"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;"
“Christian Science in Public Institutions”
By Richard J. Davis
Christian Science Journal, May, 1952
This comforting statement (above) expresses the healing promise of Christian Science. The impulses of compassion and love and the desire to heal those whose lives have been distorted by sin and crime have found expression in the Christian Science church services and other activities conducted by our churches in various public institutions. Experience has shown that this type of activity should be developed conservatively and conducted with the greatest wisdom. While having a legitimate place in the benevolent and healing mission of Christian Science, institutional work as a church activity should naturally be kept in right proportion to the other church activities. To be successful, it must be kept on a sane, well-grounded basis of Principle.
Where there is receptivity to Christian Science the way will open naturally for its proper presentation. Until there is some evidence of a demand for Science in public institutions it is usually better to devote more time in fields of activity where the thought is better prepared to receive what we have to offer. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" p.454: "Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action."
It may be recalled that the Master counseled his disciples to carry on the healing where they were hospitably received. This in a measure should guide our decisions today. Those who have given much time and thought to conducting Christian Science activities in various types of institutions have found that such work must be the result of demonstration in order to be successful. Specific healings of disease and sin are the natural seeds from which our activities unfold. Sentimentality and emotionalism have no place in our work, but love and compassionate understanding are the qualities to which the receptive thought will always respond.
If one entertains the belief that crime and vice are inherent in the nature of mankind, this obviously cannot heal it. The greatest sinner is always the greatest victim, because he has been victimized by so-called mortal mind. Sin has to be forgiven in order for one to heal it, and it cannot be forgiven until it is recognized as unreal and therefore no part of man's true being.
One of the reasons why Christian Science has been able to successfully reach men and women in penal institutions is that the Christian Scientist does not believe that he is dealing with a fallen man. The Christian Science practitioner deals with the error, the sin, the false belief; but this he entirely separates from man. Our Leader writes in Science and Health p.470: "How can good lapse into evil, when God, the Mind of man, never sins? The standard of perfection was originally God and man. Has God taken down His own standard, and has man fallen? God is the creator of man, and, the divine Principle of man remaining perfect, the divine idea or reflection, man, remains perfect."
It is a point worth noting that not many individuals who have previously been interested in Christian Science are to be found in penal institutions. Our committees are therefore usually dealing with an inquirer or someone just beginning the study of Christian Science. While it may not be the demonstration of a church or a committee to hold services in an institution, Christian Science should always be made available to those who are reaching out for it. The Bible, the Christian Science textbook, and the Christian Science Quarterly can be given to those who want or ask for them. The seeker for Truth can be shown in a simple way how we study the weekly Lesson-Sermon; and our books and literature, The Christian Science Journal and the Christian Science Sentinel, as well as The Christian Science Monitor, should be distributed, when permissible, to those who desire to read them.
The responsibility for conducting our services, lectures, and other Christian Science activities in state, charitable, or penal institutions rests with the local church or the churches of the state in which these institutions are located. It is the privilege of the Christian Scientists to determine the value and usefulness of these activities. Christian Science lectures have accomplished much good in some corrective and other institutions, but the preparatory work for such lectures must be wisely planned and spiritually supported. Only those should be present who really want to learn something of Christian Science.
Because man has no Mind apart from God we can demonstrate humanly the inspiration and the intelligence to do exactly what is proper and helpful in bringing Christian Science to those who need it and who are also ready for it. In Science and Health Mary Baker Eddy states on p. 506, "Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts into their proper channels, and unfolds these thoughts, even as He opens the petals of a holy purpose in order that the purpose may appear."