Guest post by Anne Cooling, C.S.
Many Biblical examples, complemented by the life and writings of Mary Baker Eddy, reveal the value of community and its healing effects. I have been cherishing this idea for a while. It has blessed my healing practice and helped me grow in grace, which our Leader tells us is what we most need. (Science and Health 4:3-5) Let me share with you a few of the inspiring examples. The first begins in the Old Testament.
After a small group of brave slaves and two Egyptians stood up to a powerful Pharaoh to save a baby, that baby grew up to rescue the Israelite community from captivity in Egypt. When Moses doubted that he could go to the children of Israel and to Pharaoh to arrange their release, God sent Aaron, who could “speak well,” out into the wilderness to meet Moses and accompany him in his negotiations. (see Exodus 2-5) What I love about this story is how just a few people really saved 600,000 later. When these few listened to God’s direction and united in action, an entire community found freedom.
In the New Testament, we find that various individuals were actively called upon to serve their community. When God sent Jesus into the world, He led him to disciples who would accompany him, and Jesus sent 70 of these disciples two-by-two into the towns and cities he was planning to visit. He asked them to heal the sick and preach the word of God. He didn’t send the disciples alone, though doing so would have allowed them to cover more ground. He sent them together to support one another, to be a secondary witness to one another. (Luke 10)
Paul also never traveled alone in his ministry. His companions were about a great work; they were active healers and gospel writers. When Paul was stoned and cast out of Lystra, we read that his companions gathered around him in prayer, and that prayer raised him from seeming death. (Acts 14:19-21)
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, continued this great example of Christianly caring for her community. Like Paul, she continually wrote to her churches and healers to encourage them, answer their questions and sometimes get them back on track, leaving us a legacy of inspiration and guidance. She incorporated in her vision of church many avenues to support and heal the community such as: church services, lectures, Reading Rooms, practitioners, teachers, Christian Science nurses, a Christian Science nursing facility, Committees on Publication and so forth.
Mary Baker Eddy also prayed for those around the world, keeping her heart alert with divine Love for humanity. Those prayers led her to write newspaper articles, provide shoes for her community’s elderly and children, donate half her financial resources to help build a church in Concord, New Hampshire, and establish the Christian Science Monitor, an international newspaper whose object is to “injure no man, but to bless all mankind.”(Miscellany 353:17) In her own home, she set prayer watches over 24-hour periods, asking her household to pray with her in meeting the need of the hour.* She advised us to go to God in our own watches as we meet the needs of our communities.**
As I strive to follow Mrs. Eddy’s advice and all of these inspiring examples of actively engaging in one’s community, I find that this is where my prayers and life become most unselfed. Whether I am visiting someone in need, reading in our prisons, teaching in Sunday School, or serving on Broadview’s board, each of these ministerial activities of Christ have enabled me to witness the power of God, divine Love, through hearts softened and individuals comforted and healed.
When we recognize that it is truly divine Love, working through us, who responds to the needs of others, we are not tempted by the worldly suggestion that helping our neighbor exhausts our resources of time, energy, and so forth. Rather, we are energized by the fact that Love is the source for its own mission and purpose and supplies everything that is necessary to fulfill that purpose. Christian Scientists know that Mrs. Eddy made strong demands on love. (This “love” refers to humanity’s expression of divine Love.) She wrote, “Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on a rose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal.” (Miscellaneous Writings 250:14-20)
I encourage you to pause and think of all the ways you have been blessed by this type of love in your community. What prompted it, and how did this love heal? As you deepen your spiritual study of community and healing, take into your hearts the wise words our Leader, “….You never can be a practical Christian Scientist without healing the sick and sinner besides yourself. It is too selfish for us to be working for ourselves and not others as well. God does not bless it.”*** Each of us can be practical Christian Scientists right where we are in our work, home, churches and larger communities. All the power of Love is behind each divine purpose and since Love is Principle, its fulfillment is assured.
*Rolling Away the Stone, Challenge to Materialism Section by Steven Gottschalk
**Mary Baker Eddy: Years of Trial, Robert Peel, pg. 277
***Christian Healer by von Fettweis and Warneck (Unamplified Edition), pg. 218, 1st paragraph