“Church sure feels vibrant and alive to me,” a fellow Christian Scientist recently remarked. She was responding to the suggestion in a recent column that because our denomination isn’t as much in the public eye – or as much criticized – as it was a century ago, it must be over the hill.
Actually, there’s still plenty of criticism, though I might wish that weren’t the case! But criticism can be constructive when it prompts self-reflection. It can even be a “blessing” (as the church’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, noted) when it leads us to look honestly at our own spiritual practice and discipleship and resolve to do better. Shouldn’t the truth undergirding a religious teaching be equal to this kind of questioning?
The issue of decline in membership numbers confronts many denominations today. But as many readers might agree, numbers don’t tell the whole story in regard to the heart of a church.
At a time when our denomination was growing rapidly, Eddy established a church by-law requiring members not to publish membership numbers. The provision was a reminder that the vibrancy of church doesn’t come merely from “warm bodies in the pews” but from something much deeper, even that active feeling of God’s presence, care and guidance that turns a collection of individuals into a true community.
I wouldn’t deny that many in our churches have struggled with this issue. Following Christ Jesus’ example of love, forgiveness and healing is a high standard to uphold. Yet isn’t it worthy of the struggle, especially in a time when so many are desperate for spiritual meaning in their lives? As Eddy put it in the church’s textbook, “There is always some tumult, but there is a rallying to truth’s standard.”(Published in the print edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette, August 24, 2017)
David Price, CS
Christian Science Committee on Publication for Colorado