First Church of Christ, Scientist
Gazette Article by: Field Beam
Appeared in the Gazette: Winter 1998
In 1866 Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science while she was healing after a serious accident. She used only prayer and biblical inspiration during her recovery. Several years later she wrote and published the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In 1892 Eddy founded the First Church of Christ, Scientist—The Mother Church—in Boston, Massachusetts. Its by-laws, written by Eddy, provide for local (branch) churches to be established worldwide.
In April 1924, 75 Christian Scientists founded First Church of Christ, Scientist in Winnetka—today one of about 2,300 Christian Science churches throughout the world. The young church held worship services, Sunday school, and testimony meetings in the Masonic Temple, which stood approximately where Hadley School for the Blind is today.
After nine years of prayer, fund raising, and membership growth, in 1933 the church began construction of its edifice at Ridge Avenue and Cherry Street. Eight years after the groundbreaking the Winnetka branch was debt-free and thus qualified for dedication. On February 2, 1941, the dedication was celebrated at three special services witnessed by more than one thousand participants.
Architect Spencer S. Beman designed the building. Beman was a charter member of the church, internationally recognized for his work on more than 20 churches nationwide and 75 houses throughout the North Shore. He favored Colonial Style New England churches, and his Winnetka building vividly reflects his devotion to the colonial design. Beman insisted on authenticity, and the Ridge Avenue church embodies some of his finest work. He created an artistic yet functional architectural gem, a substantial contribution to the ambience of the community.
The building’s exterior is beige brick and cut stone, with white trim and moldings in balance with its many tall, clear glass windows and work-of-art steeple. With a capacity of 548, the colonial auditorium has white wood pews, oak floors, crystal chandeliers, and two winding stairways. Because there are no icons, sculptures, candles, or other ecclesiastical fixtures in a Christian Science church, the interior is grandly simple.
In Sunday services two people elected by the membership for three-year terms read aloud the current week’s lesson-sermon; during the week members have studied the same lesson-sermon. The text is read verbatim from the Bible and textbook. Because the by-laws of the church provide only for lay members, there is no clergy. Congregational hymn singing, a vocal solo, and pipe organ selections provide the music; there is no choir. Sunday school classes (for youngsters up to age 20) and the church service convene at 10:30 a.m.
The Winnetka church operates a public reading room at 804 Elm Street, where authorized Christian Science literature may be bought, borrowed, or taken free. The room has Bibles, the textbook and other writings by Mary Baker Eddy, periodicals, cassettes, booklets, pamphlets, commentaries, and other books. An oasis for reading, meditation, and prayer, it is open to the public daily except Sunday.
Everyone is invited to Sunday services and school and to Wednesday evening testimony meetings, where members tell of the healing power of Christian Science in their personal experiences.