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I’m remembering back to that day in August, 2009, when about fifty curious, devoted, loving, enthusiastic Christian Scientists from all over the Chicago area gathered together to think about the meaning and implementation of fellowship within the Christian Science community.

We began with a series of gatherings, where we wanted to experience a wide-open form of worship, praying, interacting fellowship, music, and living our love for God and for humanity. We also listened very carefully to those who have felt alienated from the Christian Science community for a variety of reasons. Those discussions led to some soul-searching and sincere efforts to be more open and welcoming.

To be quite candid, we struggled a bit to discern the difference between Christian Science in Mary Baker Eddy’s day and Christian Science in the 21st century. What role does culture or society have in our expressions of an ‘eternal Science?’ How do we recognize the way our own comfortable ways of doing things may just be the things that turn others away? Are we confronting in ourselves self-justification, pride of healing practices, or denominational arrogance?

We have shared our wrestling, learning, and joy along the way. Our happiest take-away: hearing how the experiences touched and awakened those who got involved, and hearing when people took these ideas back to their own branch churches!

We also learned why we are unable to sustain the effort indefinitely. Most of all, we have concluded that the geographic configuration of Chicago is too big and unwieldy for us to ‘gather’ in a practical manner. And secondly, we weren’t able to generate enough support for the work behind the scenes. The book club continued on for a couple of years beyond our other events, not needing the physical labor and time commitment.

So, in conclusion, we are satisfied that our ‘mission to nourish Christian Science worship, fellowship, and healing in a warm, bold, new way that supports one another and reaches the world’ continues to inspire us, even as we close this chapter and prepare for some future expression of it. So this is the time to gather up the leftover loaves and fishes, to express our gratitude to Christ’s awakening and guidance, and to thank everyone who participated. We leave this blog online intentionally for anyone who wishes to browse through our history of ideas and experiences.

Thank you!

At the end of our last book club conference call, several people were interested in the complete list of all the books we read during our four years of book discussions. Here, in the order we read them, is a list of the 41 books we read. Everyone involved has their favorites, and their not-so-favorites. We encourage you to look at the list, read a few, and decide for yourself. We found it to be a rewarding learning experience!!

 

List of Book Club Books

2011

Amish Peace by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Gentle Art of Blessing by Pierre Pradervand

Gospel of Mary…First Woman Disciple by Karen L. King

The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew – Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner

The Shack by William P. Young

Acts of Faith by Eboo Patel

The Mirror Theory by Betsy Otter Thompson

Compelled by Love by Heidi Baker

Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli

The Galilean Secret by Evan Drake Howard

Love Wins by Rob Bell

2012

The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle

Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church by Paul Nixon

Replenishing the Earth – Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World by Wangari Maathai

What Good is God? By Philip Yancey

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom

You Don’t Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield

Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist by Karen M. Terrell

2013

Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy’s Challenge to Materialism by Stephen Gottschalk

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

A New Kind of Christian by Brian D. McLaren

Sacred Ground by Eboo Patel

If Grace is True by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland

To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary Neal

The Lemon Tree, An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch

2014

Radical Welcome by Stephanie Spellers

Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? by Brian D. McLaren

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rawandan Holocaust by Imaculee Ilibagiza

Who Is This Man, the Unpredicatable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus by John Ortberg

After You Believe – Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright

Persistent Pilgrim by Richard Nenneman

For Such a Time as This: Young Adults on the Future of the Church by Kathryn Mary Lohre

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

2015

Paperboy to Pulitzer by John Hughes

Best wishes for future inspiring reading!

Rindy, Sandi, Barb, and Carol

Four years ago a small group from the Christian Science Fellowship Metro Chicago, decided to start a book club to support the Fellowship’s mission:

“…to nourish Christian Science worship, fellowship, and healing in a

warm, bold, new way that supports one another and reaches the world.”

We found a generous, perceptive, and experienced moderator in Dr. Tim Hayes, who agreed to give up his Sunday evenings once a month to lead a group of thoughtful readers in a meaningful book discussion.

Now, 41 books later, and for a number of reasons, we have found it is time to close the book on this chapter and discover our own new reading adventures. A huge thank you to Tim, to those that read our blog write-ups of the book discussions and then read the books on their own, and to our dedicated readers from all over the country. We have so appreciated the opportunity to share and discuss ideas with such an involved group of friends for four thoughtful years. We’ll miss our monthly conversations…perhaps we may run into each other at a used book sale or at a discussion of “A New Christianity”!

If you are interested in participating further in a virtual book club, may we suggest you check out www.bibleandspirituallife.org. The Bible and Spiritual Life Community will be starting in February, discussing Richard Rohr’s book, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer.

 

We’ve enjoyed learning with you!

Warmest regards,

Rindy, Sandi, Carol, and Barb

January 18, 7:00 p.m. CST: Paperboy to Pulitzer by John Hughs

From Nebbadoon Press: “JOHN HUGHES is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former editor of The Christian Science Monitor.

