To serve as Reader may seem to be a demanding responsibility—which indeed it is—but it never need be burdensome. Essentially, the demand is to respond to the Christliness of one's being. A profound sense of joy comes to one serving as Reader in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist. Reading presents a unique opportunity to develop a broader, deeper concept of Church and to feel the genuine joy that inevitably follows accelerated spiritual growth. The recognition by fellow church members of the new Reader's spiritual qualifications and fitness to fulfill the obligations of this office awakens within him a desire to bring to the experience all the good inherent in fulfilling its requirements.
This enriching experience comes to bless. It blesses Reader, congregation, church, community, and because of the universal nature of Truth, it can bless the entire world.
Humility, that great elevator of consciousness, brings the initial blessing. Humility provides the fundamental basis for successful reading. It saves the Reader from the treachery of self-glorification, intellectualism, pride. Similarly, personal sense, anxiety, timidity—also expressions of human ego—melt away as the Reader yields to his inseparability from the divine omnipotent Mind, which effortlessly expresses only its own pure, infinite nature. The conviction that God is the Mind of man and that man is God's individualized expression enables every Reader to reach his full potential. The blessing of this conscious oneness with divine substance, Mind, illumines the details of preparation and execution with genuine spiritual inspiration. Every aspect can be divinely inspired and lift the Reader to the heaven of spiritualized thought. Uplifted thought then elevates the reading to that point of inspiration from which it can lead the listener to see his own at-one-ment with God. This heals and regenerates.
True humility leads to the blessing of purity. Striving humbly to realize one's purity as Soul's gracious expression is the cleansing process by which the taint of materiality is washed from consciousness and the Word of God stands crystalline, radiant. Thus purged, consciousness is expanded, receptive.
The receptive consciousness is always blessed; open to Love's sure direction, it provides the Reader with spontaneity and vitality, without which reading can become perfunctory, even dull. Receptivity and flexibility are essentials for choosing scriptural selections, hymns, and Wednesday meeting readings, and for the reading process itself. Listening is a vital prerequisite to reading—listening for Mind to reveal itself. Humble, pure listening is the open-mindedness of spiritual receptivity, a form of Christliness. Christ Jesus said, "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." John 5:30; If Jesus, the supreme minister, worked from such a mighty standpoint, isn't the implication that every Reader must bow before this axiom?
Obedience is the great disciplinarian. Obedience to divine guidance sends one through the door humility, purity, and receptivity have opened. This truly prayerful attitude shuts the door on all that can cloud the message, distort the meaning, choke the inspiration, tarnish the brilliance of the services.
"When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly," Matt. 6:6; instructs the Master. In this closet of riches the Reader finds all he needs to give the reading depth and clarity—full meaning. In wise use of these riches under Love's direction he feels the joy of spiritual discovery. The truths in the Bible and in Science and Health by our Leader, Mrs. Eddy, become fresh revelations. Their comfortable familiarity becomes exciting newness; eagerness to share this makes services energetic.
Dedication brings sure blessing. Devotion to the responsibilities of Readership need never be oppressive. Dedication is buoyant: it lifts thought above the fears, distractions, and trivial details and focuses on what is truly substantial. "The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible," Science and Health, p. 199; our Leader reminds us. Dedication virtually ensures achievement. Embodying determination without human will, consistency without rigidity, dedication to the things of Spirit promotes higher thought. This dedication rouses the Reader out of the mundane and technical into the divine and inspirational, promoting church services that are illuminating hours of spontaneous spiritual discovery.
Love is the core of Christian Science; its gentle vigor and firm compassion are the substance of each service. Love quickens thought, transforms words into ideas, and reveals the comfort, beauty, and power of the Christ presence. Love always blesses.
Humility, purity, receptivity, obedience, dedication, love—these are the ennobling demands made upon the Reader. And they bring one of the greatest of all blessings—healing. At one point during my term as Second Reader in a branch church, a distressing condition threatened my ability to perform my duties.
