I had experienced some big challenges in my work for my branch Church of Christ, Scientist, and wondered if I could continue. I felt utterly brokenhearted. I was angry, distrustful, and hurt, and I did not want to bring those emotions into my church. So I stopped participating until I could understand what was right for me to do.
I prayed for more than a year. I loved God and didn’t want to withdraw my membership in my branch church if He wanted me to continue, but I didn’t see how I could continue. I needed to regroup, and ultimately decided that it was best to officially withdraw my membership. Instead of feeling guilty, I felt a tangible sense of God’s patient, tender love, and I trusted that He would show me the way.
During this hiatus from branch church membership, I prayed to understand what Christly willingness looks like. I knew that desiring a wonderful church, including a wonderful Christian Science Reading Room and Sunday School, wasn’t enough. We need to actually be willing to follow Christ—to let go of old beliefs and a proprietary sense of church and do the metaphysical work required.
To me, this means being willing to stand firm, no matter what seems to be going on; we need to acknowledge that the one divine Mind governs every detail concerning man and church. We need to be willing to turn to the one divine Principle, God, and away from the false belief of many governing personalities. Moreover, we need to be willing to stay alert and to communicate courageously and kindly with one another, rather than sweeping problems under the rug in the name of Love.
This all led me to ask myself how willing I was to let go of cherished beliefs and a false sense of self, in order to have a beautiful, love-in-action church. Admittedly, I still have a ways to go, but I’m making good progress.
I also used my time to learn more about, and pray with, the Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy. Mrs. Eddy wrote that the Rules and By-laws in the Manual “were impelled by a power not one’s own”; and she further stated, “They sprang from necessity, the logic of events,—from the immediate demand for them as a help that must be supplied to maintain the dignity and defense of our Cause; hence their simple, scientific basis, and detail so requisite to demonstrate genuine Christian Science ...” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 148). One thought that came to me is that when we deviate from the purity of the Manual, confusion and discord ensue. This made me want to understand this book more deeply, and to be obedient, especially, to the requirements in the chapter titled “Discipline” (see pp. 40–56).
The one thing I was sure of was that I loved God and would continue to pray to understand how to proceed. After some time had passed, I began to ask God to help me understand and love the spiritual idea of Church. I asked Him to give me original thoughts about Church and my part in it—and to destroy all the negativism in my thought that I had justified for so long.
Then, last June I received an email from The Mother Church with a link to some videos related to the Annual Meeting of The Mother Church. And, while watching the video of Annual Meeting the day after it took place, I was healed.
I was flooded with joy. The stories from members all over the world who were unwaveringly committed to Christian Science, and who persevered and triumphed against seemingly insurmountable odds, moved me. It was as if I had been abruptly awakened out of a deep sleep to the innovative, resilient, global, and visionary unfoldment of Church and its place in the world—and I am excited to be a part of it. I am home. Without hesitation or reservation—no holds barred. Finally. Permanently. Gone is the fear, the sorrow, the resentment, the disenchantment. Gone is that mental rearview mirror on the past! I am awake.
I began to see the spiritual understanding of Church with a capital C, as Mary Baker Eddy defines it in the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle” (p. 583). I began to understand the power of Church in my own life and in the world. I rejoined my branch church and was welcomed back with great love and joy. Everyone had grown during my absence, including me! During the break, I had become less reactionary, frightened, and willful, and more prayerful. And my withdrawal had woken up the members to some of the ways evil had been trying to operate in the church; it forced everyone to pray and love more.
I yearn to love humanity, and I now understand that there is no more effective way to do this than through the practice of Christian Science! Previously, my love for humanity felt limited and reactive—vulnerable because based on the actions of others. But the practice of Christian Science lifts us out of a limited sense of love as a ping-pong game of human goodness, and allows us to prove that God is Love—without limits, always present and accessible for everyone. I’ve already begun expressing this higher sense of Love. Within ten minutes of finishing watching the Annual Meeting video, I received a call from someone requesting help through metaphysical treatment as taught in Christian Science.
I am comforted by the fact that time is no part of divine Life. And I am profoundly appreciative of God’s protection and care, even when I wasn’t aware of its presence. Most of all, I am grateful for Church’s devotion to me (and all). Church never gave up on me. Church was long-suffering and gentle. Church welcomed me home. Church healed me.
I now love going to church, and I understand how every member is so important, every blossom in the floral display, every note in the hymns. I’m thrilled to pray about every aspect of church and to serve. The bigger picture—the spiritual idea of Church—is always before me. And this time, I’m committed to seeing perfect Mind and perfect man, to lifting up whatever seems to be going on. Withdrawing my membership again is not an option. I’m in it for the long haul.
Previously, I felt like a church refugee. But now I feel like the royal guest of God. I am grateful to God and The Mother Church for being so patient and tender with me. I am grateful to the members of my branch church for understanding, for being so loving, and for welcoming me home.
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