I attend church services at the Church of Christ, Scientist, which has hundreds of branches around the world, and I’ve heard it frequently complained by visitors that these services could use some more life.
Now, I will be the first to admit that Christian Science makes strong demands on one’s spiritual sense. It is not a sensual religion that grabs the human emotions with high-rolling sensual thrills that lift one to ecstatic highs. Quite to the contrary. It is a profoundly metaphysical teaching that requires one to quiet the physical senses and tune-in to the depths of Spirit where spiritual reality is revealed.
But, then again, it seems to me, that a service focused on ultimate reality should be the most mentally engaging activity of one’s week.
My local branch church recently decided to take a new approach to sponsoring our church services. We’re using the model from the Book of Acts as our guide.
On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were swept away by the Holy Spirit into an experience beyond any event they could have ever humanly orchestrated on their own. The effect was the beginning of the Christian church. Thousands of people were converted to this new teaching at a time.
It was not through committee appointments, by-laws, or any institutional mandate that the Christian movement took off. The disciples were of one accord, and when they had finally quieted material sense sufficiently to allow the Christ to take over, the Christ dominated their thinking, their actions, their lives, and BOOM, the church was off and running at full speed.
As our little society group here in Richland thought about letting the Holy Spirit take over our approach to sponsoring services, and not letting time-honored tradition hold us back, a number of ideas surfaced that we might try. And we tried a couple of them this week. They are not a big deal, but a start, and they worked well.
For example, we thought about the motive and purpose of taking collection. We agreed that it wasn’t money that kept a church going, but the inspiration people gained from participating in the church services. So, right before the collection, the First Reader said to the congregation, “This is when we take collection, but we’d like to first open the meeting for you to offer briefly any inspirational idea you gained from hearing the lesson.”
Several people spontaneously shared a short inspiration that had come to them while listening to the lesson. It was great! For any who are tempted to doze during the sermon, it was a vivid reminder that when you pay attention, the bounty is immense!
In as much as the Church Manual outlines an order of service that we are to follow, we’re starting to see immense room for flexibility in that order of service.
For example, the Manual does not stipulate a Bible translation to be used. Yesterday, our First Reader read out of the New King James Version for the Scriptural selection. The Manual does not say where the benediction has to come from. The Reader pulled a beautiful benediction from an article in the Christian Science Sentinel. Hymns can be used from anywhere,–that fit the theology of Christian Science,–and there are many sources. Contemporary solos can add a great amount of life to the service. The time for announcements is rich with opportunity to bring added dimension and possibility to the meeting. As my 13 year old son commented, “We should show short videos on how people’s lives have been changed by Christian Science!” It was a spontaneous observation from an unbiased youngster.
In bringing new life to our services, one must start with the source of all life to begin with–Mind! We can’t start with the outward and work back to the spiritual. We must start with the spiritual, and let the inspiration of Spirit transform the outward.
It’s heartening to remember that there are no limits in Mind, which means there are no limits on possibilities for the Holy Spirit to bring life to our services. It’s needed. It has to happen. It’s a requirement that must be met to conform to the true spirit of Christian Science, which is Truth-Alive here on earth today! Truth is active, animated, vibrant, Spirit-filled, and any activity professing to Truth must likewise evidence such realities.
As we truly let the Spirit guide us, and not allow ourselves to be bound and shackled by outdated practices, human opinion and limited views, our services can break open with the Spirit and carry people away into Truth like never before.
Any ideas of your own??