Week 54: "Our branch church always has a difficult time finding members who are willing to serve as readers. How can we prayerfully handle this resistance to reading?”

Response 1: Beth Schaefer

Handling the resistance to reading has two parts: lifting the burden from the role of reader by shifting the focus from who reads to the message that is being read, and learning as a membership how to love and care for its readers.

Resistance to being a reader comes from a misunderstanding of the role of the reader–the reader isn’t the Pastor … the Bible and Science and Health constitute the Pastor. Changing the focus from trying to find a reader to loving the Pastor can lift off some of the unnecessary burden placed on being a reader.

We all make time for what we love! The expectation that time is a deterrent can be reversed by changing the membership’s thought model about it. We all do love spending time with the Pastor! It enriches every aspect of our life!

The requirement that the reader “read understandingly and be well-educated” isn’t only a matter of human knowledge but also of recognizing the spiritual truth behind the words (Manual, p 32). One of the most memorable readers I heard was one who didn’t have a lot of education by the world’s standards but read with a depth that no amount of book learning could give. She had been healed by the Pastor and it was evident!

Jesus picked his disciples not because they fulfilled the world’s model of worthiness—they weren’t the intellectuals or religious leaders of his day—but because they had humble hearts willing to follow the Christ. If we are willing, God will make us able!

Lastly, the spirit with which the membership supports and selects its readers can help cultivate a receptivity to and acceptance of the position. It’s not enough to elect the reader; we need to make sure the reader has the support they need to grow and the love of the church that allows them to flourish. There is nothing that casts a pall over a service and turns away potential readers more than a spirit of criticism. Criticism is the result of receiving the Word through the material senses–looking to the reader rather than the Pastor to inspire.

As churches make room in their hearts to support the spiritual growth of their members through the love of the Pastor, we will find the position of reader being filled by willing hearts and eager readers!

Response 2: Evan Mehlenbacher

This is a classic scenario for demonstrating supply! From the premise of your question, it appears the problem is a lack of willing readers. But the greater opportunity is to demonstrate all needs of your branch church met by God, including a sufficient number of qualified members to be readers.

Paul wrote in II Corinthians, “God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others” (II Cor. 9:8, Contemporary English Version). A branch church exists to do “good things for others,” to serve its community, and to bring healing to its neighborhood. Divine Love is its basis, support, and sustenance. Divine Love provides whatever the church needs to prosper and fulfill its mission, including desire, willingness, inspiration, courage, confidence, ability, and sufficient members to serve as readers.

You can pray and know that your church is fully supplied by the abundant resources, capacities, and abilities of divine Love. There is no lack in Love. There is no shortage of time, hesitation, fear, selfishness, lack of understanding, and any excuses, complaints, worries, or doubts, in a church sustained by infinite Love.

It’s spiritually right for an active branch to have sufficient members to fill the post of reader, not because any human opinion said so, but because it completes the outward expression of church. The God-inspired Manual stipulates this as essential to conducting branch church services. Whatever vision God is responsible for creating, God follows through with support to ensure its fulfillment. Just as divine Love multiplied a scant quantity of loaves and fishes to feed thousands of hungry mouths, divine Love can multiply inspiration and desire within your membership that leads to workers ready, willing, and able to read.

  1. I am struck by the practical nature of "This Week's Question" and the somewhat "ethereal" quality of the two "official" responses. This does not mean that I think that the responses aren't very good, in their own way, but that I, personally, always seem to prefer a more "concrete" approach to a situation. That is just the way I am I suppose.

    I remember, going back many years, to February, 1961. My mother was going to read her first Sunday as Second Reader in First Church of Christ Scientist, Rutherford, NJ (the church closed back in the late 1990's). The Sunday morning came, and with it, a very heavy snow storm. I remember that the drifts were well over three feet deep (or more). Our neighbor, who had a large truck, gave us a ride to the church. Once there, we had to shovel our way into the church (There were two levels of stairs leading to the main entrance to shovel.) I don't recall how many people actually made it to church that morning (probably not too many), but the service went on as scheduled. (At that time, the Rutherford church was very active, with a large Sunday School and an average Sunday church attendance of around 65.)

    The points raised in the Question are very realistic: "It seems like a lot of people are afraid of the job – either that they aren’t good enough or don’t understand enough or that it will take up too much of their time." I am sure that many people who have been elected to the position of Reader (either First or Second) can relate to these feelings. To stand up in front of a congregation and "read" the Sermon can be very daunting.

    I don't mean to sound overly critical, but I have been in churches where, because of the poor quality of the reading, it has been very difficult to make it to the end of the service. Either I am overcome by an excruciating sense of boredom or I am fighting the tendency to doze off. To listen to 35 minutes of reading, in itself can present an issue, but coupled with a droning monotony in the quality of the reading, it is somewhat overwhelming.

    Some smaller churches and societies have tackled the problem of finding people to take up the position of Reader (particularly First Reader) by making these positions rotational. This way the position does not become an onerous burden, but many members can share the responsibility. If the branch church by-laws specify a term of three years, this rule can be easily changed. To use the old adage, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

  2. I wish the two responses included some "proof" of what they were claiming or at least some examples of good ideas that came to their own congregations when faced with a similar problem.

  3. Well, I can speak for myself and this may give some ideas to indiviudals. Whenever the idea of being elected a Reader would come up, inside I would panic because of the time committment. What changed my thought was falling in love with The Bible Lesson. Several years ago I started taking even more time. Savoring the passages. Listening as if God himself were speaking to me when I read the Bible. And as if our Leader were speaking to me when I read Science and Health. That renewed love for the Bible Lessons quieted all my fears.

    With prayer, each church can, (like a marriage) find that burning love for this Word. This is the Word of God, and it is a living Word. The Bible Lessons are not just random readings put together to fill the pages on a Quarterly. I feel each lesson is helping to shape the human experience. God's specific word for humanity for that specific time. To read it only takes love. We all have that. The Word will do the work.

    So perhaps, the church as a whole can take up a deeper daily love of The Lesson Sermon, with faith and hope that it doesn't take greatness. It only takes sincere humility. Then, what ever is needed to present this Word to your community will come forward. Maybe next time your whole congregation will be raising their hands to be Readers.

  4. On a practical note the idea of readers taking on the job for 3 months worked for a small church in New York. Most of the eligible members had careers or traveled and couldn't commit for 2 or 3 years.

  5. I recall my first reader election, which took place shortly after I became a member of a branch church. I did not know most of the members, so I had to rely on prayer to direct my selection. It still impresses me to this day that, rather than a name, a number popped into my thought. I wrote that number on my ballot, and the corresponding member was elected and served wonderfully as first reader for the next three years.

    This says to me that it is God who selects the right one for the job, whatever that job may be. And when we trust and listen, we get the right answer.

    I have also found it helpful, going into any election where I am eligible to serve, to come in ready and willing to serve. Of course, we're not always able to serve, but when we trust God to direct our path and that of our church, the right individuals are always available. And sometimes we may be the one who is right. I have found that, when I keep my thought receptive, He takes care of the rest.

    When I was elected first reader, I was ready, and I knew it was right. And I felt the support of God and the membership everyday during my term. I worked to reach this sense of being in my perfect place and having His unlimited support before I went to the election meeting. Whenever I am able to do this, my experience is that the results are always harmonious and perfect.

  6. I agree with what has been written - about the inspiration and love guiding the eligible reader when considering election. Also the idea of the membership as a whole supporting and valuing the reader and the Bible Lesson is a wonderful one.
    However, I also like the idea of rotating terms of shorter duration than 1 year. This arrangement would make the job a shared experience among several church members.

  7. I think Beth's comment that "criticism is the result of receiving the word through the material senses, looking to the reader rather than the Pastor to inspire", if expanded, answers this question and all questions. If we are seeing lack, whether in quality or quantity, we are criticizing or finding fault and not beholding the perfect man or circumstance through our spiritual sense. This is the exercise, we are all to familiar with, and it's not always easy but we know it's the way.

  8. Brad~ Please come visit your neighbor church in Haddonfield both on Sunday and Wednesday. We have had excellent readers for many years now. Our Wednesday meeting are filled with short readings and lots of testimonies. They are joyful, filled with Christian fellowship and love. You will have a very different picture of churches than many years ago. We'd love to welcome you, as you know.

  9. I suffered with dyslexia and at 24 was only starting to learn to read when I was elected to become second reader. I was terrified that first Sunday, but I received so much loving support that I continued in the position. We all have to know that the Love of God will nurturer and guide every steep, as we learn to become 'Good English scholars.'

    Now, forty years later, I receive praise for the quality of my sensitive and expressive delivery of the Sunday lesson. It is true that I have had to work hard to achieve good reading skills, but the spiritual progress, which has followed my accepting this challenge, has allowed me to have, and share many wonderful healing.

    I have never had to turn down the position of reader when called on to make this gift to my branch church.

  10. When serving as Reader, I always spent time before coming onto the platform affirming that the Bible Lesson was the unfolding of God's Word --- not an exhibition of my personal knowledge and skills. The service that resulted from this point of view was an inspiration to me as well as the congregation. I hope anyone with doubts about accepting a Reader position will include this thought in their decision process.

  11. This is a vital question! I'm glad it was asked. It led to some deep thinking-- and deep appreciation for the responses Thanks Evan for the verse from II Corinthians. God assures that we have enough good to give.
    At first, I thought of the practical need for members to understand the language and enough about public reading to do justice to our Pastor. I still think that's important, and our Manual by-law that says Readers "shall read understandingly and be well educated" shows the value Mrs. Eddy saw in these qualities. Beth's response added to my sense that our congregations can support every member in preparing for and feeling ready to read. A workshop or Q&A session with the current Readers could help demystify the office. Bringing in a teacher of public reading skills, especially the preparation that's needed to "read understandingly," could offer fundamentals to anyone interested (or to all the members). But I also want to thank Beth for reminding us that the experience of healing and a spirit of humble gratitude goes together with being "well educated" to bring out the spirit of the readings.

