Christian Science Sunday School attendance was one of those things I never really questioned growing up. We went. Nearly every Sunday. With few exceptions. So I was surprised, recently, when a friend asked me, “What—if anything—do you feel you got out of all that rigid church attendance?”
Maybe that’s what attending Sunday School every week seems like. Rigid. A chore. But actually, what I got out of Sunday School made that “dutiful” attendance seem like a gift.
Christian Science Sunday School gave me an abiding sense of God’s unstoppable love for all His children. “God is Love”—those three words were in big letters on the front wall of our Sunday School, and I think they were the first three words I learned to read. During the years I was a Sunday School student, and in the decades after, I’ve continued to see that no matter how hopeless things seem, God’s love is greater, and He’s always shown it to me in tangible, meaningful, healing ways. No matter how loudly fear and doubt have screamed (and they have!), His love breaks through it all. Love has comforted and strengthened me and lifted me higher to know and trust God even more.
What I got out of Sunday School made that “dutiful” attendance seem like a gift.
Yes, there were disappointments during my Sunday School days. Like not being able to sleep in after a late prom night. Or feeling torn when our yearbook deadline landed on a Sunday, and my twin brother and I (co-editors) couldn’t be at the printer’s until noon. Also, to be honest, not every Sunday School session was stellar. Some Sundays were definitely better than others, but what I’ll always remember is the certainty of one of my longtime Sunday School teachers—her certainty of what she was teaching us of God’s great love. That’s what communicated—and what was made practical for me in my day-to-day life—regardless of how interesting the class discussion was, or how well it went.
From day one, we were taught to apply what we were learning about God and His love. I did that in lots of ways throughout my Sunday School years, but one example that stands out happened when I was just five years old. We were visiting a relative in Chicago when I got lost. Very lost. And it was getting dark. But because of what I’d been learning about God, I wasn’t scared. I simply stood there, stock-still, and reminded myself of what I’d just learned in Sunday School: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalms 23:1). I knew God would show me how to go. I didn’t hear a voice, but it just felt right to me to turn around and follow my footsteps back. And even though nothing looked familiar, I managed to make my way home to my aunt’s house. I’ll never forget how safe and God-directed I felt.
My commitment to being in Sunday School was actually an innate desire to know God better and follow Him more.
So really, what did I get out of all that “rigid” Sunday School attendance? You might say, “Everything.” What I learned week in and week out became the foundation for my whole life. And looking back, I can see how my commitment to being there was about so much more than following a rigid rule. It was actually an innate desire to know God better and follow Him more. And my obedience to God, I feel, was my responsiveness to His love for me, and has helped to cultivate in me other commitment qualities such as persistence, steadfastness, and dedication in all areas of my life. And God has rewarded these by giving me the courage, willingness, and spiritual strength I’ve needed to meet hard challenges instead of trying to hide from them.
This much I know: God’s love is irresistible, invariable, unceasing, and certain. The two—God’s love for us and our love for Him—meet and meld. Sunday School isn’t the source of this unity; God is. But Sunday School is a special place that fosters this meeting and melding and our devotion to cherishing it.