From the Papers: Teaching on the frontier

October 19, 2020

We’ve been tracing the institution of Normal classes at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, which trained teachers of Christian Science.

This October 1885 letter to Mary Baker Eddy, from her student Janet T. Colman, provides an interesting glimpse into the early experiences of these newly minted, and often itinerant, teachers. Colman reported that she first traveled to Omaha, Nebraska—and then seven hours further to the city of Beatrice—to teach a class. She wrote:

I came here last Thursday, I began my class this morning at 9 o’clock, with 5 ladies & 4 gentlemen in it. They were here nearly 3 hours, and then they were not willing to leave. They are all so anxious to learn this, and I feel that with the help of God I shall be able to make them understand what I understand….

It seems that class had been put together with the help of Jennie B. Fenn, another student of Eddy, who was instrumental in establishing Christian Science in Nebraska. Fenn had written a July 1885 letter to Eddy, three months before Colman’s, describing the need for more Christian Scientists in the region: “I am hopeful, and encouraged, with my work. How I wish some scientist was here, there is plenty of work for a half dozen scientist.”

Colman may have been the answer to that wish. Her letter to Eddy about her class in Beatrice closed with this declaration:

My aim is to instruct my class as near right as I possibly can, then I shall leave them in the hands of the living God. He knows what my motive is, and he is my judge. I thank him that I had you for my teacher…. My greatest wish for you is this that each and every student that you teach from this time forth will stand for Truth.

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