Early days of Christian Science nurses training

logo-2-black-smallBeginnings of Christian Science nursing and establishment of the BA (Part Two)

It has been 100 years since the Christian Science Board of Directors published an announcement in the October 7, 1916 Christian Science Sentinel establishing The Christian Science Benevolent Association.  In honor of that announcement, this series of articles explores the events and communications surrounding the BA’s early days.  This month we take a look at some of the formal efforts to establish a Christian Science nurses training program soon after the BA opened its doors.

We are grateful to The Mary Baker Eddy Library for providing helpful information to support the accuracy of this series.

manual-by-lawMrs. Eddy’s communications about the training of Christian Science nurses

Judy Huenneke, Senior Research Archivist at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, provides some context for Mary Baker Eddy’s direction regarding the training of Christian Science nurses:

“In several letters, some written years before the Manual By-Law ‘Christian Science Nurse,’ Mrs. Eddy expressed her desire to see trained nurses in the Christian Science movement.


An early 20th Century rendering of the BA’s Original Building

For example, in a 1906 letter to Christian Scientist and philanthropist Mary Beecher Longyear, she noted ‘a great need that has not yet been met, namely, trained nurses ….’ A few years later, the wording of the ‘Christian Science Nurse’ By-Law expressed Mrs. Eddy’s expectation that those who wished to represent themselves as Christian Science nurses would have demonstrable skills in that area. Also of interest is her statement in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, on page 395: ‘An ill-tempered, complaining, or deceitful person should not be a nurse. The nurse should be cheerful, orderly, punctual, patient, full of faith,—receptive to Truth and Love.’”

 The first Christian Science nurses training “course” at the BA

Judy Huenneke explains: “The ‘Certificate of Organization’ for the Benevolent Association, filed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1916, indicated that it was to be an institution for ‘training and education’ and not simply a care facility. By 1918, as the BA was under construction, a letter to an inquirer states: ‘It is hoped that when the Christian Science Benevolent Association has its institution in Brookline ready for occupancy that a class for training nurses will be part of this work.’”

In a Sentinel article from 1922 titled “The Christian Science Benevolent Association,” Elisha Seeley (Manager of the BA at that time) provides a look at that first “course” and explains the expectations for Christian Science nurses training:


Christian Science Nursing Arts graduates in 2015

“In conformity with our Leader’s instructions that a part of the work carried on at the Sanatorium should be the training of [Christian Science] nurses, there is already in operation a three years’ training course for nurses who expect to continue in this most important department of Christian Science healing. The… instruction is given by those who were experienced graduate nurses before becoming Christian Scientists. This instruction does not include anything in the way of theories or symptoms of disease according to prevalent material systems. On the other hand, constant demand is made upon [Christian Science] nurses for the highest expression of metaphysical thinking based upon the understanding of Christian Science, and at the same time they are instructed in the practical requirements essential to the proper care of a patient.” (Christian Science Sentinel, April 8, 1922)

Christian Science nurses training evolves

 IMG_6240After seven decades of oversight from The Mother Church, in 1991 the responsibility for Christian Science nurses training was transferred to the Christian Science Field.  Following this change the BA continued offering Christian Science nurses training and in 2002 adopted the Christian Science Nursing Arts for its training program.  The purpose of the Christian Science Nursing Arts training is to support dedicated members of The Mother Church in meeting  the requirements of the Church Manual By-Law “Christian Science Nurse” by calling forth in training what is called for in these requirements. (See Church Manual by Mary Baker Eddy, Art. VIII, SECT. 31) The art of Christian Science nursing is taught in the classroom and supported in practice with mentored instruction in this holy work.

Click here to read the Part One from this series.


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