"The Promise and Event": The Building of the Original Edifice of The Mother Church

By
  • Thomas C. Proctor
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In the spirit of architect Louis Henri Sullivan, who stated in Lippincott’s Magazine in March 1896 that “form ever follows function,” the following article examines the function or core ideas of which the form, The Mother Church edifice, was an outgrowth.

The photographs throughout this article are original images from the Longyear collection. These photographs allow the reader a glimpse of the dynamic nature of the actual building project in 1894, through the camera of an eyewitness to the entire undertaking. That eyewitness is believed to be Ira O. Knapp, member of The Christian Science Board of Directors from 1892-1910.

View of building of the Original Edifice of The Mother Church, Falmouth Street side.

Establishing a Church

There was a great distance, but no discontinuity, between Mary Baker Eddy’s teaching her first student how to heal in 1866, publishing the first edition of her textbook — Science and Health — in 1875, and commencing to build the denomination’s first church home in Boston in 1893. Each of these actions sought to extend, preserve, and thereby share with the world her discovery of the healing message of primitive Christianity as found in her study of the Scriptures.1

Irving C. Tomlinson, a student of Mrs. Eddy, member of her Chestnut Hill household, and former Unitarian minister, notes: “Originally Mrs. Eddy had no plans for establishing a new denomination, for, as I heard her say many times, she confidently expected that the Christian church would welcome her discovery and adopt the healing ministry as an integral part of its activity…. Indeed, some of her early students spoke in their own prayer meetings of…the efficacy of prayer to heal…. But these members frequently were informed by the officers of their churches that such testimony was not welcome, and were advised not to indulge in such blasphemy.”2

Aware of this situation, Mrs. Eddy saw the inevitable need for a church home. By the early 1870s, she remarked to various students and acquaintances that “I shall have a church of my own some day.”3

Whether holding church services for a few students in her own home on Broad Street in Lynn or preaching to growing audiences at various meeting places in Boston, starting in 1878, Mrs. Eddy’s sermon or lecture topics never deviated from their healing focus.4 The result of such preaching was frequent healings for those in attendance. Consequently, there was such a steady growth in the size of the Boston congregation that sometime in October or November of 1885, Hawthorne Hall (first used in 1879) with its seating capacity of 236 was abandoned for Chickering Hall on Tremont Street with its seating capacity of 500.

The foundation had been laid, and even though Mrs. Eddy left Boston for Concord, New Hampshire in 1889, the church continued to grow. By the early part of 1894, Copley Hall on Clarendon Street was rented for church services. Copley Hall provided seating for up to 725 people until the new edifice of The Mother Church with its seating capacity of 1,500 could be completed.5

In 1888 Mrs. Eddy reminded friend and foe alike that “…I preached for four years, and built up the church, before I would accept the slightest remuneration.”6 Her opportunity to reach a wider audience and build up her church came in the winter of 1878-79 when she was invited to preach on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. in the Baptist Tabernacle Church on Shawmut Avenue in Boston.7 That she saw this as a turning point in her efforts to bring her discovery to a wider public audience is made clear in a letter that she wrote to Clara Choate on January 24, 1879: “…I have lectured in parlors 14 years. God calls me now to go before the people in a wider sense.”8

In a draft for one of her sermons at the Baptist Tabernacle Church, she expressed her hope to “…build a church for the poor, the sensitive, the refined, the proud who earn their bread by the sweat of honest toil, and I would have for them a change from gloomy walls to frescoed ceiling, gilded balconies…and a deep throated organ pealing….”9 This was in stark contrast to the tone of her times, which Lewis Mumford, in a series of lectures at Dartmouth College in 1929, described as the “Brown Decades” — “…signalled by the death of Lincoln: it made the deep note of mourning universal, touching even those who had stood outside the conflict.” In fact, “like all historical changes, the colour had manifested itself…. By 1880 brown was the predominant note.” Mumford continues his remarks about the “Brown Decades,” noting that they were a period in which “…cynicism and disillusion were uppermost.”10

