IF ever a church building made a statement, it was The First Church of Christ, Scientist, dedicated 100 years ago today at the corner of Falmouth and Norway Streets in what was then Boston's newly filled-in Back Bay. The granite Romanesque church, hastened to completion on the last day of 1894 at the insistence of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, proclaimed that the young denomination was in town - indeed, in the world - to stay.
Even then, over 100 affiliated Christian Science churches were holding services in the United States - a number that would increase sharply over the next half century and then ebb somewhat. Hundreds of ``branches'' of The Mother Church - as the church in Boston is known to its members - have been established overseas as well.
Other events in the church's expansion would include the founding of this newspaper in 1908 and the enlargement of church headquarters into a multiblock complex in the early 1970s. The guiding motive in such steps, according to Ruth Elizabeth Jenks, current president of the church, was ``to reach out to the entire world.''
The 1895 dedication of the church culminated years of searching by Mrs. Eddy for an organizational structure that would strongly root her religious movement. Church historian Robert Warneck says she first gathered Christian Scientists into a church in 1879, with a governance that mirrored the majority-rule democracy of Congregationalism.
By the time the church in Boston was built, Mr. Warneck says, that form of organization had given way to the governmental structure that remains today. Primary authority resides in a set of rules called the ``Manual of The Mother Church,'' written by Mrs. Eddy, with administrative power vested in a self-perpetuating five-member Board of Directors. Concurrently, the preaching of sermons in Christian Science churches gave way to readings from the Bible and ``Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures,'' Mrs. Eddy's chief work.