Mary Baker Eddy grew up in a Congregationalist family that understood worship as part of daily life, as well as of Sabbath observance. For example her father, Mark Baker, read a chapter of the Bible aloud and offered prayer after breakfast on most days. Sundays included attendance at church services in the morning and afternoon. While young Mary loved the Bible, prayed regularly, and was the first of her siblings to join the church, she sometimes found her father’s strict requirements hard to bear.
By the 1890s Eddy was living in Concord, New Hampshire, at her home named Pleasant View. While the daily routine there was orderly, it would be rather simplistic to state that Eddy considered Sunday “like any other day.” It is also true that, in various reminiscences, workers in her home recounted that they held to the same schedule on Sundays as on other days, and could rarely attend church.
For example, William R. Rathvon writes, “Sundays at Chestnut Hill were much like other days in so far as our usual hours and duties were concerned. No difference was made in the kind or time of our meals. The week day routine was followed by our Leader as well as by all of us.”1
However, Eddy’s household workers would sometimes attend church. Ella Rathvon, who served at Chestnut Hill near Boston, wrote, “Occasionally Mrs. Eddy would have one or more of us attend the services in The Mother Church, but when we were all at home she would generally invite us to meet with her on Sunday mornings for a little service of our own.”2 These household services would often include singing hymns and a short sermon by Eddy.
While Eddy and her household followed the usual weekday routine on Sundays, she did expect people to see Sunday as a holy day. She also asked them to refrain from most recreational activities. In a manuscript titled “Sunday Recreations,” Eddy wrote, “My humble opinion is that all games,—golf, base-ball, foot-ball, bowling, theatricals etc,—indoor or outdoor sports, should be discarded on that day.”3 She continued: “Ordinarily, people have more leisure on the Sabbath whereby in which to benefit themselves and others with unselfed pleasures,—sermons in churches, sermons in nature, sober second thoughts, and sacred contemplation. The Hebrew decalogue required keeping the Sabbath day holy. Our great Master said it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath Day, but he left no authority for any other recreation on that day.”
- William R. Rathvon, “Reminiscences of William R. Rathvon, C.S.B. while he served our Leader…,” 28 March 1941, Reminiscence, William R. Rathvon, 67.
- Ella S. Rathvon, “Reminiscences of Mrs. Ella S. Rathvon, C.S.B. while she served our Leader…,” 28 March 1941, Reminiscence, Ella S. Rathvon, 44.
- Mary Baker Eddy, n.d., A10143B.