The original directive for announcing books of the Bible in church services comes from an article titled “Church and School.”1 This article was first published in the April 1895 issue of The Christian Science Journal. In it Mary Baker Eddy writes that “the Reader of the Scriptures shall name, at each reading, the book, chapter, and verses.”
This practice was modified in the July 1897 issue of the Journal, where we find a notice titled “To the Readers.” It reads:
The Readers in the branch churches are authorized to make the following changes in the Sunday service:–In announcing the Christian Science text-book omit the title ‘Reverend,’ giving the name of the author as it is in the book. In announcing the Scriptural references in Expository Notes, omit chapter and verse,–giving only the name of the book of the Bible from which the passage is selected. Observe the directions of our Leader’s card published on page 575 of the last March Journal.2
The March 1897 card reads:
I request the Readers (in Church) of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, to announce but once, during the lesson, the title of this book, and the name of its author. Before commencing to read from the book, distinctly name its full title, and give the author’s name; this is now all that is required. At first it was requisite to repeat the title and name in order to answer the oft repeated question: Who and what? Now it has become unnecessary, for our form of worship is generally known, and the brief prelude to this exercise published in your Christian Science Quarterly, makes it all clear.3
The “brief prelude” referred to here is a reference to the Explanatory Note found in the Bible Lesson. As this indicates, the modification of the practice in 1897 involved omitting, rather than adding, introductory material.
An “Item of Interest” in the December 28, 1929, Christian Science Sentinel states:
Occasionally it is erroneously maintained that the reading of Scriptural selections in our services would be smoother were the First Reader, prior to reading the text, to announce the names of all the books of the Bible from which the citations are taken. The Field will be interested to know, however, that a former First Reader in The Mother Church consulted Mrs. Eddy as to this very proposal, and that our Leader replied promptly that the name of the author, or of the book from which the citation is taken, must be read in connection with the respective citations. In other words, it was Leader’s desire that a statement made by Moses should be clearly distinguished from one made by Isaiah. For the same reason she indicated that the source of each Scriptural selection in the Lesson-Sermon should be announced prior to reading it.4
We cannot say with certainty who this First Reader of The Mother Church is that is mentioned. Our research has not turned up any such letter from Eddy. However, looking at page 120 of Hermann Hering’s reminiscence, there is a note that states, “Mrs. Eddy objected to having the Bible selections read without first announcing the author.”5 Hering was First Reader from 1902 to 1905; thus, it’s possible that the First Reader referred to is Hering.
- Mary Baker Eddy, “Church and School,” The Christian Science Journal, April 1895, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/mwhy4vnwjg?s=t.
- “To the Readers,” The Christian Science Journal, July 1897, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/us2p288umk?s=t.
- Mary Baker Eddy, “A Card,” The Christian Science Journal, March 1897, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/wqyvske5rs?s=t.
- “Item of Interest,” Christian Science Sentinel, December 28, 1929, http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/13rdzef21fy?s=t.
- Rem. Hermann Hering.