This piece was published in today’s Alton Telegraph.
For many people today, the phrase, “Sending thoughts and prayers,” has become a meaningless cliché, but Christian Scientists’ annual meeting this week offered the view that it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Members throughout the world gathered in Boston or streamed it online to hear this year’s messages,” said Thomas (Tim) Mitchinson, with the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois.
Church members gathered Monday at the denomination’s First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, as well as via live video streaming around the world, to hear and share experiences that showed how powerful prayer rooted in love can be in people’s lives — and the progress and healing this can bring in a troubled world, Mitchinson explained to The Telegraph. Christian Scientists say that churches are a “place of light.”
The meeting’s theme was from the New Testament: “If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit.”
“We need to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk by taking responsibility for how we act toward one another, so that we really are going to let spirit, actual love for one another, animate us,” said a member of the church’s board of directors, Scott Preller.
The denomination’s five-member board recently completed 17 regional meetings with church members in the United States and Europe. More meetings are planned in North America and other continents. The board said they wanted to meet face to face with as many members as possible, to listen and talk.
In reporting back to members, they spoke frankly of difficult issues facing the church, as well as other Christian denominations and society at large. But, they noted that they also found a “new vitality, a deepening of engagement with core values,” and what they called a new energy and willingness of members to work together as a church “to be a force for good in the world.”
“We’ve seen again and again that it’s actual spiritual living and genuine love that matter most,” board chairperson Robin Hoagland said. “We heard so much from members about the healing of debilitating or incurable conditions, which is a natural consequence when we’re feeling the reality of spirit, the love of God, at hand.”
One report at the annual meeting cited a paper on Christian Scientists’ practice given at an international academic conference in Asia on religion and healing.
“What are objective scholars to make of experiences such as these?” the paper asked, addressing the natural skepticism that many feel regarding spiritual healing in an age of accelerating technological advancement.
The paper acknowledged that the practice of Christian healing can’t be approached “dogmatically or blindly… It isn’t a decision Christian Scientists would impose on others.” Yet “Christian Scientists’ experiences of healing … may have something to teach us all” about the deepest “sources of healing in people’s lives” and “our common humanity and spiritual core.”
The Church of Christ, Scientist, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, has branches in some 70 countries. In Madison County, Illinois, First Church of Christ, Scientist is located at 1430 W. Delmar Ave., in Godfrey; in Jersey County, a branch is located at 53 LaSalle St., in Elsah. Christian Science Reading Rooms are located at 17 LaSalle St., Elsah, and in Alton at Alton Square Mall, on the upper level, next to JCPenny.
Elsah is also home to Principia College, offering a liberal arts academic program with a focus on Christian Science-based character education. The college enrolls nearly 450 students from 36 states and 27 countries, according to its website.
Principia’s values, as follows, are grounded in the teachings of Christian Science: teaching and learning; thinking and acting from the basis of principle, love; unfoldment of character; individual and collective excellence; citizenship and service; and, innovation and continuous improvement
Church officials announced at the meeting that a new translation of Eddy’s book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” has been completed in Igbo, one of the four official languages of Nigeria. Eddy saw the scriptures as “the chart of life” and the Bible, together with Eddy’s book, are considered to be the church’s “Pastor.”
Members of the denomination come from a wide range of backgrounds and all walks of life. New church president Keith Wommack, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Corpus Christi, Texas, toured in a rock band for 10 years until he found himself “dedicating hours to praying and spiritual study” and being asked by others for help through prayer.
“Unselfed love is the heart of church,” said director Rich Evans. “It reignites in us the teachings of the master Christian, Christ Jesus, to love God and all humanity.”
As a workshop report related to the meeting described — referring to the healing of a homeless addict — church becomes “a place of light” when the congregation lives the love that God is expressing.
©2018 Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois