Why is it important that a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, maintain a Christian Science Reading Room (see Mary Baker Eddy, Church Manual, p. 63)? Why should every Christian Scientist actively support Reading Rooms?
Mrs. Eddy explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that Christian Science is the Word of God, showing the infinitude of God as Love and the perfection of each individual as God’s image and likeness. This Word of God, the Comforter or divine Science, is the law of God’s universal goodness, ever operative and ever available. The Gospels show that Christ Jesus comprehended this law perfectly, demonstrated it by reforming and healing people, and promised that it would always be here for each to discover.
The first tenet of Christian Science says that Christian Scientists “take the inspired Word of the Bible as [their] sufficient guide to eternal Life” (Science and Health, p. 497). As we commit ourselves more fully to that tenet, we cherish communing with God and with the Pastor of the Church of Christ, Scientist—the Bible and Science and Health.
Christian Scientists pray daily: “ ‘Thy kingdom come;’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” (Church Manual, p. 41). A branch church’s Reading Room is a natural expression of this prayer.
The Reading Room provides a space, and especially a mental atmosphere, where the Word of God can be received. But why Reading Rooms?
When you read something attentively, you engage with that text. Reading the Word of God can be a holy experience where you are feeling your oneness with God, quietly knowing His reassuring comfort. More than with ink or pixels communicating information from one human mind to another, when you read the Word of God with a deep thirst to understand God and oneself as His reflection and to live that reality in daily life, you open your heart to hear thoughts from God. You are ready to be changed, including being morally reformed and physically healed.
That Word of God takes the form of the Pastor of the Church of Christ, Scientist. It can also come in the Christian Science Bible Lesson, a hymn, a compact disc of worship music, or an encouraging, insightful comment from a Reading Room librarian based on spiritual understanding. But in every instance, the individual interacting with the Word with humility and receptivity makes the Reading Room special and justifies a branch church’s devoting prayer, time, and other resources to maintaining that mental atmosphere. Those praying for and working in a Reading Room hold it up in thought as a place set apart for such reading and listening. The prayers of the members support the person being helped, either in the Reading Room or when using materials from it elsewhere.
For a branch church to have an effective Reading Room, the whole membership should pray to uphold that atmosphere. Article XXI, Section 1, of the Church Manual talks about a Reading Room being well located. Section 2 of the same Article requires that the librarian of The Mother Church’s Reading Room be devout and well educated, have no bad habits, and have experience in the Field. Section 3 talks about literature in the Reading Room consisting of Science and Health, as well as other works by Mary Baker Eddy, in addition to other literature that The Christian Science Publishing Society publishes or sells. Article XXV, Section 7, requires that there be no objectionable pictures displayed in the Reading Room.
These are definite rules to make a Reading Room effective. But to truly put a Reading Room at the service of the community, members must be living the spirit of those Manual provisions. For example, a member might ask: “Am I ‘well educated’ about the true nature of God and His reflection? Have I eliminated ‘objectionable pictures’ from my thought—images of illness, imperfection, and hopelessness? Am I open to having ‘experience in the Field’ by praying for myself and others?” When the Reading Room is grounded in the prayerful living of its members, itself anchored in the Word of God, that Reading Room becomes something more attractive and healing than simply a human place. Such consecration lifts a Reading Room to being well located, stocked with materials provided by the Publishing Society, fresh, and inviting. It leads to a good design of space, attractive window displays, and loving workers—in short, to everything necessary for a Reading Room to be effective in its community.
Some years ago, when in a developing country, I asked how Christian Scientists share Christian Science in a place with a low rate of literacy. My host replied that you don’t have to be literate to experience healing. Clearly, he and his fellow church members were grasping that Christian Science, more than words, is the Word, present to heal all.
Because the members of a branch church maintain through their prayers a holy atmosphere where healing is found through the Word of God, does that mean that Reading Rooms should be subdued places? Actually, the most successful Reading Rooms that I’ve visited have much activity.
I know two Reading Rooms where the workers pray almost constantly for the community. This contributes not only to their attracting members of the community to that healing atmosphere, but also to those community users enthusiastically telling others about this great resource. In the one instance I overheard a community member telling a friend all about the Reading Room at a Reading Room open house. In the other, community members come to the Reading Room because they have been sent there by a regular user who isn’t a church member and who doesn’t go to church.
What a joy for a branch church to maintain a Reading Room—a place made holy and healing through the prayers and lives of that branch’s members.
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