The Reading Room maintained by each branch Church of Christ, Scientist, can never be viewed as merely a location where Christian Science literature is dispensed. We know it is much more than that. It is one of the loving provisions for the church's outreach embraced in our Manual. It is not apart from the church, but an integral part of it; they are one in essence, as the outward manifestation of the spiritual idea of "Church." See Science and Health by Mrs. Eddy, 583:12-13.
We know too that no matter how financially well-off our particular branch church is, or how fine the Reading Room location, unless we reach out and embrace our community as brothers, cherished sons, praying "now are we the sons of God," I John 3:2. the location in town is purposeless. The prayerful outreach the Reading Room symbolizes is what matters, and unless our Reading Room is thus active in us, it is dead.
A Reading Room uncherished spiritually, and thus unprepared, can be likened to a shop with a sign outside reading "Free food here"; though when the inquirer enters, he is merely given a discourse on foods. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, said, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." II Cor. 3:6. Mrs. Eddy, referring to the ancient healers, writes, "So divinely imbued were they with the spirit of Science, that the lack of the letter could not hinder their work; and that letter, without the spirit, would have made void their practice." Science and Health, p. 145. She tells us also: "The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science,— pulseless, cold, inanimate." Ibid., p. 113. Our Reading Room needs spiritual love, and the librarian needs it too.
Where no progress is apparent, we may be apt to blame something outside ourselves and call this something resistance to the truth. But where is the resistance? Is it perhaps in our own reluctance to cherish this activity of the church as we should? Reluctance may masquerade as lack of time. Time, or rather, professed lack of it, is the great human excuser! How many hours are used commuting between office and home, how many minutes waiting in a bank or supermarket queue, or at a bus stop? Praying time, surely!
Allot to the Reading Room, say, the time spent at the bus stop or in commuting. That's a good start. Stay with it. Consistency will effectively nullify that "no time" claim. True views of Reading Room, its purpose, and the community will become progressively more spontaneous.
Reluctance to undertake such prayer may come as a feeling that everyone else is supporting the Reading Room, so we needn't for today. What if we all thought that? Each Reading Room represents a branch church's loving outreach to its community. If consistent prayer-based loving is lacking, what outreach is there? The Bible warns us of the need to be mentally alert. "By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through." Eccl. 10:18.
The word "hands," used metaphorically, denotes spiritual power.See Science and Health, p. 38. We must look within for the answers. The teachings of Christian Science stress the importance of self-examination, the routing of any deterrent to our spiritual progress, however innocently guised, and the need to stay determinedly on the side of good, God, the only power.
If activity in the Reading Room flags, we may hear the recommendation that each member visit it on a regular basis. Of course using the facilities of our Reading Room and staying to pray for the fulfillment of the Reading Room's purpose in the community are right things to do; but if our visit is prompted only by the desire to make activity manifest to public view, so that visitors will be drawn in, is it honest enough? Are we attempting to give an impression to the community that is not spontaneously genuine? Mortal sense would try to push us into renewed physical busyness; the greater need is for quiet individual prayer.
Then, too, the librarian should never fall into the trap of assuming that the members are inactive (even uninterested) because they do not use the Reading Room much. He or she may then feel unwitting resentment about this. Such a reaction is to be guarded against. What we are giving to our Reading Room is what should concern us, and we must be careful to let nothing detract from our gratitude for what the membership is giving through its prayers.
Perhaps a membership has worked hard to establish the Reading Room, appointed a librarian to man it, and then mentally sat back and thought "Well done." Are we sitting back complacently, thinking how blessed we are to have an able and willing librarian, and stopping there? Remember, the Reading Room symbolizes divine Love's embrace of man as well as the continuing outreach of each and every member. How effective and healing it is depends, therefore, on each and every member. It is very much a "family" affair.
In this work, a correct identification of man is very important. It is important for our own safety, the safety of our Reading Room, and our brother's healing. Whoever steps through those doors should be immediately recognized and greeted for what he is—a child of God! To be awake to the fact that the mortal presentation is an inverted image of the real man, having no actuality, no substance in Truth, clears the way for us to behold the perfect man who exists, right there, to honor God, to mirror forth what He is.
Man is inseparable from God as His witness. In no way can man relate to a material body or an aggressive or sick mentality. Nor can someone with an ugly character be changed to eventually become a son of God; man is God's reflection. Right now he declares Him. Every appearance of mortality is a lie about God—a lie we challenge and destroy through recognition of the real.
Christ Jesus cut right through the mortal presentation and beheld the real man, with glorious results. He saw the Soul-created identity of those who came to him. Before such vision the shadows fled, and people rejoiced. Humanly, this was seen as healing upon healing.
How vital is our acknowledgment of man in God's image—and in particular our greeting to all those who enter our Reading Room! Dare we be less than spiritually prepared? When we subordinate the false claim called a mortal and love the man we then perceive, he too will be more apt to recognize the Christ reflected in us; and our Reading Room will be operating in its true sense.
It may happen that those serving in the Reading Room have to meet evil's suggestions of vandalism, intimidation, and so on. We should instantly claim our unity with God, for to feel separated from Him is to stultify our loving and limit our demonstration of Truth. We can be alive to the fact that we are never alone. How can we be, when God is omnipresent Mind, our Mind? An awareness of this nearness, even just a glimpsed recognition of this companionship, is a priceless thing. We should cultivate and cherish it, for such understanding has the power of Truth behind it.
Because Jesus was alert to his unity with God, he could, when threatened, pass through the midst of "them" (misrepresentations of man?) and go safely about his Father's business, as recorded in the fourth chapter of Luke. So too can we. The daily prayerful support each member gives the Reading Room will help the librarian to master challenging suggestions. This work should include the realization of the total protection enfolding those in the Almighty's service. And just think of the implications of that word "Almighty"!
Our Reading Room and its loving outreach are safe and effective when both librarian and membership are actively at their posts of duty. This purposeful unity shows that we really care. This is Reading Room in action, and this unity will manifest itself in a spiritually motivated and competent staff, ever-increasing genuine inquiries, and—it follows—church growth.
So the responsibility is on each and every one of us to be living bricks in the structure of our Reading Room in order that, when the hungry come for the promised spiritual food they are not given a discourse of the cold letter. The activity of our beloved Reading Room must be so vital in each of us, so prepared for, that the visitor is indeed given food—the bread of Life. Then he will leave with some recognition of his divine selfhood and a yearning to learn more.
My doctrine shall drop as the rain,
my speech shall distil as the dew,
as the small rain upon the tender herb,
and as the showers upon the grass:
because I will publish the name of the Lord:
ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment:
a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.