His earning the Pulitzer and spending a lifetime dedicated to the journalism trade, with professional standards respected by all his peers, make this memoir a fascinating read….The book is an intimate narrative that reflects Hughes’s involvement in or reporting during the administrations of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

Paper Boy to Pulitzer chronicles an extraordinary career and confirms being on the ground is still a critical factor in excellent reportage.”

To purchase the book in a Kindle edition, follow this link to Amazon:

To purchase the book in print form, follow this link to Nebbadoon Press.

The Christian Science Monitor has enriched all our lives, and we look forward to sharing together what we learn from this in-depth memoir. A reminder will be sent out a few days prior; the conference call in number remains the same as last month: 1-424-203-8405 Pass code: 484 188#.

Barb, Carol, Sandi & Rindy

PLEASE NOTE:  The next book for discussion on Sunday, January 18, 2015, is Paperboy to Pulitzer by John Hughes.
Paperboy to Pulitzer is available in a Kindle edition from amazon.com.
In print form it can be purchased only from Nebadoon Press.  Click on this link for easy ordering.

Discussion Notes of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence (1614-1691) served as a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris.  The book, The Practice of the Presence of God, compiled after his death, is his description of a close relationship with God – intimate and heartfelt – and how to obtain it and sustain it.  Below is the discussion of the book, moderated by Tim Hayes.

I especially enjoyed the beginning.  Loved his utter surrender to God and his humility.  Later I had to back away from the old theology, which wasn’t helpful.  There is still such a sense of devotion.

I loved it. I thought there was so much that was good – his notion of the presence of God, to pray without ceasing. To realize the presence of God in everything he was doing – working in the kitchen or sewing sandals, or talking with people. His focus was on loving and honoring God, and this radiated to everyone around him.

I liked those parts too.  I did cringe at the wretchedness.  He did so much that was right in his self-surrender.  His confession of himself as wretched denied any expectancy of good.

Yes, that wretchedness did color the book quite a bit. It was so pronounced that I kept thinking about the Spanish inquisition. It seemed at times so over the top as to be completely out of place. I felt the connection with God, with prayer, with the flow of life. Then there was the abruptness of the wretchedness.

You cannot stay in the practice of the presence of God, and continually beat yourself up. The whole idea of being wretched and a miserable sinner came into the Christian belief system with St. Augustine, who fought for his Catholic Christian tradition of original sin.  He had real difficulty controlling his animal urges, so he decided it must be built into us. And that’s where he bribed the people in the council of Nicea to adopt original sin as a doctrine of Catholicism. He bought very expensive horses to bribe them so they’d go along with his vote.

Brother Lawrence was sure God would never deceive him, and “would send only such things as were good for him.” This doesn’t sound like one who believes that God thinks he is wretched.

I think the notion of the absolute presence and goodness of God is one of the greatest contributions of Christian Science. He thought this was an experience of the heart.

Brother Lawrence says life isn’t just thought – it’s heart to heart connection. Isn’t it intellectualism vs deep, heart-felt spirituality?

“For me, the time of action does not differ from the time of prayer… I possess God in as great a tranquility as when I’m on my knees in the blessed sacrament.”

Do all for the love of God – isn’t practicing this the presence of God?

This book helped expand my sense of God as All-in-all.  When Brother Lawrence says, “I renounced for the love of Him, everything that was not He.”

Conclusion. All saw the stark contrast between the God of love, and living as a sorrowing wretched sinner. The contrasts are all around us.

 

Join us for the discussion of Paperboy to Pulitzer by John Hughes on January 18, 2015, at 7:00 pm (CT).

November16, 7:00 p.m. CST: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence lived in the 17th century and was a lay brother at a Carmelite priory in Paris, working in the kitchen there. He had a reputation for experiencing profound peace and visitors came to seek spiritual guidance from him. The wisdom he passed on to them, in conversations and letters, would become the basis of the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. (source: Wikipedia)

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is available in a number of print and e-book editions though Amazon.com and http://www.Christianbook.com. The basic editions include the conversations and letters (45 + pages) and the expanded editions also include his Spiritual Maxims and sometimes additional material (100+ pages).

To read more, or to purchase the book, follow this link to Amazon:

We look forward to sharing together what we learn from this 17th century Christian. A reminder will be sent out a few days prior; the conference call in number remains the same as last month: 1-424-203-8405 Pass code: 484 188#.

Barb, Carol, Sandi & Rindy

The discussion last Sunday, of our most recent book, for such a time as this – Young Adults on the Future of the Church, edited by Kathryn Mary Lohre, was lively and insightful – in fact, time ran out while discussion was still active.  Tim Hayes led the exchange between nine participants who called in from as far east as New Jersey, and as far west as Seattle, Washington, and many points in between.  What follows is an edited form of the conversation.

I was impressed by how committed the young writers are to their faith traditions; they seemed to be leaders in their faiths. I liked the last chapter especially.

I was moved by the dedication and compassion of each of these young authors, their sincerity and depth of thinking. As a generation, they brought a sense of inclusivity, less isolation.  I love the chapter, “Who is my neighbor?” and “Listening to God.”  How important it is to not think of anybody as “the other.”  All are beloved children of God.