Little wonder then that Mrs. Eddy’s “predominant note” of the ever-presence of the healing Christ in her sermons at the Baptist Tabernacle Church in the winter of 1878-79 resulted in an increased congregation size. In fact, “the pews were not adequate to seat the audience, and benches were used in the aisles.”11 Indeed, at the conclusion of Mrs. Eddy’s preaching at the Baptist Tabernacle, many publicly expressed their thanks for healings resulting from her sermons.12

In the first edition (1875) of her primary text, Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy (then Mrs. Glover) stated in the chapter “Spirit and Matter” that “…a magnificent edifice was not the sign of Christ’s Church.” Rather the “Church” she had in mind would “…leave forms and doctrines, and require the primitive tests of Christianity.” (Those “tests” being “…the control it gave them over sickness, sin, and death….”)13

When her church was formally organized in August of 1879, its purpose was consistent with her vision of 1875 and was advertised on circulars as “a Church designed to perpetuate the teachings of Jesus, to reinstate primitive Christianity, and to restore its lost element of healing.”14

Preparing to Build a Church Edifice

In June 1886, in the midst of Mrs. Eddy’s active schedule of preaching, teaching, and writing while living at 571 Columbus Avenue, Boston, her students purchased a triangular lot of land at the corner of Falmouth and Caledonia Streets. This lot would serve as the site for the edifice of the Church of Christ (Scientist) in Boston. They paid $2,000 down and had an $8,763 mortgage (reduced by $3,000 in 1887, with the balance due in full on July 1, 1889).15 At the end of the three years, it was necessary for Mrs. Eddy to foreclose on the mortgage (which she had purchased the previous year through Boston lawyer Baxter E. Perry) when the church’s treasurer failed to pay the balance due.

On December 10, 1889, Mrs. Eddy transferred title to the land to Ira O. Knapp. By December 17th, title to the land was assigned by a deed of trust to three trustees — Alfred Lang, Marcellus Munroe, and William G. Nixon — in preparation for building a church edifice on the site.

Close-ups of interior, wall, and roof construction

When the building of the church was initially announced in The Christian Science Journal of October 1890, it was introduced as “a Memorial Church” to “the Founder and Teacher of this Science.”16 Mrs. Eddy halted this proposal with these words, “I object to such a departure from the Principle of Christian Science, as it would be, to be memorialized in a manner which should cause personal motives for building the First Church of Christ (Scientist) in Boston…. The lot of land that I gave this church, was, for the purpose of building thereon a house for the worship of God, and a home for Christian Scientists.”17

The next concept put forth by the trustees — Munroe, Lang, and Nixon — called for a combined church edifice and publishing building. This plan was published in the March 1892 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

This plan was also contrary to Mrs. Eddy’s vision of “Church” and she bluntly stated that “…no provision was made for publishing rooms” and, after all, “…I objected from the beginning to having the church occupied for aught else but church work….”18 Furthermore, in her September 1, 1892, deed of trust establishing the “Christian Science Board of Directors” as a perpetual body to manage the affairs of the church, in place of the former congregational style of church government in use from 1879-1889, she also changed the church’s name from “Church of Christ (Scientist)” to “The First Church of Christ, Scientist.” Her 1892 deed of trust gave legal title to the land, formally held by the trustees named in her December 1889 deed of trust, to The Christian Science Board of Directors. The new deed of trust specified that the Directors build a church on the land deeded to them within five years and firmly stipulated that:

“…Said Board of Directors shall not suffer or allow any building to be erected upon said lot except a church building or edifice, nor shall they allow said church building or any part thereof to be used for any other purpose than for the ordinary and usual uses of a church.

…Said [B]oard of [D]irectors shall not allow or permit in said church building any preaching or other religious services which shall not be consonant and in strict harmony with the doctrines and practice of Christian Science as taught and explained by Mary Baker G. Eddy in the seventy-first edition of her book entitled ‘Science and Health,’ which is soon to be issued, and in any subsequent edition thereof….”19

By the autumn of 1893 an acceptable architectural plan for a church edifice clad in grey granite, designed by Franklin I. Welch of Boston and Malden, Massachusetts, had been selected. But as Mrs. Eddy saw it, there had been needless delays to move ahead with building the church since the appointment of the three building trustees in 1889. To her, each subsequent scheme of the trustees departed from the God-inspired purpose of her church. Although the excuses for failing to move ahead with the church building project might be attributed to an unsafe title, lack of a properly organized church, lack of funds resulting from the church treasurer’s absconding with all the monies raised at a church fair in 188820 — these and other delaying tactics (such as the already discussed concepts of a memorial church and of including publishing activities in the church edifice) had at their very roots “lack of faith in God’s providence and omnipotence.”21

