Our Motive

Sometimes people confuse our prison ministry with proselytizing. Actually, what we do is the opposite of proselytizing. Proselytizing involves a narrow and selfish desire to get outsiders to join your group to make your group more numerous and humanly powerful and convince everyone that your way is the best way. Preaching the Gospel the way Jesus and Mrs. Eddy did, however, springs from a humble sense of obedience to follow the commands of Jesus and to share what we know about God out of a pure sense of love for mankind – an unselfish motive to bless and help others regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of such affiliation.

What we do

We help those who are incarcerated and their institutions by:

  • Regarding everyone as the image and likeness of Spirit. (“Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals.”) (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, pp. 476:32–2)
  • Recognizing and feeling the authority and control of God in every moment. (“Mind’s control over the universe, including man, is no longer an open question, but is demonstrable Science.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 171:12–13)
  • Sharing the spiritual light found in the Bible and Christian Science. (“As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.”) (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 497:3)
  • Promoting spiritual understanding that leads to healing and redemption. (“He to whom “the arm of the Lord” is revealed will believe our report, and rise into newness of life with regeneration.”) (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 24:11–13)
  • Supporting inmates, staff and other volunteers of every background. (“Students are advised by the author to be charitable and kind, not only towards differing forms of religion and medicine, but to those who hold these differing opinions.”) (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 444:13–16)
  • Praying constantly. (“We must resolve to take up the cross, and go forth with honest hearts to work and watch for wisdom, Truth, and Love. We must “pray without ceasing.”) (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 15:18–21)

“This is the highpoint of my week”

It is difficult to explain how invigorating, exciting and inspiring this work is. If you watch some of our videos (click here) you might get a hint as to why our chaplains are so dedicated. We have had some chaplains who:

  • have spent more than 4 decades in this work.
  • have been willing to travel hundreds of miles every week to visit remote prisons.
  • regularly have slept in their car overnight in making their rounds to visit inmates in different institutions
  • deliver hundreds of copies of recent Monitor issues every week to inmates

We invite you to talk to someone who is a chaplain. Get a first-hand testimony from a chaplain about why it is exhilarating to be so clearly following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus and Mrs. Eddy by preaching the gospel to the poor, hungering heart and healing sin and sickness. If you don’t know anyone who is a chaplain, contact our office (click here) and we will put you in touch with a chaplain. “It is the living Christ, the practical Truth, which makes Jesus “the resurrection and the life” to all who follow him in deed.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 31:14–17)

Some Facts and History

  • We currently have 16 local committees all over California with over 100 volunteer representatives and approximately 50 chaplains serving more than 30 institutions.
  • Every month our chaplains and corresponding chaplains are in touch with hundreds of inmates – many of whom have never heard before of Christian Science. Every month dozens of inmates learn about Christian Science for the first time. Many inmates have lots of time on their hands and are very motivated to turn their lives around. This makes for an ideal setting in which to share the light of the Christ and Christian Science.
  • We are aware of more than a dozen inmates who have become members of The Mother Church during the last 10 years or so.
  • In recent years our corresponding chaplains have received requests for literature and have sent letters and literature to over 200 inmates each year. Many of these letters result in ongoing correspondence about the Christ and Christian Science with an inmate.
  • Our visiting chaplain activity is slowly recovering from the lockdowns that were in effect in most of the institutions due to the pandemic. Just prior to the pandemic, our visiting chaplains drove more than 50,000 miles per year to visit institutions and meet with inmates.
  • Christian Science chaplains have been visiting inmates in California institutions for over a century. Up until the 1950’s this activity was loosely under the supervision of The Mother Church. In 1956 the Christian Science Committee on Institutional Work in California was created with the blessing and prompting of The Mother Church to take over this work for all county, state and federal institutions in California (except Los Angeles County facilities were left under the jurisdiction of an existing Los Angeles committee that is still a separate entity. We appreciate their work no end.)
  • This work is supervised by the Christian Science Committee on Institutional Work in California, Inc. (the “State Committee”) which is a committee of 5-7 members. New members of the State Committee are approved by both the existing State Committee members and by a vote of the six “Sponsoring Churches” who supervise all aspects of Christian Science institutional work in California through their supervision of the State Committee.

Questions and Answers

  1. Question – What does a visiting chaplain do? Answer: A visiting chaplain goes into an institution (e.g. jail or prison or mental hospital) and meets with those who want to see a chaplain. Sometimes the meetings are private with a one-on-one session. Sometimes they are in small groups like a Sunday School session. Sometimes the chaplain works with Christian Science chaplain assistants to put on a Christian Science service. The chaplain’s activity is always based upon sharing from the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. These are not counseling sessions that delve into the personal and criminal history of the inmate. The chaplain takes as a given that the inmate is the image and likeness of God and then works with the inmate to help the inmate understand God and their true nature as a child of God more clearly. A visiting chaplain will also provide specific Christian Science treatment if requested to do so by an inmate and the circumstances are appropriate.
  2. Question – Aren’t visiting chaplains worried that they may be harmed? Answer – No. Not only does the prayer they do and the compassion they express automatically carry with it peace and harmony, from a human standpoint the institutions are heavily monitored and guarded and controlled. In some of the higher security institutions there are windows or bars separating the inmate from the chaplain. We are not aware of a single serious threat to a chaplain from an inmate going back over many decades and thousands of visits.
  3. Question – What does a corresponding chaplain do?  Answer: A corresponding chaplain provides the same kind of sharing, teaching and provision of spiritual support that a visiting chaplain does but this activity is done by letter rather than in person. There are many institutions in California where we do not have the manpower to provide a visiting chaplain but through our corresponding chaplains we can help support and uplift inmates wherever they are located.
  4. Question – What are the requirements to become a visiting chaplain or corresponding chaplain or a chaplain assistant? Answer – click here.
  5. Question – How does being a chaplain compare to other Christian Science activities? Answer – There are many similarities between the work of a chaplain and that of a practitioner but there are some key differences. One is that a chaplain’s work is always governed by the rules of the institution in which an inmate is located and by the rules of the State Committee. This means, for example, that the communications between the chaplain and the inmate aren’t necessarily confidential since most meeting rooms in institutions have audio and sometimes video monitoring and all correspondence into and out of these institutions is usually monitored. Another distinction is that chaplains are unpaid volunteers. Depending upon the situation, a chaplain is sometimes functioning much like a Sunday School teacher, sometimes like a practitioner and sometimes like a first or second Reader.
  6. Question – Do some visiting chaplains choose to work with specific kinds of incarcerated individuals? Answer – Yes. Some work with youths in juvenile facilities. Some work with women. Some work in federal prisons. Some work in federal ICE (immigration) detention centers. Some work in mental hospitals. Some work in county jails. Visiting chaplains can select where they wish to serve.
  7. Question — How can I learn more about Christian Science institutional work? Answer – There are many ways: a. explore this website (including the videos), b. talk to your branch church representative to your local institutional committee, c. talk to someone who is a visiting or corresponding chaplain, d. attend a local institutional committee meeting or a State Committee-sponsored online meeting, e. contact the State Committee office [click here]  if you need help with making any of these connections.
  8. Question – How do you know that Christian Science institutional work is having a significant impact? Answer – click here for fruitage reports or click here for videos of healing and redemption.