For many people today, the phrase “sending thoughts and prayers” has become a meaningless cliché. Christian Scientists’ annual meeting on June 4 offered the view that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Church members gathered at the denomination’s Mother Church in Boston and via live video streaming around the world to hear and share experiences that showed how powerful prayer rooted in love can be in people’s lives — and the progress and healing this can bring in a troubled world.
The meeting’s theme was from the New Testament: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” “We need to not just talk the talk but to walk the walk,” said Scott Preller, a member of the church’s Board of Directors, by “taking responsibility for how we act toward one another, so that we really are going to let Spirit, actual love for one another, animate us.”
The denomination’s five-member Board recently completed 17 regional meetings with church members in the United States and Europe. More meetings are planned in North America and other continents. The Board said they wanted to meet face to face with as many members as possible, to listen and talk.
In reporting back to members, they spoke frankly of difficult issues facing the church, as well as other Christian denominations and society at large. But they noted that they also found a “new vitality, a deepening of engagement with core values,” and what they called a new energy and willingness of members to work together as a church “to be a force for good in the world.”
According to this year’s Board chair, Robin Hoagland, “We’ve seen again and again that it’s actual spiritual living and genuine love that matter most. We heard so much from members about the healing of debilitating or incurable conditions, which is a natural consequence when we’re feeling the reality of Spirit, the love of God, at hand.”
One report at the annual meeting cited a paper on Christian Scientists’ practice given at an international academic conference in Asia on religion and healing. “What are objective scholars to make of experiences such as these?” the paper asked, addressing the natural skepticism that many feel regarding spiritual healing in an age of accelerating technological advancement.
The paper acknowledged that the practice of Christian healing can’t be approached “dogmatically or blindly. … It isn’t a decision Christian Scientists would impose on others.” Yet ”Christian Scientists’ experiences of healing . . . may have something to teach us all” about the deepest “sources of healing in people’s lives” and “our common humanity and spiritual core.”
The Church of Christ, Scientist, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, has branches in some 70 countries. Church officials announced at the meeting that a new translation of Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures has been completed in Igbo, a language whose speakers live primarily in Nigeria. Eddy saw the Scriptures as “the chart of life,” and the Bible, together with Eddy’s book, are considered to be the church’s “Pastor.”
Members of the denomination come from a wide range of backgrounds and all walks of life. New church president Keith Wommack, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Corpus Christi, Texas, toured in a rock band for ten years until he found himself “dedicating hours to praying and spiritual study” and being asked by others for help through prayer.
“Unselfed love is the heart of church,” said director Rich Evans. “It reignites in us the teachings of the master Christian, Christ Jesus, to love God and all humanity.” As a report at a workshop related to the meeting described — referring to the healing of a homeless addict — church becomes “a place of light” when the congregation lives the love that Godis expressing.