"Readers in Branch Churches. sect. 6.
These Readers shall be members of The Mother Church. They shall read understandingly and be well educated. They shall make no remarks explanatory of the Lesson-Sermon at any time, but they shall read all notices and remarks that may be printed in the Christian Science Quarterly. This By-Law applies to Readers in all the branch churches."
Article III, Section 6,
Manual of The Mother Church
by Mary Baker Eddy
In this second part of "Conversations with Readers" we consider the Church Manual provision by Mary Baker Eddy that Readers "shall read understandingly and be well educated." Part one appeared in last month 's Journal.
"I think the preparation—the inner preparation for reading—is more than just working with the Lesson. It's your whole life. ... To read understandingly obviously includes having a logical sense of what's being said in a sentence. Yet Mrs. Eddy points out in a letter to a Reader that it's 'tender persuasion' that takes away people's fear, not necessarily eloquence. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 247. And we know she's told us in the textbook, Science and Health, that if fear is removed, healing happens.
"As I practice reading I'm always looking first for those passages or moments that lend themselves to that tender persuasion, and then I'm looking for the tenderness in the ones that don't seem to lend themselves as readily, the ones that may seem stern, or so absolute that they might sound too high and lofty to meet somebody's needs at first glance. But those are the very ones that may break through if expressed with the tenderness of divine Love. We can bring more tenderness into every part of the services.
"My goal during the service is to hear the words freshly as I'm saying them. To be willing, no matter how many times I might have read a certain sentence or phrase a certain way during the week, to change it, right there on the spot. To allow Christ to speak through me in a new way.
"In the pace of reading, silences are important ... there are moments that need to resonate to let an idea be thought about for a moment. Otherwise, the human mind tends to turn off and let it all wash over, instead of engaging with the message."
"We had the story of Moses in the Lesson-Sermon recently, the part where he is asked by God to go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses says, No, no, I'm not a very good speaker. Well, I could relate to dear Moses because I found myself in those same shoes the night of our election for Readers. It was a surprise that the membership elected me to be Second Reader. ... Here was my chance to grow.
"I sought help from a reading teacher. Yet even more than scholarly understanding and education is needed. It's more like asking God, as Solomon did, for an understanding heart. I spend a great deal of time with Bible reference books to make sure I've covered all my bases in understanding our weekly Lessons. I take each section separately and then sew them together. ... After the Sunday service is over, the First Reader and I are still comparing notes on the new inspiration that came while we were reading.
"I rewrite many Bible passages in my own words, just so I can get a better understanding; when I go back and read them with the Bible terminology, then they make sense.
"My nine-year-old gets up to study about an hour after I do on Sunday mornings. He comes down with his books, and we sit there and have the most wonderful hour getting ready for Sunday School. It's one more time to hear myself what the Bible stories are saying, what the healing message is, what the design of the Lesson is. ... My son said the other day, 'Mom, can we still do this when you're through reading?' I said, 'We'll do this for the rest of our lives!'"
"We talk about not wanting personality to interfere, but that doesn't mean expressiveness and individuality aren't important. We all want reading that makes the words vibrant through the Reader's own expression of the Word. Often there's a fear of letting drama and natural conversational style come into reading because we think we're personalizing it. Well, that's not necessarily personalizing it; that can be letting the intent of the Word be seen and heard. It is personality that we don't want to intrude. We need to pray humbly to let only the Word shine through in both books.
"When I read I am listening to and feeling the ideas I'm reading. That's the ideal. I'm not thinking at all about how to read, but about what the Lesson is saying. The more I can do that, the more I become a transparency for the Word.
"The Lesson stands on its own. It's not dependent upon personal inspiration but is a communication from God to man. It's the spiritual fact of what it is that makes it powerful. A Holy Ghost experience is never dependent upon person but upon the Holy Ghost, or divine Science, itself."
