The Christian Science Reading Room—a place to come home to
She hadn't given Christian Science a thought for thirty years. When she was little, her parents had taken her to the Christian Science Sunday School each week. And she'd loved what she learned there, though she took it—and the healings she and her family had over the years—pretty much for granted. Later, during her boarding school and college years, she slipped away from her childhood faith.
Since then, this woman—who's a childhood friend of mine—married her college sweetheart and had children, grandchildren, wonderful trips, and so on. But in more recent years, there were unexpected pressures, serious medical problems, business difficulties. Secretly—almost without even telling herself—she began to wonder if prayer could help.
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Then, one day this woman was driving down a street she had driven down many times before. But this time she saw something she'd never seen till that moment: the words "Christian Science Reading Room." It was as if those words were written in blazing neon lights above one of the storefronts. And not only that. Right in front of the Reading Room was an empty parking place! Without hesitating for a second, she drove into that parking place and got out.
When she walked into the Reading Room, a woman whose face was radiant with kindness greeted her. "Can I help you?" she asked. By this time, tears were running down my friend's face. All she could say was, "I've come home."
And it was a homecoming. My friend and the Reading Room librarian shared so much that day—why she had left Christian Science, and why she felt so overwhelmingly drawn back to her spiritual home base. The librarian reintroduced her to the "pastor" of Christian Science: the two books that had been so much a part of her family circle as a child. These books are the Holy Bible and Mary Baker Eddy's book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. And she gave my friend several issues of the Christian Science Sentinel.
Mostly, though, the Reading Room worker just reassured her. It didn't matter, she said, that my friend hadn't thought about God much in the past thirty years. All that mattered was that she had never stepped outside of the love of God, her Father-Mother. Actually, no one can step outside of that love, since God's affection for each of us is universal, unending, utterly unconditional.
You can imagine how comforting all this was. Matter of fact, before my friend even left the Reading Room, she knew the troubles in her life could and would be healed. God's dear love wouldn't let it be otherwise. And she was ready to let that love into her heart like she never had before.
It's been several years now since that day in the Reading Room. The ailment that was disrupting my friend's life has been thoroughly healed through prayer alone. Besides that, she has learned to pray effectively for her family, to help them solve problems in a spiritual way. She's become a member of the church that provides the same Reading Room she came "home" to. And she volunteers one day a week in the Reading Room.
During these past few years, this woman has communed every day with the pastor of Christian Science. She has let that pastor lead, or "shepherd," her whole life. (Pastor is a Biblical word meaning "shepherd.") And just as the ancient Hebrew pastors led their flocks to the sheepfold each evening, so the pastor of Christian Science has led my friend to the highest kind of home, or "sheepfold," imaginable—to the glories of the kingdom of God.
Of course, she didn't find that kingdom in a physical place or in an esoteric experience that only a privileged few can have. She found it within herself—within her own natural capacity to understand God and His perfect control, or heavenly reign, over all creation. This kingdom is within all of us, within every one of God's children. As Christ Jesus told his followers centuries ago, "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).
One of the fundamental purposes of a Christian Science Reading Room is to give all the people who walk into it a taste of "home"—a taste of the kingdom of God within them, a taste of God's immeasurable power and love. And they take that understanding of God's nearness and dearness (and of their own preciousness and perfectness in God's sight) with them when they leave. Perhaps that's why Mrs. Eddy, as Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, felt it was so important for every single Christian Science church all over the world to provide its neighborhood with a Reading Room.
Daisette McKenzie was an early worker and healer in the Christian Science movement. She and her husband knew Mrs. Eddy well. Here's what Mrs. McKenzie said about Christian Science Reading Rooms:
Mrs. Eddy once spoke of "home" as "your calm,
sacred retreat." We may think of our Reading Rooms,
too, as a spiritual home and sacred retreat for the
church members, as well as for inquirers. In them is
spread a banquet of sustaining food for the seeker
after healing of mind and body; the doubting, the distressed,
the bewildered, the weary, may find in the
shelter of the Reading Room the quiet and peace in
which to ponder and pray, and to gain direction from
the intimate Love which is ever seeking to find that
which is lost, to heal that which is broken, and to comfort
"as one whom his mother comforteth" (We Knew
Mary Baker Eddy, The Christian Science Publishing
Society, 1979, p. 125).
A Christian Science Reading Room might look from the outside like any other storefront on Main Street. And, like many other stores, it has a product line: books, magazines, an international daily newspaper, tape cassettes, and computer programs. All these are designed to help people learn about the Bible, about world events, about their relationship to God, about the supreme orderliness and reliability of God's laws. The Reading Room is a place where you might see a child learning about spiritual values or a college student researching a term paper on religion, or an adult praying through a major decision in his or her life. It's an active, vital place where anyone can ask questions about the Science of Christianity.
But the essence of a Reading Room is something beyond even that. It has more to do with the feeling of holy hospitality in the hearts of the church members. It has to do with their confidence that the pastor of Christian Science has the power to shepherd all humanity toward their real home, toward the kingdom of heaven within them. It has to do with seeing everyone who walks into the Reading Room as God's own child.
Mary Metzner Trammell