When I turned twenty I officially “graduated” from Sunday School. I always found this slightly ironic, as Christian Scientists often pride themselves in not celebrating “birthdays,” they often have a “special day” instead. Apparently celebrating the passage of time reminds them of their mortality?*
The well-meaning Sunday School Graduation Committee gave me a copy of the Manual of the Mother Church as a parting gift, I’m fairly sure it was their subtle way of reminding me to keep in line, behave and not question authority. They were after all, members of the Mother Church (as was I at the time), and many (many) years my senior, clearly I should show them the respect they felt they deserved, and not ask questions to which they had no answer.
I already had a copy of the church Manual (I got it when I joined the Mother Church at around sixteen), so now I had two. It was nice, they could keep themselves company next to the five trade-editions of Science and Health that I slowly amassed over the years (they later updated the cover to the sparkly blue disco-edition, I don’t think I have any of those), two copies of the Bible, assorted pamphlets (two copies of God’s Law of Adjustment and one on the Unity of Good), and unopened copy of Prose Works.
All good Christian Scientists have at least three copies of Science and Health (trade edition), really good ones have more, and hardback or leather bound books that can (and often are) marked weekly for the Lesson, the Reader’s Editions, biographies of MBE (only the authorized ones of course!), other writings, and corresponding literature.
When my husband and I moved we found between the two of us we had a large book box full of nothing but CS literature, most of them triplicates and quadruplicates of S&H, and the Manual. I have since pared down the collection and made a generous donation to the local library book sale (the local church was already over-run with extra copies of everything and politely refused my donation).
Of all the books on the shelf only the Science and Healths had been opened, read and written in. A new Sunday School teacher would pass them out with the intent of the class “reading through it together” and “sharing insights.” Most of the Bible reading was done in the Weekly Lesson which came in a neat little pamphlet every month (or was pirated from the internet and printed in the college library), or in the New International Version Bible I’d purchased especially for classes as it was less tedious than the King James.
I couldn’t bring myself to use the matching Bible and Science and Health for study purposes, they had to sit pristine on my bookcase for all to see! I could write in the trade editions, and the more I wrote the better a CS I was. I was having a conversation with the text. Post-it notes with illegible scribbles (clearly very deep insights) stuck between the pages also bolstered this theory, and in at least one trade edition the spine was so busted out I had to tape pages back in. That particular trade edition met a violent end when it split in two during an end-of-quarter move. It fell from a desk and the spine broke.**
I could also write in the Weekly Bible Lesson (monthly collections), the more deep thoughts in the margins, the more underlines, the more highlights, the more tape holding it all together, the more I was growing spiritually. If I was really on a good spiritual path I’d pay an extra $10 and buy a nice little cloth cover for my Lessons so they wouldn’t get mangled in my day-to-day life. See how spiritual I am! I take my little lesson EVERYWHERE with me, to class, to church, to lunch! See how much I’m growing spiritually!***
Up until I started this blog I don’t think I had ever actually read the Manual of the Mother Church beyond the pull-quotes in the backs of the Quarterly. Even now I don’t have the physical book in front of me, I did a quick google search and found an online copy that is much easier to use, the physical copies are around, somewhere.
*This generalization is likely an example of being a Bad Christian Scientist.
**The church released the spiral-bound lay-flat trade edition which was quite popular for this sort of study and then they stopped making it (clearly it was too popular).
***The Bible Lesson Cozy was mostly a Prin phenomenon. When I was home, aside from when I was attending Church, no one cared.