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The tender embrace of Church

From the September 2022 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Years ago, while working in a military hospital, I sat quietly in front of samples of blood reserves in my care to be given out in an emergency situation. Tests had been done on these samples, and the results looked fine. But as I looked at the samples in front of me again, suddenly a question rushed in: What is this all about­—is this what decides life? The questions continued: Who am I to do this work? What is it that enables me to make a final decision that affects others? Sure, I was trained, had studied for years, but was I prepared for an emergency situation when someone’s life depended on the choices I made?

At that time, although I had heard about Christian Science, I did not know enough to understand it. Yet, I felt a deep yearning for peace. Silently and deeply, I called out to God to help me, as I had done at other times. In these situations, I never felt I was getting answers telling me which medical decision was correct. But I often felt a definite peace and the assurance that there was far more going on spiritually than I understood at the time. This felt incredibly good, heartwarming, and like something I could rely on and get to know better. I had experiences like this again and again in my work. 

Years later, when I had found Christian Science and recognized it as the truth, I visited a Church of Christ, Scientist, for the first time. When the congregation was invited to pray silently, I looked around, and all of a sudden, there was exactly the same mighty feeling of peace, warmth, and presence I’d felt when I had prayed at work. I felt as if I was on holy ground! I was deeply touched by the recognition that the tender embrace I had felt through prayer is true Church. This is what had embraced me when I was like a stranger in a foreign land, when my heart had yearned for answers in those emergency situations. 

Right there, I was reminded of the spiritual definition of Church given in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle. 

The tender embrace I felt through prayer is true Church.

“The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick” (p. 583).

My church experience allowed me to see how this idea had always led my thinking through my many years of seeking—how it had comforted and strengthened my heart to go on, to ask, to search, and to receive answers that contributed to my spiritual progress, until I was ultimately able to recognize the value of attending church. And now, it felt as if I had come home.

While I had understood church to be a place set aside for worship, I saw that it is also set right in the midst of daily life, and is ready to touch, open, and stir thought to find what is true substance, to discover what life is all about, and to understand how safe we are in God, who is divine Life. I also found that it is impossible to be touched by the idea of true spiritual Life and not feel Love. As Mrs. Eddy writes, “Love alone is Life” (Poems, p. 7). Indeed, they must be one. 

Today, this explains the peace I had felt in the lab—the idea of true Life being Love, and both of these spiritual, unlimited by matter or by human personalities and decisions. Life and Love are infinite and can also be described as Principle. From this Principle proceeds the tender and mighty embrace of Church, which has found me, and taken me in, and answered my questions through its unique, dear Pastor, the Bible and Science and Health. I’m forever grateful! 

Church and her infinite, loving embrace will continue teaching us individually and collectively those lessons we need, until there are no more questions to be answered, and we all are awake and satisfied as the reflection of the one true, indestructible, eternal God, who is incorporeal Life, supreme Spirit, divine Love.

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