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This article was written in support of Church Alive, a focus of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, that explores the meaning and possibilities of awakening to the spiritual basis and impact of Church.
A leading role at our healing service
I’m a high school senior and Sunday School student at First Church of Christ, Scientist, San Rafael, California, and I recently completed my capstone service project in DiscoveryBound’s National Leadership Council (NLC) program. NLC is a four-year leadership program for high school students who are also students of Christian Science. The Capstone Project is an opportunity to serve the local Christian Science community and to put into practice the leadership skills gained over the three previous years of the program. My idea was to organize and conduct a youth-hosted Wednesday testimony meeting at church.
Since I was going to be the substitute First Reader, I had an inspired idea I wanted to share for the readings from the Bible and Science and Health—the idea of spiritual perfection in the coming new year. I realized that we don’t need to make a lot of resolutions. We don’t need to have goals that will bring us closer to being humanly “perfect” because, in fact, we already are spiritually perfect. Recognizing that perfection in God, in others, and in ourselves is the best resolution we can make.
I enlisted the help of my NLC mentor, Ann Kneeland, to teach me how to effectively plan a Wednesday night testimony meeting. She explained that the first thing I needed to do was pray—for the congregation I’d be reading to, and for the right ideas that needed to be shared through the readings. We met at our church’s Reading Room three times over a three-week period, where she taught me how to use Concord on the computer (a study resource and concordance), to choose citations from the Bible and Science and Health, and to select hymns.
Learning how to use Concord was such a valuable experience. I developed a theme—“Realizing our perfection now.” I was really satisfied with how well both the Bible and Science and Health passages flowed to create an overarching idea of our present spiritual perfection. The week prior to the meeting, I practiced the readings every night before going to bed, and the two days before the meeting I practiced the service with my mentor at our church.
The day of the testimony meeting, I prepared metaphysically. I spent time reading the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson and praying before the meeting about the idea of clarity, so that what I read would come out in a clear manner, and so that the theme of my readings—perfection—would be clear to the congregation. I thought about how the ideas God gives us are never lacking, and are never interrupted. This prayerful work helped me stay focused during the meeting.
To encourage attendance, I made sure everyone in Sunday School knew about the meeting, and I organized a dinner at a pizza restaurant beforehand for the youth at our church. I also sent out a Facebook message blast to all the young people at my church. Almost everyone was able to attend—some brought cars so we could carpool to dinner. We had a lot of fun and conversation, and a nice dinner before heading to the church. Two college students volunteered as ushers and another passed the microphone around during the time for sharing testimonies.
I had asked all the young people to bring a testimony to share. At the meeting, ten people shared testimonies— seven of them were young people! It was so rewarding to see everyone share. I shared an instantaneous healing of a leg injury I’d had through my own prayer when I was a counselor-in-training at a camp for Christian Scientists.
To encourage attendance, I made sure everyone in
Sunday School knew about the meeting, and I organized a dinner at a pizza restaurant beforehand for the youth at our church.
After our last hymn, we all headed to the Sunday School for dessert. Everyone who attended the service came for fellowship and refreshments. I had asked a few families to bring dessert, and I had set up the tables.
People told me that they appreciated the topic of the readings, and how the readings really applied to situations they’d been praying about, as well as how much it meant to them to hear someone “read with joy.”
I was able to be First Reader for the meeting because of the graciousness of my church community. They changed the church rules to allow me to serve as a substitute First Reader. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read because now I’m really interested in becoming a First Reader in the future, perhaps during college at a Christian Science Organization, and when I’m out of college at a church. Also, other interested Sunday School students in my church community will now have the opportunity to have the same gratifying experience that I had.
From Lauren’s mentor, Ann Kneeland:
It was inspiring how this idea came together—a Wednesday testimony meeting supported by students and other young people in our church community. When Lauren asked if she could serve as the First Reader for the meeting, our church voted to change our rules so it could happen. We now allow a Sunday School student to serve as a substitute First Reader on a Wednesday (by invitation of our Executive Board), if he/she is a member of The Mother Church, and is mentored by a member of our church.
High school and college students and a recent college graduate—all who attended our Sunday School—came to the testimony meeting conducted by Lauren, and some gave testimonies for the first time. They were inspired to participate by having one of their friends conduct the service, and by her direct invitation to them to prepare testimonies. Since then, one college student, who gave a testimony, has submitted an application to join The Mother Church.
Some of our members invited friends who are not students of Christian Science to the meeting. The friends attended and said they were very glad they’d come.
The glow of this meeting has stayed with us. It felt like God was saying to us: Let Me show you the nature of church. It’s full of enthusiasm, vigor, healing, and promise!
Terry Holliday, Debby Bhargava, Sue Sonke, Beatrice Labarthe, Anna Willis
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