The Church of Christ Scientist is intensifying the effort to market its teachings, particularly founder Mary Baker Eddy’s works, to spiritual seekers on the New Age , mind-body circuit but it may be marginalizing the role of its congregations in the process, reports The Banner (Spring), an independent Christian Scientist newsletter.
In recent years, Christian Scientists, under their leader Virginia Harris, have sought to present and repackage such seminal Christian Scientist works as “Science and Health” to the unaffiliated in hopes of reversing a serious membership decline. A recent church conference revealed the new approach, as Harris emphasized the role of Christian Science reading rooms (local associations that propagate Eddy’s writings) in reaching out to seekers through the Internet and at mind-body seminars and bookfairs.
Field workers dispatched by headquarters are coaching reading room directors and “receptive” branch churches to aggressively sell a modern trade edition of Eddy’s “Science and Health.”
Editor Andrew Hartsook writes that “Reading room librarians are being told that the reading rooms are separate entities which should make their own decisions, have their own funding, sponsor their own lectures, and host their own bookstore talks. The practical result is that local reading rooms will be under the control of The Mother Church. The branch churches are, at best, on the fringes of this new vision for reviving interest in Christian Science.”
He adds that a new church Web site has been created (http://www.spirituality.com) that gives the dates, times, and places for spirituality seminars and mind/body/spirit events but provides no listing of Christian Science churches.
(The Banner, 2040 Hazel Ave., Zanesville, OH 43701-2222)