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Church—a beacon of light

From the January 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal

A little girl I know was fascinated by the beautiful floodlit church in her town near Oxford, England. One night when she passed by with her father, it was in total darkness. Astonished by this, she asked her father what had happened to the church. “Why, the lights have been turned off,” he replied. “Lights?” said the little one, “I thought it was lit by the glory of God!”

I love this story because it reminds me of how much church has been a beacon for me, lighting my way through life’s ups and downs.

In my formative years I regularly attended a Christian Science Sunday School. I found what I learned so very practical and useful in my everyday life. It surely was a guiding light on so many occasions when I needed a sense of direction and support.

In my late teens and early twenties Christian Science was not a priority for me, and my church attendance dwindled. All this suddenly changed with the birth of my first child. My pregnancy was a time of deep soul-searching, and right up to the time of the birth I couldn’t claim in all honesty whether I was a Christian Scientist or not. 

On entering hospital for the birth, I had to sign a form and state my religion. I did not want to commit myself and struggled with what I should put. But I eventually wrote “Christian Science.” In retrospect, I feel that decision was a life-changer.

From that moment on it was as if scales had fallen from my eyes and I saw everything in a new light. I suddenly had a yearning to know everything I could about Christian Science. It felt as if I knew nothing and needed to start again from scratch.

When the baby was six weeks old, we moved to a new town. One of my first errands was to check out the local Church of Christ, Scientist, and its Reading Room. When I dropped by the Reading Room, I bombarded the attendant with questions. She was very patient with me and gave me lots of magazines and pamphlets on Christian Science to take home, which I devoured. Several of the church members “took me on,” so to speak, and I would visit with them once a week, with the baby in tow, and I continued asking questions. 

Whereas at one time I might have been critical of these dear people, I now felt full of gratitude and appreciation for all they were doing. For years I had been preoccupied with myself and my social activities, while these folks had been keeping the church and Reading Room open and going strong so that the likes of me could find Christian Science, the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46), when I was ready to receive it. They were there for me, and it was humbling! I had found my spiritual home, and I never looked back. What they were expressing was the true concept of Church, a structure built not by man—of bricks and mortar—but by God, of Truth and Love. 

Such is the strength of the spiritual framework of Church that when we lean upon it, we are sure to find healing.

And I found at church such genuine love expressed among the members that I could not help but recognize the spiritual foundation on which church is established. Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and the Leader of Christian Science, writes, “The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 113). Divine Love is at the core of church, and Love is its very essence.

Our dear Master, Christ Jesus, built his church on the solid foundation, or “rock,” of Christ, Truth. This structure is not cold, clinical, or bound by tradition, but alive with the warmth and continuity of divine Life and Love, healing the sick and comforting the comfortless. As Jesus and his disciples demonstrated, healing by the wayside and in humble homes, no one can be left outside Church, which Mrs. Eddy defines as “the structure of Truth and Love; …” (Science and Health, p. 583).

Peter and John illustrated this, healing a lame man at the gate of the temple called Beautiful (see Acts 3:1–8). The poor man was not in the temple, perhaps because he was forbidden from entering. Some Bible scholars believe it was considered unclean under Jewish law for a crippled man to be in the building where people congregated for worship. Nevertheless, Peter and John raised the man up, healing him in the name of Jesus Christ. To me, this symbolizes Jesus’ perception of the true temple in its spiritual sense as “the superstructure of Truth” and “the shrine of Love” (Science and Health, p. 595), within which everyone belongs and is blessed.

This structure has been my mainstay through good times and bad, giving me spiritual support and sustenance during some harrowing experiences. I have attended church services in tears and found not only strength but also peace from the Christian Science Bible Lesson-Sermons, the hymns, and the uplifting atmosphere of thought. I have gone when I felt my life was falling apart and have sat there knowing I was in my right place. Such is the strength of the spiritual framework of Church that when we lean upon it, we are sure to find healing, for divine Love meets every human need (see Science and Health, p. 494). 

The opening sentence of the Preface of Science and Health says, “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (p. vii). I’ve not only found this to be true for myself, but also that my blessings are doubled. Because when I lean on God, I have also been able to help fellow seekers for Truth, which in turn has greatly blessed me. 

Moreover, as I have embraced and loved Church, so I have felt it has loved and embraced me. The richness of my experience has been in exact proportion to my appreciation and gratitude for all that Church is and does for mankind. Though the institutional expression of Church may take on different forms through the years, and certain outward appearances may alter, its real structure is unchanged and unchanging. It is, like Christ, “the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Just as a mountain spring refreshes the thirsty, Church renews and refreshes every sincere seeker of Truth. As God’s idea, it is complete, lacking nothing—running over with spiritual abundance and an affluence of right ideas. We don’t have to fix it, meddle with it, or try to improve it. Love’s structure is perfect, eternal, grounded in divine Spirit. 

I like to think of our Leader’s Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist—its services, Sunday School, Reading Room, and all its activities—as God’s blessing on mankind, which all can appreciate as being “lit by the glory of God.”

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