A woman stood at a bus stop, shivering in the rain. Would that bus never come? A lighted shop window caught her attention. Books and magazines were displayed invitingly. In the background there were chairs, tables, and more books, and people sitting there reading, warm and comfortable.
"How I wish I could go in for a few minutes," the woman thought. "But I can't. It's a Christian Science Reading Room, and I'm not a Christian Scientist." So she went on standing in the street.
Why did she not see the notice "All are welcome" on the door? Why did she not feel the invitation to all passers-by to go in? If she had, she might not only have lost some of the physical chill and misery of standing alone in the winter weather. She might have caught a glimpse of what it means to be "the guest of God," always at home in the presence of Soul, embraced in the care of divine Love, feeling the harmony of heaven. She might have found a friend—the comforting Friend to all mankind that "sticketh closer than a brother."Prov. 18:24; She might have learned something of the power of the Christ, the true idea of God, which opens the way for us to benefit from the great blessings the divine Father is pouring out to all His children every day and every hour.
The invitation to enter a Christian Science Reading Room should be so imbued with the warmth of divine Love that arguments against doing so are nullified. In his parable of the great supper, Christ Jesus had the host tell his servant to compel the people to come in (see Luke 14:16-23). It is the demand on all librarians and staff workers to make the spiritual atmosphere in the Reading Rooms so attractive that all who are receptive to the Christ-idea will feel welcome to go in. And when they do, they should feel the blessing implied in Mrs. Eddy's words, "Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God." Science and Health, p. 254;
Nearly eighty years ago Mrs. Eddy gave the order for the first Reading Room in Boston to be established. For many years she had recognized that Reading Rooms were an effective way to make the healing truth more widely known, and a number of branch churches had opened such rooms. Now, writing to The Christian Science Board of Directors, she was insistent: "Once more God thunders in your ears,—'Get a reading room in Boston and locate it in that part of the city where people will be most apt to go into it.'" Quoted in Christian Science Sentinel, July 17, 1943, p. 1267;
Our Leader had already laid the groundwork for this move. She had provided a new By-Law making it obligatory for every church to maintain a Reading Room. Here too she required that the rooms should be well located. And speaking of the librarians of The Mother Church, she called for devout Christian Scientists, well educated and free from bad habits. Later she added a section about permissible literature— clearly, everything sold or exhibited in these rooms maintained by the churches must contribute to the understanding of pure Christian Science.
The Reading Rooms are the offspring of our Leader's overwhelming desire to meet humanity's hunger and thirst for spiritual understanding. She discerned the need, and through prayer she was shown how to establish these outlets for the healing ideas of Truth to reach mankind. Divine Love is their originator, and they will fulfill their purpose today insofar as divine Love is proved to be inspiring their activity. The substance and usefulness of any function of church is the reflection of divine Love by the members who carry it forward. Omit the spirit of Truth and Love, and that Reading Room will no more inspire humanity than a coldly pragmatic lecture on how to grow corn would feed a starving child. "Love for God and man is the true incentive in both healing and teaching," Science and Health, p. 454; writes Mrs. Eddy.
Love is the quality most essential to those who staff our Reading Rooms. It is the true "welcome" sign on the door, the essence of the bright light in the window as well as of the all-the-year-round harmonious mental atmosphere conducive to communion with God. And not only the staff but all the members of the church maintaining the Reading Room contribute to its effectiveness through their love for God and man. They all help to ensure that it is a well-used place of enlightenment by using it themselves and by recognizing in their prayers that it is a place where spiritual truth is revealed and, as a consequence, freedom from error established.
The importance of keeping the mental atmosphere pure in the Reading Rooms is emphasized in the Manual through the By-Law headed "Rule of Conduct": "No objectionable pictures shall be exhibited in the rooms where the Christian Science textbook is published or sold. No idle gossip, no slander, no mischief-making, no evil speaking shall be allowed." Manual of The Mother Church, Art. XXV, Sect. 7; In deference to this rule librarians discourage symptoms of evil or disease of any kind from being discussed.
Central to the activity of the Reading Room are the Bible and the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mrs. Eddy. Many other books and periodicals—including The Christian Science Monitor—are available to read and to buy. They all have their place and usefulness. But the textbook towers above everything else except the Bible. In fact, Science and Health is the only printed item actually named in the Manual by our Leader under the heading "Reading Rooms," and we should never lose our feeling of reverence for it and for the truth that it reveals.
Over the years thousands have been healed of both mental and physical discords simply by reading Science and Health. No other book, pamphlet, leaflet, or magazine can take the place of this unique publication, and no other is needed as an introduction to it. Now available in 14 languages besides English and the edition in Braille, it offers salvation from the limitations and discords of materialism to those in need of its redeeming message. And more of these people will be apt to come into the Reading Room to find comfort and healing when church members are cherishing the Christly message, making it easily available, and earnestly longing for receptive humanity to get the blessing from it.
The welcome of the Christ is the love of God expressed in an all-embracing love of humanity. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. 11:28. Christ Jesus' promise is fulfilled most abundantly in the place where it is most expectantly believed and lovingly recognized as applying to all mankind.
One who is in need of comfort and is ready for the spiritual message of Christian Science cannot pass by a Reading Room, ignore its presence, or feel fearful of being unwelcome when it is staffed and supported by people who express this love. And when the visitor enters he immediately feels at home, loved, and loving. The leaven of Truth begins at once to do its elevating, spiritualizing work in human thought, and with this awakening to Love's ever-presence comes healing.
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