Isn’t a Christian Science Reading Room a place where the Christ is felt? Isn’t it a place for people to come and find the Comforter? Then shouldn’t the very people Jesus focused on – the sick, the homeless, the sinners – be welcomed into our Reading Rooms without fear?
Christian Science Reading Rooms are open to the public in cities across the globe. Many times, there is just one librarian serving at a time. This has sometimes left those serving in the Reading Room dealing with fear of being alone with less than desirable visitors.
Our Church Manual requires each branch church to have a Reading Room and says “two or more churches may unite in having Reading Rooms, provided these rooms are well located.”
Sometimes these well-located Reading Rooms are in downtown sections of large cities. It’s not unusual for there to be quite a homeless population in these downtown areas.
Drunk and Homeless in the Reading Room
Ten years ago, I had the privilege of serving five days a week in a Jointly Maintained Christian Science Reading Room. And yes, we had a lot of people visiting the Reading Room who were currently without a home. Sometimes they clearly had not showered in days. Other times they were not fully sober. Yet, at other times, they couldn’t get enough of the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
One day while on duty, a man who visited the Reading Room several days a week to study the Bible Lesson, came in to do his usual studying. After a while, he stood up suddenly and said he was going to kill us all. I was in shock. This was a man I had grown to appreciate and here he was threatening to kill us for no reason.
Soon after that, he left the Reading Room without incident and I immediately called the police. They were able to find the man and arrest him. However, he did not serve any time in jail. The police told us they knew him well. They said “oh, he was just off his meds” and said he was no longer allowed to come to our Reading Room as part of his probation.
At first this made me upset. I thought he should be in jail and away from people so he wouldn’t end up hurting anyone. Yet, he was free to roam around town per usual.
Right after this happened, being a young woman, I was experiencing great fear working at the Reading Room. I felt very vulnerable and concerned something like that might happen again. At the same time, I was in the public practice of Christian Science healing and knew I needed to be healed of the ridiculous fear.
Mary Baker Eddy says: “We should become more familiar with good than with evil, and guard against false beliefs as watchfully as we bar our doors against the approach of thieves and murderers. We should love our enemies and help them on the basis of the Golden Rule” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p 234).
One false belief we must guard against is the false belief that homeless people in general should be kept out of the Reading Room, or that we have reason to fear them. At the same time, she points out we would bar our doors against the approach of thieves and murderers. Of course if there is a real need to lock the doors to keep out thieves and murderers, we will be divinely led to do so at the time. However, the false belief of a constant need to keep certain people out of the Reading Room must be dealt with.
Love our Enemies
One way to love our enemies is to change the way we view them. If we are thinking of them as an actual enemy, they will forever seem an enemy to us. However, as we change our view to seeing them as God sees them, they will no longer appear as an enemy. This is the most loving thing we can do for them and for ourselves.
A line from one of my favorite hymns reads “No more I suffer cruel fear, I feel God’s presence with me here.” I couldn’t be healed of fear if I kept seeing that man through fearful eyes. The more I was able to see him as God’s beautiful, beloved child, the more the “cruel fear” went away. Within a few months, as I would see the man walking past the Reading Room, my thoughts went from “that’s the man who said he was going to kill us!” to “that’s God’s wonderful child.”
True Spiritual Identity
The more I saw his true identity as the innocent child of God, the more fully the fear went away. Genuine, Christ-like love for this man overtook me. No longer was I afraid to work in the Reading Room – either with an assistant Librarian or alone. Not only was the fear gone, but I was experiencing even more love and appreciation for the Reading Room and it’s mission.
In thinking about what the Bible tells us of Jesus, I was picturing him hanging out with the sick, the outcasts, the homeless. Jesus spent his time with all the people no one else wanted to be around. Isn’t that who the homeless people seem to be… the people no one wants to be around. Christ Jesus loved them with such a pure and genuine love that they were healed instantly.
The more we see our Reading Rooms as the Christ in action, the more people will be drawn in and the less fear we will feel. The desire to keep the Reading Room doors locked while on duty will lessen and calm trust will take over. Each librarian is there to behold the Christ in each and every person passing by our doors as well as walking through those doors.
Visitors to our Reading Rooms experience healing. They experience the Christly love of our workers and volunteers. They receive a cup of cold water, nourishing them as they learn more about God and their true identities as the image and likeness of divine Love.
No Fear in the Reading Room
Fear has no place in the Reading Room. Each person who is drawn to the Reading Room is there to be loved and healed. We love them best by beholding the Christ in them. As we do that, any and all fear will naturally vanish and serving in the Reading Room will be a true joy.