From the Collections: Christian Science Communion services

July 22, 2022

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Newspaper illustration of a Mother Church Communion service, with vignettes of First Reader Judge Septimus J. Hanna and soloist Marcia Craft, possibly June 1899. P08787.

The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s collections help us better understand the story of Christian Science Communion services. It began long before the original Mother Church edifice was constructed.

Christian Scientists held their first Communion service on January 4, 1880. They would continue in various locations throughout Boston, including Odd Fellows Hall and Copley Hall, until the opening of the Original Edifice of The Mother Church on December 30, 1894.1 While Christian Science services do not involve the consecration of bread and wine, they include a specific place in the order of services where the congregants kneel in silent prayer.

From 1894 to 1908, the “Communion season” of The Mother Church took place twice a year. At first, Communion services were held in various months. In 1898 they began occurring in June and December.2 Eventually this schedule was altered to the second Sunday in January and July, as is the case today. The Original Mother Church edifice hosted Communion services from December 1894 until June 1906, when they began taking place in the Extension.

Thousands gathered in Boston to attend the Communion services on June 10, 1906, which also served as the dedication services for the newly opened Mother Church Extension. Six services were held throughout the day, in order to welcome and accommodate all who attended.3 Over the coming years, the number of Christian Scientists heading to Boston for Communion services continued to grow.

On June 14, 1908, The Mother Church held its final Communion services, with over 10,000 attendees. The Extension could hold up to 5,000, and with the Communion “season” bringing in double that number of visitors, this posed a problem.

That same day, Eddy sent a letter to the Christian Science Board of Directors, asking them to end Communion services in The Mother Church, although Communion services would continue to be held in branch churches.4 Announcements of this change soon appeared in newspapers and the Christian Science Sentinel. Eddy was quoted in The Boston Globe on June 15, 1908: “The branch churches continue their Communion seasons, but there shall be no more Communion season in The Mother Church that has blossomed into spiritual beauty, Communion universal and divine….”5

A letter from Mary Baker Eddy

Mary Baker Eddy wrote this note to Church members for publication in newspapers and in the Christian Science periodicals, discussing the benefits of abolishing the Communion season of The Mother Church. Mary Baker Eddy, notice, 21 June 1908, A10205.

Eddy explained that Communion services at The Mother Church were attracting thousands of Christian Scientists, many of whom had come from far and wide but had to be turned away because of the lack of space in the church. Along these lines, an editor’s note also commented that “Mrs. Eddy has only abolished the disappointment of communicants who come long distances and then find no seats in The Mother Church.”6

Six days later, Eddy sent this July 21 notice, sharing thoughts on how she felt this change would help to advance peoples’ inspiration:

Beloved Christian Scientists:

Photo of Clifford P. Smith, First Reader of The Mother Church 1908–1911. He assumed his duties on June 15, 1908, the day after the final Communion service. P01638. W.E. Wright.

Relinquishing a material form of Communion advances it spiritually. The material is a “Suffer it to be so now” and is abandoned so soon as God’s wayshower, Christ, points the advanced step. This instructs us how to be abased and how to abound….7

Afterward Eddy sent a letter of thanks to Judge Clifford P. Smith, the newly appointed First Reader of The Mother Church:

Accept my thanks for your approval of abolishing the communion season of The Mother Church. I sought God’s guidance in doing it, but the most important events are criticized.

The Mother Church communion season was literally a communion of branch church communicants which might in time lose its sacredness and merge into a meeting for greetings. My beloved brethren may some time learn this and rejoice with me, as they so often have done, over a step higher in their passage from sense to Soul.8

For further reading on the topic of Communion in The Mother Church, read the articles “An especially memorable Communion season” and “Church service program—Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy, Pastor.”

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  1. First Services in the New Church,” The Christian Science Journal, February 1895, 464. https://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/jrryygju9a?s=copylink
  2. See “Communion Service,” Church Manual, 8th edition (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1898), 34.
  3. See “Consecrate New Fane to Christian Science,” The Boston Herald, 11 June 1906, 1.
  4. Mary Baker Eddy to the Christian Science Board of Directors, 14 June 1908, L00975.
  5. “Annual Communion in The Mother Church,” The Boston Globe, 15 June 1908, 1; reprinted in Eddy, “Communion Season is Abolished,” Christian Science Sentinel, 27 June 1908, 850.
  6. “Communion Season is Abolished,” Sentinel, 850.
  7. Eddy, notice, 21 June 1908, A10205. This has been reprinted in her book The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), p. 140.
  8. Eddy to Clifford P. Smith, 24 June 1908, L14313. This has also been reprinted in Miscellany (see p. 142).