The following Procedures apply to the work of the Christian Science Committee on Institutional Work in California, Inc. (the “State Committee”) and to the local Christian Science committees on institutional work (currently 16 in number) that are supervised by the State Committee. Each local committee is an unincorporated association consisting of representatives from local churches in that geographical area. By being part of the State Committee’s network, each local committee agrees to abide by and to enforce these Procedures.
Everyone involved with our ministry should be familiar with these Procedures and review them from time to time. The State Committee recommends that local committees set aside 5-10 minutes during each of their meetings to read and review sections of these Procedures as a way to recognize changes, to help new workers become better acquainted with them, and for veterans to be reminded of their contents.
Purpose. The purpose of our ministry is to bring healing, reformation, redemption, compassion, and spiritual uplift to those who are incarcerated (or otherwise prevented from having access to Christian Science resources) by sharing the truths about God and man as taught in the Bible and as illuminated in Christian Science. The purpose is not to proselytize but to bless all who are incarcerated and to support the work of the institutional staff and all other volunteers (including those of other faith traditions) who are working for the betterment of those who are incarcerated.
Inspiration. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible admonish all Christians to visit and help all who are down-trodden and outcast in ways that meet their needs both practically and spiritually. This is a major biblical theme. There are also specific directions to visit those in prison in Isaiah 42:6,7 and Matthew 25: 34-36. Mary Baker Eddy had a keen interest in bringing spiritual uplift to prisoners. You can read more about her interest in and encouragement of institutional ministry work on our website, LightinPrison.org. Our ministry is a prime example of activity that is at the heart and soul of Christian discipleship.
Activities. Our ministerial activities include:
- Christian Science worship services
- Volunteer chaplains who meet with individuals and groups
- Corresponding chaplains who correspond with incarcerated individuals
- Christian Science lectures (when sponsored by one or more Christian Science branch churches or societies)
- Distribution of Christian Science literature and Bibles in English and other languages
- Participation is some interfaith organizations related to our ministry
- Maintenance of a website devoted to our ministry.
Institutions. We seek to serve all institutions in California where people are involuntarily committed including:
- State prisons
- Federal prisons
- County jails
- Juvenile detention facilities
- Mental and VA hospitals
- Immigration detention centers.
Organization. Each local committee is composed of representatives appointed by the local Christian Science branch churches and societies within the local committee’s geographical area. Each local committee is a legally separate entity that creates its own bylaws and rules and elects its own officers. The State Committee recommends that each Christian Science branch church and society designate a representative (“rep”) to their local committee, and an alternate rep (to serve when the rep can’t), and that the local committee adopt bylaws that are democratic in nature.
Reporting to the State Committee. Local committees should keep the Executive Secretary of the State Committee informed of:
- The composition of the local committee—officers, reps, alternate reps, chaplains and chaplain assistants
- The contact information of the officers, reps, alternate reps, and chaplains (not chaplain assistants)
- All changes to the local committee bylaws.
State Committee Liaison. Each local committee is assigned a State Committee Liaison. The Liaison is a member of the State Committee and should attend all local committee meetings, either in person or remotely, for the purpose of facilitating communications between the local committee and the State Committee and providing support and guidance to the local committee from the State Committee. The assigned Liaison should be copied on all significant local committee communications. Any questions or concerns about these Procedures or other matters pertaining to our ministry should be shared with the Liaison.
Duties of Representatives. Reps are first and foremost asked to pray to support our ministry. This prayer should be active and specific and change as challenges arise and conditions change. Reps represent their branch church or society on the local committee and are also expected to be the communication link between our ministry and their branch.
- Attend all local committee meetings either in person or remotely or arrange for their alternate to attend
- Vote on issues that come before the local committee
- Jointly supervise all ministry work that is performed by the chaplains and chaplain assistants of that local committee
- Subscribe to the emails from the State Committee website, LightinPrison.org
- Review the new content on the website at least once a month
- Read the monthly chaplain reports of the chaplains supervised by their local committee. If they are not otherwise received, access the “Members Only” section of LightinPrison.org (obtain a password from your local committee chairperson or liaison) in order to read the relevant chaplain reports, which are published in that part of the website.
- Actively share highlights and fruitage from local committee and State Committee meetings and the website with that rep’s church or society by, as appropriate:
- Relating testimonies taken from chaplain reports or from the State Committee website at a testimony meeting or business meeting
- Inviting local chaplains to speak to the congregation
- Posting notices and information about our ministry
- Encouraging church members to subscribe to the emails from, and visit, the website
- Encouraging church members to attend State Committee online meetings and local committee meetings as a guest
- Encourage donations to both the State and local committees from their churches and from individuals in their churches
- Prayerfully and actively recruit church members who are qualified to be, and would make good, institutional workers (either chaplains or chaplain assistants).
All reps are encouraged to apply for and to become chaplain assistants but there is no requirement that they do so
Local Committee Officers. Each local committee should elect at least a Chairperson and a Secretary. The duties of the Chairperson, Vice-Chair (if any) and Secretary will be described in the bylaws of the local committee. Usually the Chairperson presides at meetings, the Vice-Chair presides in the Chair’s absence, and the Secretary is responsible for the logistics of sending notices, taking and distributing minutes of meetings, and making the necessary reports to the State Committee. Minutes do not need to be lengthy.
Officers should also coordinate with the Liaison to reach out to churches and societies in their area that are not actively participating in the local committee or that have assigned a rep but the rep’s attendance is poor, to see if they can encourage greater participation.
Officers should also coordinate with the Liaison and reps to periodically contact local institutions that are not being served, to see if there is an opportunity for a Christian Science chaplain, services or literature for that institution.
Officers should direct every rep to have a copy of these Procedures, to have a password to LightinPrison.org, and to know how to visit the Members Only section of the website.
Local Committee Meetings. The State Committee has from time to time suggested format and contents for local committee meetings, but the content of local committee meetings is ultimately up to each local committee. The State Committee encourages all local committees to include, for all of its meetings, the option of attending online or via conference call in order to achieve the highest rate of participation and the least travel time for all concerned. Most local committee Chairpersons or Secretaries send out an agenda in advance of the meeting. Meetings usually consist of readings, prayer, metaphysical sharing, chaplain reports or discussion with chaplains about their reports if the reports are read prior to the meeting, report by the State Committee Liaison, review of a page or two of these Procedures, selection of a metaphysical topic and date and time for the next meeting, old business, new business, interviews for any new chaplain or chaplain assistant applicants, and adjournment. Minutes should have a record of who attended and the main actions taken at the meeting. Local committees should meet at least quarterly. Most local committees meet every other month; some meet every month.