Last Sunday we launched our inaugural segment called His House Review, a routine report and observation of what various churches look like from the inside through their Services.
We visited this wonderful church called the Christian Science Church (CSC) in Harare, a great choice by luck to make. Actually, we were not planning to visit this house, in fact, this place was not on our list of places to visit, because like many other individuals we misunderstood it until Sunday.
So the truth is we went there just out of curiosity and the fabulous architecture of the building alone pleasantly surprised us. It was so serene inside and we were very interested to see how we would respond to the whole experience.
Many would love to know the foundation on which this church is built and how they operate, more so how they integrate Christ and science, two elements that tend to oppose each other. It is not unusual to believe that to be a Scientist amounts to Atheism. So let us roll the drum on what the church is about through Doctrine, Reception, Punctuality, Ambience, Offerings, The Service, Praise & Worship as we will for every segment of the ‘His House Review’ to follow.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder, defined it as ‘the law of God, the law of good…‘ In Christian Science, God is understood to be infinite Love, and so invariably good that a clear glimpse of this through prayer has the power to heal, redeem, and restore anyone.
A lifelong student of the Bible who yearned from her youth to find deeper answers to the persistent question of human suffering, Mary turned wholeheartedly to God when she experienced a critical injury in 1866.
As she read accounts of Jesus’ swift, powerful healings, a new sense of God, Spirit, as the only reality flooded her thought and healed her. Impelled to understand the Principle behind this experience, she continued to search for and find in the Bible the underlying laws of God that would form the basis of her teaching and practice of Christian Science.
To date, many have found that when they understand their relationship to God better through this Science of Christianity, their health is restored and character transformed and each healing inspires a heartfelt desire to help others know and experience how loved we all are by God.
A look at the CSC in Zimbabwe will reveal that the church has been around for many years, but it is difficult to tell if at one time it was very vibrant with many people. As it was our first time there, we can’t outrightly say the church is dying or it is actually seeing a boom but by the time we visited, there were few congregants or to use their dialect, few Christian Science practitioners.
Their services run for an hour, from exactly 09:30 and end at 10:30. Their sense of time is, among other things, that many others Christian sects can emulate.
Praise & Worship
Right through the service, they play or sings traditional hymnals songs, soft and sweet: no dancing or clapping. The hymnal books are served.
As if to remind congregants that the church is exotic the service was conducted in English.
A woman and a man co-led the service. We didn’t get to hear their titles, as they did not proclaim or put much emphasis on it, a very big contrast with other churches who will repeatedly notify the pew that the person on the pulpit is a Prophet, Apostle, Minister or Bishop from unheard of places.
They do silent prayers, after which they will all follow up with the biblical The Lord’s prayer with its spiritual interpretation, as laid out in their Christian Science textbook, Science and Health written by Mary Baker Eddy.
At first, we were surprised at the demographic, how they were all adults in the room, later to hear that young people hold their own services where they are taught relevant information, a notion we suspect is done to protect them from cases like this.
The church emphasises that the Bible and the aforementioned Christian Science textbook Science and Health are the only preachers they have, suffice to say nobody comes off nowhere and preach from the top of their heads. The textbooks present the practitioners with a simplified interpretation of the Holy Book, expounding it from its archaicism and farfetchedness.
One thing we were quick to grasp from the book was a text that says they do not believe in people erring but are convinced that there is a force called evil that leads people to err.
For someone used to ministry environments with lots of energy, today’s music, loud Pentecostal sermons about ‘your marriage, your job, your car‘, and lots of new people, being in the Christian Science Church was refreshing.
Tithes & Offering
Christian Science Church also collects offering from the congregations and they also have what they call monthly subscriptions. The offering baskets are moved around the church and good-willed believers will give what they have. There is not much emphasis on how God will richly bless you after you offer that much, and a sharp discrepancy, that syndrome of competitive giving which has been on the rise in various Evangelical Churches is non-existent there.
We had a great meet and greet session. The welcome was warm and heartfelt with many asking if it was our first time there, a notion that either suggests that the practitioners know each other personally and would notice if someone new comes by, or that they are somehow suspicious of newbies.
Although we were overwhelmed by the warm reception, an aura of ‘coldness‘ lingers around during church. It’s like there is not that sense of spiritualism, as of the Holy Spirit, if ever they believe in one. Maybe it is because we are used to the pizzazz of the Pentecostal that we failed to decipher that which makes their church joyful. Who knows, perhaps it was in their silence, we too believe in various ways that people show their enthusiasm. Or maybe churches are supposed to be, well…that serious.
Christian Science Church is a seeker-friendly church. We enjoyed the visit although it left a lot to be desired. By the end of the service we could not put a finger on what the practitioners truly believed in. We’re convinced that it will take a considerable amount of time to understand. The church is located at corner Selous and Sam Munjoma, just opposite the NSSA house and adjacent to the Harare Gardens entrance along 1st Street.