    It's that spirit of humility and trust that shone through in Shelly and Mark's comments as well. Thanks to each of you for contributing to my expanded sense of what we can do as individuals and as congregations to support the work of our Readers, and the preparations we are all making to be able Readers.

  12. I am a relatively new Church Alive newsletter reader and I am curious about that fact that it is always the same person who is first to post a comment. Does Brad have special access? Sorry that this doesn't specifically address todays issue except to say I have just been elected again for a Reader's position and greatly looking forward to finding deeper meaning each time we work with and love the topics. Perhaps Brad could learn to love the WORD and not just sit there and listen but really HEAR. It is helpful for me to know that first, the readership exists as idea. And a reader is never person giving out truth, but divine Principle, Love, expressing itself as itself and understood by Mind.

  13. I think Brad was just being honest. It can be very difficult to listen to reading that inteferes with the meaning and does not come across as natural. The CS church is one of the few places that public reading takes place anymore. Reading aloud is a learned skill and Mrs. Eddy expected readers to be skilled in rendering the lesson sermon. I gained much from the time that I read but the first reader position took about 20 or so hours of my time each week. That's a chunk of time in a period when more demands are placed on people to maintain their income, take care of families, etc. Based on the substantial committment, I wish churches were willing to pay readers more than the token sum they are usually paid. That may make some individuals of modest means more willing to serve.

  14. The Question asks, "How we can prayerfully handle . . . resistance to reading". It appears to me the two responses given show several ways that our petitions to God can bring about very practical solutions to this question. Lifting a burden off, treating misunderstanding of the position, finding a humble heart, etc., are ways we can prayerfully see divine Love's solution unfold to us both individually and collectively. Good question; excellent responses!

  15. These four things -in reality one thing - will support anyone who reads:


    Love for Manual based activities
    Love for our Leader - Mrs. Eddy, Christian Science, and the Church of Christ,
    Scientist.
    Love for the community and mankind
    Love for the revelation in Science and Health.


    It is about Love reflected in love.
    It is not about "me" a personal mortal, but about "Me, God."

  16. Hi Norma,

    Welcome! The newsletter's a great way to keep up to date, and we're so glad to have you join the discussion :) Just to respond to your question quickly- we post new content for the week on Sundays, and send out the newsletter midweek on Wednesday. So sometimes people check in earlier in the week and start the discussion before the newsletter goes out for the week. No special access, just eager commenters!

    all the best,
    Inge
    Church Alive Team

  17. Loved this exchange. I love the idea of shorter/rotating terms. Frankly I think reading for three years deprives others of having the experience. Love the idea of rotating, especially on Wed. nights. If we truly do believe that the Pastor is Science and Health and the Bible then we can only be blessed by having different readers, with different approaches.One Mind infinitely expressed! I would add to Kathy's comments (#15), a 5th requirement: a deep love and honor for our Master, Christ Jesus and a desire to emulate him in his healing of all mankind. To omit that would be to have Science without Christianity. I mean no criticism here, just think it is so vital that we remember we are CHRISTIAN Scientists.

  18. Here's an aphorism that didn't come from the Bible or S&H: 'We often don't get what we want (even if we want an excellent reader) but tend to get what we deserve (i.e. what we demonstrate).' Perhaps the most important church meeting we can go to is the one in which we elect readers. If we prepare for the meeting with a deep sense of obeying God's purpose and by immolating any temptation to ignore the Rule for Motives and Acts so that our consciousness is free and clear of the materialism that would select our readers for us, we'll elect readers that meet the spiritual needs of our congregations and communities.
    Years ago, when we had few candidates for the post, our church elected a rough and tough contractor whose English was not up to broadcast standards and who did not radiate the impressive appearance of a Peter Jennings or a Dan Brokaw. Many members were appalled. How could such a rough character (and he was a character) get elected to such a post? Maybe they hadn't done enough preparatory self immolation? Before he had been reader very long, he had to introduce a lecturer and many members shuddered at the thought. But he gave a polished performance, remembering every appropriate detail of the lecturer's background and including metaphysical insights that well prepared the audience for the lecture. He was well dressed for the occasion and his demeanor on the platform was everything that could be wished. His Wednesday readings suddenly became more interesting, his pronunciation gaffes (he would insist on reading those unpronouncable biblical names!)were passed over as of the little consequence they were, and suddenly he became Our Reader ('Our' underlined and in caps). Note: Reward for becoming a Reader (even an unwilling one): spiritual growth in every aspect of life and a love from the church and community that passeth all knowledge.

