Glossary of Christian Science Terminology

Mary Baker Eddy included a Glossary at the end of her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, in which she gave her unique definitions of various terms. Here, we offer our definitions of some terms particularly unique to Christian Science. This Glossary was originally published on the blog Emerging Gently, and is used here with permission.

  • Aggressive Mental Suggestion: this term is used to describe when someone either through purely mental action, or through verbal efforts, affects another person’s physical and/or mental state in a negative way–intentionally or unintentionally. An example might be when a Christian Scientist who is sick may not want a non-Christian Scientist to see them, as that non Christian Scientist’s thought, ‘hey, you’re not well’ might endanger the healing process–even if that is not the intent. Much energy and concern is expended by Christian Scientists regarding aggressive mental suggestion, and it’s close cousin, malicious animal magnetism/animal magnetism. There is great fear and anxiety about it among many Christian Scientists. This is probably the one thing that is most responsible for the secretiveness of Christian Scientists about so many aspects of their life practice, especially health concerns.
  • Animal Magnetism: although nowadays ‘animal magnetism’ is used to refer to one’s raw charisma or attractiveness, in Christian Science, we go to a more obscure 19th century definition. It is “a supposed agent of a peculiar and mysterious nature, said to have a powerful influence on the patient when acted upon by contact or voluntary emotion, on the part of the operator.” (The Student’s Reference Dictionary)* To the Christian Scientist, it means the ability for one person to mentally act (usually maliciously) upon another person. Christian Scientists are especially concerned about the effects of animal magnetism. Mrs. Eddy had an irrational fear of what she called ‘Malicious Animal Magnetism’ (MAM), and this fear permeates Christian Science practice. Also see the Wikipedia article for more information. In the Christian Science universe, it is a close cousin of ‘aggressive mental suggestion’ (see above)–in fact, both could be viewed in many ways as one in the same.
  • Annual Meeting: officially known as the Annual Meeting of the Members of the Mother Church. It is a meeting held each year on the first Monday after the first Sunday in June. In the past, it was a large, expensive, and lavish affair. In 2003, it was held simultaneously, via satellite, in both Boston, Massachusetts, and Berlin, Germany at a cost of several million dollars. Now, it is a much smaller and more sedate event. The 2013 and 2014 Annual Meetings were exclusively on-line events–broadcast live on the internet from the Christian Science Board of Directors (see below) boardroom or some other similar location within the Christian Science Center (see below), with no special events planned in Boston as in years past. Only the officers of the Mother Church are actually required to attend physically (see The Mother Church below for a listing of officers), although attending Annual Meeting in person is the closest thing to a pilgrimage there is for Christian Scientists, and attendance in-person is on many a Christian Scientist’s ‘bucket list’. For more information about Annual Meeting, click here.
  • Association: after a person takes class instruction in Christian Science (see below), they become part of their teacher’s Association. The Association meets annually for one day, to take part in an Association address given by the teacher. If the teacher for an Association is deceased, guest speakers are invited to give the address. These guest speakers are usually Christian Science practitioners (see below). Christian Scientists will sometimes say, “I’m going to Association,” when they refer to attending this meeting. Whenever possible however, their participation in these meetings is kept confidential (especially from non-Christian Scientists) in order to protect against ‘aggressive mental suggestion’ (see above) that might disrupt their attendance. See also Class Instruction below. For more information about Association meetings and Class Instruction, click here.
  • The Bible: We’ll assume everyone knows about this book, if not, you’ve been amazingly well-sheltered. In the Christian Science Church it, along with Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (see below), are the pastor of the Church. There is no official translation authorized, although in English speaking churches, the King James Version is almost exclusively used, and use of any other translation engenders varying levels of controversy. In non-English speaking churches, it is whatever version of the Bible that is in common use with speakers of that language.
  • Belief: this is the term Christian Scientists will often use when talking about disease, “Joe is suffering from a belief of cancer.”
  • Bible Lesson: see ‘Lesson’ below.
  • Board of Education: a department of the Mother Church that oversees the teaching of Christian Science. It is what became of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College (see the Wikipedia article) , and actually has a state charter–the only institution of its type that does, or ever will. The state law that allowed for its charter was quickly repealed after this one charter was granted. Every four years, a ‘Normal’ class is held, in which no more than 30 people are taught how to be teachers of Christian Science, and receive their teaching credentials. Graduates of this course can use the professional credentials ‘CSB’. Each Teacher can teach up to 30 students once per year in ‘Primary’ class (see Class Instruction below).
  • Branch Church: a local Christian Science church. These are official ‘branches’ of the main church–The Mother Church in Boston. Together with The Mother Church, all the worldwide branch churches and societies (see below) constitute what is known as the ‘Church of Christ, Scientist’. Branch churches are referred to as ‘First Church of Christ, Scientist’, ‘Second Church of Christ, Scientist’ and so forth, numbering consecutively if there is more than one church in a locality. Numbers are not re-used, so if a branch church shuts down, its number is retired with it. For example, in Los Angeles, California, you will see listings for churches like ‘Thirty Sixth Church of Christ, Scientist’, but there are nowhere near 36 Christian Science churches in Los Angeles. Branch churches exist throughout the world. For more information on branch churches and societies, click here.
