Chrystal’s Story – I felt called by God to Practitioner Work

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.

A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 

After high school, I attended Community College for 2 years, since I couldn’t afford to go away to school for 4 years; but could only afford 2 years. One day, randomly, a classmate called me and someone else and asked us if we would like to go with him to a Quaker Meeting. I was so excited! I could finally attend a Quaker Meeting! I said, “there are those in our area? You FOUND one?” Yep; he had found one probably 40 minutes away from our school. We all dressed in drab colors the best we could, and went to the Quaker Meeting. I was happily surprised to arrive and see one of the attendees wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt. I thought that was pretty fun. It was a classic building – a Meeting House. And I loved it very much. I loved everything about this building. I sat before the service started, and thumbed through the hymnal. At one point, I read in the hymnal something like, “if you find a hymn in here that doesn’t speak to your heart, understand that it may bless your neighbor and be glad it’s in here to help your neighbor.” To me, this summarizes one of the very best things about the Quaker Faith: how to truly love all of your neighbors. I kept this idea in my heart and memory for a long long time after I read that.

“We encourage you to approach singing from this book with the same openness to the Spirit as members of the Music Selection Working Group did. Our emphasis throughout this process has been on inclusion, rather than exclusion. Thus, the theological concepts, language use, and kinds of music are as varied as are Friends’ beliefs and practices. Each person will find much to speak to his or her condition, and each will probably find some songs that are incompatible with a strongly held belief or emotion. … If you are troubled by some text, as yourself how each of these songs might meet a spiritual need of another person in your meeting, thus enriching the meeting community as a whole. If you sing from this hymnal in the same spirit of love and caring for one another as was practiced in its creation, it will bring joy to you and your meeting.”  

Worship in Song – A Friends Hymnal © 1996 Friends General Conference

My second year at community college, I became friends with T.S., who was Quaker! We were best friends for about a year. She was incredibly smart and respected by the teachers at the school. I really enjoyed her friendship.

After 2 years at the community college, I went away to college in another state. You know the one. Principia College in Elsah, IL. It’s the only college for Christian Scientists. My family had visited it during summer vacation after fourth grade. It has a cool building called, “The School of Nations.” We peeked in the windows since the building was locked. Every room is decked out to look like a different country. Every single room is accurate, down to the ceiling details, window styles, chairs, desks or tables… everything makes you feel like you’re in a foreign country. India’s ceiling is incredibly ornate – chiseled wood. Japan is incredibly simple and feels very “zen.” England feels like you’re taking a class from William Shakespeare. There are probably a dozen different rooms representing as many countries. I fell in love with those rooms and knew I wanted to go to Principia College. I never looked at or applied to any other colleges. My family was so proud of me for going there. I wish I could say I loved Principia. I am still processing everything that happened while I was at Principia. I am sure that at some point, it will become another blog post for this site, but I’m not ready yet. One thing I have observed is that most or all the people I know who have graduated from there with a B.A. can’t find a decent job with decent pay after graduation.

My step-mom’s mom (a long time Christian Science Practitioner) died while I was a student at Principia. She was really young, but not knowing ages in Christian Science, I don’t know how old she was. I just know she was really young and healthy. I was devastated by her early death. (She probably had a heart attack then she fell down a flight of stairs; but of course, there was no autopsy. I figured out recently that she was probably about 70 years old.) It took me 11 years of grief to get over her death. Christian Science teaches us that death isn’t real; so I learned to “see her in the wild violets she loved so much, see her in the Christmas cookies she used to bake…”  In Christian Science, we are taught that “death isn’t real,” and thus, I felt tremendous guilt and self-loathing about the fact that I mourned her death. How can you mourn someone who isn’t dead? Well, I deeply grieved her loss for a long long time. So, in addition to being deeply sad, I was also mad at myself for being sad.

After graduation, I stayed in Elsah, IL for 2 more years before returning to my home state. I fell away from Christian Science. I started doing my own church services, alone, in my living room. I played music and spent time in nature, watching eagles, raccoons, deer, and the myriad other wildlife that lives in Elsah, IL.