Preparatory to the first stone being laid on Wednesday, November 8, 1893,22 were discussions among church members as to what the “church” was and, therefore, what membership in it signified. On February 1, 1893, at the meeting of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College Association at Steinert Hall in Boston, Dr. Ebenezer J. Foster Eddy addressed the meeting on the subject of “The Building of the Temple.” Dr. Eddy remarked that, “…God’s Temple can be erected only by those who have come out from sense material and are building from the sense spiritual; …and building spiritually and working in Truth and Love so shall we see this material building, the representative of the Church Universal, unfolding in beauty before the eyes of the world.”23

Speaking further to the theme of the “Church Universal,” John Freeman Linscott gave a sermon, copyrighted by the National Christian Scientists’ Association, in which he said, “A universal Church reflecting the character of Love has no one visible church as to national, provincial, diocesan or classical churches, but only local congregations, each one responsible to God as a member of the body…. Let us all rejoice that we have been taught a practical Christianity by our Teacher and Leader…. Let us realize what it means to have a religion without superstition and bigotry, living under a church government without tyranny of codes and creeds, but in the freedom of the sons of God.”24

On Easter Sunday, April 2, 1893, Rev. David A. Easton, pastor of The Mother Church, gave an address regarding “What does membership in the Mother church signify?” Rev. Easton identified four key meanings: “(1). It signifies to them obedience. Our dear Leader and Teacher has invited the Scientists everywhere to unite with the Mother church…. (2). [It] tends to divest church relations of personality…. (3). It enlarges our idea of the scope and purpose of Christian Science church work…. (4). It increases our interest in the growth and welfare of the Mother church….”25

Building the Original Edifice of The Mother Church

Mrs. Eddy, acutely aware of the “welfare of the Mother church,” issued “A Word to the Wise” a month after construction had begun on the new edifice. She reminded fellow Christian Scientists that, “Our church edifice must be built in 1894…. No doubt must intervene between the promise and event; …trust the Divine providence, push upward our prayer in stone and God will give the benediction.”26

An expression of her continuing trust in “the Divine providence” was captured in her writing and publication, in the August 1893 issue of The Christian Science Journal, of “The Mother’s Evening Prayer.” It was a poem, she remarked to James Franklin Gilman on July 1, 1893, that had, as Gilman was later to paraphrase her words, a “…cadence…which more readily reaches and appeals to the ear of the popular thought….”27 The poem can also be seen in the context of the building project as a prayer of affirmation and petition for the protection of what she had called, in January of 1886, “the babe we are to cherish” — “Christian Healing.”28

Views showing progress of bell tower construction.

What this “prayer in stone” was coming to mean for Christian Scientists was expressed by Judge Septimus J. Hanna, Editor of The Christian Science Journal. As Judge Hanna put it, “…To us as Christian Scientists, the building is, of course, but a symbol; but let us endeavor to realize what it symbolizes…it stands in type for the Universal Church of Christ. The Principle it represents is God. The divinity it types is the divinity of which Christ Jesus was the highest and best earthly demonstrator…. Then let us understand that we are each a part of the Church. Without individual members there could be no aggregate Church…. How important then that you do your part for it!”29

The Christian Science Board of Directors, in their management of the construction of the new edifice, were constantly reminded of the need “…that you do your part for it!” Scarcely a day went by that they did not encounter additional delays in the building process because of: lack of funds (exacerbated by a national economic depression, 1893-94)30, problems in obtaining contracts for materials and labor, strikes, failures to deliver key materials on schedule, problems in obtaining building permits, and occasional animosity between the various building trades working on the site.

Views showing progress of bell tower construction.