  • Camp(s): often, Christian Scientists will refer to the ‘Camps’, and their time during childhood there. These are summer camps for children and youth, and are not affiliated with the Christian Science Church. Most are located in the United States: Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. There is also one in the Canadian province of British Columbia, and historically there was one each in Australia and the United Kingdom. They are loosely affiliated with one another through a mutual organization, although they operate entirely independently. There is also a youth program known as Discovery Bound which is associated with the Adventure Unlimited camp in Colorado. For more information on the camps, check out this link.
  • ‘Cause’ of Christian Science: a term often used by Christian Scientists to describe or define Christian Science and often by extension its associated institutions (both official and affiliated), and adherents. It most likely comes from this quote from Mary Baker Eddy: “For the world to understand me in my true light, and life, would do more for our Cause than aught else could.’ (letter to Edward Kimball, 1893). Principia, a school and college for Christian Scientists, has as its mission to “…serve the Cause of Christian Science…” (Policy 1, Principia Policies from Education at Principia–also part of their Mission Statement).
  • Challenge: like belief (see above), this is another term Christian Scientists will apply to things (like disease or other physical, mental, or emotional issues) that, well, challenge them.
  • Christian Science Board of Directors: the governing body of The Mother Church/Christian Science Church. It is often referred to by Christian Scientists as ‘the Board’ or ‘the Board of Directors’, and by the acronym ‘CSBD’. It consists of five members, and is self-perpetuating: meaning that a vacancy is filled by the appointment of a new member by the remaining members. A director can only be removed from office by a majority vote of the other directors, their own resignation or death, or at the request of Mary Baker Eddy (not likely to happen now). Rank and file members of The Mother Church have no procedural mechanism within the Church by-laws to enable them to remove a director. Groups of disaffected Church members have tried to remove Directors through the courts, but have not been successful.
  • Christian Science Center: the world headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist, as the Christian Science Church is officially known. It is located in Boston, Massachusetts in the Back Bay neighborhood, and consists of the Christian Science Plaza (which contains the well-known 600 foot long reflecting pool, fountain, gardens, and open space); the former Administration (now known as ‘177 Huntington Avenue’), Colonnade (now known as ‘101 Belvidere Street’), and the former Sunday School (now known as “Reflection Hall”) buildings (these buildings are now largely leased out to third parties, and the Sunday School now meets in the basement of The Mother Church building); The Mother Church (original and extension); and the Publishing Society building (which now houses most of the offices and administrative functions of The Mother Church, Christian Science Publishing Society, and the Mary Baker Eddy Library). Plans are in the works for some major changes to the plaza, which has been in its current configuration since 1975. These plans include new buildings which will generate revenue for the Church, and remodeling of the plaza, which is showing signs of 40 years of wear and tear and harsh Boston winters. For more information, click here. For more information on revitalization plans at the Christian Science Plaza, click here.
  • Christian Science Church: see Church of Christ, Scientist.
  • Christian Science Class Instruction: see Class Instruction.
  • Christian Science Grammar: this is a term some of us have coined for a peculiar practice that is unique, as far as we can tell, to Christian Science-related writing: some words are capitalized at times for reasons that the average person who knows little or nothing about Christian Science may not know or understand. The most prominent are: Mind, Soul, Spirit, Truth, Love, Principle, and Life–these are the seven ‘synonyms’ of God, according to Mary Baker Eddy (see Synonyms (of God) below). When used in reference to their synonymous relationship to God (in Christian Science), the ‘synonyms’ are capitalized, and we will use this capitalization as well when we refer to them in this manner. Additionally, the words Science and Scientists are capitalized when used in reference to Christian Science or Christian Scientists. Christian Scientists also sometimes capitalize the words Association, Class, and Teacher when they are used in reference to class instruction in Christian Science, Association meetings, and Teachers of Christian Science (see Class Instruction, Association, and Teacher of Christian Science). The word Lesson is sometimes capitalized when used in reference to the Weekly Bible Lesson (see below), but not always. We will also use these grammatical conventions in this website when making similar references.
  • Christian Science Journal: often referred to as ‘the Journal’, this is a monthly magazine published by the Christian Science Publishing Society. In addition to articles and testimonies, it also contains the Directory of Christian Science, a listing of all Christian Science branch churches and societies, Christian Science practitioners and Teachers, Christian Science Organizations, Christian Science nurses, and Christian Science Committees on Publication. For more information about the Journal, click here. For definitions of the items listed in the Directory of Christian Science, please see my definitions of them in this glossary.
