This page is focused on the final two sentences of this By-Law: “They shall make no remarks explanatory of the LESSON-SERMON at any time, but they shall read all notices and remarks that may be printed in the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE QUARTERLY. This By-Law applies to Readers in all the branch churches.”

These sentences relate to a notice that first appeared in the December 1896 issue of The Christian Science Journal, which advised Readers that the Bible Lessons constituted the entire Lesson-Sermon, and that no additional explanatory remarks were to be made during the service.1 During this period there was a tendency for some Readers to supply explanations of the Lesson-Sermon from the desk. This is really not too surprising; after all, the dual pastor, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, had been in place in Christian Science branch churches for barely one and one half years, and both the Readers and their congregations were used to the commentary so often found in a sermon. The notice provided helpful and timely guidance.

It’s also interesting to note that the format of the Bible Lessons was not the same as the Lesson-Sermons found in today’s Christian Science Quarterly. Until Eddy instituted the twenty-six subjects in 1898, the Lessons were based on the International Sunday School Lessons used by a number of Protestant denominations. (The International Series continued to be used for the second service until April 1899.) For example, the January 3, 1897 lesson uses this format: Subject; Golden Text; Footsteps (A brief outline of the Lesson); Lesson Text (usually 10-12 Bible verses); Expository Notes (Bible verses and citations to Science and Health relating to each verse of the Lesson Text).

The December 1896 notice was reworked and reworded, and was first published as a By-Law in early 1897, in the 6th edition of the Manual. Unlike the Journal notice, this By-Law made mention of “notices and remarks that may be printed in the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE QUARTERLY,” which is certainly a reference to the explanatory note that first appeared in the January 1897 issue of the Quarterly. This early explanatory note is not quite what is found today in the Quarterly, but it does indicate that the “lesson-text” provides both the text and the text’s explanation.

The 1896 notice and the 1897 By-Law did not differentiate between the Readers of The Mother Church and those in branch churches. In fact, in January 1899 this sentence was added to the By-Law: “This Church By-Law applies also to Readers in all the branch churches.” This change was published in the Christian Science Sentinel,2 but never appeared in the Manual. By April 1899, when the 10th edition of the Manual was published, the sentence had been changed to its present wording, and the By-Law had acquired the title “Readers in Branch Churches.”

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  1. “Notice,” The Christian Science Journal, December 1896,  http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/56ga0dncjg?s=t.
  2. “Church By-Law,” Christian Science Sentinel, January 26, 1899,  http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/2purg583qia?s=t.