  19. It is never pleasant to do a job that you do not understand. And very few of us have been trained in interpreted reading. To properly share the word of our weekly Bible Lesson, "on which the prosperity of Christian Science largely depends", the utmost skill is required. Someone needs to step up and organize a meaningful ongoing project, it is vital to the prosperity, not just the prosperity, the continuity of our cause.

    The Bible lesson Committee does a fabulous job of preparing the readings for us. But if it largely sits under the proverbial bushel it is only scratching the surface of possibilities and responsibilities.

    I recently visited a C.S. Society where the first reader was probably the most understandable, most inspired interpreter of the word that I have ever heard. When I asked him about his background he replied, "Well, I am an actor." Great training but we can certainly set in motion an effective starting program.

    Get our workers started in the right direction and there will be willing workers and much needed fruitage. We need to start doing something to fill this vital need.

  20. We are a relatively small society, and almost every single member reads. We have a calendar that we sign up on. We encourage each member to read both the Bible and SH (at different services), and do Wednesday lessons. For the new reader, we offer tutoring and practical help. We love this arrangement!!!

    In practice, I usually read First and Second, and a Wednesday night service once a month, but not always. We never have trouble getting a reader, and the entire membership is vested in the church service. The readers are excellent. If we need a reader, we mention it during announcements. Readers choose the best times for themselves and everybody is blessed.

    I have served as second reader in a large church for three years and I loved it. It was a wonderful experience, but this arrangement is flexible, inclusive, promotes spiritual growth, and gives special unity to the membership.

  21. This question has been annually ever present at our Society right from the start to the present. I am so used to it I can only assume that everyone believes that there is black hole on the Reader's platform, and that they will be absorbed into it and will lose their identity. I know I exaggerate, and I do have sympathy for those with legitimate challenges. Even Moses complained of a serious speech impediment.
    But these two answers are encouraging to help us find answers - to find solutions - to this question.
    I see response #1, Beth Shaefer encouraging us to love more. Love the office of Reader and it's Reader, love the Bible Lesson, love the past readers, and the future readers (the lesson has "...application to all ages, past, present, and future...." )
    I see response #2, Evan Mehlanbacher encouraging us to have a greater sense of supply - the spiritual supply "that meets every need". It's a lesson that seems to be hard to learn, and I think of Simon Peter, who first left his fishnets to follow Jesus after witnessing the superabundance of fish by following the instructions of Jesus. And three years later, after recognizing the works of the healing Christ on a daily basis, had to learn the exact same lesson over again from the resurrected Jesus.
    One thing I've learned is that the office of First Reader brought me many blessings. Like the ones mentioned in
    Science and Health pg. 265:
    "This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for
    Spirit, by no means suggests man's absorption into Deity
    and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man en‐
    larged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action,
    a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent
    peace."
    The fact is there never was, is not, and never will be a black hole on the Christian Science Reader's platform, and no one will lose his identity there.

  22. We have a very small membership and most of us have busy lives, but we love our church and love each other (that is key)so we all pitch in and we are flexible. This is what has unfolded for us.

    Well over half of the members of our church are presently reading each month. We have a team system. We have elected some husband/wife teams and the other elected individuals pair up so that at least for a year we have the same partner. We were blessed this year with enough willing Readers so that we have enough teams whereby each team generally reads one Sunday per month. Other years, with fewer teams, some teams have read twice a month. If one team or individual on a team will be away for their scheduled Sunday during the month they find another team or individual with whom to trade Sundays.

    Some of our Sunday First Readers are unable to prepare the Wed. meeting on a regular basis. Last year we had two members who preferred to do only a Wednesday per month and no Sundays so they balanced each other out. One of them has since moved and the other is a full time caregiver so unavailable. This year one of our Sunday First Readers, in addition to her own Wednesday, is picking up those Wednesdays that have not been filled by other First Readers. However all Readers are encouraged and welcome by her to prepare Wednesday Readings for any of those evenings. Our schedule is made out for the year so we know what evenings they are. It gives those who don't yet feel ready to take on a regular Wednesday slot an opportunity to keep praying, and share Readings on what is inspiring them without feeling overly pressured.

    Having the on-going variety of reading styles has turned out to be a plus. I, as well as some others feel we listen more attentively for some reason. Also with so many reading, it tends to cut the criticism because you know soon will be your turn.

    Obviously love and a sense of cooperation (not competition) is vital to making this work.

  23. I am so struck by the very positive responses to the Question for this week. It seems that there is a tremendous flexibility and that each church/society is working out its own situation as is best for them. If it is not possible to meet the three year provision for Readers as given in the Manual, then it would appear that the "rotational" system works very well. Circumstances have led to great creativity in this matter.

    To Janet (#8) - I will absolutely accept your kind invitation to visit the Haddonfield (New Jersey) church in the very near future. In fact, I intend to come over for your Christmas Sing in early December. I don't recall the exact date, but I will call the Reading Room for details.