  • Christian Science Lecture: usually one hour talks, in the past it was in a similar format to a college lecture, but lately they’ve taken on many different forms, some with question/answer sessions, some as workshops, and others on-line. They are geared towards the non-Christian Scientist. Lecturers are members of what is known as the Christian Science Board of Lectureship–the Christian Science Church’s speakers bureau, which is a department of The Mother Church. All branch churches are required to host at least one lecture per year, although two or more may jointly host a lecture. The host church is responsible for all of the lecturer’s expenses (travel, accommodations, and meals), as well as the lecturer’s fee. Organizations other than branch churches can also host lectures. Lectures are also vetted by the Board of Lectureship before being given by lecturers. For more information, click here.
  • Christian Science Monitor: at one time, this was a daily newspaper published by The Christian Science Publishing Society. It now consists of a weekly news magazine, a daily subscription e-mail, and a website that is regularly updated (like CNN.com). It was started by Mary Baker Eddy in response to the investigative journalism of her time. Its stated mission is “To injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” It is a non-religious publication, except for a religious article that appears in the weekly news magazine, and each day on the web in the ‘daily briefing’. The religious article appeared each day in the daily print edition at the request of Eddy.
  • Christian Science ‘Movement’: this is a similar concept to Cause of Christian Science (see above).
  • Christian Science Nurse: a person who has been trained to offer physical assistance to those who need it, but that role is extremely limited vis à vis actual physical care. They can change bandages, and help with feeding and modification of food; however they cannot administer any sort of medications or even nutritional supplements, or offer any sort of pain abatement aside from re-positioning a patient. As stated in the Manual of The Mother Church, a Christian Science nurse “shall be one who has a demonstrable knowledge of Christian Science practice, who thoroughly understands the practical wisdom necessary in a sick room, and who can take proper care of the sick.” (Article VIII, Section 31, p. 49). Nurses have to undergo training at a training facility (see Christian Science Nursing Facility/Home) in order to qualify to be listed in the Journal as a Christian Science nurse, and this training is apparently quite extensive. For more information about Christian Science nurses, click here.
  • Christian Science Nursing Facility/Home: as the name implies, these are facilities where Christian Scientists can go when they’re ill to receive Christian Science nursing care while they’re working out their physical issue in Christian Science. There are several of these facilities in the United States; as well as in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. Most are accredited by an independent organization, not affiliated with the Mother Church, since 1993. Prior to 1993, facilities were accredited by The Mother Church. Christian Science nursing facilities are not affiliated with the Mother Church, although in the past, the Mother Church did operate two in the United States: one in Newton (Chestnut Hill), Massachusetts, and the other in San Francisco, California. Both still exist and are now independent of The Mother Church. In the United States, some of these facilities are Medicare/Medicaid providers. For more information about accredited facilities, click here. Where they exist, these facilities are usually licensed by appropriate local, regional, and/or national governmental authorities. In most cases, they’re licensed under laws or regulations governing care homes or ‘private hospitals’. They are not in any way, shape, or form a medical facility of any sort, although in many ways they seem to try to emulate such.
  • Christian Science Organization (CSO): these are provided for in the Manual and are student groups for Christian Scientists on college and university campuses. Most ‘orgs’, as they’re often called, hold testimony meetings, similar in format to Wednesday Testimony Meetings (see below), although these meetings can’t be held on Wednesdays (the only exception is the Principia College CSO). CSOs exist on college campuses throughout the world. For more information about CSOs, click here.
  • Christian Science Practitioner: see Practitioner (of Christian Science) below.
  • Christian Science Publishing Society: the publishing arm of the Church. It was established by Mary Baker Eddy, and is governed by trustees appointed by the Church’s Board of Directors. It publishes all authorized literature of Christian Science, as well as the Christian Science periodicals: Christian Science Sentinel, Christian Science Journal, Christian Science Quarterly, Christian Science Monitor, and Herald of Christian Science. Christian Scientists refer to it as the ‘Publishing Society’. It is not to be confused with the Committee on Publication (see below)–a function of the Church with a different mandate.
  • Christian Science Quarterly: often referred to as ‘the Quarterly’, as its name implies, it is published four times per year by the Christian Science Publishing Society, and contains the citations for the Weekly Bible Lessons, and Christian Scientists mark these citations in the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures to form the Weekly Bible Lesson (see Lesson). It also comes in a number of other formats now, including audio, video, full-text, and on-line (these are published more frequently–usually monthly). The original citation edition is also published in a number of languages other than English. For more information, click here.
  • Christian Science Reading Room: see Reading Room below.
  • Christian Science Sentinel: often referred to as ‘the Sentinel’, it is a weekly magazine published by the Christian Science Publishing Society. It contains articles and testimonies of healing, pertinent current events features, and Christian Science lecture announcements. For more information, click here.
  • Christian Science Teacher: a person who has taken a Normal class of instruction in Christian Science at the Mother Church, and is authorized to teach Christian Science healing to others. See Class Instruction.
  • Christian Science Treatment: as the name implies, it is the process by which one ‘treats’ a condition themselves or has a condition treated by a Christian Science practitioner, or other Christian Scientist. It is a systematic process mainly involving affirming what is known in Christian Science as the ‘Truth’, and denying what is commonly called ‘error’ (see below), or the false claim (say of disease, for instance). This false claim can be anything negative or discordant in one’s life: emotional, relationship, or financial issues; or physical issues ranging from cuts and bruises on up to AIDS, diabetes, or cancer. To the Christian Scientist, it’s all the same.
