,p. 241). It is a more advanced course of study for earnest students of Christian Science. The class includes instruction by the teacher, class discussion, reading assignments, and prayer.
Someone may attend class instruction because they wish to be a full-time Journal-advertising Christian Science practitioner, for which class is a requirement. Others may attend because they want to advance their understanding of Christian Science. Either way, for many pupils class instruction is a significant event in their spiritual growth and advancement.
Why is the class 12 days long? Couldn’t it be accelerated?
Class instruction is an advanced course of study. It takes a significant amount of time to appropriately explore the concepts found in the chapter “Recapitulation” of Science and Health. Over the many decades that class instruction has been given, 12 days has seemed to be an appropriate amount of time. It is important to maintain the quality of the class instruction experience, and acceleration of the 12 sessions could diminish the quality of what the student gains from class instruction. This is probably why the approximate two-week time frame for class instruction became the standard in Mary Baker Eddy’s day.
If instruction is only about half of the day, then what do the students do for the rest of the day?
Class instruction is a rigorous course of study. Students typically have hours of reading, study, and prayer after class. It is by no means a “holiday.” Class instruction is often held in the morning for three to four hours. After a break for meals, most students spend the entire afternoon and evening reading, studying, and praying. This routine is a rich period of self-instruction from the books followed nearly every day for 12 days.
How do students select a teacher?
Each issue of The Christian Science Journal has a directory where you can find the names and locations of Christian Science teachers throughout the world. [Please see p. 18 of this Sentinel for information about online listings.] Some students may have had a healing with a teacher or practitioner, heard a teacher give an inspiring lecture, or they may have read an article written by the teacher. Or they may have talked with a friend about class. The prospective pupil often follows up with a conversation with the teacher. Often the teacher will send a questionnaire to the prospective pupil to aid in the assessment of the pupil’s current spiritual thought. Watchfulness and prayer will help illuminate your path to finding the right teacher for you.
Where are classes held?
Class instruction is generally held in a location chosen by the teacher. Class locations are distributed throughout the world. Students are free to select an authorized Christian Science teacher in any location; however, location need not be the primary reason for the selection of a teacher.
Is class open to anyone?
Class instruction is open to anyone who is genuinely interested. The Church Manual states, “Christian Scientists who are teachers shall carefully select for pupils such only as have good past records and promising proclivities toward Christian Science” (p. 83). The class is limited to a maximum of 30 people and one class per year, per teacher.
We’re in the Internet age now, so why isn’t class instruction webcast?
One benefit to in-person class instruction is the interaction between student/teacher and student/student. Students benefit from the spiritual understanding of their fellow pupils during class discussion. In addition, many students enjoy fellowship with their classmates.
At the current level of technology, it is difficult to fully attain these benefits through “virtual” class instruction. Therefore, class instruction remains in a traditional, face-to-face format.
Why is there secrecy surrounding class instruction?
Class instruction is a holy, individual experience with God. It is therefore confidential. The student is welcome to tell family, close friends, and employers that they are attending class instruction, but it is not something a student generally broadcasts. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6).
Why isn’t the information contained in class instruction presented every week in an adult Sunday School, like some other Protestant denominations?
In The First Church of Christ, Scientist, provision is made for Sunday School for students up to the age of 20. The Manual provides a different syllabus for Sunday School classes. Since the Pastor of our church is the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, there are no Sunday School teachers for adults. For adults, much of the material in class instruction is presented over a long period of time in the weekly Christian Science Bible Lessons.
How much does class instruction cost?
The tuition for class instruction is specified in the Manual at $100. The student is also responsible for any additional fees, transportation, lodging, and meal expenses while attending the class.
What is an “association”?
The collective group of students that a single teacher has taught. Associations meet annually. Students should commit to attend the annual meetings. In addition to spiritual renewal and encouragement, association meetings are also a great time to engage in fellowship with other Christian Scientists.
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