I’ve come to appreciate the inspired wisdom that led Mary Baker Eddy to found Christian Science Reading Rooms. These Reading Rooms serve their neighborhoods by making the truths of the Science of Christianity available through the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Bible, and other resources provided by The Christian Science Publishing Society. And a librarian is on hand to help individuals access these materials.
Over the years I’ve served in Reading Rooms, I’ve come to see more clearly that the Reading Room is all about love. God’s love for man. The church members’ love for each other and their community reflects divine Love. The Reading Room is a place anyone can come in and feel blessed. Divine Love is expressed through every resource, article, and activity.
Many people have come in and commented that there is something inspiring and different—occasionally they even say “healing”—about the space. This makes sense, as the Reading Room is divinely impelled and attests to God’s love for man. And God’s love is powerful enough to transform and redeem any challenging human situation.
The Reading Room serves the community by helping people gain a greater awareness that they are loved and lovable as God’s children. It is a continuation of Christ Jesus’ mission. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy states, “Jesus aided in reconciling man to God by giving man a truer sense of Love, the divine Principle of Jesus’ teachings, and this truer sense of Love redeems man from the law of matter, sin, and death by the law of Spirit,—the law of divine Love” (p. 19).
When people come into the Reading Rooms with labels, helping them feel God’s love can dissolve those labels.
One analogy I’ve found helpful regarding this transformation relates to the labels we put on books in the Reading Room. Sometimes we need to remove the label because we need to update the price or description, or there is a mistake, and the labels can seem tough to remove. But we found a cleaning solvent that could be applied, and, given time for this solvent to do what it does, the label dissolves and is easy to remove (though sometimes multiple applications and patience are key). When it’s done, the book is clean. In the same way, when people come into the Reading Rooms with labels about themselves that aren’t good or factual, helping them feel God’s love can dissolve those labels.
There is a statement in Science and Health that describes this process: “In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error,—self-will, self-justification, and self-love,—which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death” (p. 242).
Love casts out fear
There are many ways this transformation can take place, and all center around the power and presence of divine Love, God. To check if I’m contributing to the healing atmosphere of the Reading Room, I’ve found it helpful to ask if I’m seeing someone as unlovable, or unloved. If so, I really need to feel the atmosphere of divine Love myself. The Bible tells us that perfect Love casts out fear (see I John 4:18). This perfect Love does more than just soothe and leave someone in a precarious or dangerous situation. Instead, a greater realization of God’s ever-present love removes any sense of a competing power. In infinite Love, where could anything come from to attack, or how could there be any place for anything to hide?
One time, a couple came to the Reading Room before we had opened for the day. They were very anxious. It turned out they felt their hotel room was possessed by a spirit, and they showed what they said was photo evidence. They wanted to buy a Bible. What started out as a simple purchase led to reading the Bible together and assurance of God’s governance. They left noticeably calmed, and they took some Christian Science literature along with their Bible.
Love guides and comforts
This love of God is available to all—staff and visitors alike—at all times, equipping, guiding, and providing. While the Reading Room isn’t a place where God is more present than other places, it’s one place in our communities that attests to the power and presence of Love so clearly. People coming in can find out more about Love, and read the years and years of healings recorded in the Christian Science periodicals. Sometimes I tell visitors that the magazines are a “cheering section” declaring that Christian Science works and that God delivers.
In some cases, visitors already know what they are looking for. In others cases, God equips and guides the staff as they find the precise ideas to share or resources to point out. God is the source of salvation, and God can provide the correct way to connect with visitors and meet their needs, even if they are looking for something specific the Reading Room doesn’t sell. This passage from Science and Health shows that it’s God who provides for all, and not just to those of a certain faith or those who already trust God: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’ ” (p. 13).
I’ve found it really helpful to take a spiritual stand as visitors arrive. It could be as simple as thinking about how much courage it took for someone to come in.
A good example of this happened when a woman came in asking for directions. While the staff members were looking up directions, the woman shared that it was ironic that she came to a religious place. When asked about that, she explained that she was angry at God. She and her husband were moving, and they had serious issues selling their house. One staff member recommended an article almost directly relating to her situation—the author of the piece had prayed about a housing issue. Once this article was described, the woman wanted to see the article, and she also took the phone number for the Christian Science practitioner who had written the article. She later agreed that she wasn’t lost—that God had brought her into the Reading Room. She left comforted and called back within the hour full of gratitude. The article was perfect, and she shared how her husband had just been searching on the internet about what to do when your faith is tested.
Love reminds us of who we are
Love also helps us know the depth of love God has for His children. No label need define us. Science and Health says this: “Love, redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light” (p. 516). God, divine Love, makes clear that the perception of man as unloved or unlovable just doesn’t fit. God’s love is like light that melts away shadows. I’ve found it really helpful to take a spiritual stand as visitors arrive. It could be as simple as thinking about how much courage it took for someone to come in.
Once, a visitor came into a Reading Room and was clearly agitated. She said that she didn’t want to read anything, though.
The attendant helped her listen to a short audio podcast on God’s love, and that seemed to help. Another man in the Reading Room overheard it and also shared how much he liked it. Then the woman opened up and said she couldn’t love a family member because of past hurt, and that she was burdened by a housing issue. The staff member would not agree to accept she couldn’t love—her source, God, wouldn’t allow her not to. To reinforce this, the staff member pointed out loving things the woman had done since she arrived.
The Reading Room was focusing on the theme of “loving your neighbor,” and the visitor was shown some of those theme-related resources. She so appreciated what she ended up reading that she shared them with the other visitor who had overheard the podcast. That’s one of the joys of working in a Reading Room—seeing visitors help other visitors. During this time, the woman got a call, and her housing situation was resolved. She thanked God and then us.
As I mentioned with the labels on the books analogy, sometimes the labels require many applications of the cleaning solvent before they completely come off. Doing something similar in thought, applying the “solvent of Love,” requires patience on the Reading Room attendant’s part. It means constantly reminding oneself that God’s love doesn’t make or sustain error in any way. We can continue to witness to the good being expressed and apply the concept that God’s infinite love doesn’t allow anything unlovely.
I’ll share one last example. Early in my time serving in Reading Rooms, the staff made efforts to witness only good with an individual for many months. For the six months I had served there, he rarely said anything and seemed as if he was under the influence of drugs. Yet, he was respectful and stayed awake; he just came in and read the Bible. One day he came up to the desk and said, “I feel your prayers.” That was a turning point. He went on to get a job, and he found housing. He’d felt God’s love. He continued being kind and sharing his humor with us, for which we were so grateful.
The trust that divine Love can and will dissolve even stubborn errors is well matched with the patience for this to happen in God’s own way.
It’s these examples that reassure me the Reading Room is a place where God’s love uplifts thoughts and transforms.