  • Church Manual: see Manual below.
  • Church of Christ, Scientist: the official name of the Christian Science Church. It consists of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, (the headquarters) and its branches throughout the world. See also The Mother Church, Branch Church, and Society.
  • Class Instruction: often referred to simply as ‘Class’, it is fully known as ‘Christian Science Primary Class Instruction’. This is a two week course on how to be a Christian Science healer. The purpose in taking class instruction is to become a practitioner of Christian Science, although in practice, few who take class actually become full-time practitioners. Class instruction is often a prerequisite for jobs at Christian Science-related organizations (such as Principia, or nursing facilities), and also at The Mother Church. When one advertises as a practitioner, they place the professional credential CS after their name. Find out more about Class Instruction, Christian Science Teachers, and Christian Science Students’ Associations here. Class instruction can only be taken once, unless one’s teacher’s teaching credentials are revoked by the Board of Education (see above). Other than Sunday School (see below), this is the only time Christian Science is allowed to be taught.
  • Committee on Publication (COP or COM): This is in essence the public relations department of the church. There are ‘Committees’ (who are actually just individuals) in most U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and some territories; some Canadian provinces; some Australian states; several counties in the United Kingdom and Ireland; as well as many other countries. Their mandate is to “correct in a Christian manner impositions on the public in regard to Christian Science, injustices done Mrs. Eddy or members of this Church by the daily press, by periodicals or circulated literature of any sort.” (Manual of Mother Church, Article XXXIII, Section 2, p. 97) These are also the folks, particularly in the United States, who work to get provisions in law to allow the relatively unfettered practice of Christian Science without fear of legal consequences should anything go awry, such as a child under Christian Science care dying of an otherwise routinely treatable medical condition. These provisions, or ‘accommodations in law’ as they are called by the Church, generally do not exist in the laws of any country other than the United States. For more information, click here. The Committee on Publication should not be confused with the Christian Science Publishing Society (see above)–a part of the church that has a different mandate.
  • Communion: the concept of ‘communion’ in Christian Science is somewhat similar to that in other Christian churches, but the similarities end there–the practice is quite different. While communion in other Christian churches is a more literal communion with Jesus Christ, usually entailing the consumption of bread, wafers, and/or wine, which are symbolic of Christ’s blood and body, the Christian Scientist takes communion to a more ethereal level, where there is silent communion with Christ–a form of deep prayerful, meditative communion. Communion services are held in branch churches and societies twice per year on Communion Sunday, usually in January and July, when the Lesson Sermon subject is ‘Sacrament’. The communion service follows a different order from normal Sunday services, with the addition of a ‘communion’ prayer, where members of the congregation are invited to kneel in silent communion, and the reading of the Tenets of Christian Science (see below). There is no communion service held in The Mother Church–this ostensibly being because Christian Scientists began to make pilgrimages to The Mother Church on Communion Sundays, and Mrs. Eddy wanted to put a stop to that practice.
  • CS: short for Christian Science. CS is also the professional credential used by Christian Science practitioners when advertising their services.
  • CSB: the designation of the degree received by those who have taken ‘Normal’ class instruction. They are authorized teachers of Christian Science. See Teacher (of Christian Science) and Board of Education. CSB stands for Christian Science Bachelor of degree.
  • CSD: an advanced degree no longer granted as, to our understanding, it was only granted to students who already had a CSB degree, and who were further taught by Mrs. Eddy herself. CSD stands for Christian Science Doctor of degree. The last CSD degree holders died out in the 1940s or early 1950s.
  • Daily Prayer: mandated in the Manual (see below), it is the duty of Christian Scientists to daily pray this prayer: “‘Thy kingdom come,’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin, and my Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” (Manual of The Mother ChurchArticle VIII, Section 4, p. 41)

  • Demonstration: this is akin to a ‘healing’ in Christian Science, although it is used more to describe the working out of a difficult situation. For example, “I had a demonstration of supply a few years ago when the bills were piling up, and it seemed like there was no way to pay them all; suddenly, someone who owed me some money was able to pay me back in full!” Sometimes a healing will be referred to as a demonstration, such as, “John had a demonstration of healing of a cold last week.”
  • Eddy, Mary Baker: see Mary Baker Eddy below.
  • Error: as used in Christian Science, it goes by a more obscure 19th century definition, “sin; iniquity; transgression.” (The Student’s Reference Dictionary)* It is a catch-all term in Christian Science for anything “bad”, or contrary to ‘God’s perfection’ (best way we can describe it). To many of us who grew up in Christian Science, ‘error’ almost seemed like a sentient, malicious entity that was conversely was also considered to be ‘nothing’.
  • First Reader: see Reader below.