When I came back to my home state, I realized the only time I saw my whole family was when they all went to church on Sunday together and then lunch afterwards. So, I started attending church regularly. I enjoyed dressing up in nice clothes on Sunday and felt like I was showing off or something. Most of my peers had left the church at that point, but I was still there, and I felt like that must mean something.

I met a Quaker man at my job, and we went on 3 dates. He surprised me early in the “getting to know each other” spot and phase. He said: “I have always said, ‘if I wasn’t a Quaker, I would be a Christian Scientist.’” I would have absolutely converted to the Quaker faith for him. We had a great time together, I thought. We rode on his motorcycle, we went canoeing, we watched movies, we had great conversations. Then, he didn’t call me any more. I was surprised and sad by the sudden change of heart from him. I really did think he was a match for me. A year later, I found out that he got engaged to someone else soon after we stopped seeing each other, and that was devastating to me. But, life marches on.

Maybe another year after that, I met a non-religious man (who also happened to be a magician, just like my dad had been), we fell in love, got married and became parents when I was around the age of 30. That is when I really got committed to Christian Science. The first Mother’s Day I got to have as a mom, that’s the day I joined my local branch church. I was so excited! The Sunday School students I had grown up with took me out to lunch. Everyone was really happy for me. One was already a branch church member, and I can’t remember if the other one was too at that point, but she definitely became one.

With my new renewed commitment to Christian Science, I quickly became a Sunday School teacher, volunteered in the Reading Room, and started going to Bible workshops run by a local Christian Scientist who was also a Bible scholar. (This Bible scholar later died too young, of some unknown illness. Her widowed husband is a Journal listed practitioner, who later married another Journal listed practitioner.)

My two boys were still in diapers, and suddenly, out of nowhere, a neighbor came to me and asked me to heal her of AIDS. I talked with her about David and Goliath (because knowing the David and Goliath story would absolutely cure AIDS, right?), and started praying for her.

David and Goliath – I Samuel 17: 45-47
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

At this point, I felt called by God to do the Practitioner work that I had always thought I would do.  I laughed that God took me right to the top – something incredibly scary – the opposite of “easy,” and I felt I could do this (Game of opposites champion – right here!). At some point, it became clear to me that this person didn’t believe that I could heal her, so I turned her over to a Christian Science Teacher in our area. I hadn’t even been through Christian Science Class Instruction yet!

Someone else called me and asked me to pray for her to get an apartment. And she got one the next day – a beautifully perfect apartment. Then, she asked me to pray for her ankles, and they improved. And then someone else called me to pray for her dog who had just come back from the vet and wasn’t doing well. I laughed at that one too, because I really am not a dog person. I thought “God sure has a sense of humor!” (The dog never got better just with my prayer; that dog went back to the vet again and again, and had serious issues. I don’t know the rest of the story; the lady stopped calling me.) (What is it with the consistent pattern that Christian Scientists take their pets to the vet, but won’t take their children to doctors? Because they care more for their pets than their children? Or vice versa? )

Soon, I started interviewing Christian Science Teachers. I met with the local one that I had turned the AIDS case over to, and really liked her, but wanted to meet with other Teachers too. A good friend of mine recommended her Teacher to me, and I met with her, too. This Teacher had gone through Christian Science nurses training with my dad, and they had lost touch so many years ago. I called her to help me pray about a lost kitchen gadget, and we found it! (That’s considered a healing! It proves Christian Science works!) I was at my dad’s house, so I put them on the phone with each other, and they enjoyed catching up. My dad said to her, “I have enjoyed watching the initials after your name change over the years, and I am glad you’re a Teacher now!” This Teacher said to me, “I have never had to have a student put their practitioner cases on hold in order to go through Class Instruction!”

I didn’t go through Class Instruction with her though, because I was the only one to sign up that summer, and Teachers are forbidden to only teach 1 student in a Class.

So I went on with my search to find my Teacher.