Q.  Spiritual Tinkering topic.  Has anybody had that experience in their own life?  i.e., I’m going to take this ritual that I like, and that belief that I like from another church and weave them together.

This is a good observation of what’s going on right now. Young people take a little bit from this religion and a little from that and roll it all in one to make something that makes sense to them.

Q.  How does your faith tradition respond to spiritual tinkering?

I think it would be frowned upon in Christian Science.

Examples from my own family – I have a sister and son who love CS and think of it as the foundation of their beliefs. They have studied other traditions, some not Christian, but they relate to some Christian ideas.  Wayne Dyer brings out the similarities of other faith traditions.  One Christian Scientist said to me, why would I want to read all these other books when I have Science and Health?

As Christian Scientists we are part of the greater whole. We are Christian Science Christians.  We can recognize our unique message, without being isolated.

I think the book, Proof of Heaven, is such a good example.  I think there is a greater broadening awareness and value for other people being able to teach us.  The author, Eben Alexander says Love is what life is all about. It’s a book most Christian Scientists can talk about.

I read and reread it. He was right on about so many things.  He caught the vision.  It inspired me and reaffirmed my core beliefs.

I wonder if we are so open to that book because, in many ways, he agrees with what we believe as Christian Scientists?

In my church people will often refer to other books they are reading that cast light on spiritual concepts.

Q.  Does your denomination seek to increase its racial and ethnic diversity?

We (First Church, Cincinnati) with the parents’ permission, pick up children from the inner city and bring them to our Sunday School. We do a lot to support them.  It is not an easy undertaking.  The congregation has to adjust to the different lifestyle of the children.  We have picked up as many as fifteen.  How do you approach the children when they don’t read the Bible at home?  You have to be willing to learn about their culture.

Way out of our comfort zone. When it comes to our faith traditions, we tend to look for comfort, not for being pushed out of our comfort zone.

Yes, it takes great humility, great listening, great awareness not to become frustrated by the differences in lifestyles. These students are seeking higher answers.  Because we have done that, because they know us, we’ve had CS lectures in their communities, they were open to us and they came.  We need to open up, be the friend, be the supportive caregiver.

Q.  The Scandal of Main Street steeples. There were all these different churches on different corners in the same small town. Why, if they are all Christians, are they so separate? Is there unity among Christians? Is it important? What do we sacrifice if we move toward unity?

Christians can come together, but they need to expand. “Our God given unity is in our diversity. Only multiplicity of vision offers hope.” (p. 136) We must be willing to come together, to still have a self-identity as a faith tradition within the whole. My desire is to really understand that nothing can separate us from the love of God. I find myself constantly talking to other people about grace. There is a strength that comes from our in-depth study of these concepts. I have several friends that really want to hear my ideas on grace. We are opening a Bible study via Madelon Maupin on the Internet. I have had to grow up and really study and open my heart to the Bible. Now I really have communication with other Christians.

The Bible is our core teaching. That’s our bridge to other Christians.  If we just say, there is no matter, that doesn’t do it.

Our church meets at the RR once a month. We’re studying the book of John.  My children gave me the Interpreter’s Bible for Christmas.  That helps me.  We have to be students of the Bible or we are not real Christian Scientists.

I have enjoyed a Bible that puts the books in chronological order. The Daily Bible in Chronological order, New International Version.  I have found it very interesting just reading through it, a chapter a day in the New Testament.

New Living Translation is sometimes recommended as a Study Bible. It asks good questions.

Q.  Chapter six, “Who is my Neighbor?” asks, How are you living all that reading you are doing? “Are we not betraying God and the Christian Community when we fraternize too closely with people of another faith?” 

To me the heart of the matter was on p. 66, “How do we tend to respond to the otherness that’s around us? … are we shutting ourselves off…  We are called to collapse the distance between ourselves and our neighbors through acts of gracious love and hospitality.”

I teach a three-month program to inner city students. The director wants them to have Science and Health, says it’s the only thing that will save them in the end.  Students come up and tell me, I’ve been looking for this all my life.

We need to be fearless and confident that there are those who are seeking. The woman who does the pastries at our Kroger store wants Science and Health as she faces surgery.  I’ve been praying that everyone already has the Christ within them.

Q.  Chapter Nine. “How should I pray?” – homosexual, bisexual, transgender. Are we called to love everyone? What are we sacrificing if we open our hospitality to everyone?

When the Board of Directors of The Mother Church, went around the world, including Seattle, the question of sexual orientation came up. One of their answers totally moved from sexuality to spirituality.  We should look at a person’s spirituality.  I don’t think spirituality has a sex.  The answer takes the issue out of materiality.

Making spirituality more important than sexuality is good. Yet for people who are living in this world who have been discriminated against because of their sexuality, it may be important for a church to make a statement that says, You are OK.  Is loving everyone, without making a statement, enough?

 

Please take note: through January, 2015, book discussions will be held every other month.

November 16 – The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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