  • Herald of Christian Science: a lesser known publication of the Christian Science Publishing Society, this is a magazine published in languages other than English. The print versions are published monthly. It and the Christian Science Quarterly are the only periodicals published in languages other than English. The Herald is currently available in 14 languages (4 available in print, and 10 available on-line only). The editorial content is different nowadays for each language, and editors live and work in the countries in which the languages are spoken, thereby making it more relevant for the intended readers. For a significant period of time, the same content was usually published across the available languages, and often consisted of articles that were published in the English-language periodicals.
  • Illusion: this word has a similar meaning in Christian Science as it normally does, but the difference is in how this concept is applied. In Christian Science theology, all things material (basically everything you see, hear, smell, or touch) is an illusion–it’s not real–like the big lake you think you see in the hot desert. Sickness, disease, and injury are all ‘illusions’ in Christian Science theology.
  • Know(ing) the Truth: a cultural term for praying in Christian Science about an issue. The objective of which is to ‘know’ or ‘realize’ one’s supposedly true identity in relation to God, thereby bringing about healing. According to Christian Science theology, all that we see and experience (including sickness) is an illusion, or a lie–that our five ‘material’ senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) are deceiving us. ‘Knowing the Truth’ is the work one does to see past this illusion or deception.
  • Lecture: see Christian Science Lecture above.
  • Lesson (Lesson Sermon): also known as the Weekly Bible Lesson, it is the weekly bible lesson that Christian Scientists study daily. It consists of selected passages from the Bible, with accompanying passages from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. It also forms the Sunday Sermon in all Christian Science churches. The Lesson is assembled by a secret committee of people at the Church headquarters in Boston. The Lesson is found in the Christian Science Quarterly (see above). There are 26 subjects (originally selected by Mary Baker Eddy) that rotate twice yearly, starting at the beginning of the year. The subjects (in order of appearance) are: God; Sacrament; Life; Truth; Love; Spirit; Soul; Mind; Christ Jesus; Man; Substance; Matter; Reality; Unreality; Are Sin, Disease, and Death Real?; Doctrine of Atonement; Probation After Death; Everlasting Punishment; Adam and Fallen Man; Mortals and Immortals; Soul and Body; Ancient and Modern Necromancy, alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism, Denounced; God the Only Cause and Creator; God the Preserver of Man; Is the Universe, Including Man, Evolved by Atomic Force?; Christian Science. Communion services (see above) are held twice yearly when the subject is Sacrament.
  • Malicious Animal Magnetism (MAM): see Animal Magnetism.
  • Man: this is a generic, and increasingly obscure term in reference to humans or humankind.
  • Manual: known officially as the Manual of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, sometimes also referred to simply as ‘Church Manual’, and usually footnoted as Manual of The Mother Church, it was written by Mary Baker Eddy. The current edition in use is the 89th edition. Since this edition was issued just after Eddy’s death, it is controversial in some Christian Science circles, and some Christian Scientists insist on using the 88th edition, the last one issued during Eddy’s lifetime. The Manual is essentially the rule book or constitution for the Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science Church), and governs the operations of such; and also the relationship between The Mother Church and branch churches; qualifications for branch churches and societies; conduct of Church members, practitioners, and teachers; Christian Science nurses; and Christian Science college organizations. So fanatical is the dedication of many Christian Scientists to not stepping outside the lines drawn in the Manual, that even the slightest deviation can cause huge controversy. You will often hear Christian Scientists talk about whether or not something is ‘Manual based’–this is in reference to whether or not something is provided for or mandated in the Manual. It is truly an example of how many get wrapped up in the ‘word’, but completely lose the ‘spirit’. Christian Scientists will often parse the meanings of words and phrases, and endlessly debate what Eddy meant over and over. To add to the fun mix, there are a number of clauses in the Manual wherein a key action for ongoing operation of the Church requires the direct approval of Eddy. In legal terms, this is known as an estoppel clause. Getting her approval nowadays would be difficult at best, since she died in 1910. A big schism (one of many) among Christian Scientists is over this very issue–the fact that many daily operations of The Mother Church require her approval, yet they do it anyway, and some contend that Eddy did not intend for the Church to continue in its present form after her death. There have been court rulings on a complaint filed regarding these estoppel clauses (click the links to view these). If you want to read the text of the Manual, it can be found here.
  • Mary Baker Eddy: the person who founded the Christian Science church and the Christian Science Publishing Society. She ‘discovered’ Christian Science, in 1866 after apparently miraculously recovering from the effects of a fall on the ice in Lynn, Massachusetts. She authored Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (the textbook of Christian Science), and a number of other books. She was born in Bow, New Hampshire, and lived from 1821 – 1910. She is referred to by Christian Scientists as the ‘Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science’; ‘Leader’ (less so now); and in the early days of Christian Science, she was referred to as ‘Mother’. She holds in perpetuity the title of Pastor Emeritus of The Mother Church, and is always listed, to this day, as one of the officers of The Mother Church, and announced as such at every Annual Meeting (see above). For more information, see the Wikipedia article on her.
