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The importance of the Reading Room

From the November 1994 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Have you ever considered the fact that a Christian Science Reading Room exists to alert the community that human experience does not exist in a realm separate from God's government? A Reading Room can be thought of as the leaven of Truth and Love at work, permeating the neighborhood with a sense of Christ's new appearing, bringing healing and order to every aspect of human life. (Of course, it isn't the Reading Room that does this, but the prayer of those manning it and supporting it!) Christ, Truth, reveals that the human and the divine actually coincide. Jesus and later his disciples began their ministry by preaching ". . . the kingdom of God is at hand." Mark 1:15 The Reading Room is a place where this evangelical work continues within the world today.

The belief that there is a disconnection between human experience and the Divine can result in much effort to establish a connection that already exists. Conscious being, like a pool produced by a spring, is the product of Soul, Spirit. The union between Soul and man is permanent and unalterable. The true nature and character of man are defined by Soul, God, who sustains man's existence. Consider the spring and the pool. If the spring stopped, the pool inevitably would go dry. The immortal activity of Soul prevents man from going dry. Whenever we look back at the source and cause of our being, we see the glory, power, perfection, majesty, and goodness of God, and then we realize, as Jesus revealed, that all this—the kingdom of God—constitutes the actual substance of our lives, even in what we call human experience.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, was organized "to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." Manual of The Mother Church, p. 17 Part of the enormous significance of Jesus' life for humanity is that it reveals the coincidence of the human and the divine. What's another way of saying this? God's intent, His will, is made fully manifest in spiritual man—in his life and being. Consequently, in proportion as Christ—which reveals what God knows of Himself and of His creation, man and the universe—permeates our consciousness, we discover that every aspect of our human existence correlates with the divine model established by God. From one perspective, Christ appears to transform life; healing, harmony, purity, and justice appear in our lives. From another perspective, the eternal union or oneness of God and man has been realized and remains apparent.

Christ, Truth, is God's message continuously coming to human consciousness, revealing humanity embraced in all the glory of divine Love. This spiritual sense of being destroys suffering, for it deprives it of any cause. (Suffering's supposed "spring," the belief that man is separated from God or outside the influence of Christ, dries up. And if the spring dries, what happens to everything we thought came out of it?) As Christ convinces us that we are in truth God's man and that man coexists with God, the eternal Principle, we see and experience health, order, goodness, and love. Thus, we prove that man reflects the perfection and activity of God. Divine Science enables us more and more to see man as he is known to God—and the better we see this, the more aware we are that we and all "be" this.

Now, we cannot keep this realization to ourselves. In fact, experience shows that it withers on the vine whenever we do. Christ not only instructs us, it commissions us to preach the gospel and to heal the sick. Mrs. Eddy notes in Science and Health: "Those, who are willing to leave their nets or to cast them on the right side for Truth, have the opportunity now, as aforetime, to learn and to practise Christian healing. The Scriptures contain it. The spiritual import of the Word imparts this power. But, as Paul says, 'How shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?' If sent, how shall they preach, convert, and heal multitudes, except the people hear?" Science and Health, pp. 271-272 The Reading Room is a center for this Christian activity.

So the Reading Room is not just a quiet space for study, nor is it a historical archive, a collection of books and periodicals for the church's membership and interested members of the public. The Reading Room comes closer to fulfilling its spiritual mission when we see that it is intended to illustrate the coincidence of the human and the divine. It is a point in the community where the revelation of divine Love is occurring. It is where the healing power of God's Word is being acknowledged and expressed. In many ways, it is like the star of Bethlehem leading mankind to Christ's new appearing. It is the main distribution point of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.

The Reading
Room comes closer
to fulfilling its
spiritual mission
when we see that
it is intended
to illustrate the
of the human
and the divine.

The Reading Room gives notice to its community that Scriptural prophecy has been fulfilled. The promised Comforter, Christ's second appearing, has come; and the proof that this is true is seen in the healing works of the members of Churches of Christ, Scientist, in that community.

No one in this century has seen more clearly than did Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, both the possibility and necessity for an understanding of Jesus' words to coincide with the doing of his works: reforming the sinner and healing the sick. In a letter to a branch church, she wrote, "Christianity is the summons of divine Love for man to be Christlike—to emulate the words and the works of our great Master." The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 148 In another article, she wrote, "Christian Science is more than a prophet or a prophecy: it presents not words alone, but works,—the daily demonstration of Truth and Love." Miscellaneous Writings, p. 373 The consciousness of Christ, Truth, brings forth the effects of Christ: healing and salvation.

The Reading Room attendant reflects the divine Spirit that is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." Hab. 1:13 Beholding Christ's new appearing through Christian Science, he or she bears witness to the scientific fact that man is God's creation, and so nurtures healing. Those who serve in the Reading Room have learned that there is nothing holier than God's message of Truth and Love presented by their pastor, the Holy Bible and Science and Health. They have felt "the power of the Word" Poems, p. 75 and realize its ability to satisfy those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness" and to comfort those "that mourn." Matt. 5:6, 4 They recognize the Reading Room as a place of life and light, where people may be found, perhaps figuratively "walking, and leaping, and praising God" Acts 3:8 in response to His healing power.

The more we glimpse and demonstrate the spiritual mission of the Reading Room, the more it serves as the light of the world. The less we acknowledge that mission, the dustier and sleepier it appears. The location of a Reading Room and the hours it is open are a telling barometer of the church members' love for divine Science and their recognition that it is the promised Comforter to their community and to this age. Finding a Reading Room and finding it open shouldn't in itself be a miracle! A dormant Reading Room is yielding to animal magnetism's claim that Christ is absent. When animal magnetism's claims are uncovered, Christian Scientists naturally protest! And when our protest is followed by works, we and the race are benefited.

The first assignment a friend had in a branch church was to serve in the Reading Room on Saturday afternoons during the summer. He was told "No one comes in then," and so it proved. After a couple of weeks the thought came to him "I'm being lied to. I'm being asked to believe that our pastor has no more work to do here. That all who are spiritually hungry, all who are sick or in trouble of any kind, have had their needs met." That was obviously untrue. Is the Comforter—God's revelation of Truth, available through our textbook, Science and Health— unneeded or unnecessary? Hardly! Today it seems to be needed more than ever. My friend recognized at that moment that the Comforter is here, that it has a mission to fulfill and is active now.

Very soon after this, someone came in the door and said apologetically, "I don't know why I am here." My friend replied, "It is because you need this book." He showed her Science and Health, and that was the case. That was the end of inactive Saturday afternoons.

Jesus' life, his words and works, illustrate the coincidence of the human and the divine. The Church of Christ, Scientist, exists to commemorate his life. Christian Science has made us spiritually alive, alive with love. This love makes unselfish service to God natural. It's our highest priority. We love proving our faith by our works; and however uncertain our first steps of service may be, the Comforter takes us by the hand and reveals to us the proof of God's presence and power.

Richard C. Bergenheim is a contributing editor to the Journal, the Christian Science Sentinel, and The Herald of Christian Science.

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