It is a joyous privilege to serve as a Reader in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist. To the casual observer it may seem a comparatively simple thing to stand at a desk and read aloud certain prescribed passages. Yes, it is simple, but it is the hard-won simplicity of godliness—of victory over self—which enables a Reader to fulfill his duties with freedom and joy.
A newly elected Reader will find clear instruction in Article III, Section 1, of the Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy. "Moral Obligations" is the title of this section, which reads as follows: "The Readers of The Mother Church and of all its branch churches must devote a suitable portion of their time to preparation for the reading of the Sunday lesson, —a lesson on which the prosperity of Christian Science largely depends. They must keep themselves unspotted from the world,—uncontaminated with evil,—that the mental atmosphere they exhale shall promote health and holiness, even that spiritual animus so universally needed."
In preparation for his reading, the conscientious Reader will take every step he can to make the mechanics of the reading as perfect as possible; that is, he will learn the technique of reading. He will look up the meaning and pronunciation of every word with which he is unfamiliar. And while he will guard against the effects of artificiality, he will practice reading aloud so as to conform his emphasis and tone to the correct meaning of the passages. He will want to be familiar with each Bible narrative or character brought into the Lesson-Sermon, as given in the Christian Science Quarterly, and he will search our Leader's writings for further light on the topics included in the Lesson, praying diligently to discern their spiritual meaning.
While thus taking every human footstep to express perfection in his reading, he will constantly resist every aggressive suggestion of false responsibility for the work at the desk and trust confidently in God. In a letter to The Mother Church, Mrs. Eddy said (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 322): "Your dual and impersonal pastor, the Bible, and 'Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,' is with you; and the Life these give, the Truth they illustrate, the Love they demonstrate, is the great Shepherd that feedeth my flock, and leadeth them 'beside the still waters.' By any personal presence, or word of mine, your thought must not be diverted or diverged, your senses satisfied, or self be justified."
A Reader therefore prays to realize man's oneness, or unity, with God. He also endeavors to prove that no personal sense of a selfhood apart from God can obtrude itself in self-consciousness and fear or in pride and self-importance.
One newly elected Reader was greatly helped in making her first appearances at the desk by realizing that she was, in reality, an idea existing in Mind and that there was no mortal mind to substitute a corporeal concept of her for the spiritual idea. Realizing that we can be seen only as God sees us frees us from self-consciousness and the belief in many minds.
As a Reader daily identifies himself with God and His goodness he will be kept "unspotted from the world." He will find himself freer and freer from unwholesome contacts and activities and discover that his highest joy is in gaining more spiritual understanding of the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God, his Maker. His thought will become purer and more childlike, more humble, honest, and sincere. At the same time he will realize a growing sense of dominion over evil and of strength in the truth as he demonstrates his identity as a child of God, forever reflecting unlimited ability and capacity.
On one occasion a Second Reader in a branch church was troubled because a member of her family was suffering from a physical difficulty. She telephoned the practitioner who was helping her and told her in great distress that she simply could not read the following Sunday. Instantly the practitioner pointed out to her the impersonal nature of the work that she was doing as Reader and showed her that since it was work established and sustained by God, no personal problem could interfere with it. In endeavoring to realize these truths, the Reader gained a wonderful sense of humility and selflessness. The aggressive suggestion of a self beset with a personal problem was completely routed, and she rejoiced in the consciousness of her true selfhood as the calm, untroubled reflection of God. On Sunday she was able to fulfill her duties with a deep feeling of peace and impersonal love, and the relative at home was healed a few days later.
It is important for the Reader to pray each day for himself, in obedience to our Leader's instruction given in Article VIII, Section 6, of the Manual. It is also vital and essential for him to expect an improved concept of Church and of the church services to result from his realization of the true Church. As he does this consistently, always seeking fresh inspiration in the work, he will realize rich fruitage. With the Christ-spirit governing his thought he will be conscious of joy and dominion, of deep compassion for those in need, and of an outpouring love for all who come to the services. He will bring less of mortal consciousness to the desk and will be a clearer transparency for the Word he reads.
In working metaphysically for the services and his part in them, it is helpful for a Reader to realize that the voice of Truth is the only real voice there is. In the nineteenth Psalm we read: "The heavens declare the glory of God. . . . Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard." In commenting upon the last sentence, Mrs. Eddy says in "Retrospection and Introspection" (p. 61), "And this voice is Truth that destroys error and Love that casts out fear."
No form of error can successfully attack or adversely affect in any way that which voices the Word of God. The church services are God's provision for His truth to be uttered and expressed, and there is no evil power, cause, law, or influence which can prevent His will from being done.
As the Reader thus prays unselfishly for the demonstration of harmony at the church services there will be better reading as well as more poise and dominion at the desk and more healing and spiritual growth in the congregations. He will prove the truth of Paul's words in his letter to the Philippians (4:13), "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." He will find seeming difficulties melting away and attain something of that needed simplicity spoken of in the beginning of this article, the simple innocence and purity of the Christ.