The Wrong Mountain, or How I became a Humanist

By Kat, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group editor/writer. This is part of our on-going series about people who have left Christian Science for a new spiritual path. Find other related posts under the tag, ‘other spiritual paths’.

During my freshman orientation at Principia College we participated in a Writing Seminar. We read droll essays, obscure poems, wrote metacognitive pieces, and shared our “inspired” work. One of the essays we read was on the theme “there are many paths up the mountain.”

There was some discussion, of course people have to explore other paths, but at the end, everyone is trying to reach the summit, and obviously, the summit is the Truth of Christian Science. It takes some people longer to get there than others, and some people never realize that Truth in this lifetime.

I spent a lot of time and energy on my path. Years of Sunday School, hours spent in church, reading the Weekly Bible Lesson, four years at Principia College. When I had questions or doubts, I redoubled my efforts, turning to The Books for Truth, and coming back to the proper path of Christian Science.

Then one day life-threatening pregnancy complications landed me in the hospital well before my due date. I had a binder of Christian Science platitudes to keep me company, God’s Law of Adjustment on my ipod, and a CS Practitioner a phone call away.

The reality of dealing with a mandatory meeting with a social worker, and in-depth conversations about baby care with the neonatal intensive care nurses, firmly pushed us into the world of “suffer it to be so now.” We can still pray about it, but we have to check all the boxes if we want to take the baby home, as Jesus said, render unto Caesar (Mark 12:17).

I struggled balancing pediatricians and prayer. I tried to go to Church, but could hear my baby angrily wailing from the Children’s Room. It felt wrong. Pediatricians won out over prayer. Evidence based medicine won out over radical reliance. If anyone asked my religious preference, I gave a vague reply: “Christian.” I was very much on the path away from Christian Science, and the Pinnacle of Truth.

Being vaguely “Christian” was fine, then one day, some Mormon Missionaries showed up on my doorstep. I was an overwhelmed mom of two young children, desperate for conversation beyond “pick up your toys” and “stop waking the baby.”

The Mormons were excited. The woman is often the one responsible for religious training of the children, the fact I was open to even talking to them, was a huge point in their favor. I was also obviously not in the best place, and they had The Answer, the One Truth Path, Mormonism, and the One True Book, The Book of Mormon.

I tried to let them down gently. No thanks. I already left the One True Path, Christian Science, and I’ve already read the One True Book, Science and Health. They persisted and left a copy of The Book of Mormon for me to read, as well as some selected passages that I might find helpful.

I tried to read The Book of Mormon and got nowhere, so I turned to the Bible. I was Christian after all, and didn’t Ms. Eddy get her inspiration from there? I’d read Science and Health from cover to cover, so I decided to give the Bible a go, starting at Genesis 1:1, In the beginning…

I’d read parts of the Bible before, selections from the weekly Bible Lesson, sections for Bible classes at Principia, but I’d never actually read it from the beginning. I also started googling for more information about the Bible – it wasn’t written in a vacuum, I wanted to know more.

The more I read, the more I realized I didn’t actually identify as a Christian, and I certainly didn’t believe the Bible was the Word of God, any more than I believed that Science and Health was divinely authorized.

I felt gutted, I felt I had been wasting my time on paths that were totally wrong for me, they all claimed to be The One True Path, and I wasn’t going to go down another one that claimed to be the Only One.

The message from Writing Seminar kept haunting me, religion is THE MOUNTAIN and there is NO WRONG PATH, everyone needs spiritual enlightenment and a relationship with a God. There may be “no wrong path” for the religious, but I didn’t identify with religion, nor did I want a relationship with that God. I was done climbing that mountain. I started down the mountain, shedding baggage (or attempting to shed the baggage) as I went.

I was seeking, not just a new path, but a new mountain. Was there an alternative mountain? I’d been born into and raised on the religious mountian, my path had always been Christian Science — it had always been the pinnacle of Truth, the highest embodiment of religion.

I did a lot of searching and found Secular Humanism. There are no mythical deities, there is no absolute Truth, there are just people and we are all in this together, let’s try and get a long.

