Voices of a Global Movement: On the grow in Nairobi
Rhinoceros, Elephant, and Giraffe Figurines, 2012, 2012.014.001, 2012.014.007, 2012.014.003.
In the 150 years since Mary Baker Eddy’s discovery of Christian Science, many people have come forward with stories of how it has impacted their lives. As part of our exhibit Fervent Hearts, Willing Hands, The Mary Baker Eddy Library will be sharing some of these stories through this article series “Voices of a Global Movement.”
In the summer of 2012, the Christian Science Board of Directors visited Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. While in Kenya the Directors received the gift of wooden animal figures from First Church of Christ, Scientist, Nairobi. The rhinoceros, elephant, and giraffe are currently on display in our Fervent Hearts, Willing Hands exhibit.
These figurines represent a nation where Christian Science has had a presence for over 100 years. Christian Science services were first held in Nairobi prior to World War I. While suspended at the beginning of that conflict, they resumed in 1915, taking place once a month in the homes of two Christian Scientists.
There were challenges during this time. The First Reader had a long journey from the countryside, traveling over bad roads to fulfill her duties. Finding good meeting halls was difficult. Congregations were modest in number. 1
By 1930 the group of Christian Scientists in Nairobi had grown to about 30 attendees, and the following year they applied to The Mother Church to become a Christian Science Society, receiving recognition in September 1932. 2 Two years later, this society hosted the first Christian Science lecture in that part of Africa. It was a great success, attracting an audience of over 400. Many attendees left having purchased their own copies of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. 3
Next the society in Nairobi turned its attention to the construction of a church building, applying to the government for a land grant. Their request was honored, and the society spent the next 12 years selecting the proper site and building the church. Their remarkable care and dedication paid off; on November 7, 1948, the first services were held in the new building. The society received recognition as a church—First Church of Christ, Scientist, Nairobi—in May 1953. 4
Many of the original church members were Europeans. But as time went on Christian Science found an increased following among native Kenyans. In 1970 Charles M. Carr, a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship, described the reception he received on his visit to Kenya:
A warm response…. Eighty percent of the audience were non-Scientists—the majority Africans. I … was encouraged by their interest and vitality. One young African recommended translating the lecture into Swahili…. The Christian Scientists who have elected to remain in Kenya are making a real effort to reach out to the community and to make Africans, as well as Europeans, feel welcome.5
In March 2001, The Christian Science Journal reported on a vibrant fellowship among Sunday School students:
Young students of Christian Science in Nairobi, Kenya, decided that they wanted to pray together about a number of serious issues facing their country and their peers. At the same time, they wanted to be sure that information and literature on Christian Science were available to everyone in Nairobi. They began by making sure that Science and Health could be found in local bookstores. Next, they began taking walks of up to 20 kilometers to hand out literature and talk to people about Christian Science.6
Throughout its history, members of First Church, Nairobi, have shown what people can accomplish when they work together as a church.
While no offering can liquidate one’s debt of gratitude to God, the fervent heart and willing hand are not unknown to nor unrewarded by Him.
— Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896
- “Christian Science Society, Nairobi, Kenya Colony,” February 1935, Church Archives, Box 530748, Folder 221112.
- “Historical Records of Christian Science in Nairobi, Kenya Colony, from 1927 to 1954,” December 1954, Church Archives, Box 530748, Folder 221112.
- “Items of Interest,” Christian Science Sentinel, September 15, 1934, 51.
- “Historical Records of Christian Science in Nairobi, Kenya Colony, from 1927 to 1954.”
- “Church in Action” The Christian Science Journal, March 1970, 154.
- “Sunday Schools in Africa take action,” The Christian Science Journal, March 2001, 27.