REPORT FROM OUR CHRISTIAN
2023 Christian Science Nurse Report Presented by Paula Brensinger, Christian Science Nurse
Hello, everyone, I’m so glad to be able to see so many of you in person – look at all these smiling faces! And so glad, also, that one result of the pandemic years is that we know how to use Zoom, so we can include people who can’t be here in person.
I have a few stats to share. In 2022, the Christian Science nurses working for the Service drove 287 hours, 12,776 miles, to make 155 visits, giving 480 hours of care, and logged 611 administrative hours. The care and travel numbers for the Service are generally down a little from 2021, continuing the respite from the astonishingly bonkers schedule of 2020. And in the first 7 months of 2023, we’ve already exceeded 2022’s full year totals for care-related activity.
OK, we’re done with those numbers. They’re useful to consider how we schedule Christian Science nurses, but they are only a curiosity for you, and they don’t really tell you what’s going on.
Someone I was speaking with just a few days ago identified a few good numbers to think about in the context of how to measure what’s important. She said there’s ONE. One God — one Mind, one infinite idea. And then she said, the other number is ZERO. ZERO? Yes, ZERO is a significant number, because you can add it to anything, and it has no effect. One plus Zero is … still one. Animal magnetism is ZERO; mortal mind is ZERO; Matter is ZERO. Add them to anything and there’s no effect because they are ZERO, nothing, non-existent.
I really liked her ideas, because my work as a Christian Science nurse is seeing that the patient cannot be affected by attempts by mortal mind, matter, animal magnetism etc., to include itself as something real in their experience. One perfect image and likeness of God plus zero is still one perfect image and likeness of God. Those are the real numbers that will tell you what’s going on with Christian Science practice and Christian Science nursing in New Hampshire.
A time management professional trainer I worked with in a previous career posed a question to start a seminar: "What is time?" People started trying to describe time in a variety of ways. Some referenced measurements of time -- centuries, decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds -- some tried to include references to the theory of relativity, and some talked in circles about the planets orbiting the sun. Chuckling at our complicated approach, the presenter gave us a working definition to use. He said “Time is what keeps one darned thing after another from being every darned thing all at once!” I can’t remember any of the techniques from that seminar, but this funny definition has repeatedly spurred new revelations in my study of Christian Science.
Not very long ago, I was turning these ideas over in thought, mining them for new understanding. I had been feeling like my experience was rather more “every darned thing all at once,” than “one darned thing after another,” and that time wasn’t working right anymore and that I am just never going to be enough. (I should interject here, it was my weekend off and it was household and vacation preparation tasks -- none of this was about Christian Science nursing!) In thinking about that sense of overwhelm, I found myself turning the question around. How would it be if my experience felt more like "one good thing after another?" Bring it on, right? That would feel like progress! And humanly, yes, feeling like the world was moving correctly again, perhaps something more like “As the stars in order going, all harmonious, He doth move,” (hymn 263) would feel like progress. And so I prayed for that sense of time, and to feel the pressure about “everything all at once” recede and to remind myself to look at and be grateful for all the good coming to my experience. I thought, “I could be settled and content with that improved understanding of things.” But God doesn’t ever leave us only halfway to healing, halfway to understanding; God takes us all the way. There’s a great article in the October 1949 Christian Science Journal by Milton Simon called "All the Way," that shows us how that works.
So even though I was feeling much better about facing everything (all at once or otherwise), I clearly wasn’t all the way yet, because when I read this article shared by a friend from the July 1935 Christian Science Journal by Herbert W. Beck titled "The Simplicity of Christian Science," this explanation just clicked it all into place. Mr. Beck wrote, “These suggestions of animal magnetism, which are mesmeric, mostly come in single file, and after all we have to meet only one at a time. [emphasis mine] Therefore, we need not feel rushed or driven by suggestions, for they are only evil whisperings. We must not be confused, but wait calmly, knowing that God is at hand to defend and protect us.”
Well, that sounded like an answer to “one darned thing after another” that I could understand and implement –just another way to describe “Stand[ing] porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results…” an idea we are all familiar with from Science and Health, p. 392. I realized that the other thing that was troubling me was the idea that time had anything to do with my life. We say we don’t have enough time when we’re feeling rushed or driven by those suggestions, right? The Glossary entry in Science and Health describes "Time" as “Mortal measurements; limits in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error;” (p. 595) Honestly, by a show of hands, who wants any more of that? The last line in the glossary entry says, “that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears.” Well if it began before and continues after… it has to be infinite, right? That’s more like it. That informs our understanding that the earlier finite sense of time is a human construction, not a divine decree. What exists in the Divine is only now. Now is continual, and thus we experience that it’s now, right now … And it’s still now, and so on, and on, everlastingly now. Our theme for 2022 was “Everlasting arms of Love, are beneath, around, above” (Hymn 53). Christian Science nursing is an example of that continuous everlasting expression of Love, and in the context of now, isn’t that “every good thing all at once?” How that is evidenced in each case is as individual as the patient being helped. It includes direct activities to assist with cleanliness, comfort, nourishment, mobility and activity, rest, communication, and the patient’s immediate surroundings. It might mean encouraging and helping someone to get a shower and dress, or making sure they are able to have a meal. It might mean suggesting another person stay in their nightclothes and take an opportunity to rest a bit more. Yes, we’ll change the bed linens and take the trash out, yes, we’ll read Christian Science literature to you or with you. We’ll help you look away from the body by giving care when there seems to be reasons it’s difficult for you to care for yourself, and we’ll expect that situation to turn around quickly (now) and rejoice with you when you come walking and leaping and praising God for the healing we both knew was already complete when we first laid eyes on each other.
I want to close my report by expressing my deep gratitude for several things. For the support of the board members in providing the organizational structure supporting staffing, salaries, taxes, retirement funds, paid time off, etc.; for their understanding of what the work of the Christian Science nurse is comprised of; and for the metaphysical support the individual on duty may call upon from each of them in turn. We are together learning what the full expression of Christian Science nursing in New Hampshire looks like, and how it continues to move into a fuller and larger expression of Love, uninterrupted. I’m grateful for the work of the various Christian Science practitioners I’ve worked with on cases and for their expressed appreciation of our Christian Science nursing work. During 2022, we had some Christian Science nurses covering time off. These people were Arta Stewart, who you all know as the House Manager at Tallwood House; Trevor Yates, who was also our speaker for Annual Meeting last year (and you can find the recording and a text transcript still on our website). In 2023, we also had some help from Bonnie Thomas, Lynda Fulkerson, and Quinna Giebelhaus. And there’s one other person. In mid-summer of 2022, the Board hired Michelle Ponder, a recent graduate of the Christian Science Nursing Arts training program at Chestnut Hill Benevolent Association. It is a pleasure working with Michelle. She fully meets the standard expressed in Church Manual Article 8, Section 31 Christian Science Nurse (p49) and reflects the qualities of the nurse Mrs. Eddy described on page 395 of Science and Health -- “cheerful, orderly, patient, punctual, full of faith-- receptive to Truth and Love.” There’s been lovely feedback from multiple patients she has visited, and I’m so grateful to have a colleague of this caliber to share this work with. Although we are rarely working in the same place, or even on the same day, it is truly both an individual and a collective ministry of healing. Now, right here was where I was planning to introduce her in person so she could take a moment to chat with you, but Michelle is on the road today, giving care in people’s homes. I’m reasonably sure that in the home where she’s working this afternoon, they are connected in via Zoom, so even though confidentiality precludes her responding from there, can we give her a big warm welcome from here? (Audience applauded.)
Thank you, everyone.