I love driving by various churches on Sunday and seeing full parking lots. It seems that in recent years many people have moved away from attending, or being members of, church – no matter the denomination. There’s talk of “spirituality” vs. “religiosity.” The two definitely don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Indeed, spiritualizing our thought is a huge aspect of church.
When I moved out on my own after high school, attending church became hit and miss for awhile. Eventually, Sunday morning football drew me away from attending church. After a time, though, I reached a point where I felt something important was missing in my life. I realized it was church. Once I decided I would be at church the next Sunday, I couldn’t wait for Sunday to arrive. It felt like “coming home.” I admit there have been a few times since that I thought I no longer needed the organization of church – that I could do just fine on my own. I am so grateful for not giving in to these temptations.
What was it I’d been missing? I missed a sense of unity and purpose. I missed the singing – not just the activity, but the healing words and the joy of expressing them, raising my voice with others. I missed the supportiveness, the smiles, and the hugs. I missed being around people who felt the same way I do in their love of the inspired “Word of the Bible,” in cherishing one omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God, who is divine Love, who cherishes us in return.
Participating in church is a selfless way of keeping our churches available for people in our community who are searching for answers or relief from the cares of the world. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). Church can satisfy those longings. Where politicians and civic leaders are looking to enact new laws as answers to violence and unrest, our churches, collectively, can point to example after example of God’s already established spiritual law bringing about good, healing, and comfort in people’s lives. Once you feel the healing influence of God’s love, it’s hard to act out in hate and discord.
I love how Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, defines “church” in her textbook, Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures. It reads: “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.
“The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick.”
That is not a view of church as a set of creeds or rituals. Rather, she said, “when the spiritual sense of the creed was discerned in the Science of Christianity, this spiritual sense was a present help. It was the living, palpitating presence of Christ, Truth, which healed the sick.” (ibid) And, “Christianity as Jesus taught it was not a creed, nor a system of ceremonies, nor a special gift from a ritualistic Jehovah; but it was the demonstration of divine Love casting out error and healing the sick, not merely in the name of Christ, or Truth, but in demonstration of Truth, as must be the case in the cycles of divine light.”
Church enhances our spiritual growth, while helping us to help others. It provides a solid foundation for that growth. It reminds me of Jesus’ parable in Luke: “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.”
Finally, from Matthew, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Paula Broock is a member of the Christian Science Church in Brookings. To learn more of Christian Science, visit the church Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. or Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. The Reading Room in the church building, 429 Pine St. is open from 1 to 3 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Also visit cscbrookings.com.