The Coastal Star

A Look Inside our Places of Worship: First Church of Christ, Scientist

By C.B. Hanif

Picturesque outside and serene within, the First Church of Christ, Scientist sanctuary almost belies its amazing journey from an Air Force base in Boca Raton to its
200 SE Seventh Ave. home in Delray Beach. The January 1949 move was a
logistical challenge. For example, the building had to be cut in half for the
move, and reassembled at the current site.


The Christian Science Church has branches around the world and was organized by Mary Baker Eddy in the late 1800s. “In her book, Science and Health, she wrote down her discoveries of the truths
embodied in the Bible,” said Pat Archer, the First Reader, or primary conductor
of Delray’s church services. “She was able to develop a method and approach
that actually brought about healing just the way healing was brought about
through Jesus’ time, and through his followers.”


Christian Science services were held in Delray as early as 1914 in members’ homes. In 1923, seven members founded the Christian Scientist Society, recognized as a
branch of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston,
Mass. In 1939, the society became the First Church of Christ, Scientist of
Delray Beach. Services were held in a former real estate office on Southeast
Fourth Avenue.


But by December 1947, Boca Raton Field was deactivated. Its three regulation Army chapels were placed on sale, for church purposes only. In a February 1948
report, the church’s board of directors announced a goal of acquiring one of
the buildings — “constructed of excellent material” — as a permanent church
edifice:


“The investment required to complete the building as we would like it, will be about $30,000, including the lot, cost of moving, landscaping, interior furnishings,
organ and some exterior and interior alterations. The completed building will
seat 300 persons without enlargement.”


By that December, the church had purchased for $1,500 a chapel the government had built for $30,000. The eight-mile move, however, involved major hurdles, such
as permits from city and state authorities. Even with the steeple removed for
transit, the building required a 35-foot clearance.


Says a church historical sketch:


“A maze of wires — including those of Florida Power and Light Company, the Southern Bell Telephone Company, the Western Union, the American Telephone ad
Telegraph Company and the Florida East Coast Railway — all had to be moved,
lowered, raised or cut to allow passage of the building. The move across the
railroad tracks had to be carried out during a specified time when there were
no trains, and railway signalmen were posted north and south to stop any
possible movement on the tracks at the time. All of this had to go on
simultaneously and it was necessary that exact coordination as to time be
secured from all the agencies.”


The new Christian Science church was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1949.


In October 1991, the Sunday school extension wing was added to the south side. Its pipe organ was updated in 2007 with a state-of-the-art digital console that,
along with John Heckrote, the church’s master organist of nearly three decades,
is more than worth the price of admission.


That price, of course, is free. Visitors are welcome for the 10:30 a.m. Sunday services, and the 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evening services that include testimonies
of Christian Science healing. For more information call the church at
561-276-4551.


In addition, all Christian Science churches maintain a public reading room with a librarian, a quiet atmosphere and Christian Science literature for study, to
borrow or purchase. The congregation maintains one at 900 E. Atlantic Ave., at
Waterway East, Suite 6, 561-278-0665.


C.B. Hanif will be visiting our local places of worship on an occasional basis and sharing his experiences with our readers. His InterFaith21 column returns in September. Find him online at www.interfaith21.com

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