Procedures and References

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  5: 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, Our ministry is a prime example of activity that is at the heart and soul of Christian discipleship.

Activities. Our ministerial activities include:

  1. Christian Science worship services
  2. Volunteer chaplains who meet with individuals and groups
  3. Corresponding chaplains who correspond with incarcerated individuals
  4. Christian Science lectures (when sponsored by one or more Christian Science branch churches or societies)
  5. Distribution of Christian Science literature and Bibles in English and other languages
  6. Participation is some interfaith organizations related to our ministry
  7. Maintenance of a website devoted to our ministry.

Institutions. We seek to serve all institutions in California where people are involuntarily committed including:

  1. State prisons
  2. Federal prisons
  3. County jails
  4. Juvenile detention facilities
  5. Mental and VA hospitals
  6. Immigration detention centers

If you would like more information about becoming a visiting chaplain, please contact us at


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:

  1. The composition of the local committee—officers, reps, alternate reps, chaplains and chaplain assistants
  2. The contact information of the officers, reps, alternate reps, and chaplains (not chaplain assistants)
  3. 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.

Reps should:

  1. Attend all local committee meetings either in person or remotely or arrange for their alternate to attend
  2. Vote on issues that come before the local committee
  3. Jointly supervise all ministry work that is performed by the chaplains and chaplain assistants of that local committee
  4. Subscribe to the emails from the State Committee website,
  5. Review the new content on the website at least once a month
  6. 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 (obtain a password from Gabriel Serafini at in order to read the relevant chaplain reports, which are
    published in that part of the website.
  7. 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
    1. Relating testimonies taken from chaplain reports or from the State Committee website at a testimony meeting or business meeting
    2. Inviting local chaplains to speak to the congregation
    3. Posting notices and information about our ministry
    4. Encouraging church members to subscribe to the emails from, and visit, the website
    5. Encouraging church members to attend State Committee online meetings and local committee meetings as a guest
  8. Encourage donations to both the State and local committees from their churches and from individuals in their churches
  9. 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, 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.

Fruitage Meetings. Fruitage meetings are an opportunity to share inspiration and progress with church members and others. Local committees can work with a host church or society to sponsor an in-person meeting, or they may be done online. The meetings can present verified healings where permission to share has been obtained (see Section III.E.). The host church should approve of any guest speaker. The meeting may be addressed to church members, or it could be, in appropriate cases, addressed to outside groups such as institution staff, other religious volunteers, or families of incarcerated individuals. Vouchers may be submitted for reimbursable expenses to the State Committee within three months. Reimbursement expenses include: musicians, venue, custodian, programs, invitations, advertising. Speakers may include chaplains, religious leaders, prison and VA personnel, and so forth. Maximum reimbursement from the State Committee for the speaker’s travel plus honorarium is $500.


Duties and Limitations. Chaplain assistants help to conduct Christian Science services either as readers or in other capacities inside the institutions. They  also may help in passing out literature and briefly responding to basic questions about Christian Science. They metaphysically support the services and the work of chaplains. They do not engage in one-on-one sessions with inmates/patients and they leave extensive discussions and individual Christian Science treatment to chaplains. Chaplain assistants should be familiar with the rules of the institution in which they serve and they should never agree to pass along messages or information from one inmate to another or to or from anyone outside the facility, nor agree to perform any act on behalf of an inmate other than those permitted by the rules of the institution.

Whenever a chaplain assistant is inside an institution in the company of a visiting chaplain, the chaplain assistant is under the supervision of the visiting chaplain and should obey any directions given by the visiting chaplain. Chaplain assistants may serve on more than one local committee. A chaplain assistant may also volunteer to provide clerical assistance to the staff chaplain of an institution.

Chaplain assistants should conform to all facility dress codes and also use common sense by dressing conservatively and speaking and acting with restraint. Chaplain assistants should also identify themselves as Christian Scientists (See Section III. H., above). Chaplain assistants are encouraged to attend their local committee meetings.

Minimum Qualifications. To become a chaplain assistant, a person must:

  1. Have a strong desire to help and bless those who are incarcerated
  2. Complete the current application form (found on
  3. Be a member in good standing of a California branch church or society
  4. Be a member of The Mother Church
  5. Be sponsored for chaplain work by that person’s branch church or society

Application Procedure. Applicants should have read these Procedures and should also try to attend at least one or two local committee meetings and talk to existing chaplains or chaplain assistants prior to submitting an application. The applicant then submits the completed application to the local committee and the local committee and its State Committee liaison then interview the applicant. If the local committee and the liaison both approve, the applicant is accepted, and  the State Committee is notified of the addition to the local committee’s list of chaplain assistants.

