Historical notes 


A brief history of Mary Baker Eddy's Church


 

COLLEGE AND CHURCH




   In 1867 I introduced the first purely metaphysical system
of healing since the apostolic days.  I began by
teaching one student Christian Science Mind-healing.
From this seed grew the Massachusetts Metaphysical
College in Boston, chartered in 1881.  No charter was
granted for similar purposes after 1883.  It is the only
College, hitherto, for teaching the pathology of spiritual
power, alias the Science of Mind-healing.
   My husband, Asa G. Eddy, taught two terms in my
College.  After I gave up teaching, my adopted son,
Ebenezer J. Foster-Eddy, a graduate of the Hahnemann
Medical College of Philadelphia, and who also received a
certificate from Dr. W. W. Keen's (allopathic) Philadelphia
School of Anatomy and Surgery, - having renounced his
material method of practice and embraced the teachings
of Christian Science, taught the Primary, Normal,
and Obstetric class one term.  Gen. Erastus N. Bates
taught one Primary class, in 1889, after which I judged
it best to close the institution.  These students of mine
were the only assistant teachers in the College.
   The first Christian Scientist Association was organized
by myself and six of my students in 1876, on the Centennial
Day of our nation's freedom.  At a meeting of the
Christian Scientist Association, on April 12, 1879, it was
voted to organize a church to commemorate the words
and works of our Master, a Mind-healing church, without
a creed, to be called the Church of Christ, Scientist, the
first such church ever organized.  The charter for this
church was obtained in June, 1879, *1 and during the same
month the members, twenty-six in number, extended a
call to me to become their pastor.  I accepted the call,
and was ordained in 1881, though I had preached five
years before being ordained.


*1 Steps were taken to promote the Church of Christ, Scientist,
in April, May, and June; formal organization was accomplished and
the charter obtained in August, 1879.


   When I was its pastor, and in the pulpit every Sunday,
my church increased in members, and its spiritual growth
kept pace with its increasing popularity; but when obliged,
because of accumulating work in the College, to preach
only occasionally, no student, at that time, was found able
to maintain the church in its previous harmony and
prosperity.
   Examining the situation prayerfully and carefully, noting
the church's need, and the predisposing and exciting cause
of its condition, I saw that the crisis had come when much
time and attention must be given to defend this church
from the envy and molestation of other churches, and
from the danger to its members which must always lie in
Christian warfare.  At this juncture I recommended that
the church be dissolved.  No sooner were my views made
known, than the proper measures were adopted to carry
them out, the votes passing without a dissenting voice.
   This measure was immediately followed by a great revival
of mutual love, prosperity, and spiritual power.
   The history of that hour holds this true record.  Adding
to its ranks and influence, this spiritually organized
Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, still goes on.  A
new light broke in upon it, and more beautiful became
the garments of her who "bringeth good tidings, that publisheth
peace."
   Despite the prosperity of my church, it was learned
that material organization has its value and peril, and that
organization is requisite only in the earliest periods in
Christian history.  After this material form of cohesion
and fellowship has accomplished its end, continued organization
retards spiritual growth, and should be laid off, -
even as the corporeal organization deemed requisite in
the first stages of mortal existence is finally laid off, in
order to gain spiritual freedom and supremacy.
   From careful observation and experience came my clue
to the uses and abuses of organization.  Therefore, in accord
with my special request, followed that noble, unprecedented
action of the Christian Scientist Association
connected with my College when dissolving that organization,
- in forgiving enemies, returning good for evil, in
following Jesus' command, "Whosoever shall smite thee
on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."  I saw
these fruits of Spirit, long-suffering and temperance, fulfil
the law of Christ in righteousness.  I also saw that
Christianity has withstood less the temptation of popularity
than of persecution. (Retrospection and Introspection p.44)


From a report by the Clerk, at the Annual Meeting, 1906

   On September 8, 1882, it was voted that the church
hold its meetings of worship in the parlors of Mrs. Eddy's
home, 569 Columbus Avenue, Boston.  The services were
held there until November, 1883, and then in the Hawthorne
Rooms, at No. 3 Park Street, the seating capacity
of which place was about two hundred and
twenty-five.  At a meeting October 22, 1883, the church voted
to wait upon Mrs. Eddy, to ascertain if she would
preach for the society for ten dollars a Sunday, which
invitation she accepted.  After establishing itself as a
church in the Hawthorne Rooms, the number of attendants
steadily increased.  The pulpit was supplied by
Mrs. Eddy, when she could give the time to preach,
and by her students and by clergymen of different
denominations, among whom was the Rev. A. J. Peabody,
D.D., of Cambridge, Mass..

