Sunday, 12 May 2013

First Church of Christ, Scientist, Edinburgh

First Church of Christ, Scientist, Edinburgh
Morning Service, Sunday 12th May 2013, 10.30am
Led by: two woman whose names I didn’t learn

Christian Science is one of the few religions I can think of that's been founded by a woman, Mary Baker Eddy, author of Science and Health, which is the key text of the denomination, alongside the Bible.

I wasn’t sure what to expect … a few more attendees, perhaps? There were only twenty of us all told. I certainly didn’t expect any miraculous healings there and then. I knew that they don’t go in for that kind of throw-away-your-crutches palaver, although they do believe in spiritual healing. In fact, they believe that everything is spiritual, and that the physical, and therefore anything that can go physically wrong, is an illusion which can be transcended.

What surprised me most was how prescriptive the order of service was. The Christian Science Quarterly sets out the texts which are to be read each week, from the Bible and from Science and Health, and these texts (about 35 minutes’ worth of them) comprise the sermon, the leaders taking it turn about to read from each source. So prescriptive is the list of citations that it even specifies which word within a Bible verse the reader should begin at. There doesn’t appear to be any wriggle room, nor any requirement ever to write an original sermon.

Not only were the Bible verses interspersed with Mother Eddy’s interpretations and reflections, but even the Lord’s Prayer was taken line by line with explanations in between. The sermon was preceded by a set-piece statement and the service concluded with the “scientific statement of being” and “its correlative scripture”. Somehow it seems odd that a relatively new religion should have adopted such a strict liturgy.

Listening to the excerpts from Science and Health, I seemed to recall that Mark Twain had described Eddy’s writings as “chloroform in print”. Of course, I had to check, and it turns out I was wrong. That’s how he described the Book of Mormon, but it would have been equally apt for Science and Health. No need for anaesthetic with this lifeless prose to hand.

Thumbs up for the music, though. Very accomplished organ playing for the hymns and voluntaries, and a mezzo solo setting of verses from Revelation, although the singer then disappeared for the rest of the service … perhaps to the Sunday school downstairs.

So that was Christian Science. Pretty dull and badly undersubscribed for the size of building they maintain. It’s another one to add to the list, but not inspiring in any way. 


  1. Hmmm Christian Science is an individual study. the lesson is read by many throughout the world and studied all week long. Many are helped and healed by this lesson. It is impersonal. How often we get wrong advise from ministers couselors who are just learning and growing themselves. My family and I have had many healings over 30 years from our joyful study of the Bible and Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy. I dont go to Church to be entertained but to learn and share and grow.

  2. Thanks for your comment, and sorry not to have replied before now. Somehow I allowed it to slip past my radar. I can see the logic of having a worldwide regimen that keeps everyone reading the same texts; it means you get round them all in time and you're not at the whim of individual clerics. It just seems a bit inflexible, although maybe there are other opportunities during the week for people to discuss it outside the context of the Sunday service.

  3. Hi I just saw this while googling for the church website. The Wednesday evening meetings have about 10-15 minutes of readings chosen by the reader from the Bible and Science and Health, followed by testimonies and comments on Christian Science from people in the congregation. There are also lectures held once or twice a year,which are very helpful for the interested searcher. There are some sample -mini lectures up on Youtube, which you can find by searching for Christian Science Lecture. The lecture given in Edinburgh spring 2013 by Jon Benson called Step out of your Story was a good summary of the thoughtful nature of prayer and healing. A short version of this can be found on Youtube. We intend to have another lecture in March or April 2014 which is open to the public. The announcement will be in the newspaper and on our website: Happy Soul-searching.

  4. Thanks for your comment. I'm nearing the end of my Soul Search year now, so perhaps in 2014 I will have time to take in the occasional lecture. I'll keep an eye out.