Many years ago, I was a member of a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, whose membership had a deep desire to better serve our community and share our love of spiritual healing with others. We agreed to have a series of inspirational meetings on this topic where members could share ideas gleaned from their individual study and prayer. Community outreach also became a key subject at our church business meetings.
A member suggested that we each ponder the question, What is our concept of the Reading Room?
One desire was to see our Christian Science Reading Room better utilized by the community, so a member suggested that we each ponder the question, What is our concept of the Reading Room? At a follow-up meeting, someone shared this thought-provoking concept: that the foundation of the Reading Room is good Samaritan qualities (see Luke 10:25–37), rather than simply a physical place. We then discussed the qualities of the biblical good Samaritan—warmth, compassion, unselfed love, alertness to others’ needs, and a readiness to help meet those needs. We also discussed how important it was to see the members of our community as God’s precious ideas, fashioned in His likeness, and know that therefore it was natural for them to be receptive to the spiritual blessings offered by the Reading Room.
Praying from this standpoint was a wonderful reminder that the spiritual qualities that Church embodies, such as love and usefulness, are forever intact and being actively expressed. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in the Christian Science textbook, “Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 269). We must look beyond the material aspects of a Reading Room and discern its spiritual purpose and potential, and this is what we strove to do in our prayers.
During these months of focused prayer, I sensed that a clearer and holier purpose for our branch church was unfolding to all of us, and that this unity of purpose was leading us to take practical steps to better serve our community. For example, more members began serving in the Reading Room, and we adjusted our business hours to better meet the perceived needs of our community. We were now rethinking our motives for our activities. One could say we moved from a checklist approach to one of spiritual self-examination, where motive and receptivity to spiritual inspiration were important elements of church activity. I frequently pondered this statement from our textbook: “Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way” (p. 326). This helped me trust God to direct us in our church activities.
Now, we were going out in prayer to those in need, rather than just waiting for them to come to the Reading Room and our church.
Fruitage from our study and prayer-led outreach was evidenced in many wonderful ways. Use of the Reading Room grew from a trickle to a steady flow. Visitors included people from non-Christian faiths, including Islam. A woman who lived in the building next door began using the Reading Room regularly and purchased her own set of audio CDs of Science and Health. Also, more visitors were coming to our church services. In response to this, we reviewed the By-Law in the Manual of The Mother Church entitled “Testimonials” (p. 47) to guide us in sharing our testimonies at Wednesday testimony meetings; and we had inspiring discussions on what makes a testimony valuable to newcomers.
The good Samaritan of Christ Jesus’ parable went to the man in need. Now, we were going out in prayer to those in need, rather than just waiting for them to come to the Reading Room and our church. It was such a joy to pray together with fellow members in this unselfish, holy work of better discerning our neighbors’ needs—and of listening for spiritual inspiration on how to meet those needs, while sharing the truths of spiritual being with our community.