   The annual report of the business committee of the
church, for the year ending December 7, 1885, contains
some very interesting statements, among which is this:
"There was a steadily increasing interest in Christian
Science among the people, even though the continuity
of thought must have been very much broken by having
so many different ones address them on the subject.
When our pastor preached for us it was found that the
Hawthorne Rooms were inadequate for the occasion,
hundreds going away who could not obtain entrance;
those present enduring the inconvenience that comes
from crowding, for the sake of the eternal truth she
taught them."  The Boston Traveler contained the following
item: "The Church of Christ, Scientist, had their
meeting Easter Sunday at Hawthorne Rooms, which
were crowded one hour before the service commenced,
and half an hour before the arrival of the pastor, the
Rev. Mary Baker Eddy, the tide of men and women
was turned from the door with the information, 'No
more standing-room.' "
   On February 8, 1885, communion was held at Odd
Fellows Hall, and there were present about eight hundred
people.  At this time the Hawthorne Rooms, which had
been regarded as the church home, were outgrown.  During
the summer vacation, different places were considered,
but no place suitable could be found that was available,
and the Sunday services were postponed.  There was an
expectation that some place would be obtained, but the
desire for services was so great that the Hawthorne Rooms
were again secured.  A record of this period reads, "It
should be here stated that from the first of September to
our opening, crowds had besieged the doors at the Hawthorne
Rooms, Sunday after Sunday."  On October 18,
1885, the rooms were opened and a large congregation
was present.  It was then concluded to engage Chickering
Hall on Tremont Street.  In the previous consideration
of places for meeting it had been decided that this hall
was too large, as it seated four hundred and sixty-four.
The first Sunday service held in Chickering Hall was on
October 25, 1885.  Mrs. Eddy preached at this service
and the hall was crowded.  This date is memorable as
the one upon which the Sunday School was formed.
   Meanwhile it was felt that the church needed a place of
its own, and efforts were made to obtain by purchase some
building, or church, in a suitable location.  Several places
were considered, but were not satisfactory; yet the
thought of obtaining a church edifice, although given up
for a time, was not forgotten.  In the mean time, not
only was the attendance rapidly growing in this church in
Chickering Hall, but the Cause itself was spreading over
the land.  September 1, 1892, Mrs. Eddy gave the plot of
ground on which The Mother Church now stands.  On
the twenty-third day of September, 1892, twelve of the
members of the church met, and, upon Mrs. Eddy's
counsel, reorganized the church, and named it The First
Church of Christ, Scientist.  This effort of Mrs. Eddy
was an inspiration to Christian Scientists, and plans were
made for a church home.

