By Juli Vice
From the October 2019 issue of The Christian Science Journal
I ask myself the following questions from time to time: What are my expectations for church? How am I viewing the activity of my local branch Church of Christ, Scientist? Am I in my “ready position” at church?
What is a “ready position,” exactly? In volleyball, it is a stance where the players are attentively focused on the player serving the ball and ready to jump or lunge as soon as the ball is in motion. In this fast-paced sport, it’s necessary to be ready to act in a split second.
Since we probably won’t be playing volleyball at our church services, we can approach such readiness from a mental standpoint. Being in a ready position would mean being mentally alert to the needs of the congregation and the community. It means taking any personal sense of ourselves out of the equation and being receptive to the communication of God, divine Mind.
One thing that I’ve appreciated is the concept of Christian Science church services being a complete healing message. During the Sunday service we hear passages from our pastor—two books, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. And during the weekly testimony meeting, the First Reader reads from both of these books and then invites the congregation to share their experiences of healing. Along with all this is the expectation that healing will take place at these services.
While serving in my church as First Reader, I have prayed to know that I am obedient to God’s messages regarding choosing readings or hymns. And I prayerfully prepare before each service so that I will be a transparency for the healing messages from God, reflecting His love clearly. I consider this work as getting me into my ready position.
To me, the main goal of each service is that people leave inspired, uplifted, and yes, healed. This moves us beyond the focus of just filling needed positions at church for each service. Instead, we can be in a ready position of thought to prayerfully, lovingly, and attentively serve as Readers, ushers, musicians, Sunday School teachers, and so forth. We can see that each Sunday service and Wednesday testimony meeting is a complete prayer that must be supported by members. This way of thinking about our services causes us to be active instead of passive, and we begin working collectively as a team for the congregation and also for the community.
A few years ago, I had a healing experience when I visited my daughter’s local Christian Science church. I had been struggling with an internal condition that felt like an obstruction, and even though I had been praying for myself, it seemed that it was taking some time for me to experience healing. That morning, when I was on my way to the church service, I declared that I was going to expect healing. As I sat in the service, a beautiful feeling of peace washed over me and I felt so touched by the readings shared. I knew that I had been healed! I felt the pain subside, and then very soon after, within a couple of days, the obstruction was no longer there.
Then I became so grateful that I wanted to give my testimony at that same church. Since my husband and I live in another part of the country, I knew it was going to be several months before I could do that, so I made a commitment to myself that I would go to a testimony meeting the next time I was out there to visit. Sure enough, I was able to give the testimony several months later. I’d felt that my healing was related to not only my expectation, but a readiness and expectation of healing on the part of the members.
After the meeting, I was able to speak with the First Reader, who shared with me that it was her deep desire that people would receive healing at every service, and that she was actively praying to know this was possible. She was so grateful that I shared the testimony, because it was proof of answered prayer.
On another occasion, as our church congregation was standing up singing the second hymn of the Sunday service, I noticed my husband leaning sideways. I helped him sit down and immediately spoke to him of the allness of God. When I looked over at him, I saw that he was crying. It was at that moment that I realized that he’d felt something so beautiful and powerful during the hymn that he was overcome. The sweetest thing was that those in the congregation expressed love to him in different ways—touching his shoulder, getting tissues, etc. We could feel the prayerful activity of the congregation going on.
After the service, the two of us sat there after everyone else had left, and he said to me, “You knew what happened, didn’t you?” And I told him I thought so. He then told me that as we were singing the hymn, he felt the Holy Spirit coming to him and washing over him, and he knew he’d been healed of some emotional and physical issues that had been weighing heavily on him. There was a lightness of thought and wonder, an awe, of God’s goodness. An emotional heaviness that he’d felt since his brother passed on was lifted away, and he also knew he was free from a previously diagnosed disease. Work-related tests later confirmed a return to physical normalcy.
A little later, when I was talking with our Second Reader, she said that before the service she had been praying with the poem “The Reader Prays” (Grace K. Sticht, Christian Science Sentinel, March 29, 1947) and felt so strongly that she would be a transparency for Truth. She told me she just knew that Truth would be heard and felt by those in the congregation. And I said to her, “Well, it definitely was felt!” As other members heard about this experience, we were able to rejoice together about the healing power of the Word.
These, of course, are just two examples from the many healings that have taken place during Christian Science church services across the globe.
Something that I have found helpful in maintaining a mental position of readiness is from a short article Mary Baker Eddy wrote in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: “Beloved Christian Scientists, keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them. It is plain that nothing can be added to the mind already full. There is no door through which evil can enter, and no space for evil to fill in a mind filled with goodness. Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort. And not only yourselves are safe, but all whom your thoughts rest upon are thereby benefited” (p. 210). Such attention to God is necessary, because it can be very easy to get caught up in the mechanics of each service, distracting us from the main purpose of it: healing.
Being in a mental ready position also means that we are alert to attempts by the carnal mind to get us to think discordant thoughts about members or about how things are being done in church. It means to keep cherishing the activity of the Christ without getting distracted by things that would pull us apart. Even while listening to other members and considering various points of view, we can keep our thoughts close to Truth and Love. And our readiness and alertness also keeps us from fixating on how many people are attending any given service.
I love to remember that, in everything, as Science and Health says: “The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science,—pulseless, cold, inanimate” (p. 113).
Infinite Mind is expressing itself through us, its spiritual reflection; therefore, we are active, flexible, responsive, alert, and loving. This recognition can dispel any personal sense of self that would cause us to feel timid about talking to visitors to our church, or to think that we don’t know enough to perform needed church duties. We do know enough, because Mind is always communicating the truth, and we can be very confident of our oneness with Mind. Our readiness allows us to be mentally alert to give that “cup of cold water in Christ’s name” (Science and Health, p. 570) to any spiritual seeker, including fellow members.
Christian Science practice is Love expressed. Let’s know that we can prove this healing Love at church services.