As one of the ways that the Church of Christ Scientist chooses to give back to the community, the Christian Science Reading Room offers a place where persons may escape from the noise and business of living and enjoy a quite place to read and reflect. Here is some background on the Christian Science Reading Room, and how this ministry of the Christian Science Church continues to benefit many cities and towns.
Christian Science Reading Rooms are almost as old as the denomination itself. First established in 1888 in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts, the purpose for the first reading room was a simple one. First, the reading rooms served the twofold purpose of encouraging persons to take time every day to read. There was already a concern that the faster pace of living would eventually lead to a decrease in the rate of literacy among the population. With reading rooms placed strategically in business districts, it was easy for busy people to stop in for a short respite and enjoy a quiet moment with a book or tract.
The second function of the reading room was to introduce persons to the faith of the First Church of Christ Scientist. Reading rooms were routinely well stocked with the various works of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the movement, as well as brochures and tracts that related to the teachings of the faith. Over the years, many people have discovered the church and its teachings by way of the Christian Science Reading Room. Even today, the rooms continue to be a major means of publicizing the faith, since Christian Scientists are not known to be aggressive in their outreach for new members.
The typical Christian Science Reading Room will be found on a street where there is a lot of foot traffic. The interior will feature shelves for books, tracts, and newspapers, and occasionally reading tables and chairs. Just about all of the rooms will also feature a comfortable chair or two along with the reading tables. The décor is usually simple, and may feature photographs or works of art by local artists that are considered to be in keeping with the purposes of the space.
Today, there are over two thousand reading rooms in the United States. Along with traditional Christian Science religious materials, most reading rooms today also carry the local newspapers, as well as the newspaper first established by members of the faith, the Christian Science Monitor. There is no charge for using the rooms and there is no time limit on how long anyone can settle in and read.
A typical Christian Science Reading Room will have an attendant that can assist any visitor find particular reading material provided by the room. Local congregations usually see to the staffing of the rooms, as ell as maintaining an inventory of reading materials. Depending on the circumstances, the attendant may receive pay for the position, although in many cases volunteers offer on a rotating basis to staffing the reading room.