This particular Communion sermon featured her explanation of John 21:5: “Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.” A substantive account of this sermon and the service was published in the August 1887 issue of The Christian Science Journal: “As they drew nigh to the shore, they heard the loving voice of their Master, saying: ‘ Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.’ Then he directed them to cast their net on the right side of the ship. This, said the preacher, is the important thing to understand, Which is the right side? Is it the material or the spiritual side of life and its pursuits?”1
In what appears to be a draft of this sermon, Rev. Eddy continues, “Here man’s extremity was God’s opportunity & the students of Jesus chose for the first time without a single consideration of self the right side, the spiritual side and now they could trust the loving Father to crown their labors with rich reward.”2
This program for the Communion service shows that after the sermon, Mary Baker Eddy led the congregation through a hymn, followed by the admission of new members to the Church, and then another hymn. When the service came to the Communion portion, Eddy’s notes show that she made this invitation, “We invite all who love the Christ to unite with us in silent Communion and partake with us of His presence and power and drink of His Life-giving love.”
In a letter to her student Malinda J. Lancaster, Eddy described the service and one attendee’s response to her Communion: “We had a large audience; the Hall was full. Great interest was manifested … The exercises were said to be very interesting. One gentleman 20 years a member of the orthodox church, said it was the most interesting Communion Service he ever witnessed.3
Eddy’s version of the Communion was quite different from that of other churches. Her Communion was entirely spiritual with no actual wine or bread. She was once asked to explain the format of the Christian Science Communion and she did so in an article in the Journal. She notes that this format originated when she was pastor.
Mary Baker G. Eddy.
What is the form of Communion for the Church of Christ, Scientist?
The Eucharist in Christian Science is very simple as a ceremony. When Pastor of the Mother Church in Boston, I instituted the following programme for our Communion-day services, which I recommend for general use.
Part first: Usual Sunday service.
Part second: Hymn.
Admissions to the Church.
Charge to New Members.
Remarks by the Pastor on spiritual Communion, and the commemoration of Christ as the true idea of Life, Truth, Love.
Invitation to Christ’s Table.
Communion: Pastor and Church kneel (and all who love our Communion) silently partaking of the Bread which cometh down from Heaven, and taking the Cup of Salvation.
Part third: close as usual.4
In another document related to this sermon, Eddy offers her benediction. It reads:
Bene[diction]. After Communion.
Father, we all shall be made willing and our bodies transformed by the renewing of Spirit in the day of Thy power. O let us today cast off all environments that would encumber the free Spirit and take in the wide wonder [of] Truth, and feel the bliss of Love. Abiding in the secret place of the Most High, face to face with the full-orbed glory of spiritual being we would go hence from this house to watch and work for Thee and Thine to work and wait patiently amidst the turmoil of earth, until permitted to join the happy throng who have passed before us and eat anew the bread of heaven in thy kingdom evermore.5
Using this program as a starting point, we can make connections between other documents in the Library’s collections, pulling together drafts of her text, letters she wrote to students, and even published articles in the Journal. All of these pieces come together to tell the story of the early history of the Christian Science Church and its founder, Mary Baker Eddy. They also show the roots of the present day Church and the practice of Christian Science today.
- “Communion Service,” The Christian Science Journal, August 1887, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/2ms4ru78jlc?s=t.
- Mary Baker Eddy, 19 June 1887, A10594.
- Eddy to Malinda J. Lancaster, 13 June 1887, L04531.
- Eddy, “Questions Answered,” The Christian Science Journal, March 1892, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/nvy11ibh18?s=t.
- Eddy, n.d., A10642B.