  • Materia Medica: an arcane term for the body of knowledge about the therapeutic properties of substances used for healing (medicines). Generally, this term has fallen out of use in favor of the term pharmacology (see the Wikipedia article). Christian Scientists however, actively use this term as a catch-all to describe any form of conventional medical practice, and sometimes will include other practices such as naturopathy, chiropractic, osteopathy, and homeopathy under this umbrella term.
  • Mental Malpractice: a term Christian Scientists use for injuring someone or interfering with their ‘healing’ via thoughts that may be contrary or non-conducive to the healing process. Also see Aggressive Mental Suggestion and Animal Magnetism.
  • Mesmerism: “the art of communicating a species of sleep, which is supposed to affect the body, while the mind or intellectual power is active and intelligent.” (The Student’s Reference Dictionary)* This is an obscure 19th century term. Named for Franz Mesmer, it is basically another term for animal magnetism (see above).
  • Mortal Man: a term used by Mary Baker Eddy, and subsequently by many Christian Scientists to refer to the so-called ‘material/mortal’ form of humans (such as we all are) as opposed to what they consider to be the true and non-illusory ‘divine/immortal’ form of ‘man’ (generic ‘man’–see above).
  • Mortal Mind: a particularly Christian Science term, it is a catch-all term generally referring to anything material (such as sickness, the body, etc.), evil, or opposite to spiritual ‘reality’. It is a term often used interchangeably with ‘error’ (see above). The way it is often thought of in Christian Science suggests that ‘mortal mind’ is an entity that has some sort of will or intention of its own, although it is conversely considered to be unreal or illusory, often referred to as ‘nothing’.
  • The Mother Church (TMC): officially called ‘The First Church of Christ, Scientist’. Located in Boston, Massachusetts, it is the world headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist or Christian Science Church. The officers of The Mother Church are: The Christian Science Board of Directors (five members); the First and Second Readers of The Mother Church; and the Treasurer, Clerk, Pastor Emeritus, and President. For more information, see the Wikipedia article. For information on the Church officers and government, click here.
  • Org: see Christian Science Organization.

  • Practitioner (of Christian Science): a professional Christian Science healer, usually listed in The Christian Science Journal (see above). Usually, they are referred to as ‘practitioners’ by Christian Scientists. Practitioners gain accreditation by taking primary class instruction in Christian Science from an authorized teacher (see Class Instruction). By meeting standards set by the publisher of the Journal (the Christian Science Publishing Society) for listing, they gain what one might call ‘full’ accreditation. Anyone who has had primary class instruction can advertise and call themselves a practitioner without necessarily qualifying for or having Journal listing. When one refers to themselves professionally as a practitioner, they place the credential ‘CS’ after their name. They are listed in local telephone directories (print and on-line), and an increasing number keep websites and blogs. Some keep actual offices, or groups of practitioners will jointly maintain an office, although most work out of their homes. Fees for practitioner services are reimbursable in the United States under some private medical insurance policies; as well as the medical insurance for federal government employees, military personnel, and state government employees in some states. As for private medical insurance coverage in other countries, we do not know. Practitioner services are not covered under any government-funded medical care plan anywhere (including Medicare/Medicaid in the United States). However, in the United States, practitioner fees are deductible on federal and some state income taxes as ‘medical expenses’, and can thus be paid for out of funds set aside in HSAs (Health Savings Accounts). There are Christian Science practitioners throughout the world. For more information about Christian Science practitioners, click here.
  • Protective Work: this is a term Christian Scientists often use. The best analogy for this is to think of it like a vaccine of sorts. Christian Scientists believe that by doing daily ‘protective prayerful work’, usually in connection with daily study of the Lesson Sermon (see above), they will ‘protect’ or inoculate themselves against disease, or any other form of harm. The belief is that if you properly do your ‘protective work’, you will not get sick, not get into an accident, or otherwise have harm come to you. If it does, then that means you weren’t doing your protective work correctly.
  • Publishing Society: see Christian Science Publishing Society above.
  • Radical Reliance: this is a term that is used extensively that refers to exclusive (radical) reliance on Christian Science for healing (physical and otherwise) to the exclusion of all else–especially medical care. This mindset is based on this statement from Science and Health: “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized.” (p. 167). See this statement in its full context here. It is this mindset that causes many Christian Scientists to refuse medical treatment even in the face of serious illness or injury to themselves, or those under their care.
  • Reader: there is no ordained clergy in the Christian Science Church, so church services are conducted by lay Readers (this word is usually capitalized when referring to the office of ‘Reader’). On Sundays, there are two Readers: the First Reader, who leads the service, and during the Lesson Sermon, reads passages from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures; and the Second Reader, who reads from the Bible during the Lesson Sermon. In most churches, the First Reader also conducts the Wednesday Testimony Meetings (see below) by themselves. In all branch churches and societies, Readers are elected by the membership. In The Mother Church, they are appointed by the Christian Science Board of Directors. In most churches, the term of office is 1 – 3 years. In the past, it was convention for one Reader to be male, and the other female, although that’s never been a requirement. Often in the past, the First Reader was male, and the Second Reader was female. All Readers in all churches and societies must be Mother Church members, and there is actually a rule in the Manual (see above) that prohibits a member of The Mother Church from being a member of a branch church whose Readers are not Mother Church members (Manual of The Mother Church, Article VIII, Section 17, p. 45).
