Conversations about Reform

There are some people who feel that Christian Science can be reformed (because that went so well for Luther and the Catholics). They want to take new ideas about concepts like Christian Fellowship, more modern music, and Sunday School/bible-study for grown-ups and infuse them with the essence of Christian Science.

Personally, I think it is a lost cause: the church populations are aging and alienating the younger generations, young people often grew up with rigid interpretations of what CS is about and they don’t want to live that way, or raise their children with such ideas.

That said, New Wine/New Bottles Blog (one of the reform movement) has some good ideas worth sharing. NW/NB has done a fabulous job picking apart the church services with regards to what the Manual says about them. I don’t attend church anymore (unless I’m with extended family who are Active Members). NW/NB has a wonderful post which sums up pretty much everything wrong with the church and its current structure. For some context, NW/NB did a survey about problems with the current church structure and how to make it better. This is one of the replies she got (one huge long one, that I’ve broken up with comments of my own).

CS is very personality driven. Mrs. Eddy wanted it to be impersonal, but the way it is set up, especially with only being allowed to have one teacher for your whole life, makes people dwell on questions such as who-was-taught-by-who, who is your practitioner, are they a good practitioner, etc. Members seem to focus on people being the healers instead of it being an impersonal principle.

Most of my friends were raised in CS have not bothered with Class Instruction at all – we were raised in it, what more is there to learn? Why should we bother? Why should we remain CS? I have seen the CSP issue come up again and again, who do you use? Are they any good?

Expecting small churches (most have under 25 members) buy new Hymnal Supplements or fully stock Reading Rooms, hold expensive lectures, etc. puts a burden on small elderly memberships. Having the church rely on lay people and not having a fully-trained minister and a paid church staff to support the flock puts a lot of pressure on the few who have enough free time to become readers and actually do the church work.* It also makes members judgmental toward those who feel they don’t have the time or the inclination to do church committee work.  *emphasis mine.

Yes, but on the flip-side a small elderly membership (which is what MANY CS churches have) is unlikely to raise the funds for a fully-trained minister and church staff.

Many churches are told to get away from the social (and I understand that) yet there is no true fellowship among the members. Having a soloist who can sing from within the membership can be troublesome, yet having to pay an outsider when a membership is small and struggling to keep the lights on is a burden.

For many years the church I attended FORBID gatherings at the church property except for Sunday services and Wednesday evening meetings, with special exceptions made for Reading Room hours and the rare guest lecture. They also FORBID things like pot-lucks on church property, and for the longest time there was no sort of fellowship at all, beyond the cliques that would go to lunch together after church.

I was well into my teens before there was any sort of church fellowship on church grounds (we had had two church picnics at a local park when I was much younger), and then it was a pot-luck with gloopy pasta salads, store bought baked goods and an over-achiever’s catered party trays.

There were attempts at Sunday School Youth Fellowship but they fell flat as well. The Discovery Bound Youth would occasionally hold “Operation Testimony Meetings,” which was great, in theory. In practice the nearest other church was over an hour away and the services frequently started at 7, or 7:30. Testimony meetings run for an hour, and then they would go “out for ice cream.” This would be on a Wednesday night (work/school night), and none of the parents wanted to take us, I didn’t have a car (nor did anyone else in my Sunday School class – and some of us weren’t old enough to drive), and the idea of driving 2 hours to hang out with “those weird kids at 4th church” just seemed dumb.

To be fair, we occasionally had a really cool Sunday School teacher who would foster some spark of camaraderie among us – or they’d be a total jerk which sparked a similar spirit.

Sunday School teachers need more training. My kids have been really turned off by wacky teachers with ridiculous ideas. Or they have been bored to death just going over the lesson each week or constantly reviewing the commandments, beatitudes, etc. If you can’t get teachers to commit to teaching each week and get people who can somehow draw out a comprehensive lesson plan then instruction is really spotty. Also kids are placed in classes according to age and not knowledge. Children who have been in SS since infancy are asked to sit through very elementary lessons if a visitor or newcomer enters the class. Regular school is not held this way.

Yes. I had my share of wacky teachers and crazy ideas, but I also had some really awesome teachers who fostered a deep interest in CS and were open to branching out from the weeks lesson to talk about problems we were facing in school. Ironically, the some of best teachers we had either (1) died or (2) ran afoul of someone on one of the committees and departed from the church. We didn’t have many/any new comers, and most of my class was made up of kids who’d been in Science since they were babies (and often their grandparents were CS as well).

And having no Sunday School option for people who enter the religion after age 20 is a real problem. The religion depends entirely too much on self study and there is very little structured support of the new student.

I found once I turned twenty I hated going to church. In Sunday School (and to some extent a lunch after church during my college years) there was discussion and the exchange of ideas, in church, you sat, sang, listened to a bad soloist, a worse organist, and some readers who looked a little like dear-in-the-headlights and droned on in a monotone emotionless manner. These are extreme cases and some churches do manage to find good readers, soloists, and organists, but frequently they only manage one out of the three.