    To Norma (#12) -- I really got a chuckle over your comment!! As Inge indicated (#16), the Questions are posted sometime on Sunday morning, and all I do is to write a comment sometime during the early afternoon on Sunday (after church). And, if you go back and check previous weeks, often mine is not the first, but sometimes the second or third comment.

    Thank you, Alan (#13). Yes, I was just trying to be honest in my remarks and did not mean to be overly critical. I really like your suggestion that perhaps some consideration needs to be given to the idea of paying Readers more than a token salary so that they could devote more time to the polishing of their reading to the best possible performance level. I know this would be quite difficult for some of the very small churches/societies, but it is worth thinking about.

    And finally, to Ed Harley (#19) - I think that you have made an excellent suggestion! It is time for Boston (or someone, somewhere) to consider the need for some kind of training in the art of public reading, so that newly elected Readers would not be completely on their own in the matter of improving their performance. Boston take note!!!

  24. Our church had a heartfelt, informal roundtable discussion about this subject a few months before the last Reader election. We were considering making shorter reader's terms. During the discussion, many former readers explained the huge benefits as well as the challenges they had during their terms. They explained how they worked them out and the spiritual growth they experienced. Each one said they would not trade the opportunity for anything. And most said their family and carreers were more active than ever during reading terms, yet they found the ability to accomplish everything was enhanced by spending more time with the pastor. In my own experience, with small children to care for and definitely feeling unprepared for the job, just the humble quality of willingness opened all the doors. I loved my time of reading. I learned so much, got so close to our Father-Mother, and felt a new overarching love for the church as a whole, that continues to bless me every day.

  25. My father saved sermons that he prepared for Wednesday nights so that he could substitute for Wednesday night reader whenever needed. Both of my parents were eager to serve as substitutes and my mother was the church organist. My father also saved his Sunday scriptural selections. At home when because of snow and the like we could not attend church his saved reader work including scriptural selections for Sunday were ready.
    I would encourage former readers to put sermons they have prepared in the past on their branch church website to share them with substitute readers, snow bound members, and newly elected readers (who need term paper style help). This will make more members willing to take these posts.

  26. When I was elected Second Reader in my branch church, I began reading the Bible Lesson daily aloud. Not just the Bible, but also Science and Health. I found that I was able to express the thought of what was written rather than just reading words by doing this. At one point, a member commented that he had never heard the Bible read with so much understanding before. (I don't know where he had been before coming to our church.) However, I mention this not so much to show how well I read, but to indicate that by hearing one's voice every day reading the Bible Lesson, when the actual service comes around, it is so familiar that one speaks just they would having a conversation with friends. I enjoyed my term of Readership and find that it also has prepared me to be fully supportive of Readers, even if I find their voices monotonous or their emphasis on certain words not to my liking, I am still hearing the words of Truth as given us by Mary Baker Eddy and all those early prophets and Christ Jesus providing a healing service.

  27. Hey Brad-

    I'm with you, love the positive and creative responses to "This Week's Question." One important clarification though-- by my reading, the Manual doesn't specify term length for Readers other than for The Mother Church (Art. 1, Sect. 4). Branch churches are democratically governed, which includes that its up to individual branches to determine how to do Reader rotations for their churches.

    I loved the time I spent as 2nd Reader, and also opportunities I have had to substitute for 1st. It really deepened my appreciation for the Bible, and pushed me to not just be familiar with the stories and the verses, but to really look for a deeper understanding of them-- and to be able to put them into practice in my own life. I really appreciate what Beth said as well about churches standing behind their Readers and supporting them. I had so many healings while I was reading, and a large part of that I think was due to the fact that I knew the congregation and other church members were 100% behind me and supporting the service. Putting your heart into a service only to be met with criticism, on the other hand, doesn't exactly encourage one to step up and serve!

  28. I had been a student of Christian Science for about three years when I took class instruction and that same year was elected to be First Reader. I did not know I was suppossed to be afraid of it. In fact I remember thinking," Wow, that looks like fun.." And it was.

    At that time I was a single mom with a big house and a small child and a full time job. In those years we did not have Concord and home computers. But, I never thought that anything I was asked to do to serve the church that had saved my life , would be too hard to do. (Thirty years later, I still feel that way.)

    Unexpectantly, before my term started, my mom moved in with my son and I and I was relieved of many household duties. I did not appreciate the value of this until I started my term, But, as usual, God was way ahead of me and answered a need that I did not know I had.

    We pretty much get what we expect. I expected God to make that experience a happy one for me and the attendees and it was. It was never a burden but always a joy to listen for ways to be effecient . Because I did not have tons of time to prepare Wed, readings, I did not need it. They always unfolded quickly each Wednesday night after church.

    As soon as I would get home, I would go to my desk and the readings for the next week just flowed without any effort.

    I am grateful beyond words for the blessing of that experience. I felt the love of Christ with me every step of the way and I still do.

