Direction from Mary Baker Eddy


Beginnings of Christian Science nursing and establishment of the BA (Part One)

As the BA celebrates 100 years since its establishment by the Christian Science Board of Directors in 1916, we continue to explore some of the events leading to, and surrounding, its early days.  Originally named “The Christian Science Benevolent Association,” in 1981 The Mother Church transferred ownership to an independent Board of Trustees, and it has since been called “Chestnut Hill Benevolent Association,” also known as the “BA.”

We are grateful to The Mary Baker Eddy Library, and in particular for the support of their Senior Research Archivist, Judy Huenneke.  Judy’s thoughtful research has provided us many valuable insights into the formal beginnings of the healing ministry of Christian Science nursing, and the establishment of the BA.

This month we focus on Mary Baker Eddy’s request to establish a “Sanatorium,” the adoption of the Church Manual By-Law “Christian Science Nurse,” and the events leading to the establishment of the BA.

Mary Baker Eddy’s request – an unfolding idea

It is evident throughout her writings and in correspondence with early workers (as supplied by The Mary Baker Eddy Library) that Mrs. Eddy recognized the importance of a provision in our movement for practical and loving care for those in need.  In an announcement published in the Christian Science Sentinel (October 7, 1916), the Christian Science Board of Directors included quotes from correspondence between Mrs. Eddy and Mary Beecher Longyear. Those early letters included references to Mrs. Eddy’s requests for a “Sanatorium” and  “… that it be a resort for invalids without homes or relatives available in time of need; where they can go and recruit …. Our cause demands a wider circle of means for the ends of philanthropy and charity, and better qualifications for practical purposes.”

John Munroe and Mary Beecher Longyear

One of the letters from Mrs. Eddy to Mrs. Longyear (January 1906) included comments such as: “I propose that the institution you found be called Sanatorium . . .” and “The students need to be qualified so that under the fire of mortal mind they can stand, and ‘having done all, to stand’ (St. Paul).”

Soon after Mrs. Eddy’s initial request, on January 21, 1906, she wrote the following to Mrs. Longyear:

“Since reading your letters, pondering the subject of an institute or sanatorium, and studying our Manual, I see it is not best for you to take the initiative in this matter. It properly belongs to the Christian Science Board of Directors to do that, for thereby we shall avoid much confusion in the future. So please drop the matter.'”

 A Manual By-law and Church ministry

In 1908 the Directors voted to adopt a new Manual By-Law, “Christian Science Nurse” clearly establishing Christian Science nursing as a Church ministry and giving a standard for those representing themselves as Christian Science nurses. It is interesting to note that about ten days after the By-Law “Christian Science Nurse” was adopted, The Christian Science Publishing Society launched a brand new daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor.


A By-law establishing a “Christian Science resort…”

In July of 1909, Mrs. Eddy sent a letter to the Directors asking them to adopt an additional By-Law to establish a sanatorium: “The Mother Church shall establish and maintain a Christian Science resort for the so-called sick,” and the By-Law was quickly adopted. However, a few days after that the Board responded: “We have been giving this matter careful consideration and as yet we have not been able to see our way clear to put this new By-law into operation…. We would be very grateful to receive any further instructions that you may wish to give us on this subject.”

Adam Dickey, one of Mrs. Eddy’s secretaries, responded on her behalf on August 11:

“In reply to your letter of the 5th. instant addressed to Mrs. Eddy, she wishes me to say that if the Mother Church is not ready to establish and maintain a Christian Science resort for the sick, she is willing to let this matter rest for the present, and suggests that you vote on the repeal of the By-law providing for the same.”

The By-Law was repealed August 13, 1909.

The official announcement from the Board of Directors

Christian Science Board of Directors in the 1920s

Finally, in 1916, events began to unfold that prepared the way for the establishment of the BA. In October the Directors announced in the Christian Science Sentinel: “It is our pleasure and privilege to announce to the field that preliminary steps have just been taken toward the formation of a new and important department of the organized work of Christian Science, to be known as The Christian Science Benevolent Association….” Mrs. Longyear, a resident of Brookline (which includes a portion of the village of Chestnut Hill) donated 24 acres of land known as “Single Tree Hill” for the site of a new Sanatorium.

All about healing

It’s important to note that from the beginning, the focus of establishing the BA was spiritual healing. In an article from the January 25, 1919 Christian Science Sentinel entitled, “The Christian Science Benevolent Association” by Edward A. Merritt, a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors, these excerpts show his beautiful way of explaining that healing focus:

Sentinel cover 1906“The Benevolent Association can only be looked upon as divine spiritual idea demonstrating good in one of the activities of the cause of Christian Science. As an idea of Principle its work is already accomplished, and a metaphysical viewpoint is the only one to be considered.”

“It is a resort for the so-called sick and sinful, where they may be healed by divine Love and is wholly in line with the wishes of our Leader as a means of expressing such compassion as was manifested by the Master. It is a humanitarian effort of benevolence.”






2 Responses to Direction from Mary Baker Eddy

  1. Cliff wattley says:

    Is there a way to get an email version. Many of my friends are not on FB

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