Christian Science Services. If a chaplain is present at a Christian Science church service inside an institution, then the chaplain is in charge of the service,  and all chaplain assistants and others who may be present from the local committee are required to take directions from the chaplain (including officers of the  local committee). Although most services conducted inside an institution will tend to resemble a Christian Science church service, institutional services are not  church services governed by the Church Manual. They should be planned and conducted on the basis of prayer for what will be most effective for that particular  service and those in attendance. Debate or argumentation should never be allowed to arise in a service. The Rule for Motives and Acts from the Manual is a good guide for those involved in planning and conducting these services.


Minimum Qualifications. To become a chaplain, a person must:

  1. Have a strong desire to help and bless those who are incarcerated
  2. Complete the current application form (found on
  3. Be a member in good standing of both a California branch church or society and of The Mother Church
  4. Be sponsored for chaplain work by that person’s branch church or society
  5. Be class taught by a Christian Science Teacher (CSB) who is (or, at the time of passing was) in good standing in that capacity with The Mother Church

Application Procedure. Applicants should have read these Procedures and should also try to attend at least one or two local committee meetings prior to submitting an application. When feasible, the applicant should also try to accompany an existing chaplain on a visit to an institution prior to applying as a chaplain. The applicant then submits the completed application to the local committee. The local committee and the State Committee liaison to that local committee interview the applicant. If the local committee and the liaison both approve the applicant, they sign the application and send it to the State  Committee. The State Committee then votes whether to confirm the local committee recommendation and then informs the local committee and applicant of the outcome. Once a chaplain is approved by the State Committee, that status continues until the chaplain resigns or is removed for some cause by either the local committee or by the State Committee. Any local committee may create a process to periodically review and reappoint a chaplain if the local committee so desires, but there is no requirement to do so.

Multiple Roles. Whenever possible, chaplains should not be a rep or an officer. In smaller local committees, however, this separation of roles is not always
possible. A chaplain may also serve under more than one local committee as long as that is acceptable to the committees involved.

Video interviews. All chaplains are encouraged to share fruitage from their ministry not only with their local committees and branch churches, but possibly in articles for the periodicals and in videos for

Permission to Share. It is important that chaplains be sensitive to and respect the privacy of those included in their ministry. Prior to sharing accounts of  healing or of other situations experienced by an inmate, chaplains should obtain the inmate’s permission to share any personal or sensitive details, even if the  inmate’s name is not used, unless that information has already become public knowledge through the inmate’s own actions. Prior permission from an inmate is  essential if the inmate’s story is part of a video interview appearing on It is a good practice for chaplains to get in the habit of asking for  permission to share fairly early in their contacts with an inmate who is expressing sincere interest in Christian Science. Using prayer, sound judgment, and  common sense, chaplains may report on matters shared by an inmate without prior permission when the chaplain has high confidence that the inmate would not object to such sharing.

Christian Science Treatment. It is the privilege of chaplains to give specific Christian Science treatment to inmates who request it. Such treatment should adhere to all the ethical and moral standards of Christian Science as taught in primary class and as contained in the Church Manual and in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. Treatment for a problem should not be given to someone who is receiving medical treatment for the same problem, although prayer in the form of seeing and affirming the spiritual nature of that individual and their unbroken connection with the source of all good is, of course, always appropriate.

Chaplain Cooperation. Sometimes two visiting chaplains will serve the same institution. In those situations, the chaplains should coordinate so that they are  not both giving Christian Science treatment to the same individual at the same time. A visiting chaplain and a corresponding chaplain usually will not be in  contact with the same inmate at the same time, with the following exception: A visiting chaplain should keep informed about the status of inmates that chaplain  has been visiting and should ask any who are expecting to be transferred to an institution having no visiting chaplain or about to be released, if they would like  to be assigned a corresponding chaplain. If an inmate asks for a corresponding chaplain to be assigned, the visiting chaplain should then inform the Executive  Secretary. The corresponding chaplain assigned by the State Committee to the requesting inmate and the visiting chaplain who made the referral should then be in close contact to support the inmate during the transition. The visiting chaplain should cease to be involved once the inmate has left the facility.