  • Reading Room: each branch church and some societies operate a Reading Room, in which authorized (by The Mother Church) Christian Science literature is sold: things like Science and Health, the Bible, other writings by Mary Baker Eddy, and the various magazines published by the Publishing Society. Branch churches are required to operate a Reading Room, societies are not. Two or more branch churches may operate a joint Reading Room, and some larger cities do have jointly maintained Reading Rooms, although the participating branch churches/societies usually still operate their own Reading Rooms. Reading Rooms are often located within the churches, although some are in rented retail spaces. ‘Reading room’ is another one of many arcane 19th century terms that is kept alive by Christian Science. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, book publishers often operated ‘reading rooms’ in larger cities in which they sold their books. This is the model upon which Christian Science Reading Rooms were patterned.
  • Rule for Motives and Acts: this is found in the Manual (see above). It is a guideline for the conduct of Christian Scientists, and it goes like this: “Neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church. In Science, divine Love alone governs man; and a Christian Scientist reflects the sweet amenities of Love, in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness. The members of this Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously.” (Manual of The Mother Church, Article VIII, Section 1) This statement is read during the first Sunday church service of each month in every Christian Science church and society.
  • Science: in Christian Science-speak, Science (capitalized when used this way) is short for Christian Science.
  • Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Science and Health, or S & H): the main ‘textbook’ of Christian Science, written by Mary Baker Eddy. First published in 1875, it was revised over 400 times by Eddy up until her death. It is said by Eddy that it is the full and complete statement of Christian Science. It is read in accompaniment with the Bible as part of the weekly Lesson, and in Sunday sermons. It is also published in several languages other than English, although at the request of Mary Baker Eddy, the original English is on facing pages to the translation. You can read it on-line here. Together with the Bible, it is the pastor of the Christian Science Church.
  • Scientific Statement of Being: a paragraph from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that is read at the end of every Sunday Christian Science church service, and repeated aloud by Sunday School students at the conclusion of Sunday School each week. Consequently, it is indelibly committed to memory by anyone who has spent any time as a Christian Scientist, especially those who were raised in it. It is one of the most important statements in Christian Science and many have claimed healing from the mere contemplation or repetition of this statement. It goes as follows: “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind, and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-All. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.” (p. 468)
  • Scientist: in Christian Science-speak, this means an adherent or student of Christian Science. It’s easier than saying ‘Christian Scientist’ all the time.
  • Second Reader: see Reader above.
  • Society: an official ‘branch’ of The Mother Church and part of the Church of Christ, Scientist, but not with status as a church. The main differences are that to be a church, there is a minimum number of members to initially establish as a church, and at least one member has to be a Journal-listed practitioner. Societies also do not have all of the obligations of a Church, such as the requirement of maintaining a Reading Room, hosting at least one lecture per year, and having weekly Wednesday testimony meetings–some do all of those activities, but many do not. Churches supposedly revert to society status if there is no practitioner, but that does not always seem to be the case. Societies are referred to as ‘Christian Science Society, [name of locality]’; they do not receive a numerical denomination as churches do. If more than one society exists in the same locality, it is often referred to in connection with the neighborhood in which it is located under the listing for that locality. For example, Christian Science Society (West Seattle) is a society in the West Seattle neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, and there was once another society in Seattle in the Ballard neighborhood, so it was referred to as ‘Christian Science Society (Ballard)’ to differentiate it.
  • Solo: a part of the Sunday Church Service (see below), the solo is what the name implies, a musical interlude, usually a vocal selection set to organ or piano music, although the format is not strictly proscribed, so some churches do variations on it, and many branch churches/societies now use pre-recorded solos, rather than using live musicians as a cost-saving measure.
  • Spiritual Interpretation (of the Lord’s Prayer): as the name implies, this is a ‘spiritual interpretation’ of the well-known prayer, written by Mary Baker Eddy, and found on pages 16 – 17 in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. It is read in Christian Science Sunday church services by the First Reader, interspersed with the Second Reader and congregation’s repetition of the actual Lord’s Prayer.
  • Sunday Church Service: as the name implies, it’s the Sunday service in each Christian Science church. All Christian Science Church services worldwide follow the same order, and use the same sermon. The order of services is given in the Manual of The Mother Church, and is exactly the same every Sunday, except for two Communion services each year (branch churches only). The sermon for each church service is the Lesson Sermon (see Lesson above) as given in the Christian Science Quarterly. The Communion services in branch churches occur when the Lesson subject is Sacrament (once in January, the other time is usually in July).
