Why go to church?

Church helps to keep us from being uprooted by challenges.

 

The school across the street from us was going through a redo of its front parking lot and entrance. One morning as I walked by, I noticed that hay ropes had been placed around the trunks of the nearby small trees to protect them during construction. 

Often as I walk, I use that time to pray, and when I noticed the splendid protection given the trees, I thought about issues my branch Church of Christ, Scientist, was dealing with. The thought came that the purpose of those hay ropes was not unlike the purpose of church. Church protects us from the bulldozers and front-end loaders, so to speak, in our daily lives. It insulates and shields us as we maneuver around the stumbling blocks and pitfalls of human experience, and helps to keep us from being uprooted by the challenges that come. 

So how does it do those things? And what role do I play in Church?

Mary Baker Eddy defines Church in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, in part, as “the structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle” (p. 583). When I usher, teach Sunday School, even arrange flowers—whatever the task—I am expressing Church, which reinforces, maintains, and sustains the attributes of Truth and Love. And I am accepting the dominion and authority of Truth and Love to heal the challenges our community is facing.  

But how is Church protecting and defending me? How does Church perform the same function for me that those hay ropes do for the trees in the school parking lot? Involvement in and support for church activities bolsters and upholds receptivity in our thought to the power and presence of the Christ. The Christ awakens thought to discern the spiritual foundation of every church task and to perceive life from a more Christlike perspective. This shields us from a mundane, limited, material perception of life, keeping us on the straight and narrow path that reveals our heritage as a child of God, divine Love. 

Involvement in and support for church activities bolsters receptivity in our thought of the power and presence of the Christ.

As I thought about those hay ropes, several instances in which I experienced the buttressing, healing power of Church came to me. For example, when I was a new mother, I had so many questions about how best to raise our children. Several books on the topic were coming out, and mothers’ groups were gathering to share ideas. 

I often found myself attending the Wednesday testimony meetings at our church with feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and confusion. As I would sink into a pew before the meeting and silently lay out my trials before a loving Father-Mother God, answers on how to proceed would come—often during the service. Sometimes inspiration and answers were gathered as I listened to the readings from the Bible and Science and Health. Other times insights would come from the testimonies—which were rarely about child-raising challenges but often contained at least one spiritual gem that answered my need. 

I began to see these Wednesday meetings as my own child-rearing class. I was sitting at the feet of our Father-Mother, listening as the Shepherd led me forward. The green pastures and still waters spoken of in the twenty-third Psalm were always there to give me refreshment and guidance. I felt so loved and cared for, gaining the instruction and inspiration necessary to be a good mother. Church, resting on Principle, was wrapping its strong arms of love around me, quieting self-pity and downward thinking. As a verse from Hymn 85 in the Christian Science Hymnal states, 

All the way that we must go
      We will take at Thy direction,
                   .   .   .   .   .

On the path that has no turning,
Patience, courage, meekness learning.
           (Edith Gaddis Brewer, © CSBD)

Participation in church supports an atmosphere where healing naturally occurs. One time during a very busy Thanksgiving week, I hadn’t been feeling well, and even though I had made progress, I still felt weak and lethargic. It came time for the Wednesday testimony meeting, and I knew I wanted to be at church. I thought I could get myself there and then just sit quietly in a pew and hear the Truth. I arrived—and was immediately asked to usher, as the regular usher couldn’t attend at the last minute. Reaching out mentally for “the divine energy of Spirit” (Science and Health, p. 249), I said I’d help out. I quickly forgot about my circumstances and got busy with the ushering duties. And before the readings that began the service were finished, I felt invigorated and joyful. The illness had vanished. 

Church was wrapping its strong arms of love around me, quieting self-pity and downward thinking.

The “structure of Truth and Love” had wrapped its arms around me and not allowed the bulldozers and front-end loaders of sickness, lack, and self-pity to get through. The dawning in thought of my Christly nature, my true being as an expression of Spirit, God, was sheltered and defended by the love that was needed in order to be an effective usher. I felt Church was doing exactly as Mrs. Eddy described when she wrote to her students via an article in The Christian Science Journal, “How blessed it is to think of you as ‘beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,’ safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 263).

Now that the school parking lot and entrance are finished, I’ve enjoyed seeing those trees without the hay ropes, spreading their beautiful branches and leaves. The loving arms of Church can shelter all of us from the commotion and challenges of daily life. Upheld and sustained by the structure of Truth and Love, our spiritual growth is nourished, and our commitment to the allness of good, God, increases. 

So, I ask myself: Am I protecting and defending church? Is Church protecting and defending me? The answer to both questions is a resounding “Yes!”

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Light broke through
May 9, 2022
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