My new deity-free mountain isn’t perfect, I’ve had twists and turns on this path, but I feel that I have found the right mountain for me. The right mountain for my children to grow up on. A mountain where I can practice self-compassion instead of self-loathing. A mountain where I don’t have to try and “align my thought” with a supposedly omniscient deity.  

“We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.” (

This is my path up the mountain now.

Ancient, Basic, and Genuine Spirituality

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group editor/writer. This is part of our on-going series about people who have left Christian Science for a new spiritual path. Find other related posts under the tag, ‘other spiritual paths’.

In March 2009, my mother died after a short battle with an unknown illness. Later that same year in December, my father died after a seven year battle with what turned out to be heart failure. Neither of my parents sought medical attention for their ailments, and they both suffered immensely in their last days. These were the events that gave me my final push out of Christian Science.

Like the vast majority of people who are or were ever adherents of Christian Science, I was born into it: third-generation on both sides of my family. While I always harboured doubts about Christian Science, and never witnessed any dramatic ‘healings’, I largely immersed myself in the culture. It was always my comfort zone, weird as that may seem. I always did everything I could do to make it ‘work’, but I never really saw it work. It took the abysmal failure of Christian Science to heal my parents to finally make me realize that my life-long doubts had a basis in truth.

It was shortly after my mother’s death that I was introduced to an Indigenous sweat-lodge ceremony by an old friend from my high school days with whom I had reconnected on-line. Her own father had died only a few months earlier, so we were walking down a similar path. She had mentioned this ceremony in passing in a comment, and I asked her about it. She didn’t say much, but told me to research it myself, which I did. I’ve always been curious about other spiritual/religious paths, especially Indigenous spirituality, and this looked interesting to me. I grew up in Tsleil-Waututh territory, and the culture of the Coast Salish people (of which they are a part) was something that had always been around me, and I had always felt an innate connection with it that I couldn’t explain, and deep respect for it, even though as a child my knowledge was limited. I asked my friend if I could attend with her when I came out to be with my Dad, as she lived near where my parents had lived–and where I now live, and that became my introduction to the spiritual path I now walk, a path that is often referred to as the Red Road.

The sweat-lodge ceremony…

Briefly, I’ll explain what I can of what a sweat-lodge ceremony is. First and most importantly, I need to state that I am not an Indigenous person on this land (North America, or as many Indigenous people call it, Turtle Island). My ancestry is European (Irish, Scottish, and English). I am a ‘settler’ on this land. I state this because in Indigenous culture, your ancestry and who your ancestors are is an important part of your identity, and it is part of how you introduce yourself. Also, it is important that the perspective I speak from, and my status on this land are clearly understood and acknowledged. I speak only for myself and my own experience, and only from my own perspective.

A sweat-lodge ceremony is conducted in a structure known as the ‘lodge’, which is usually a dome-shaped structure that is tall enough for you to sit, but not stand–you enter humbly, on your hands and knees. The ceremony consists of usually four rounds, each with its own focus–which is different in each lodge, depending on the person pouring (the term for running a lodge), and the purpose of the lodge. In each round, a number of heated rocks (usually known as ‘grandfathers’) are brought in and water is poured on them. During the ceremony, the lodge is closed, and it is pitch-dark. You are not distracted by anything visual, it becomes extremely warm, and your thoughts become very focused. There is usually a break between each round, where you can go outside to cool off.

I am not entirely sure where the sweat-lodge ceremony originates, and there is a fair amount of information on-line. Many nations throughout Turtle Island have similar ceremonies of their own or have adopted forms of the ceremony from other nations. From what I understand, the ceremony I have become familiar with, and what has become most common, has its origins with the Lakota people from the Great Plains region of North America. There is also evidence of similar ceremonies in cultures in other parts of the world as well.

