Response 1: Pamela Cook
To Mary Baker Eddy, the community included the whole world. Her outreach embraced all mankind. She dedicated her life’s work, Science and Health, to “honest seekers for Truth” (p. xii). A Christian Science Reading Room is a conduit for delivering Science and Health to a worldwide community of seekers.
Mrs. Eddy wrote, of Christian Science, “Every man and every woman would desire and demand it, if he and she knew its infinite value and firm basis” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 232). So, in considering the mission of our Reading Rooms, we might ask, “What can we do to make sure every man and woman knows the ‘infinite value and firm basis’ of Christian Science?” We might consider every proposed activity in the context of this goal.
One proactive step that has been successful in Reading Rooms is the addition of a prayer team. This ensures dedicated metaphysical support and provides an off-site opportunity for branch church members to serve in the Reading Room. The Reading Room attendant and prayer team member jointly serve that day, with the prayer team member giving a thorough Christian Science treatment to the Reading Room, much as a Christian Science practitioner handles a case. Reading Rooms with prayer teams have reported more community interaction and increased sales.
For Mrs. Eddy, the impetus for outreach of any kind was healing. Every step of progress was rooted in consistent, consecrated prayer. She didn’t make a move until God impelled her. We can follow our Leader’s example. Mrs. Eddy was a business woman; she expected her book to be profitable. She wrote of “having learned that the merits of Christian Science must be proven before a work on this subject could be profitably published” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 35). As we become better healers, we inevitably see more active and profitable Reading Rooms.
Mrs. Eddy described the weekly Bible Lesson as “a lesson on which the prosperity of Christian Science largely depends” (Church Manual, p. 31). The prosperity of Christian Science is intrinsically linked to the prosperity of the Reading Room. When the Lesson is the focus of a Reading Room, it contributes to the prosperity of the community it serves.
In her 1901 address to The Mother Church, Mrs. Eddy wrote, “To my sense the Sermon on the Mount, read each Sunday without comment and obeyed throughout the week, would be enough for Christian practice” (Message for 1901, p. 11). Reading Rooms are reaching out to their communities by hosting weekly gatherings for this purpose—reading aloud the Sermon on the Mount without comment. Newcomers respond to this pure offering.
By definition, a Christian Science Reading Room cannot exist outside “the structure of Truth and Love” that is Church (see Science and Health, p. 583). Thus each Reading Room is safely sheltered under the wings of the Church Manual. Mary Baker Eddy gave us only 171 words governing Reading Rooms, leaving ample room for each branch church to find its own unique ways to reach out and “impress humanity with the genuine recognition of practical, operative Christian Science” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 207).
Response 2: John Rinnert
When thinking about the essential mission of a Reading Room it occurred to me that its purpose is to communicate the Word of God. The phrase “And God said…” is used ten times in the first chapter of the Bible and introduces God’s revelation of reality. What’s wonderful about this, is that the end result of God speaking is the absolute harmony and goodness of all: “And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Mary Baker Eddy likens divine Science to God’s Word. She writes in part, “The true Logos is demonstrably Christian Science, the natural law of harmony which overcomes discord” (Science and Health, p. 134). A Reading Room makes God’s pure word available to the public by offering and selling the published works of Mary Baker Eddy. Therefore the Reading Room is really offering to the public the opportunity for harmony and goodness to be experienced on a scientific basis rather than by chance or circumstance.
As the husband of a graphic designer, I have learned that marketing is pretty important. I’ve also learned that there are almost an infinite number of ways an individual or business can market itself. And so a Reading Room might produce some flyers, beautify its window display, host a lecture or Bible study group, or set up a Twitter account. All of these things may have their place to help “get the word out there” but the Bible cautions, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). The real success of Reading Rooms comes when we discover that God’s Word has within itself its own method of marketing. Marketing is a helpful tool to reach people but healing prayer—and the Word of God—are vital to the Reading Room’s spiritual growth and purpose.
To me this fact is illustrated through the idea of fruit and fruitfulness. By studying this concept in Scripture, we discover that “fruitfulness” has little to do with procreation but has more to do with the fruits of Christ-healing. This makes even more sense through the lens of Jesus’ parable of the Sower and seed (see Luke 8:5-8) and how he makes the connection between God’s Word and the seed. How does a seed spread itself? Not by going on Facebook but by encasing itself in the naturally sweet and attractive fruit. It is the fruit of healing healing that will spread God’s Word and promote the cause of Christian Science through its churches, lectures, and Reading Rooms.
In Mrs. Eddy’s time Christian Science grew exponentially because of its healing power and there is no reason for this divine operation to change in our own time. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). This light of spiritual growth and Christian healing overcomes all obstacles of resistance and is universally marketable.