Did Eddy authorize the 89th edition of the Manual?

October 13, 2020

Mary Baker Eddy made many significant changes to the Manual of The Mother Church during her lifetime. She added By-Laws and made textual changes, resulting in numerous new editions of the book.

Often Eddy proposed new By-Laws herself and sent them to the Christian Science Board of Directors for them to vote on. At other times the Directors would suggest By-Laws and send them to Eddy. Sometimes she indicated that she didn’t feel a proposed By-Law was wise or needed; other times they told her the same thing. This could even be the case for By-Laws that had already been adopted.

Nevertheless, Eddy approved all By-Laws and significant Manual content that made it into print.

The 1st edition of the Manual was published in 1895. The last edition used during Eddy’s lifetime was the 88th.

The 89th edition came into use on December 17, 1910—two weeks after Eddy’s passing on December 3. This has given rise over the years to questions. Why was a new edition of the Manual printed and put into use after that date? How could she have approved that edition when she was no longer living at the time of its publication?

The 88th and 89th editions of the Manual are almost identical; the main differences involved the removal of Eddy’s name as Pastor Emeritus from the list of Church officers, as well as changes in the Appendix concerning the orders of church services.

In 1924 Eddy’s name appeared again as Pastor Emeritus, at the head of the list of church officers, in recognition that, through her writings, her leadership of the Church continued.

Orders of services first appeared in the Appendix in the Manual’s 14th edition, published in 1900. Previously they’d been printed from time to time in the Christian Science periodicals, beginning in the August 1889 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

In 1899 notices giving the order of services for The Mother Church (Sunday, Communion, and Wednesday meetings) appeared for the first time in the Christian Science Sentinel, along with a statement that these were also “to be followed in the branch churches.”1 The January 25, 1900, Sentinel prefaced them with the words “In response to requests we herewith publish the present order of service in the Mother Church,” and stated that “for the purpose of having a uniform service it is well for the Branch churches to follow the above as closely as local conditions will warrant.”2 It wasn’t long before the orders of services appeared in the Manual’s 14th edition, under the heading “Present Order of Services in The Mother Church [Republished from the Sentinel].” These orders are very close to what are found in the Appendix today.

Eddy did make a few further changes to the order for Sunday services after its publication in the Manual. For example, the solo was sung after the reading of the Lesson-Sermon until 1904, when it was moved to its present position before that reading.

Changes introduced into the Appendix of the 89th edition were primarily the addition of the words and Branch Churches in some of the headings for the orders of services. We have no records indicating whether Eddy, the Directors, or other church officials suggested this change; however, Eddy approved it by signing the backs of the print proof sheets not long before her passing. That change simply recorded a practice in the Manual that had already been published in issues of the Sentinel, indicating that the orders of services were intended for both The Mother Church and its branch churches.

Eddy died before the 89th edition could be printed. It was issued on December 17, 1910.

The proof sheets with Eddy’s approval for the Manual’s 89th edition—containing her signature—are preserved today in the collections of The Mary Baker Eddy Library.

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  1. “As to the Order of Church Services of Church Services,” Christian Science Sentinel, 23 February 1899, https://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/e50s1xvux0?s=e
  2. “Order of Church Services,” Sentinel, 25 January 1900, https://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/c64ls52yd0?s=e