Christian Science is an American religious organization by origin. It was founded in the 1870s by New England native Mary Baker Eddy and is more correctly called The Church of Christ Scientist. It is not to be confused with Scientology. Christian Science has a controversial belief in healing through prayer rather than medicine, which often places it in the media spotlight. The church has an informal structure and funeral etiquette follows a loosely structured format.
Christian Science Beliefs
Christian Science beliefs about sin and sickness have an impact on the beliefs about death. Mary Baker Eddy's teachings claim that man's experience of the world is based on illusion; this includes sickness. By following the truth of Jesus' teachings and through prayer, the sufferings and illusions of the world are removed. Christian Scientists are often criticized for their rejection of medical treatment, but the Christian Science website states that there is no absolute prohibition on having medical help.
The Funeral Setting
Christian Scientists are not permitted to hold funerals inside Christian Science churches. Funeral attendees may expect the service to take place either at a funeral home, crematorium, or at the family home of the deceased. The form of the funeral service is usually selected by the family, who decide what should be included. There are no belief restrictions on embalming the deceased and attendees may find an open coffin at a home service. It is entirely at the discretion of the family. The reason that the family has control over everything to do with the funeral is that the Christian Science church has no formal clergy to provide an official direction to proceedings.
The contents of the funeral service are likely to reflect the Christian Science attitude toward death. Members see death as just another stage in man's immortal and eternal life, a belief held by other religions. The person who leads the service, called the Reader, is usually a senior lay member who officiates at other services. If the funeral is for a member of what is known as the Mother Church in Boston, Massachusetts, any member can lead the funeral service, regardless of seniority, according to the Church by-laws. The service typically includes readings from the King James version of the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy's "Science and Health With Keys to the Scriptures." This text forms the basis of Christian Science beliefs and biblical interpretation. Hymns, prayers and remembrance of the person my also be included in the service, according to the family's wishes. Christian Scientists have no specific beliefs about the method of interment. Burial and cremation are equally acceptable.
It is acceptable to send flowers and messages of condolence to the family of a deceased Christian Scientist. Christian Science member, Patricia Hardee, writing in "Christian Science Monitor," suggests that any offers of comfort and help are welcome. Ask a church member if you are unsure about whether to bring a funeral wreath or a bouquet of flowers. If the funeral is in the home, helping with floral decorations gives the family one less thing to organize. Preparing meals for the family is thoughtful and comforting.
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images