  29. I have thoroughly enjoyed everyone's comments. I love the variety of approaches to the length of readership terms. Having served as First and Second Reader, I must say that both three year terms were absolutely wonderful. But it obviously makes sense sometimes to have shorter terms and rotational terms as mentioned above. The point is to let God lead each congregation. There is no formula. The three year term was originally instituted because some readers had been serving for seven years or more and would have kept serving, sort of like a pastor in a different denomination. Mrs. Eddy saw the importance of rotation if office and changed things.

    Also I must add that we all need to feel the Christ calling us to do whatever we do in church. It's not just the membership electing a reader. Who is God calling to serve? That is the issue. If God asks you to do something, are you going to say no? Moses tried to, but God wouldn't let him off the hook. He will not let us off the hook either.

    I agree and have felt for many years that Readers should be better trained in reading skills. The Mother Church has had workshops for Lectures, going into the practice, and other Manual based activities. Years ago there was a set of tapes of a Readers' workshop. But that is a bit outdated.

    I have heard absolutely horrific readers butcher the Lesson Sermon so severely it was hard to understand what was going on even though I had read it all week. That has been rare. More common is a reader who does a okay job, but thinks they are not supposed to put any feeling into it. They try to be so impersonal, the reading is flat and sounds like someone reading a laundry list. No wonder it seems boring sometimes. When I hear a reader like that I try to focus just on the message and pay no attention to the personal delivery of the words. This is a lot to ask of visitors. The pastor is impersonal. But the reader is not supposed to be.

    Since the prosperity of Christian Science largely depends on the Lesson Sermon, why doesn't The Mother Church do more to unify the excellence of branch church readers by having workshops/training sessions/materials available? I know there are people doing this individually but TMC can step up to the plate here.

  30. From my own experience. As a member of a small church in a small south Texas community I was elected reader within a few month of joining. I had just started a new position as controller of a manufacturing company with all the etc. that required. I also knew I did not "speak correctly". I was raised in northern Louisiana by a single mom. My primary care was by two very loving and wonderful black women. Other than my mother, my family were primarly farmers and tradesman. Although education, reading and learning were high priorities, my day to day language was not very polished. As you can see, I pretty well had all the "good" reason not to read. I am the only male member of my family that cannot sing (cannot even read simple music).

    But I prayed. The experience of Moses with his speaking imediments came to thought. He managed fairly well don't you think? The experience of Jesus holding back becuase of age (understanding) until His Mother, Mary, launched him on his career at the wedding. The experinece of Peter after he denied the Christ (not good enough) turned that false belief away. What I realized and demonstrated was the fact that the common thought is always false and the divine Mind is always dominate. To the degree I worked to demonstrate divine Mind, the readings were always timely, complete, and always fulfiled some need based on the testemonies. By keeping an open thought for music, this part of the service was never any problem.

    How to Pray? Start with the oneness of the Christ which you all as a congregation express. Add the prayer of how do I express this Christ to and for my Church? The process of working to express the oneness of the Christ you will enable you to transend all the false beliefs that seperate you from each other and the office of Reader and accept the Truth that unites each and all. This is more than compromise. Your Reader will come forward.

  31. I certainly agree with all the positive statements shared here. I have been a member of an affluent branch church, and we voted on salaries, and they were generous. However, when I was elected in a small society, there wasn't even a gas allowance for the 60 mile round trip. It made no difference because God covers our needs in a million ways.
    The overriding thought was a statement my teacher made many years before, that a good Reader can fill a church. So, my simple prayer was
    Dear Father, I want to be a good reader.

  32. There is no substitute for an experienced, well trained reader. Oral communication, including Interpretive Reading needs to be perfected. Those that do it best are always working and striving for improvement. To put it simply they strive to so express the meaning of the message so that to the listener time (the 35 minutes maybe)literally vanishes and the inspiration is absorbed. I am sure that most of us have experienced that kind of communication, and it dose not happen by accident. It should be, and it can be, and it has to be the rule not the exception. The importance of our lessons demands it, the World hungers for it. We must work for it.

  33. I would like to "second" James Early's comments (#29) about the need for the Mother Church to be more vigorous in its program to improve the quality of reading in the branch churches and societies. If, as several posters have commented, "the prosperity of Christian Science depends on the Lesson-Sermon", then much more attention needs to be paid by Boston to this concern.

    I am going to ask a question: Is there at present any program at all in Boston which is directed towards improving the quality of reading in the branches? It may well be that there is such a program at present and that I am simply not aware of it. Would someone please enlighten me (and others) on this subject?

  34. On the Church Alive Web Site, under summits, under Boston is a video of the current TMC readers who I felt gave very useful advice and guidance. One vital idea I took away from that video was feeling the message while reading and our congregation hearing the word, regardless of how the word is said. Inspiration and love of the lesson as well stated above is vital.