My initial experiences…

The sweat lodge is a very sacred ceremony, and because of that, I can’t specifically discuss what happens there outside of the circle of people who are present at the ceremony–even my own experiences. It’s not that there is some deep dark secret, it is to preserve the sacredness or sanctity of the ceremony, and the privacy of what is shared and experienced there.

What I can talk about is what it has done for me. It brought me tremendous healing of the grief and trauma surrounding the circumstances of my parents’ deaths. It brought me comfort, understanding, and a fellowship of people who supported me in my journey, and most importantly (and quite unlike my experience in Christian Science), validation of the grief, anger, and other emotions I was feeling. I came to realize that grief is a natural and necessary part of life. It is how you process traumatic events. It is actually a healthy thing. But, like anything else, it can become unhealthy if you do not process it and move through it.

The sweat lodge is what ‘grounds’ me each week. If I’ve had a stressful week, or just have a lot of stuff to work through, it is a time for me to quietly meditate or ‘defrag’ the hard-drive of my brain. I feel re-connected with the Earth, and everything around me, and it brings me back to a healthy perspective.

What my path is to me…

In addition to the sweat lodge, I’ve attended and supported other ceremonies, such as the Sun Dance, and many others. What this spiritual path is to me, and I want to emphasize that this is what it is to me (I don’t speak in any way as an authority or someone with extensive knowledge–I have no right to do so), is an ancient, basic, logical, humble, and genuine spirituality. It is not filled with dogma or human interpretation. It’s me and whatever higher power I commune with, and my connection to the environment around me. Humility is at the core of this spirituality. People from many different faiths (or no particular faith) and nations have attended the lodge I go to. As for me, I consider myself to be agnostic. I go to the lodge to meditate and find my own connection to Mother Earth and the universe. I also practice other teachings I’ve received, many based on the Medicine Wheel, in my day-to-day to bring balance into my life as much as possible. It balances me. It makes sense to me. There’s nothing abstract or esoteric about it to me.

Do I believe in God? No, not really–not the Judaeo-Christian version found in the Bible–that makes no logical sense to me at all. I believe that consciousness is a form of energy, and that we’re all a part of a collective intelligence or consciousness that connects us to everyone and everything else. Is that what Indigenous spirituality teaches? Yes and no–it depends on the teachings you’re receiving, and the cultural traditions they originate from. This interpretation I have of consciousness and the universe is what I’ve come to myself through my own walk and experience. It’s not any particular teaching of any form of Indigenous spirituality.

Indigenous spirituality…

It is important to note that there is no one singular form of Indigenous spirituality or culture. There are as many forms as there are nations, and in North America, there are over 600 nations, each as distinct from the other as French are from Germans, or Russians are from Turks. Yes, there are some common threads through many, but they are all distinct.

A couple of concepts I’ve been finding to be at the core of most teachings I’ve received, are respect and humility. Respect for everyone and everything around you: your fellow humans, animals, plants, water, air, and Earth. If we treat all with respect–taking only what we need, we all always have what we need, and we don’t destroy the environment around us. Humility to realize that we are not any better or worse, higher or lower than anyone or anything else, and that none of us knows everything or has all of the answers. I like to think that I know more today than I did yesterday, and tomorrow I will learn more.

One term I have become very familiar with, Wankan Tanka, is a term in the Lakota language that some people mistakenly think means ‘God’. There isn’t really an exact translation, but one interpretation holds that it refers to the power and sacredness that resides in everything. This is a concept of a ‘higher power’ (if you choose to call it that) that makes logical sense to me. My own conclusions on what ‘higher power’ and/or other ‘mysteries’ there may be are just the logical conclusions I have come to. Others have different perspectives, and that is a large part of what the Red Road path is–it is an individual journey that is as unique to you as your fingerprints. Yes, you are guided by teachings from Elders you connect with, but ultimately it is your own individual journey.

Evidence and logic are what guide me now, and are the only things that will change my mind. Faith does not. Faith has failed me, and it won’t get another chance. Faith will never be a part of my life again. The spiritual path I am on now is one that resonates strongly with me, it is open, accepting, and as individual to me as my fingerprints are. It simply makes sense to me.

