It wasn’t rebellion; I just didn’t think I was missing anything. Actually, my sparse attendance at Sunday School and church during college was mostly a practical decision. The nearest branch Church of Christ, Scientist, was thirty minutes away. And as far as I was concerned, church was just another activity on my calendar—an hour or two a week spent with a group of people in a bricks and mortar building. I still read the Christian Science Bible Lesson, shared Christian Science with friends, prayed, and had healings. I figured I’d start going to church again later.
Fast forward a few years, and I was in a new town for graduate school. I met a guy at orientation and dated him briefly. Not only did he have zero interest in this part of my life called Christian Science, he was also adamantly opposed to it. Things fell apart quickly. I felt humiliated, stupid, and unbearably lonely.
Shortly after that, I was sitting in my apartment alone, and I felt this powerful sense that I needed to go to church. I can’t remember whether it was a Sunday or a Wednesday, but when I walked through those church doors to an usher’s warm smile, I felt the palpable embrace of divine Love, God. For the first time since I’d arrived in this new town, I felt at home.
It was that beloved branch church, which I later joined, that gave me my first glimpse of the strength and spirit of church and the power of uniting with others in its shared mission. On its most basic level, this particular church might not have looked like anything special. And it was a fairly small church. Yet there was sincerity of Christly love for anyone who walked in the doors that was tangible, and it healed.
There was sincerity of Christly love for anyone who walked in the doors that was tangible, and it healed.
I think part of the reason I didn’t think I missed church while I was in college was because my individual experience was an expression of church. I loved God, and I was actively committed to sharing the healing power of that love with those who were receptive to it. And yet, in grad school, I discovered a power and strength in attending church—a power and strength that transcended a vague sense of community that I’d found in my other group activities.
In the Bible, Christ Jesus promised his followers, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). It’s this power of Christ which elevates church from just another do-good institution in the community to one that provides deep and permanent healing—an institution that changes lives.
Recently, as my young son and I cleaned up our backyard after a storm, I gained an insight into the helpfulness of what we all bring to church. The storm had left branches and sticks scattered over the lawn. We collected and broke down the larger sticks, or rather, I did, and he “helped.” At one point, I heard him getting frustrated, and I looked over to see him holding a large handful of sticks, trying to break them all at once. I showed him that while it was impossible to break the whole heap together, he could break them one at a time. He was soon gleefully back to “helping” with the yard work.
There is unbreakable strength in our individual practice of Christian Science, because God is the power behind it. And when we unite with others by bringing to church our love for God and mankind, and our active practice of truth, we are all strengthened and protected by that unity of purpose and demonstration of Christ.
Can you live church through your own individual practice and study of Christian Science? Sure. But uniting with church enriches your individual study of Christian Science, deepens your understanding of God’s universal love, and bolsters your desire to contribute to healing your community and the world. You won’t want to miss out.