"There is spirituality in everything that takes place in the service, even in the announcements. They can be read with spiritual poise and interest. The Explanatory Note in the Christian Science Quarterly is fascinating. When I read that the Lesson-Sermon is 'divinely authorized,' I see it is God who is authorizing it."
"I felt it was a moral obligation of mine to be expressive, that I would be shortchanging the Word if I were to read in a flat, monotonous way. ... I just couldn't stop smiling, being happy, when I was reading. As I began to examine the messages in each Lesson more carefully, I found a depth of meaning, a joy I hadn't seen before. With that revelation came a fuller appreciation of the Lesson-Sermon as the Word. I lived with it as I never had before, and it became the basis of my work as a Christian Science practitioner, too."
"To see if the message is coming across clearly, sometimes I'll use a tape recorder to listen to myself read. As we read the Lesson daily, whether we read aloud or to ourselves, it's important to know that each time we read it, it has a healing effect. Especially at the practice sessions. At first I thought, 'Oh gosh, we have to do this every week?' But I look forward to them now, in the sense that they can have just as much healing effect as the Sunday service. ... Those ideas are going forth to heal."
"Mrs. Eddy's writings indicate that education of the right sort is necessary. ... I've found it helpful to have had Christian Science class instruction. This education helps to prepare thought to appreciate the Lesson-Sermon better and therefore to read it more understandingly.
"Another thing I've found helpful when studying is to think of the two books as being the pastor they are, and to read from them as though a pastor were explaining a point to me. So instead of getting hung up on a particular Bible verse's construction, grammar, and language, I just think how someone might say those ideas today, as a sermon being delivered rather than isolated selections taken from different books.
"The message in these books is immediate, it's fresh and clear. In reading the books we get a sense of their eternal message, which is the main focus, and a sense also of the human experience that prepared the writers to see these eternal truths and express them in a way others could understand."
"I consider the Manual requirements to be not only the rules by which we maintain ourselves as Christian Scientists but also a comfort to us. They show us what our responsibilities are.
"The requirement that Readers devote 'a suitable portion of their time to preparation for the reading' Manual, Art. III, Sect. 1. goes along with Readers' reading understandingly and being well educated, because I've found that when I devote suitable time for research and development of the Lesson, I can present it with confidence. I know what I'm reading is right.
"Making any remarks to explain the Lesson from the Reader's desk, or any other place, would bring personal opinion into play, which is never suitable. ... What makes Christian Science sparkle is the truth being presented. The Readers should try to bring out this truth by inspired reading, and I think anybody can do that if he or she devotes the time that's specified in the Manual.
"I don't mind saying that I am a senior citizen. ... Reading is another healing for me and an inspiration for everybody in church. It's saying it is never too late and never too soon to be a First Reader. It's what you do with it, how you accept it, and being ready for it."
"We can find the most inspiring guidance for reading in the Church Manual. And within the Lesson-Sermon itself. Isn't it like learning to practice Christian Science? We learn by doing it. The Shepherd will be there guiding us through it. Every week we may find a different answer in the Lesson-Sermon as to how to read that week."
"To 'read understandingly' is achieved by having an intimacy with the Word of God that comes from having lived it. Then the words on the page become the Word of God in our hearts, and we're better able to convey it to others."
A note from the Clerk
To current and former Readers in branch churches and societies:
WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR how you're finding guidance for reading through your own prayer and by turning to the pastor of our Church. Tell us about the answers, insights, and direction you've gained from the Bible and from Mrs. Eddy's books Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and Manual of The Mother Church.
Clerk of The Mother Church
The First Church of Christ, Scientist
Branch Activities, A-177
175 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115–3187 U.S.A.
Fax: (617) 450–3554
"It is my great hope that God enables this letter to reach you to let you know that in this city you are heard very well, and your program is well liked because it offers something very necessary to man in life's difficult conditions: spiritual peace and the message of hope.
"My regards to you, and a brotherly hug and wishes that you continue broadcasting such programs."
Reply from a listener to The Herald of Christian Science—Shortwave
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