   In the mean time Sunday services were held in Chickering
Hall, and continued there until March, 1894, and
during the last year the hall was crowded to overflowing.
In March, however, the church was obliged to seek other
quarters, as Chickering Hall was to be remodelled.  At this
time the church removed to Copley Hall on Clarendon
Street, which had a seating capacity of six hundred and
twenty-five, and in that place Sunday services were held
until The Mother Church edifice was ready for occupancy,
December 30, 1894.  During the months that the congregation
worshipped in Copley Hall there was a steady
increase in attendance.
   Twelve years ago the twenty-first of last month, the
corner-stone of The Mother Church edifice was laid, and
at that time it was thought the seating capacity would be
adequate for years to come.  Attendance at the Sunday
service gradually increased, until every seat was filled and
many stood in the aisles, and in consequence two services
were held, morning and afternoon, the latter a repetition
of the morning service.  The date of the inauguration of
two Sunday services was April 26, 1896.  It was soon
evident that even this provision was inadequate to meet
the need, and it was found necessary to organize branch
churches in such suburbs of Boston as would relieve
the overcrowded condition of The Mother Church; therefore
three branch churches were organized, one in each of
the following named places:  Cambridge, Chelsea, and
Roxbury.
   For a while it seemed that there would be ample room
for growth of attendance in The Mother Church, but notwithstanding
the relief that the organization of branch
churches had given, the number of attendants increased
faster than ever.  From the time that the three foregoing
named churches were established, the membership and the
attendance at them and at The Mother Church steadily
grew, and more branch churches were established in other
suburbs, members of which had formerly been attendants
at The Mother Church.  In the spring of 1905 the overcrowded
condition of the morning service showed that
still further provision must be made, as many were obliged
to leave the church for the reason that there was not even
standing-room.  Therefore, beginning October 1, 1905,
three services were held each Sunday, the second and
third being repetitions of the first service.
   This continued growth, this continued overcrowding,
proved the need of a larger edifice.  Our communion services
and annual meetings were overcrowded in The
Mother Church, they were overcrowded in Tremont
Temple, in Symphony Hall, and in the Mechanics Building,
and the need was felt of an auditorium that would
be of great seating capacity, and one that would have the
sacred atmosphere of a church home.
   In Mrs. Eddy's Message to the church in 1902 she suggested
the need of a larger church edifice, and at the
annual meeting of the same year the church voted to
raise any part of two millions of dollars for the purpose of
building a suitable edifice.  The labor of clearing the land
was begun in October, 1903, and the corner-stone was
laid July 16, 1904.
   The first annual meeting of the church was held in
Chickering Hall, October 3, 1893, and the membership
at that date was 1,545.  The membership of this
church to-day is 40,011.  The number of candidates
admitted June 5 of this year is the largest in the history
of the church and numbers 4,889, which is 2,194
more than the hitherto largest admission, that of June,
1903.  The total number admitted during the last
year is 6,181.  The total number of branch churches
advertised in The Christian Science Journal of this
June is 682, 614 of which show a membership of
41,944.  The number of societies advertised in the
Journal is 267.
   Shortly before the dedication of The Mother Church in
1895, the Boston Evening Transcript said: "Wonders will
never cease.  Here is a church whose Treasurer has sent
out word that no sums except those already subscribed
can be received.  The Christian Scientists have a faith
of the mustard-seed variety.  What a pity some of our
practical Christian folk have not a faith approximate to
that of these impractical Christian Scientists."
   The fact that a notice was published in the Christian
Science Sentinel of last Saturday that no more funds
are needed to complete the extension of The Mother
Church, proves the truth of the axiom, "History repeats
itself."  These are the evidences of the magnificent
growth of this Cause, and are sufficient refutation
of the statements that have been made that "Christian
Science is dying out."
   The majesty and the dignity of this church edifice not
only shows the growth of this Cause, but proclaims the
trust, the willingness of those who have contributed to
the erection of these mighty walls.
   This magnificent structure, this fitting testimonial in
stone, speaks more than words can picture of the love and
gratitude of a great multitude that has been healed and
purified through the labor and sacrifice of our revered
Leader and teacher, Mary Baker Eddy, the one through
whom God has revealed a demonstrable way of salvation.
May her example inspire us to follow her in preaching,
"The kingdom of heaven is at hand," by healing the
sick and reforming the sinful, and, as she has done, verifying
Jesus' words, "Lo, I am with you alway."

(The First Church of Christ, Scientist p.52 - 58)


The Christian Science Journal, January, 1895 - extract

   The Mother Church edifice - The First Church of
Christ, Scientist, in Boston, is erected.  The close of the
year, Anno Domini 1894, witnessed the completion of
"our prayer in stone," all predictions and prognostications
to the contrary notwithstanding.
   Of the significance of this achievement we shall not
undertake to speak in this article.  It can be better felt
than expressed.  All who are awake thereto have some
measure of understanding of what it means.  But only
the future will tell the story of its mighty meaning or unfold
it to the comprehension of mankind.  It is enough for
us now to know that all obstacles to its completion have
been met and overcome, and that our temple is completed
as God intended it should be.
   This achievement is the result of long years of untiring,
unselfish, and zealous effort on the part of our beloved
teacher and Leader, the Reverend Mary Baker Eddy,
the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, who
nearly thirty years ago began to lay the foundation of
this temple, and whose devotion and consecration to God
and humanity during the intervening years have made
its erection possible.
   Those who now, in part, understand her mission, turn
their hearts in gratitude to her for her great work, and
those who do not understand it will, in the fulness of time,
see and acknowledge it.  In the measure in which she has
unfolded and demonstrated divine Love, and built up in
human consciousness a better and higher conception of
God as Life, Truth, and Love, - as the divine Principle
of all things which really exist, - and in the degree in
which she has demonstrated the system of healing of Jesus
and the apostles, surely she, as the one chosen of God to
this end, is entitled to the gratitude and love of all who
desire a better and grander humanity, and who believe
it to be possible to establish the kingdom of heaven upon
earth in accordance with the prayer and teachings of
Jesus Christ. (Pulpit and Press p.84)

 


Thank you for visiting - Rolf Witzsche

Published by
Cygni Communications Ltd.
North Vancouver, B.C.
Canada