I used to think church was limited to a particular place and time every Sunday morning, for an hour or so.
As the years went by, I gained a better understanding of church-as something more than a human institution-by gaining a greater, clearer understanding of God. I found Him to be ever present, completely powerful. I saw that He loved me unconditionally. I was learning I was truly in His very presence anytime, anywhere. The more love I expressed to others, the more I was reflecting God and feeling His presence. I was seeing Him as He is-eternal Life, infinite Love, unchanging Truth.
Here is a spiritual description of Church given in the textbook of Christian Science: "The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle" (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 583). Truth, Love, and Principle are all synonyms for God discussed in this book.
We experience this spiritual concept of Church when we come together to glorify God in places of worship. Church is also expressed in doing an unselfish deed, stretching out the helping hand to those in need, or turning a smiling face toward heaven, away from our problems. We find it in silent thoughts of gratitude to God. In the heart overflowing with love. Christ Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). And so the inspiration of Church can even be found on the athletic field while you're running a race, in the office while you're conducting business, or at home while you're taking care of the kids.
Many times I've had opportunities to share with others my understanding of God and of the unbroken unity with Him that we each have. Recently I was doing a simple job that allowed me to talk while I was working. I became engaged in a conversation with someone who asked me about myself. I mentioned that I was a Christian Scientist. The man started asking many questions about Christian Science and how I practiced it. I was answering questions until lunchtime! Then the conversation picked up after lunch and went on. It lasted a good portion of the day. I really felt the presence of God, whom I have come to know as our Father and Mother. I'm sure my friend felt that presence, too. It felt as if we were in church. In a sense we were. Jesus described obeying God as loving Him with all the heart and soul and mind, as well as loving our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37, 39). Whenever we do this, we're bringing church out into the world. Church represents a place of ascending thoughts, of acknowledging the very presence of God. Here is the place of healing. The place where you will always feel loved, safe, whole. Here is God's unlimited army of angels, perfect thoughts, which protect us from evil. There is no disease here. No selfishness. Nothing that suffers or deceives. It's as we rise in the understanding of God and of who we are as His beloved children that we draw closer to the truth. And it's in this same way that we gain a clearer understanding of what Church really is.
The more I love God and my neighbor, the more I've found the spiritual sense of Church-whether I'm at a church service or anyplace else. The more I see evidence of the fact that God created everything pure, perfect, and whole, the more I'm experiencing Church. The thoughts from God that I express audibly or ponder silently have the power to heal others and inspire them to see more clearly that good is the very Principle of their being. They are children of God and He speaks to them. Through the uplifting power expressed in the spiritual idea of Church, their thought is inspired and they feel God's love.
Humanity can't resist the truth that the church proclaims. It's through this understanding that we can all know and love God and one another better. We can never be separate from the presence of God, so long as we keep thought centered on what is of Him-what is good, pure, and true.
Where is Church? It's everywhere God is loved and glorified. It can be where you are right now. And you can bring it with you to church services, too.
* You can visit the home page of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, at (www.tfccs.com).