Identification of Christian Science. In interactions with others, chaplains and chaplain assistants should identify themselves as Christian Scientists and  explain that Christian Science is a Bible-based religion that is especially focused on the teachings and example of Christ Jesus. Christian Science services should  be announced as such. In the event that a chaplain is asked to give a non-denominational service or talk, that is a welcome opportunity, but the talk or service should start with the chaplain identifying himself or herself as a Christian Science chaplain with a brief explanation of Christian Science. It is usually helpful to also make a short statement that clearly distinguishes Christian Science from Scientology since there is common confusion on that point.

Removal. A chaplain may be removed by vote of the local committee and agreement of the State Committee or by direct action by the State Committee. Any removal should be done only after the chaplain has been given ample opportunity to explain their conduct. Any removal should be done in the most considerate  and loving manner feasible under the circumstances. Written notice of removal should be sent promptly by the local committee to any institutions formerly served by the chaplain.

Distinguishing Visiting Chaplains from Corresponding Chaplains. The qualifications and application procedures are the same for visiting chaplains and for corresponding chaplains, but the work they do is different. Visiting chaplains are assigned by their local committees to work in one or more specific institutions to make in-person visits to those who are incarcerated and to conduct Christian Science services. Corresponding chaplains do not enter institutions  but are assigned by the State Committee to specific inmates/patients with whom they correspond. Generally, a chaplain is appointed to be either a visiting or a corresponding chaplain. A chaplain may move from one category to the other with the approval of the local committee, in which case the Executive Secretary  should be informed. There may be rare instances in which it is appropriate for a chaplain to do both jobs at the same time (although not at the same institution),  but this may not be done without the approval of both the local committee and the State Committee. Normally, an inmate in an institution that has  a visiting chaplain will not be assigned a corresponding chaplain. However, if an institution permits church services held by a visiting chaplain, but does not  permit on-on-one visits, then a corresponding chaplain (not the visiting chaplain) may correspond with inmates that the visiting chaplain has identified as desiring one-on-one visits. Those inmates may also attend the church services. A visiting chaplain in a State facility can write inmates in county or federal  facilities. A visiting chaplain in a county facility can write inmates in State or Federal institutions.

General Guidelines for All Chaplains. Most important is for the chaplain to be guided by prayer and a deep desire to bless and love everyone with whom  the chaplain comes into contact. Take to heart the last line of Mrs. Eddy’s poem, “Christ My Refuge”: “My prayer, some daily good to do to Thine for Thee; an offering pure of Love, whereto God leadeth me.”

Personal information about a chaplain should not be given to an inmate either in person or by mail.

It is generally preferable to derive answers to inmate questions directly from our Pastor and, with respect to inmates unfamiliar with Christian Science,  specially from the Bible. Having a copy of the Tenets of Christian Science to share can be very helpful.

Another very important requirement is that chaplains know and obey all of the laws and rules that pertain to work in the institutions housing the inmates they serve. Different institutions have different rules, and the rules sometimes change. All chaplains need to keep themselves aware of the pertinent rules and  hanges in those rules and obey them – not only for their own protection and success, but also because violation of a rule by a Christian Science chaplain may cast a  cloud over our ministry generally.

Similarly, if the chaplain feels it is appropriate, the chaplain may inform the inmate that members of the inmate’s family may contact the State Committee office (contact information given on the book marker) to request information about Christian Science and possible assignment of a corresponding chaplain.

Chaplains should be alert to examples of fruitage from their work and, when appropriate, report that fruitage subject to the requirements of Section III.E.,  above.

If an inmate has exhibited a sincere interest in Christian Science over at least six months and has begun to think of himself or herself as a Christian Scientist,  then his or her name, prison number and facility where incarcerated should be reported to the State Committee so we can add him or her to our database of  inmates who are students of Christian Science. This database is used to be sure that we don’t lose track of such inmates over time through transfers or changes  in chaplains.

Chaplains should also use spiritual intuition as to whenever it may be appropriate to bring up the possibility of an inmate applying for membership in The  Mother Church. If the chaplain believes the inmate is ready and the inmate embraces the idea of applying for membership and completes the application, the  chaplain should sign the completed application and obtain the necessary additional signature (from a Teacher of Christian Science), then send it to The Mother Church and notify the State Committee.

To the extent an institution’s rules permit, providing Christian Science literature to inmates in the form of whole issues of the Sentinel, Quarterly and Full-Text Bible Lessons, or copies of articles from any of the Church periodicals is encouraged. It can be there physically with an inmate when a chaplain cannot. See Section IX, below.