By April 1894, little had been accomplished in building the church edifice. In fact, it was not until April 24th that the first stone at street level was laid. Despite such tentative progress, Mrs. Eddy “designated May 21, 1894, as the day for laying the cornerstone. “31 Such a request seemed impossible to fulfill, but as Ira O. Knapp, member of The Christian Science Board of Directors, discovered and wrote to Mrs. Eddy on May 29, 1894, “…these false claims have no authority from God….” Furthermore, he told her, “Let me relate the picture of that day [May 21, 1894] we laid the Corner Stone. I was there in the morning. The workmen said the stone could not be laid for five days. I showed the foreman how it could be done that day…. He changed his voice and said it could be done…the stone was laid, which contains all your works on Christian Science; and a little before the seventh hour, in the twilight of the evening, the three Directors consecrated the event…in silent communion with God, followed with the Lord’s Prayer in unison….”32

Progress continued on the edifice through the summer and into the autumn of 1894, though at a sometimes slower-than-hoped-for pace. By November first, the building still had no floors, no roof, and no windows. On November sixth, there was a heavy snowfall followed by cold weather. In this situation “…the contractors were saying the church would not be ready for occupancy before May, 1895.”33

Mindful of these circumstances, Mrs. Eddy on November seventh wrote two of her students, “What is this Church to me or to you if Mesmerism governs its Directors, as certainly it has and is still doing…. The Church will not be built the year that God told them to build if they go on as now.”34 “I would rather,” she stated in another letter, “see 5,000 hearers in a plain wooden Tabernacle listening to the Scriptures and Science & Health than pride and contracted walls hemming in 1,200 hungry hearers.”35 This comment takes us full circle back to her first significant public preaching engagement at the Baptist Tabernacle Church in Boston and her statement in the first edition of Science and Health that “…a magnificent edifice was not the sign of Christ’s Church.”36

For Mrs. Eddy, the real “building” of her church was hinted at in a letter she wrote on May 3, 1894, eighteen days prior to the laying of the cornerstone, in which she publicly stated her “…sole desire — that all whom I have taught Christian Science, and all its teachers and its students, by whomsoever taught, yea, that all mankind, shall have one Shepherd, and He shall gather them into his fold, (unto Himself) Divine Love.”37

Reassured by their teacher’s warnings and vision, the Directors accepted, on November 12th, an offer by Edward P. Bates to assist full-time in seeing that the construction process be completed on schedule.38 And while Mr. Bates may have, as historian Robert Peel remarks, “offend[ed] susceptibilities,” he did get “the immediate job done” (or as Mrs. Eddy put it, “nerved its grand fulfillment”).39

His wife, Caroline, also played a crucial part in helping her husband to get the task completed. For it was Mrs. Bates who twice climbed up a series of precarious ladders inside the edifice’s tower wall to spend some three hours aloft in the cold wind to settle a labor dispute that had stopped the roofing of the bell tower. Mrs. Eddy summarized the incident thus in her “Dedicatory Sermon” for The Mother Church on January 6, 1895: “Woman, true to her instinct, came to the rescue as sunshine from the clouds; so, when man quibbled over an architectural exigency, a woman climbed with feet and hands to the top of the tower, and helped settle the subject.”40

Even though the pews would not arrive in Boston until December 21st, Mrs. Eddy wrote The Christian Science Board of Directors on December 19th that the first service would be held in the new edifice on Sunday, December 30th, 1894, and the church dedicated on January 6, 1895. Furthermore, she directed that: “The Bible and ‘Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures’ shall henceforth be the Pastor of the Mother Church. This will tend to spiritualize thought. Personal preaching has more or less of human views grafted into it. Whereas the pure Word contains only the living, health-giving Truth.”41

Remarkably, at the end of Saturday, December 29th, “…exactly as the clock struck twelve, midnight, the auditorium was ready for Sunday.”42 Judge Hanna conducted the first service in the new edifice, reading selections from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Later in that Sunday service, the Clerk of The Mother Church read the rules providing the new order of service.43

Completed Original Edifice of The Mother Church, circa January 1895.