  • Sunday School: as the name implies, it is where children are taught about Christian Science on Sundays. Sunday School usually meets at the same time as the Sunday Church Service. The only specific instruction Mary Baker Eddy gives regarding what is to be taught in Sunday School is that the following must be taught as the first lessons of students: the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17); the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) with the Spiritual Interpretation by Eddy (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 16 – 17); and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12) (see Manual of The Mother Church, Article XX, Section 3, pp. 62 – 63). Otherwise, she specifies that teaching should be focused on the content of the Weekly Bible Lessons, which are the Sunday Sermon in the church, so it’s relatively open-ended, within that context. Other than Christian Science class instruction, this is the only time Christian Science is ever allowed to be taught. Once one reaches the age of 20, they can no longer attend Sunday School. If you’re new to Christian Science, and you’re over 20, you can’t attend Sunday School. If you want to learn, you must teach yourself through your own study, or take class instruction.
  • Synonyms (of God): in Christian Science theology, there are ‘synonyms’ for God, and they are capitalized in ‘Christian Science grammar’ (see above) when used in this manner. Mary Baker Eddy laid out seven synonyms for God in two places in Science and Health, and these ‘synonyms’ are: Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle, Life, Truth, and Love (pp. 465 & 587).
  • Tenets (of Christian Science): found at the end of the chapter ‘Recapitulation’ in Science and Health (p. 497), these are the closest thing there is to a religious creed in Christian Science, although they are referred to by Eddy as ‘important points, or religious tenets’. They are read at the twice yearly Communion Sunday church service in branch churches and societies. There is no Communion service in The Mother Church. The sixth tenet is one that is commonly used as a prayer, benediction, or grace by Christian Scientists. Read them here.
  • Teacher of Christian Science: a practitioner who has gained necessary experience, and a ‘proven’ record of healing, can take a course at The Mother Church in Boston called Normal class This is an advanced class that qualifies them to teach primary classes in Christian Science (see above) to others. They are known as ‘authorized teachers’. They gain a degree known as CSB (Christian Science Bachelor of), a credential which they place after their names when advertising professionally, much the way a college or university grad may put their academic credentials after their name (eg. BComn–for Bachelor of Communications). These folks are actually graduates of a state-chartered college known as the Massachusetts Metaphysical College (see the Wikipedia article). It was established by Mary Baker Eddy under a state law that no longer exists, so it is basically grandfathered in. See also Class Instruction and Board of Education. Teachers of Christian Science are usually referred to by Christian Scientists as ‘Teachers’ (sometimes capitalized when used in this reference). For more information about Christian Science Teachers and Class Instruction, click here.
  • Testimony: this is where the rubber meets the road in Christian Science. Testimonies of ‘healing’ in Christian Science are given great importance. Mary Baker Eddy placed great importance on testifying to the supposed healing power of Christian Science. The Mother Church claims to have around 80,000 published, and supposedly verified healings, which can be referenced in the various periodicals published by the Church. All branch churches as well as The Mother Church hold testimony meetings on Wednesdays (see below). Christian Science Organizations (see above) also hold testimony meetings, but are not allowed to do so on Wednesdays, except for the Organization at Principia College (see above), due to the fact that it is not conveniently located near a branch church.
  • Testimony Meeting: each branch church, and most societies hold testimony meetings on Wednesdays. Branch churches are required to hold one each week; societies are not, and many societies will hold them only once or twice per month. Readings are shared from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, followed by testimonies of healing from the congregation. Often, Christian Scientists will call it the ‘Wednesday service, ‘Wednesday evening meeting’, or ‘Wednesday testimony meeting’.
  • Treatment: see Christian Science Treatment above.
  • Trustees: there are two groups of trustees in the organization of The Mother Church: the ‘Trustees Under the Will’ (of Mary Baker Eddy) and the ‘Trustees of the Christian Science Publishing Society’ (see above). The ‘Trustees Under the Will’ are the actual official publishers of Mary Baker Eddy’s writings (the Christian Science Publishing Society actually is not the publisher of Eddy’s writings). These trustees are the Christian Science Board of Directors (see above). The Trustees of the Christian Science Publishing Society are the governing body of that institution and are a different group of people, although at times one or more members of the Christian Science Board of Directors is also a trustee of the Publishing Society. Most of the time, when one hears a Christian Scientist talk about the ‘Trustees’, they’re referring to the Publishing Society trustees. In the past, there has been conflict, and even legal wranglings between the Publishing Society trustees and the Christian Science Board of Directors.
  • Weekly Bible Lesson: see Lesson above.

 


 

* The Student’s Reference Dictionary1 is an abridged version of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, which was first published in 1828. This is the dictionary Mary Baker Eddy was familiar with. The Student’s Reference Dictionary is more recently published: first in 1963, and with subsequent printings, most recently in 1993. Serious students of Christian Science usually have either this, or the actual American Dictionary of the English Language in their reference library. The Webster’s Dictionary we know of today is very different, and has no connection to Noah Webster other than his name.

1 The Student’s Reference Dictionary. Macdoel, California: Keystone Publishers. 1963, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1993. Print.