Mary Baker Eddy, (that is a good way to start any talk about anything relating to Christian Science since she discovered the Science and founded its church.) Mary Baker Eddy established several different activities in and of her church and established by-laws referring to them in the Church Manual. For instance she did so for Reading Rooms, Committees on Publication, Christian Science Nursing. She did not do so for the Institutional Committee. Does that mean that Institutional Committees are any less important? No! Mrs. Eddy felt they were important and referred to them in her writings and in her conversations with her students. For instance, here are extracts from a testimonial published in Miscellaneous Writings:
A student of Christian Science was employed in the Massachusetts State Prison at Charlestown, to teach the prisoners to make shoes. He carried his copy of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” and the Journal with him, and as he had the opportunity would tell the men what this wonderful truth could do for them, setting them free in a larger and higher sense than they had dreamed of.
We make extracts from a number of letters that one of the prisoners has written.
“Editor of The Christian Science Journal: — At the prison, once a week, there are Christian papers given to the inmates. But none of those papers point out so clearly the fallibility of the mortal or carnal mind, and the infallibility of the divine Mind, as does the teaching of Christian Science.
“I was strangely blind and stupid. I loved sin, and it seemed as though I never would be able to forsake it. “I also had a complication of diseases.
“I no longer look for material treatment, but humbly seek for the divine assistance of Jesus, through the way Christian Science has taught me. I am, indeed, an altered man.
“I am very grateful to the students of Christian Science, for the interest they have taken in me and my fellow-prisoners. Their letters and books have been of great profit, and in accordance with their wish I have done what I could for the others.
“I gave the Journal to every man who would accept it, and related my experience to those who would listen. I told them they need go no farther than myself to see what the demonstration was; for not only have my eyes been healed, but many other ailments have disappeared.
“The chaplain told me I could keep Science and Health until I got through with it. I never should get through with that book, but, as others were waiting for it, I did not like to keep it too long. God bless the author!
“I need have no fear after leaving here; I feel that I can make an honest living. God bless you all.”
(Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, Mary Baker Eddy, pp. 403:17–405:17 A)
Mrs. Eddy herself visited the man in prison who assassinated President Garfield and she raised his consciousness.
But for this committee’s work, we have the outline from our Master, Christ Jesus, who instructed his followers thus: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done itunto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done itunto me.”
And he also added this caveat; “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
(Matthew 25:34–40, 45, 46)
Nowadays, materially based thinking in world thought would put great barriers up to prevent the work of our Institutional Committees. Various prison rules often prevent anyone but a recognized prison chaplain from meeting with prisoners. The regulations imposed due to to Covid 19 claims prevent anyone from getting in the same room with prisoners. However, as Mrs. Eddy tells us neither red tape nor indignity hinders the divine process. In the same paragraph on page 11 of Unity of Good, she writes:.” Jesus required neither cycles of time nor thought in order to mature fitness for perfection and its possibilities. He said that the kingdom of heaven is here, and is included in Mind; that while ye say, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest, I say, Look up, not down, for your fields are already white for the harvest; and gather the harvest by mental, not material processes.”
(Unity of Good, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 11:20)
Let me give you two examples of this being done. When I was a new member of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, New York City, where its founder, Laura Lathrop, started the first Institutional Committee in New York, I was invited to work in that committee and go to Rikers Island prison on Saturday mornings to meet one on one with prisoners. This was a wonderful time for blessing and growing in the ability to give that cup of cold water to simple seekers for Truth, but on one occasion, when we arrived at Rikers, we were told that we would not be able to get in because the prison was in lock down, and we should go home. Our group did not accept that, and we agreed that the prisoners should not be denied their opportunity to learn of the Christ because of mortal mind’s shenanigans. So we all prayed somewhat along those lines. Within 15 minutes, a prison guard came out and was glad we were still there because the lock down had been lifted, and we could go in. We did and had a wonderful time with many of the men eager to talk to us.
More recently, and closer to home, when I joined this committee, I went to the police and tried to make arrangements for me to talk with prisoners about Christian Science, or to arrange to have the lesson read or a Christian Science service on Saturdays. All of that was denied. So I prayed and listened, and was reminded of a time in New York when the police chief in our district had asked the churches to pray to reduce crime in the area. I was the representative from our church and went to the meetings where we got progress reports from the Chief. Within 3 months, the crime rate had reduced to such that the Chief thanked us for our work and said they could handle things. Our work had been done.
I asked an Inter-faith council I work with in Flagstaff if they would like to be involved in such a project praying for prisoners and to reduce crime and homelessness. They agreed to this, and I called our Police Chief and asked him if he would like us to do that for the city. He said sure! We talked about communication meetings, and just before we ended our call, the Chief asked would we also pray for needed funding because they were 40% low on personnel and there were no funds coming to them from the city. I said we would do that. About two weeks later, the Chief was appointed Acting Deputy City Manager since the Deputy City Manager had left that post. A week or so later I called and talked to the newly appointed Acting Chief of Police to inform him of what we were doing, and he said he had been briefed by the Chief, and that the Chief, in his new position had been able to get adequate funding from the City, and they had already hired 4 new officers and two were trained and out in the field, the other two soon to follow. Also, crime had fallen by 15% in the first month, and during the next few months they established procedures to reduce crime and homelessness even further by establishing daytime activities for the homeless and jobless.
Sometime later I met the Chief and Acting Chief at a concert and introduced myself since we had never met in person. I reminded them of the prayer work that we had taken up and of the funding that had been made possible. He had not associated the funding with our prayer, and I asked him, “Did you think that it was just a coincidence? You had been trying to get funding for months. When understanding prayer was applied, you had it within two weeks.” His acknowledgement, “Oh my God. You’re right!” let me know that he got it.
Wherever we are in our work, we can go higher and do more. Let us all engage more fully in the work of this committee allowing nothing to prevent those in need from receiving the loving Truth of Christ which we can give.