The Mother Church of Christian Science First Church of Christ, Scientist Boston, Massachusetts

By Johnson, Dale A. | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2001 | Go to article overview

The Mother Church of Christian Science First Church of Christ, Scientist Boston, Massachusetts


Johnson, Dale A., Anglican and Episcopal History


The world headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist, is located on several acres in the Back Bay section of Boston. Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) founded the church in 1879, was ordained as its first pastor, and continues to be the shaper of the church's perspective through her writings, especially Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (first published in 1875). In order to prevent "human opinion" from influencing the church, Mrs. Eddy later declared that the Bible (the church uses the King James Version) and Science and Health were to be the pastor of the church; that designation will be especially evident in the church service itself.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, "the mother church" of the denomination, is the centerpiece of a complex of buildings, including the Publishing House (1934) and three buildings designed by I. M. Pei and constructed between 1969-72 (the Sunday School building, a Church Administration building, and the Christian Science Broadcasting Center). A several-hundred-foot-long reflecting pool and a fountain that operates in the summer add dramatic visual effects. The church itself is actually two buildings connected to each other. The first, "the Original Edifice," erected in 1894, is Romanesque in style, constructed in granite, and features a bell tower on one side. It seats almost 1,000 people. The second, "the Extension," was completed in 1906, seats more than three times that number, was built along Italian Renaissance and Byzantine styles, and is dominated by a large dome. The Extension had been undergoing major renovation for more than a year, which meant that all services during this period were conducted in the original building. Normally, the Sunday morning service is held in the Extension and the evening service in the Original Edifice. Tours of the church buildings are available at certain designated hours during the week and following the Sunday morning service.

The interior of both worship areas is in the auditorium style, with three-sided balconies providing additional seating. The platform at the front of the Original Edifice, where the service was held this Sunday morning in November 1999, has two lecterns, with several seats behind them, and an organ behind that. Four lamp stands, two at the front of the platform and two at the sides, provide modest decoration. Above the organ on the wall are the words "God is Love-John"; behind the lecterns are the words "Who is so Great a God as Our God-Psalms." Other texts appear on the walls with authors cited as "Christ Jesus," "Paul," and "Mary Baker G. Eddy"; one extended citation from Mrs. Eddy states that "The best sermon is the practice of Truth, and its demonstration through the destruction of sin, sickness, and death." Rose windows of opalescent glass on each side of the auditorium show Jesus raising Jairus's daughter and the wedding at Cana. Other windows at the front and sides represent other biblical scenes, while smaller windows on each side of the front picture the Bible and Science and Health, respectively.

Although the auditorium was certainly not crowded at the opening of the service this morning, there were three to four hundred persons present, a cross-section of ages and a rough balance of men and women. Children are not in evidence, no doubt because Sunday School classes for persons under twenty are held at the same time as the church service. As people enter the building, they are given a copy of the current issue of the Christian Science Quarterly, which contains Bible lessons for each week in the quarter together with the Order of Sunday Services, printed on the inside front cover. Every Christian Science church throughout the world follows the same order and uses the same readings every Sunday. The service on Sunday evening is identical to that of the morning; among other things, it specifies three hymns, the Lord's Prayer "with its spiritual interpretation," a solo, and a "collection. …

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