Published Aug. 1, 2013
Church of Christ, Scientist rooted in prayer
Members focus on positive thoughts and aligning with God’s goodness for healthy living
By Ken Knutson
The seeds of First Church of Christ, Scientist in Hinsdale date back to 1910 when a local Christian Science society was formed.
“ ‘Society’ basically means a group of people studying the lesson sermons and studying Christian Science as their Sunday Service,” said Cindy Samide, chair of the church’s board of directors.
Rules dictated that a society could only be regarded as a branch church of the Mother Church in Boston once it was free of debt.
“The society grew and grew until it could basically build the church, pay off the church and they could be listed as a church, versus a society,” Samide said.
That became reality in the 1950s with the establishment of the church at 405 E. First St.
The church, which does not have clergy, follows a democratic process in electing “readers” every three years as well as electing its board of directors.
“The theology is very Christian, following Christ and his example,” Samide said. “That’s really what the founder of the religion asked: Don’t look at me, look at the Bible.”
Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science in the late 19th Century with particular emphasis on the element of spiritual healing, and her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” remains a central text in the religion.
Samide said Eddy wanted people to understand that they could directly seek God’s intervention to transform their lives.
“Good is what comes from God, not any of the pain or the sorrow or the anger that they’re seeing in the world,” Samide stated.
Services are led by the first and second readers, with the main topic guided by the lesson sermons received from The First Church of Christ, Scientist head office in Boston.
“The first reader oversees what hymns we’re going to sing, paces the service,” Samide explained.
Readings are taken from both the Bible and “Science and Health.”
“The readers alternate. There’s a piece from the Bible and then there’s correlative, enriching things about the stories that are read,” Samide said.
The church also holds Wednesday night services, in which the lesson might be related to recent events.
“That’s a topic of the first reader’s choice. It can go anywhere from friendship to a current topic, like when the (9/11) bombings happened,” Samide said. “What thoughts can we as a congregation bring to make that situation better?”
The service includes hymns and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as personal testimonies from attendees.
Samide’s husband, Gael, grew up in Christian Science, and the couple decided that was the religion in which they would raise their children.
“We picked it for the values and the openness that we felt about the church,” she said.
The Sunday School, which has about five or six kids per small group, stresses the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the Golden Rule as fundamental teachings while also tracking with the lesson of the adult service.
Member Jane Moyer of Hinsdale said the Sunday School goes up to age 20. Her son, who is about that age, has learned the significant teachings of the church as well as how to apply them to life, she said.
“They really study about how Jesus lived and taught and healed,” Moyer said. “It’s given him a really good a spiritual and moral foundation.”
Moyer likes to visit the Christian Science Reading Room in Hinsdale’s downtown, which has been operating as long as the church building.
“There’s a book group that meets there that discusses different (books within the faith),” she said. “That’s been really interesting to me. I’m always discovering new things.”
The reading room, which also sells materials, is open to anyone, as are talks given by visiting lecturers who are designated by the Mother Church. Both serve as important instruments of outreach.
“Since we don’t have clergy that live on site, you have to have a place where people can come and still find out about you,” Samide said.
Christmas and Easter aren’t observed as distinctly as in other faith traditions but incorporated into the regular doctrine.
“It’s always about trying to find new ideas and new goodness and what can open up thought to being kind year-round,” Samide said.
For the last 20 years, member Sandi Justad has served as a practitioner, someone people can call in times of trouble for spiritual support.
“People began asking me for help, and I would pray for them,” Justad said. “As more people asked me, I thought ‘I better devote more time to this.’ ”
Requests come from all over the country, sometimes by text these days. Justad said she doesn’t always hear back from those for whom she’s prayed, but she is gratified when she learns of a positive outcome.
“I rejoice with them when their problems are resolved,” she said. “I love helping people.”
Eddy believed that emotional and physical struggles were brought about by erroneous thinking, and many Christian Scientists eschew conventional medical treatment.
Samide said there’s a misconception that Christian Scientists don’t believe in doctors. They do believe, however, that the spiritual realm offers a better cure rate.
“Christian Science would teach that there’s faster and more secure ways (of healing),” she said. “And that’s why you study.”
Justad said Jesus is the central inspiration for their faith.
“Christian Science healing is based on following the life and the works of Jesus,” she said, citing his healings of lepers and the blind, among others. “Where people saw limitations, he saw possibilities. He showed them that God’s love was unconditional and that his understanding brought wholeness and transformation to the lives that he touched.”
Affiliation: First Church of Christ, Scientist
Founded: society formed in 1910, church established in the 1950s
Worship: 10 a.m. Sunday service, 10 a.m. Sunday school; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday service
Location: 405 E. First St.
Theology: Based in the Bible, the church believes that God has forgiven sins and saved man through Christ’s death and resurrection, and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the erroneous belief in sin is punished, so followers watch and pray that they would be like Christ.