As noted in the first article for the January 1895 issue of The Christian Science Journal regarding the completion of the Original Edifice of The Mother Church: “…all obstacles to its completion have been met and overcome…. This achievement is the result of long years of untiring, unselfish, and zealous effort on the part of our beloved Teacher and Leader, the Reverend Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, who nearly thirty years ago began to lay the foundation of this temple, and whose devotion and consecration to God and humanity during the intervening years, have made its erection possible.”44

Mrs. Eddy’s “devotion and consecration to God and humanity” was indeed strong. In December of 1894, prior to the completion of the church edifice, she stated, “…I, as an individual would cordially invite all persons who have left our fold, together with those who never were in it, — all who love God and keep His commandments, to come and unite with the Mother Church in Boston.”45 A few months later, in the midst of difficult questions that arose regarding the issues of membership and discipline for straying members in The Mother Church, Mrs. Eddy wrote her church that, if she were its conscience, she “…would gather every reformed sinner that desired to come, into its fold, and counsel and help them to walk in the footsteps of His flock.”46

Brief Chronology of Building of The Mother Church


1893
  • October 19: The Christian Science Board of Directors signs contracts for excavation, pile driving, and stone foundations.
  • November 8: First stone in foundation wall laid.
  • December: Mrs. Eddy issues statement in The Christian Science Journal that, “Our church edifice must be built in 1894” and sends letters to 40+ of her students requesting that they donate $1,000 each to the construction of the church edifice.
  • December 6: The Christian Science Board of Directors, due to financial exigencies and at Mrs. Eddy’s suggestion, signs a conditional agreement with a New Hampshire builder “…giving the Directors a right to stop the work at any time after the masonry had risen above the level of the auditorium floor….” (Joseph Armstrong, The Mother Church, p. 11)
1894
  • April 24: First stone of wall at street level laid.
  • May 21: Cornerstone of The Mother Church edifice is laid.
  • October 18: Mrs. Eddy requests one member of The Christian Science Board of Directors to give his full-time attention to the building of the church edifice.
  • November 6: Heavy snowfall followed by cold weather — edifice has no roof, floors, or windows.
  • November 12: The Christian Science Board of Directors accepts offer of Edward P. Bates to oversee the building project until its completion.
  • December 19: Mrs. Eddy requests The Christian Science Board of Directors to hold the first service in The Mother Church on December 30; dedicate church on January 6; and replace personal preaching with the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as Pastor.
  • December 29: Church edifice completed.
  • December 30: First service held in new church edifice — a communion service.
1895
  • January 6: Dedication services held in the Original Edifice of The Mother Church.
  • April 1: Mrs. Eddy visits The Mother Church for the first time.
  • May 26: Mrs. Eddy delivers first address in The Mother Church (see: Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, 1883-1896, pp. 106-110).
  • September 10: Mrs. Eddy’s Manual of The Mother Church (1st edition) is published.

Notes


  1. Regarding her study of the Scriptures, see: Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection (Boston: Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker G. Eddy, 1920), pp. 24-25.
  2. Irving C. Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1945), p. 112.
  3. Sibyl Wilbur, The Life of Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1923), p. 203; Samuel Putnam Bancroft, Mrs. Eddy as I Knew Her in 1870 (Boston: Press of Geo. H. Ellis Co., 1923), p. 15; and Norman Beasley, Mary Baker Eddy (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1963), p. 62. How Mrs. Eddy’s remarks may have been received by various individuals is hinted at in Bancroft’s statement: “There was no vanity attending this remark. She may have had a vision of the hundreds of churches now established throughout the civilized world. We deemed it possible she might become a settled pastor over some small congregation, eventually.” (Samuel Putnam Bancroft, Mrs. Eddy as I Knew Her in 1870, p. 15)
  4. Julia S. Bartlett, an early student of Mrs. Eddy, notes that the first Christian Science Sunday service she attended in 1880 “…was held in the little parlor at 8 [later renumbered 12] Broad Street, Lynn. There were about twenty people present. Mrs. Eddy preached the sermon which healed a young woman sitting near me of an old chronic trouble which physicians were unable to heal. Her husband, who was present with her, went to Mrs. Eddy the next day to thank her for what had been done for his wife.” We Knew Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1979), p. 32.
  5. Information concerning these public halls (Hawthorne Hall on Park St.; Chickering Hall on Tremont St.; Copley Hall on Clarendon St.) can be found in the collections of the Old State House — The Bostonian Society, 206 Washington St., Boston, MA 02109.
  6. Mary Baker Eddy, “Truth versus Error,” The Christian Science Journal, Sept. 1888, Vol. 6, p. 320.
  7. Beginning on Sunday, November 23, 1878, through February 2, 1879, she preached at the Baptist Tabernacle Church. Her sermon topics (as advertised in the Boston newspapers) included: “The Art of Healing through Divine Power,” “God,” “Biblical Healing,” “The Coming of Christ,” and “What is it that Sins? What is it that is Sick?” Jean Angela McDonald in her December 1969 Master of Arts Thesis for the University of Minnesota, Mary Baker Eddy at the Podium: The Rhetoric of the Founder of the Christian Science Church, p. 154, estimates that Mrs. Eddy delivered at least 28 sermons/lectures/addresses in the 1878-79 time period.
  8. Quoted in Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), p. 63.
  9. Ibid., p. 62.
  10. Lewis Mumford, The Brown Decades: A Study of the Arts in America, 1865-1895 (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1955), pp. 7-8, 10.
  11. Irving C. Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, p. 135; and see also Mrs. Eddy’s description in Retrospection and Introspection, pp. 15-16.
  12. Such healing results from her sermons had very dramatic effects on church attendance as can be seen in numerous reports from the 1880’s as indicated by the following:…Easter Sunday at Hawthorn[e] Rooms…crowded one hour before service commenced, and half an hour before the arrival of the pastor, Rev. Mary B. G. Eddy, the tide of men and women was turned from the doors with the information, “No more standing room.” (The Christian Science Journal, May 1885, Vol. 3, p. 37.) “…there was a great rush for seats, which were completely filled, as well as the gallery and standing space, long before commencement, by an eager audience, waiting the appearance of the pastor, Rev. M. B. G. Eddy. The announcement that she is to be present always fills the house. (Ibid., Mar. 1887, Vol. 4, p. 296.)
  13. Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health (Boston: Christian Scientist Publishing Company, 1875), p. 167.
  14. We Knew Mary Baker Eddy (1979 edition), p. 30.
  15. Concerning the background for the purchase and ownership of this lot of land for the original edifice of The Mother Church see: Norman Beasley, The Cross and the Crown: The History of Christian Science (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1952), pp. 239-247; William Lyman Johnson, The History of the Christian Science Movement, Volume 2 (Brookline, MA: Zion Research Foundation, 1926), pp. 52-55; Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977), pp. 13-18.
  16. “Memorial Church,” The Christian Science Journal, Oct. 1890, Vol. 8, pp. 293-294.
  17. Mary Baker Eddy, “To Christian Scientists,” The Christian Science Journal, Nov. 1890, Vol. 8, p. 335.
  18. Mary Baker G. Eddy, “To the Contributors of the Church Building Fund in Boston,” The Christian Science Journal, Oct. 1892, Vol. 10, pp. 273-274.
  19. Ibid., p. 278. For an overview of how Mrs. Eddy organizationally cleared the way for the building of The Mother Church edifice to go forward see: “The Landmark 1892 Reorganization of The Church of Christ, Scientist” in Longyear Museum Quarterly News, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 1992, pp. 439-444.
  20. The fair had been held from December 19-21, 1887 (10 a.m.-10 p.m. each day), at Horticultural Hall in Boston as a “Christmas Sale and Fair.” The sole purpose of the event was to raise funds to aid in paying off the amount due on the mortgaged church building lot. For further information see: Norman Beasley, The Cross and the Crown, p. 242, and Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial, p. 240.
  21. Mary Baker Eddy, “To the Contributors of the Church Building Fund in Boston,” The Christian Science Journal, Oct. 1892, Vol. 10, p. 274.
  22. Joseph Armstrong, The Mother Church: A History of the Building of the Original Edifice of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1937), p. 8. One could say that the building started with the signing of contracts for the construction of the edifice’s foundation on October 19, 1893. (Ibid., p. 7.) Mr. Armstrong’s book about the building of The Mother Church is an excellent overview of the struggles and triumphs involved in the day-to-day project from the perspective of one of the early members of The Christian Science Board of Directors, serving from 1893-1907. After reviewing the manuscript for Mr. Armstrong’s book (first published in 1897), Mrs. Eddy wrote him to say, “It [your manuscript] is prosaic in description, but to builders may prove interesting. Your detailed account is wonderful…your moral well drawn.” (Ibid., p. xi.)
  23. “Editor’s Table,” The Christian Science Journal, Mar. 1893, Vol. 10, pp. 576-577.
  24. John Freeman Linscott, “The Universal Church Militant,” The Christian Science Journal, May 1893, Vol. 11, pp. 55-56.
  25. Rev. David A. Easton, “Joining The Mother Church,” The Christian Science Journal, June 1893, Vol. 11, pp. 108-110.
  26. Mary B. G. Eddy, “A Word to the Wise,” The Christian Science Journal, Dec. 1893, Vol. 11, p. 387.
  27. James Franklin Gilman, Diary Records (privately printed, n.d.), p. 71.
  28. Mary Baker Eddy, “The Cry of ChristmasTide,” The Christian Science Journal, Jan. 1886, Vol. 3, p. 175.
  29. Judge Septimus J. Hanna, Editor, “The New Church Building,” The Christian Science Journal, Mar. 1894, Vol. 11, pp. 516-517.
  30. Despite such problems, the church edifice was dedicated on January 6, 1895, totally free of debt. In December 1893, Mrs. Eddy had requested more than forty of her students to donate $1,000 each to the building fund. (For a list of those contributors see: The Christian Science Journal, June 1894, Vol. 12, p. 93.) That the issue was not merely money is suggested by Mrs. Eddy’s return of one of the $1,000 donations to a student whom she discovered did not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. (See: Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority, p. 69.)
  31. Joseph Armstrong, The Mother Church, p.16.
  32. Bliss Knapp, Ira Oscar Knapp and Flavia Stickney Knapp: A Biographical Sketch (Norwood, MA: Plimpton Press, 1925), pp. 108-109.
  33. Norman Beasley, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 187.
  34. Quoted in Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority, p. 71. Mrs. Eddy’s comment needs to be placed in the context of the fact that she had, prior to November, on October 18th, “…requested one of the Directors to take especial charge of the work and give it all his time.” Joseph Armstrong, The Mother Church, p. 30.)
  35. Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority, p. 71.
  36. Indeed, as historian Robert Peel relates, she asked her students to “…give up some of their ‘gods,’…the mosaic flooring, the marble and onyx, the silk walls for the ‘Mother’s Room’ they were building for her in the bell tower, all the planned luxuries that would delay the completion of the church.” (Ibid.)
  37. Mary Baker Eddy, “Take Notice,” The Christian Science Journal, June 1894, Vol. 12, p. 94.
  38. For further information concerning Edward P. Bates’s contribution to the building project, see his “Reminiscences” available for reading at both the Church History Department of The Mother Church in Boston, Massachusetts and the Longyear Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts.
  39. Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority, p. 71; and Mary Baker Eddy, Pulpit and Press (Boston: Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker G. Eddy, 1923), p. 9.
  40. Mary Baker Eddy, Pulpit and Press, p. 9; and see also Longyear Museum Quarterly News, “Caroline and Edward Bates,” Vol. 23, No. 2, Summer 1986, pp.353-356.
  41. Joseph Armstrong, The Mother Church, p. 75-76.
  42. Ibid., p. 85.
  43. “First Services In The New Church,” The Christian Science Journal, Feb. 1895, Vol. 12, pp. 464 & 474.
  44. “The Mother Church,” The Christian Science Journal, Jan. 1895, Vol. 12, pp. 403-404.
  45. Mary Baker Eddy, “Overflowing Thoughts,” The Christian Science Journal, Dec. 1894, Vol. 12, p. 355.
  46. Mary Baker Eddy, “Copy of a Letter to The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston,” The Christian Science Journal, Mar. 1895, Vol. 12, p. 506. The view expressed in this 1895 statement was continuous throughout Mrs. Eddy’s life as can be seen in an interview she had on June 7, 1909, with W. T. Macintyre of the New York American (published in the Boston American and New York American on the following day). In that interview she said, “I know my mission is for all the earth, not alone for my dear, devoted followers of Christian Science…. All my work, all my prayers and tears are for humanity and the spread of peace and love among mankind.”

This article was originally published in the 1993 summer Quarterly News.

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