Ira O. Knapp: An Obedient Disciple

Ira O. Knapp

WHEN MARY BAKER EDDY entrusted to Ira O. Knapp in 1889 the sole trusteeship of the church land on which The Mother Church was later built, she initiated his long period of trusted service to her and to the Cause of Christian Science.

Through his own healings and those of his family in 1884, Mr. Knapp had been convinced of the truth of Christian Science and thereafter nothing had real meaning for him apart from the study and practice of this truth. He was a deep student of the Bible during his earlier years in Lyman, New Hampshire, the home of the Knapp family for over a hundred years, and a community Ira Knapp had served well as educator, farmer, and political servant. He turned from all this to the practice of Christian Science and in 1888 he moved to Boston where he was to serve as one of the pivotal disciples of Mrs. Eddy in the founding of her church.

Mr. Knapp saw clearly that Mrs. Eddy was God’s messenger to this age. Several visions* strengthened his spiritual insight which led him to accept Mrs. Eddy’s leadership without question and to give his implicit support to any work she assigned to him.

When she made him trustee of the church land in 1889, she had but recently redeemed the land after church members had defaulted in their payments, and she had dissolved the first Christian Science church. A rugged way lay before her and she required loyal, obedient students who could stand firmly against the legal, ecclesiastical, and personal opposition to her new commitment – to found a church on a spiritual basis; removed from human dictation. Students in responsible positions took issue, holding that the church could be legally established only with a governing congregation. Mrs. Eddy waited on God for an answer, and Mr. Knapp and a handful of other faithful workers waited with her. The question, “Who shall own God’s church?” was paramount. An answer came to Mrs. Eddy, and in 1892 she organized her church as God had directed, and Mr. Knapp was made Chairman of the Board of Directors of the new church. Stormy days were ahead, but Mr. Knapp’s spiritual integrity lent unyielding support to Mrs. Eddy while the tares and the wheat were separated and the morass of prejudices, conflicting ideas, and legal traditions eliminated. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, was dedicated on January 6, 1895.

The Dedication was reason for great rejoicing by Ira O. Knapp and his beloved wife and disciple of Mrs. Eddy, Flavia Stickney Knapp, healer and teacher. Together they were a strong bulwark for truth in those days when Christian Science was being permanently established on the Rock.

Meanwhile, Mr. Knapp’s knowledge of the Bible had been a great asset to the Committee on Bible Lessons of which he had been a member since its organization in 1890. With Mrs. Eddy’s guidance and the Committee’s faithful work, the Bible Lessons had emerged at the time of Dedication as a forceful instrument for the new Pastor, The Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. A new edition of Science and Health — the fiftieth — had been published in 1891, bringing Mrs. Eddy’s advancing discovery to strengthen and inspire the activities of the new church.

Mr. Knapp served Mrs. Eddy with great understanding for over twenty years, passing on in 1910. He wrote to her in that year, “As Jesus’ life was inseparable from his teachings and demonstrations of truth and love, so must your life be inseparable from the spiritual teachings and demonstrations of divine Science.” (Christian Science Sentinel, January 22, 1910.) His great gift to Mrs. Eddy and to mankind was his unquestioning obedience to his Leader.


*Recorded by Mr. Bliss Knapp in his biography of his mother and father, Ira Oscar Knapp and Flavia Stickney Knapp.

This article was originally published in the Spring 1965 Quarterly News.

Support Longyear’s research

Your donation helps support our ongoing research into Mary Baker Eddy’s life and work