  35. I second the comments of #29 and 30. Readers should accept their responsibility that the reading gives the meaning in the clearest way possible. But too often just being natural, as every Reader wants to be, does not do this. A critique from a trained speaker would be helpful in seeing what improvement could be made in bringing out the meaning and presenting it in the most pleasant way.

  36. There is wonderful reading instruction available thru the Institute of Analytical Reading.com. Their instuction is based on Nedra Newkirk Lamar's method in her book "How to Speak the Written Word". They are private practitioners and are available for anyone to call upon, in person, phone, skype. I used this some time ago, it's benefits are ongoing, not just for serving as reader. The instructors are very dedicated Christian Scientists, and work extensively on the Bible Lesson, so they are ready to support you.
    Another thing I found very helpful is Toastmasters International. It is a forum to demonstrate overcoming fear in public speaking and in one on one communication,and reaching out in your community.

  37. When I was a First Reader, there were professional independent reading aloud coaches for Christian Science Readers and my branch church paid for the First and Second Reader to have this service. They did not work for Boston .They were independent instructors. And they did just what you are talking about here. They went through the lesson and showed the Reader where to place emphasis and how to use proper pronounciation and so forth. I am certain there are still some around.

  38. I am currently serving as 2nd reader for my church and although I am finished Dec. 31, I am interested in Alan's comment about paying readers for their time. the first reader and I were discussing this and it came to me that Mrs. Eddy obviously appreciated the time it took to prepare properly for a lesson or else she wouldn't have given the readers free housing to ease the financial burden. Now I dont know what readers are paid or if they're paid at the mother church (I'd assume they are), but her actions say to me that she wanted to give them every opportunity to absolutely consecrate their thought and study throughout the week-no distractions. To me this is evident in the quality of the reading at the mother church. thanks to all who've contributed!

  39. I am glad to hear that there are programs in the field which are set up to train new Readers in public speaking. I love it when "practical, down-to-earth" solutions are put forward to meet very obvious needs.

    However, I still feel that The Mother Church should have some kind of "official" program to meet this need -- at least some kind of coordination effort. Perhaps we on this blog site could hear something back from the TMC on this matter.

  40. Hi All,

    For those who have asked about whether The Mother Church has "official" programs for reading training, etc., I asked around and here's what I've found out for you. . .

    The Mother Church isn't presently republishing the old Reader's Guide from a few decades ago. There is, however, a community discussion area on christianscience.com called <a href="https://community.christianscience.com/community/churchservicesand_reading/" rel="nofollow">"Got good music, reading, and services?"</a> This is an area where church members-- presently reading or not-- can share what they're finding useful, any tips or resources they have, challenges they're coming on, etc. and get support/share ideas with a community. So, for anyone interested, definitely check it out!

    Apologies for the delayed response- those pesky weekends will get you every time ;)

    all the best,
    Inge
    Church Alive Team

  41. Thanks, Inge for your update. I was not aware of the "Reader's Guide" which you mentioned. I think that it is unfortunate that The Mother Church does not have any present plans to re-publish it and make it once again available. In fact, I think they should give some very serious thought to updating it (since you say that it is from a few decades ago) and then re-publishing it. I think that it is a bit odd, since the quality of the reading is so vital to the progress of the CS church, that this publication is not available to everyone who is about to become a Reader.

    Also, to change the subject, I guess that there will not be a "Question" this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, and also because so many people will be away.

  42. Hi again,

    You are correct, there's not a "This Week's Question" for this week since we're doing a special Thanksgiving focus. However, we've got a lot of new field videos and audio pieces ready for release, so in the upcoming months, we'll be doing some alternating between the "This Week's Question" and the new field videos and audio chats. Rest assured, "This Week's Question" will still be continuing, but we've got so much good content ready to go that we're going to be trying to spread the wealth!

    all the best,
    Inge

  43. I haven't yet been a Reader but expect to someday. I've been a student a few years and have often heard Rdrs comment on how much the expressive reading lessons helped deepen their understanding of the Bible Lesson. Reading through all the comments about helping Readers improve, question comes to me: Why wait until someone is elected? Why not enlist a coach for the entire membership to have a workshop? Just imagine the difference it would make for everyone! Address the issue of needing more and better Bible study skills long before people are elected and maybe the reluctance to serve as Reader will melt away. Plus, everyone will gain spiritually.

  44. What a pleasure to read all these notes from thoughtful people who take reading seriously! My wife and I have both served as first and second readers in full terms, but we have most often been members of very small churches, so I think it is real progress to see how many smaller churches are having most of their members read on a rotation basis. At this point, we are participating as readers in two churches, one that is open only during the summer season at a resort.

    As for the "talent" needed for reading, there is no substitute for practice. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! And let's not forget pure inspiration. If we allow ourselves to really be a clear transparency for Truth, God will do the work through us. We often feel like WE are being read, not the other way around. And, take your time...it's not a race! And yes, I am a theater professional, that does help! But I also love the Word and every word of every Lesson-Sermon is essential to the whole.

