A letter about church
This piece appeared on the Christian Science Committee on Publication’s Facebook page on 30 July 2018.
Media reporting on religion in the United States often focuses on the challenges many denominations are having as their membership numbers have trended smaller. The following letter to the editor, sent to the Chicago Sun-Times, addresses this widespread concern. The letter, presented here in slightly edited form, expresses the deep conviction shared by many Christian Scientists about what churches at their best continue to mean in people’s lives, even in–especially in–these highly technological and often spiritually tumultuous times.
Robert Herguth’s Religion Roundup shines a welcome light on a dimension of life in our city that often goes under the media’s radar. His recent article on Christian Scientists’ activities got me thinking about what makes a church or religious congregation vital and alive.
It isn’t the number of members. In the last century, at a time when Christian Science churches were growing rapidly, the denomination’s founder Mary Baker Eddy cautioned that “love of Christianity, rather than love of popularity” is the only true basis for progress.
The challenges that churches in many traditions are facing in today’s secular society often refocus us on what our real purpose is, and how we can do more to bring about a better world. At the recent annual meeting of Christian Scientists’ “Mother Church” in Boston, the denomination’s board of directors spoke of finding “a deepening engagement among church members with the core values” of worship of God and loving our neighbor. “We’ve seen again and again that it’s actual spiritual living and genuine love that matter most,” the board said.
Our church doesn’t have ordained clergy, so lay members do the work of preparing the Sunday services, teaching Sunday School, and serving in Christian Science Reading Rooms. At testimony meetings we share experiences of healing and the spiritual light this has brought in our lives. Why do all this, many might ask, when people have so many other options for spending their time?
The answer for me is, whether one belongs to a congregation of a few or many, true church—the heartfelt fellowship that flows from genuine devotion to God—is a source of joy beyond compare. And that’s what brings vitality and renewal—and healing in the deepest sense—both to churches and to the wider world.
Tim Mitchinson Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois