Some of my favorite times in the Christian Science Sunday School were spent in
the preschool age classes. Not as a pupil, however, since I did not start attending a
Christian Science Sunday School until I was about eight years old, but as a teacher.
When I turned twenty, I graduated from Sunday School, and joined both my local church
and The Mother Church in Boston. My first assignment as a local member was to teach
one of the youngest Sunday School classes. I took my new responsibilities very seriously,
and so I turned to the Manual of the Mother Church to find out what my duties might
be. That’s when I came across the “First Lessons.” Here is what it says in Article XX:
Teaching the Children. SECT. 2. The Sabbath School children shall
be taught the Scriptures, and they shall be instructed according to
their understanding or ability to grasp the simpler meanings of the
divine Principle that they are taught.
Subject for Lessons. SECT. 3. The first lessons of the children
should be the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), the Lord’s
Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13), and its Spiritual Interpretation by Mary Baker
Eddy, Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-12). The next lessons consist
of such questions and answers as are adapted to a juvenile class,
and may be found in the Christian Science Quarterly Lessons, read
in Church services. The instruction given by the children’s
teachers must not deviate from the absolute Christian Science
contained in their textbook.
I saw that I should be teaching the young children the “First Lessons” of the Ten
Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.
After thinking back on my own Sunday School experience as an older child and teenager,
I realized that I had missed something: a strong foundation in those First Lessons. Although
the Bible Lessons from the Christian Science Quarterly would occasionally focus
on those First Lessons, I did not recall any of my teachers in the older classes insisting
that we study or memorize these foundational lessons, even when the classes may have
had students new to our religion.
From my own experience in teaching Sunday School, and years of casual research
on the First Lessons, I’ve come to the conclusion that when Mrs. Eddy set forth the “first
lessons of the children,” in the Manual, the “children” could mean anyone who is new to
Christian Science. I have learned the hard way that these lessons are indispensable to
spiritualizing our thinking. We cannot fully grow until these roots have taken hold.
An in-depth study of the First Lessons will prove how important Mrs. Eddy felt
they were to our progress. The citations I have gathered and included in this book will
demonstrate this point. I believe Mrs. Eddy speaks to those of all ages, when she writes
in the textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The entire education of children should be such as to form habits of obedience to the moral and spiritual law, with which the child can meet and master the belief in so-called physical laws, a belief which breeds disease.” (S&H 62)
(To be Continued)