He told me to try a Bible-believing church just once

The following piece was submitted anonymously via email. It is part of our on-going series about people who have left Christian Science for a new spiritual path. Find other related posts under the tag ‘other spiritual paths’.

If you are seeking Christian Scientists who have found a Christian path, we recommend the Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists.

Like so many Christian Scientists, I was born into the religion. Both my mother and my grandmother were adherents. In fact, my grandmother had a woman named Mrs. Eddy (not the famous one) tell her about it when her family lived in a small factory town in the Midwest. But, my father was not a Christian Scientist. I am told by my uncle that before my father met my mother, he was considering becoming a preacher; but, preachers don’t marry non-Christians. So, I guess he discarded that idea somewhere along the line.

My brother Frank and I were expected to attend Sunday School at the local Christian Science church while we were in grade school age. After that, we were allowed to select which parent we wanted to accompany to church on Sundays. My brother choose my dad and the Methodist church and I choose my mom and the Christian Science church.

My mother and I were very close for pretty much my whole life. One way that I could really please her was to be active in the church. I was definitely the youngest member when I joined our branch church at age 12. It thrilled my mother that I was on the publication committee, the nursery committee, and the usher committee. What a role model for other kids in my church! I saw how all of this activity brought us closer. So, I moved ahead and got more immersed in the culture. I took Christian Science Class Instruction at 20 years-old; I worked at the Mother Church the summer I turned 21; and finally, I went to Principia College for my final year of college.

Another reason Christian Science was attractive to me was the sense of community that I had while in groups of Christian Scientists, which I didn’t experience anywhere else; and especially at Principia, I was among people who understood my beliefs and thought they were valid. Having Christian Science in common certainly seemed to enable me to make friendships quickly.

But, despite all of these good feelings, I did leave Science. It happened soon after my mother remarried following the death of my father when I was 19.  I felt betrayed since I was no longer her special confidante. Around that same time, I saw a girl from my Sunday School die. She died choking to death on her parents’ living room floor. The diagnosis was tonsillitis. That really made me think a lot about healing, Mary Baker Eddy, and all the rest.  

I never heard any amazing testimonies of healing on Wednesday nights at church. Even when I took Class Instruction, I could not seem to make Christian Science ‘work’. Throughout the two weeks, I was very sick with a bad cold, laryngitis, and high temperatures. I was not able to heal what most people would say was a very mild illness. Why didn’t it work if I had done all the right things, thought all the right things, and tried to change my thinking all the time when ‘error’ tried to fill my thoughts?

Finally, I ended up taking off to California to find another way of life. There, I occasionally tried orthodox churches and then did without church for quite a while. I always steered clear of the Christian Science ones. A gay friend in my new college started to witness to me about Christ. Talk about ironic, but he was sincere. He kept on about it, and he told me to try a Bible-believing church just once.

On a lonely Sunday morning, I sat outside Hollywood Presbyterian Church and watched the people who entered the church. The next Sunday, I did the same. The third Sunday, I went in and listened to the sermon. Within three more weeks, I was hooked. Reading the book of John in the Bible explained so much to me. I didn’t need Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures to interpret things of God anymore. I had found the truth!  

To summarize, I don’t know if I ever ‘believed’ in Christian Science. I think God was preparing me all along to be dissatisfied, uncomfortable, and skeptical until I finally read the Bible and saw what He really said. God wanted to present the truth to me about who He really was and how I could join His real kingdom forever.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

happy new year fireworks

The ExChristian Scientist is starting off 2017 with a series of posts exploring new spiritual and religious paths.

Some former Christian Scientists turn to Humanism and Atheism, while others find themselves exploring new branches of Christianity, Buddhism, or Native Spirituality (we did a comprehensive poll on this not too long ago).

Throughout the month of January we will be sharing various essays from people who have found new spiritual paths, as well as resources for those seeking guidance or more information.

We do not advocate any one particular path but acknowledge that there are many legitimate pathways that can be personally and spiritually fulfilling.