A Modern Building With A Long Church History

While its building at 7036 North Ridge dates only from the 1980s, the Sixteenth Church of Christ, Scientist has been a congregation for more than 100 years. The church was established in 1914 after Rogers Park residents who were members of Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist in Edgewater decided to form a church in their own neighborhood. At first, the group opened a Reading Room and held with services at several locations in the area, including the Birchwood Country Club, Armstrong School, the Masonic buildings, and the Rogers Park Women’s Club.  Eventually, the church built its own home at 1540 West Touhy (now the Mar Gewargis Cathedral of the Holy Apostolic Assyrian Church) in 1922.

For more than 50 years, the congregation prospered at this location, meeting the challenges of the Depression, World War II and the post-war years. By the 1970s, members needed a building that would better serve their outreach efforts and spiritual vision at the same time they started receiving unsolicited offers to buy the church property. 

In 1980, the congregation sold the Touhy Avenue building to the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, (which serves the Assyrian community in Chicago,) and moved Sunday services and Wednesday meetings to the old Birchwood Country Club building where the congregation began, by then the home of the North Shore School.  In 1984, ground was broken at the current location and the church held the first service in its new  home on the eve of Thanksgiving 1985. 

The congregation follows the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, who began pondering the nature of Christian Science after a experiencing a dramatic recovery from injury that she attributed to the healing power of prayer. In 1875, she published a book on spiritual healing and in 1879 founded The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston. From this first congregation, known today as The Mother Church,  the church spread throughout the United States and the world. Chicago’s first congregation was founded in 1886 by a group of adherents who met for several years at the Sherman House hotel before opening a church at 4017 South Drexel Boulevard in 1897. 

Current Church at 7036 North Ridge. Photo by Stephanie Barto
Birchwood Country Club, site of early meetings of the congregation. RPWRHS archive photo
Former location, 1922-1980. RPWRHS archive photo

Local Autonomy Under Central Guidance

Christian Science doctrine and practice differs significantly from most other Christian denominations, both in its reliance on spiritual healing and its lack of ordained clergy and sacramental rites. Each individual Christian Science church is democratically governed by its members. Those members engaged in the full-time healing ministry are called Christian Science practitioners, and services are conducted by elected Readers.  Services include a common weekly lesson created by the Mother Church in Boston and used by Christian Scientists around the world. The Mother Church is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of six members who follow the Manual of The Mother Church, which has remained virtually unchanged since Mary Baker Eddy’s death.

Reading rooms are an important part of the Church of Christ, Scientist. These bookstore-like settings provide a reflective atmosphere for the public to read the Bible and other inspired writings, with librarians available to assist visitors. The Reading Room run by the Sixteenth Church is located at 5940 North Lincoln Avenue in West Ridge.