Guidelines Specific to Visiting Chaplains. Each visiting chaplain’s activity is a reflection of his or her own prayer and the way the institution works in  which the chaplain serves. Generally, however, chaplains seek to have either one-on-one sessions, or group interactions in the form of a church service. See Section IV.D., below, regarding the form of church services.

Debates and arguments should never be part of a chaplain’s ministry. If anyone wishes to debate or argue with a chaplain whether one-on one or during a  service, the chaplain should rely upon prayer and spiritual inspiration from divine Love to avoid the situation. A chaplain can ask for staff assistance or can  terminate the session if that seems to be the best way to settle the situation.

Chaplains should generally speak from their own personal experience and beliefs as a Christian Scientist. Please avoid pronouncements about what Christian
Scientists believe or how someone should think about something as a Christian Scientist.

Early in the relationship with any new inmate the chaplain should explain that the chaplain will protect the inmate’s privacy by not casually disclosing what they discuss; however, the discussions are not confidential. A chaplain must report the chaplain’s activities to the supervising local committee and a chaplain can be compelled by a court to testify truthfully to anything told to the chaplain by an inmate. Accordingly, an inmate should not talk about what led to incarceration or to disciplinary procedures within the institution. The discussions should stay focused on matters of a spiritual nature. Chaplains should also advise each inmate that the chaplain cannot write or give any kind of recommendation or character-reference for an inmate; however, a chaplain may submit a factual description  of the number of times the inmate has met with the chaplain or the period of time the inmate has attended services if requested to do so.

Whenever possible, it is best if the chaplain or local committee can arrange for both Christian Science services within the institution and one-on-one visits with a chaplain. The two different activities reinforce each other and can lead to our ministry being a greater blessing to the inmates.

Different institutions call for different approaches. Some only permit visits to inmates who have requested visits from a Christian Science chaplain. Some will call out that a chaplain has arrived and ask if anyone wants to see him or her. Some only permit one-on-one sessions.

Chaplains should wear their “Christian Science Chaplain” badges, and generally present themselves as part of a statewide ministry and not as just an individual
chaplain. If permitted by the institution’s rules, they should give a bookmarker from the State Committee to any inmate who appears to have a sincere interest in
spiritual matters at either the first or second meeting with that inmate. They should also explain early in the relationship that if the inmate is transferred, the  inmate can be put in touch with a chaplain (visiting or corresponding) at the new location.

Chaplains should conform to all facility dress codes and also use common sense by dressing conservatively and speaking and acting with restraint.

If the chaplain feels it is appropriate, the chaplain may inform the inmate that if the inmate is released, and if the inmate desires it, the inmate may be put in  contact with a corresponding chaplain for a period of up to approximately 3 months.

There appears to be a rule that visiting chaplains in state prisons are not permitted to also send letters to the inmates they visit. Yet there are long ongoing  instances where the authorities at a State prison have given permission to visiting chaplains to send brief letters to confirm meetings or to enclose a copy of the  Bible Lesson for study and articles from our periodicals. The ministry should be conducted primarily face-to-face rather than through the mail.

Those who serve in juvenile facilities should take special care not to come across as proselytizing, and should generally try to avoid topics that are likely to be in clear conflict with elements of the faith traditions that the youths may have grown up with.

Specific State Committee Rules for Visiting Chaplains. Visiting chaplains should:

  1. Prepare metaphysically for each visit
  2. Stay current regarding, and obey, all laws and rules applicable to the institutions in which they serve
  3. Avoid conflict and argument with all they meet in the institutions (inmates, staff, other volunteers)
  4. Encourage use of and reliance upon our Pastor (the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
  5. Provide Christian Science treatment when requested to do so
  6. Attend local committee meetings and accept the supervision and direction of the local committee and State Committee
  7. Attend (either online or by phone or by review of a recording after the fact) any mandatory meetings called by the State Committee
  8. File reports for each calendar month by the 10th of the succeeding month online on The report should describe the chaplain’s work in enough detail for the local committee to monitor and support the chaplain. These reports should not name specific inmates. New chaplains may refer to reports in the Members Only section of our website for examples.

Common Institution Rules. Be aware that the following rules are overwhelmingly likely to be in place for any institution you visit:

  1. Do not take any literature into a facility without clearance from the institution
  2. Do not give anything to an inmate/patient unless specifically given permission by the institution after following the correct procedure to get permission
  3. Do not touch an inmate/patient beyond a normal handshake
  4. Do not pass messages or take any actions at the request of an inmate
  5. Have no contact with an inmate you met in the institution for a period of one year after the release of that inmate from the institution.