For a number of weeks an inflammation of the eyelids had caused irritation and hindered my vision. I woke up very early one Sunday morning with my eyelids almost completely swollen shut. I arose and began to work vigorously to realize my purity and integrity as a spiritual idea. One of the first thoughts I had was to alert a substitute to be ready to take my place in the event that this condition was not alleviated in time for our first service. Almost immediately I saw that in this instance I should reject this suggestion. I recognized the condition to be an aggressive argument of animal magnetism for disruption of the harmonious activity of the church and that it must be met courageously, at once.
The clear realization that there was nothing to see or to be seen but perfect God and perfect man freed me from concern over my appearance and from the fear that I could not see well enough to read. By the time it was necessary to step out on the platform, I felt complete dominion. The quiet awareness of the protective power of Truth and Love and of the healing purity and integrity of Church healed me. The condition has never recurred.
There are numerous facets to the development of good Readership. For example, consider Mrs. Eddy's requirement for Readers in branch churches: "They shall read understandingly and be well educated." Manual of The Mother Church, Art. III, Sect. 6; How does obedience to the spiritual requirements help the Reader to respond to the demand that he read understandingly?
A pure, humble, unselfconscious attitude leads a Reader to accept Mind as all true consciousness. He then becomes Mind-directed in his method of reading. Whatever human avenue he may select to aid him in improving his reading aloud— professional reading instruction, studying speech textbooks, using a tape recorder, or whatever—his selection of aids appropriate for him must be governed by the spiritual humility that acknowledges God's unerring control of all activity.
Focusing thought on the human technique of reading from the standpoint of spiritual humility enables a Reader to be self-critical without being self-depreciating. Self-criticism purifies the reading. Good reading must be clear-cut and intelligible. A spiritually cleansed consciousness, receptive to Mind's sure direction, enables the Reader to listen to himself —for instance, on tape—with objective detachment, to hear in accurate detail, to be consistently alert to correcting blurred or imprecise articulation or improper emphasis, and thus to demonstrate the clarity so essential to fine reading.
The desire to include the congregation in his own sense of divine Love's embrace can help the Reader to add resonance and volume to his voice. The infinitude of divine Love and the vast importance of its message impressed upon the thought of the Reader make him realize that he has something of transcendent value to convey. This releases him from the constrictions of fearful, limited thinking and places the powerful resources of self-expressive Soul, reflected, at his disposal.
Obedience and dedication are especially called upon to fulfill the requirement that the Reader be well educated. The discipline of preparation for reading the Lesson-Sermon in the Christian Science Quarterly or for selecting Wednesday meeting readings necessarily includes research into biblical concordances, dictionaries, and commentaries. The Reader may find it helpful to consult translations of the Scriptures in addition to the King James Version to develop a more thorough understanding. This research is not an intellectual exercise. It should lead to new spiritual insights into the Bible. "The Scriptures are very sacred," states Science and Health. "Our aim must be to have them understood spiritually, for only by this understanding can truth be gained." On the next page the textbook continues, "Christian Science separates error from truth, and breathes through the sacred pages the spiritual sense of life, substance, and intelligence." Science and Health, pp. 547-548. Reading the Bible from a spiritually scientific viewpoint shows it to be vibrant, pulsating with life, with contemporary meaning.
Preparation for reading is never mechanical, although it should be orderly and systematic. Those who approach their periods of preparation—prayer, research, study, practice aloud, and so on— with expectancy and joy will find themselves blessed with abundant inspiration.
As Readers are inspired, they are inspiring. Their work arouses and elevates thought. This is more than the activity of human beings inspiring other human beings: it is a symbol in human experience of Mind expressing itself to itself in ever-expanding self-revelation. It is the divine Word in action, awakening individual consciousness to the spiritual good within, helping each individual listener, including the Reader, to glimpse his spiritual identity.