  45. I have enjoyed the comments on this important topic.

    To anyone who has not viewed it, I second Inge's suggestion to read and participate in the: community discussion area on christianscience.com called “Got good music, reading, and services?”

    When I was first elected as a Second Reader, I was one of the youngest members of the church and up until the election, had not thought I was ready. However, I prayed and when elected, accepted. I gained so much out of the three year experience: a much better understanding of the Bible, an appreciation for those others in the service (First Reader, Soloist, Organist, Ushers and Attendees), and the patience to learn the service "mechanics", so I could pay more attention to prayer and the lesson. Another blessing was that I learned that same week that I was hired for a new job that I had been waiting to hear about for almost a year due to complications in the hiring process. I gave full credit to learning the lesson to let go and know that God would direct me, brought about this healing. This happened just before Thanksgiving, so I had much to be grateful for that year.

    More recently, I have been serving as First Reader in our small branch church for many years. The Second Reader and I are willing to continue as there is no one else at this time to take the positions.

    The major lessons that I have learned over the years are that the service is a culmination of what we have gained over the week and that it's God's service, not ours. The more that I have put the Truth into practice, the more it supports the service; by being prepared for Sunday, I find that I gain so much more out of reading on that day than I gained all week long. Its the work of everyone together.

    In talking with other readers, we have agreed that serving as a reader gives you so much more spiritual growth and blessings than you can imagine.

    This past week, I had the opportunity to read at a Thanksgiving Interfaith Service, representing the housing agency where I work. I only got to see what I would read when I arrived, although I had been praying to know that Mind was in charge and my participation was to express Love. I was delighted to see that I was assigned to read a Psalm with the congregation. Afterwards, there were several comments on our agency, and compliments on my reading. Well, I do get to practice reading the Bible out loud every week! This was a wonderful chance to share God's Love.

    For anyone on the "fence about reading", I recommend go for it after "prayer and fasting", knowing that it is not you doing it, but God.

  46. I agree with the idea of making the First Reader position rotational with a shorter time commitment, like 3 months. I would accept First Reader if I knew others would step up and take a 3-month stint along with me. Second Reader is different. I happily served in that capacity for 3 consecutive one-year terms. But think about it, the First Reader selects the Wednesday readings, the Sunday scriptural &amp; the benediction, and 6 hymns each week. For a busy person, as many of us are, making the position more doable makes so much sense. I would gladly take it on 3 months at a time.

  47. Sorry I'm a late-comer with this response. But there's one thing I haven't noticed in the responses so far--and it’s truly worthy of our prayers. In speaking with Readers across the country, several have said that, for years, they had removed their names from the eligibility list because some members were consistently critical of their church's Readers. This is an element of human nature or animal magnetism, and certainly merits fervent prayer.

    Of course, poor reading exists today just as it did in Mrs. Eddy’s time; and, of course it needs to be addressed. But, whether we’re addressing the issue humanly or metaphysically, our efforts will be more effective if done lovingly and constructively.

    Here are some possible focal points for prayer—as well as some human steps we can consider:

    • Support the Readers by loving them as we love ourselves—the second most important commandment according to our Master.

    • Since God is the only cause, we can recognize that our human act of electing can only have been a manifestation of God’s will; and, therefore, we can acknowledge that our Readers have actually been appointed by God.

    • According to popular belief, most humans fear public speaking. Readers aren’t exempt from this fear, until it is recognized and combated. Indeed, there may be other fears; i.e., fears of reading someone else’s words (especially God’s words!), unworthiness (“I’m not good enough.”), inability (“I just don’t think I can handle this!”), and lack of understanding (what we’re reading and how to read). On top of such fears, consider all the challenges they may be experiencing in their day-to-day lives. We in the congregation could help by having “pitiful patience with their fears” (S&amp;H 367), as we help to remove them metaphysically and humanly.

    • If you think you hear less than ideal reading, don’t waste time focusing on criticism; rather, spend your time more wisely and more productively by focusing on the message. Such clearer focus will contribute to the mental atmosphere in which God’s word is being communicated.

    • Mrs. Eddy is reported to have once said, “I wish more of our Readers would take lessons in Reading.” So, members and executive boards can specifically encourage and support their Readers’ education in the science and craft of reading aloud in public. Such coaching services do exist.

  48. I have recently heard our reader mention that she feels criticized by certain members of our congregation. I felt these responses were useful, but one that I would like to add that I have not seen here is the idea of the Reader remembering to love the congregation. Recently my mother had to give a talk that she was very nervous about, and I made this suggeston to her, and afterward, she said it made all the difference, she did not see them as separate from her, but as fellow loved ideas and her love for them captivated and embraced them and they responded in kind.
    I too agree that the idea of a workshop for the congregation would be very useful. Does anyone know of anyone who travels that could do such a workshop?