William Rathvon

Mr. Rathvon’s addresses were written in the first half of the twentieth century, at a time when the radio was beginning to open up the world to those isolated on farms and in small towns everywhere, and the telephone and automobile were gradually becoming part of daily life. In today’s fast moving world, flooded with every kind of communication and transportation, it is hard to imagine the simple life of this bygone era.

In those days, Church was both the religious and social center for most families. This was true with members of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Those who understood the importance of Mary Baker Eddy’s revelation and were blessed by its healing power had a strong commitment to supporting their branch church and The Mother Church. This new religion was more than a creed in which one believes. It was an education in divine realities. Church members read the daily Lesson, served in a branch church, subscribed to the periodicals, and relied on Christian Science for healing. The most dedicated students had class instruction by a teacher authorized by the Church. Then they attended the annual meeting of their teacher’s association of students to hear an address by the teacher. It was through these meetings with his students that these association addresses came to be written

Mr. Rathvon was an important name during this historical period in the Church. He and his wife, Ella, found Christian Science in the early 1890’s. They had Primary Class Instruction with Edward Kimball in 1903 and Normal Class Instruction with Judge Septimus J. Hanna in 1907. In 1908 Mr. Rathvon was asked to come to Chestnut Hill to serve Mrs. Eddy as one of her secretaries. Mrs. Rathvon came the following year as an assistant to Laura Sargent, Mrs. Eddy’s companion and housekeeper.

After Mrs. Eddy’s passing in 1910, Mr. Rathvon was appointed to the Christian Science Board of Lectureship. He and his wife traveled worldwide, lecturing in many foreign countries. He became treasurer of The Mother Church in June of 1918, and a few months later he was elected to the Christian Science Board of Directors and served as a Director for twenty years.

As with most teachers, Mr. Rathvon encouraged his students to take an active part in branch church work, serve on its committees, and go into the practice. Because a number of his students apparently did take up the healing work, each year Mr. Rathvon discussed the challenges of the practice and how to handle various cases. His association addresses are like a modern-day Book of Proverbs, in which he shares wise and practical insights into Christian Science.

Several excerpts given here show the diversity of the subjects he covers.

“Listening for Answers: The act of mentally turning to divine Mind for guidance in our actions, for protection in our extremities, and for solution of our problems, takes but a moment of time. The most fruitful moments of the whole day are those when we turn expectantly to divine Love, and mentally listen for our answer. The knowledge that the answer is already formulated and waiting our acceptance, gives us confidence and assurance that nothing else can impart. We may not hear it at once because of our dullness spiritually, but to know that infinite wisdom is available to us for the asking, makes patience a joy and expectancy a comfort.”

“Light and Darkness: All the darkness of the universe cannot obscure the light of one little lamp. So is it with your understanding of the spiritual idea which heals sickness and sin. It may seem to you to be small. It may seem but a tiny filament of understanding glowing incandescent with the white light of divine Love; yet it carries the brightness of health and joy into the black darkness of sickness, and the dull gloom of distress. When error comes to you and argues that your lamp is too small for the very dark place, silence it. Turn on it and deny the lie. Push the button, and you will prove that the blacker the darkness the brighter your light. Then the voice of the tempter is silenced, and the warmth of gratitude radiates from the light of Love.”

His teaching was so practical that his remarks are still invaluable. Our healing work today – whether for ourselves, our family, or others — can profit from his experience relating to the practice. Because of the time he spent at Chestnut Hill with Mrs. Eddy, many of his remarks reflect this experience. He even includes quotes from her that he recorded while in her service. His addresses are focused on the immediate and practical use of Christian Science — in living it day-by-day, and in using it in healing ourselves and others.

Mr. Rathvon’s few paragraphs on each subject give us the essence of his message. Although his remarks sometimes reflect the daily life of a century ago, the truth he shares is still basic to our understanding of Christian Science. Our world has changed dramatically since then, but the need for healing is as great as it has ever been. Sometimes it is the simple, practical ideas that meet our immediate need for healing, and these addresses from the pen of Mr. Rathvon supply this need.