Christian Science Reading Room — what goes on in there?

Several years ago, when I first agreed to serve as a representative of the Christian Science church to the media, I emailed Gary Stern, religion reporter at The Journal News, the Gannett newspaper headquartered in White Plains, to introduce myself and suggest we get together to begin a dialogue. Within minutes, he emailed me back and said he’d love to meet, adding, “I’ve been wanting to write a story about Christian Science.”

During an informative and enjoyable couple of hours exchanging ideas about journalism and religion, he elaborated a bit on that comment, saying something like, “People see a Christian Science Reading Room, and they wonder, ‘What goes on in there?’ ”

Gary’s question deserves some air time.

First, a little background: The first Christian Science Reading Room opened in 1888 in Boston. Daisette D.S. McKenzie, who served the church at that time, later wrote of Reading Rooms as follows:

In them is spread a banquet of sustaining food for the seeker after healing of mind and body; the doubting, the distressed, the bewildered, the weary, may find in the shelter of the Reading Room the peace in which to ponder and pray….”

So a Reading Room may be thought of as a spiritual oasis. And that’s why you’ll often find a Christian Science Reading Room on a busy thoroughfare, right smack in the middle of a downtown commercial area — because the church that maintains it wants to provide a respite for workers or passers-by to take a break and find solace in the midst of a hectic day.

Every Christian Science church maintains a Reading Room — hence, as Gary’s comment suggests, they do seem to be ubiquitous.

A Christian Science Reading Room is often described as a combination bookstore and library. That’s because you can buy or borrow a wealth of reading material and CDs there.

These include a variety of Bible translations and the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, as well as all of Mary Baker Eddy’s other writings. A Reading Room also stocks the Christian Science Sentinel and The Christian Science Journal (weekly and monthly magazines), the Christian Science Quarterly (a study guide), The Christian Science Monitor (international news weekly), and a myriad of reference books and biographies related to Christian Science and its founder, Mary Baker Eddy.

Most Reading Rooms stock all these going back to the late 1800s, when they were first published. So you can look back over time and see how Christian Science has effectively addressed the issues of the day for over 100 years.

A Reading Room worker in Manhattan recently shared with me how she might guide someone who walked in looking for help with financial problems. By directing that individual to examples of articles with healing solutions published during the Great Depression as well as those published in the current issues of the Christian Science magazines, she would help the individual see that the problems we are facing are not peculiar to our time, but are part of the continual claim that there is not enough to go around. Christian Science refutes that claim by acknowledging instead the ever-present help of divine Love to meet all human needs — a truth that extends throughout all time.

So, come on in! With this introduction, perhaps the next time you see a Christian Science Reading Room, instead of passing by, you’ll be curious to stop in and see for yourself — to take a moment to pause for spiritual refreshment. Wherever you are, throughout New York state or beyond, please consider this your open invitation.

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