Church – conservative and stern, or a doorway into the spiritual warmth and light of God’s love?

For those wanting to better understand why the Roman Catholic church has taken the direction it has over the past three decades, and the challenging consequences of decisions to which that led,  The Christian Science Monitor has published a helpful article called “Pope Benedict XVI’s 30-year campaign to reassert conservative Catholicism“.  The print version of the same article in the weekly Monitor was entitled “The pope’s stern vision”.

I was struck by those words “conservative” and “stern” which certainly don’t describe many of the Catholics I have enjoyed befriending over the years.  Nor do they capture my sense of what Church is all about.

On a holiday in the beautiful city of Rome, I visited the Vatican and I took the picture above from inside St.Peter’s Basilica.   Ornate interiors generally aren’t to my taste, which tends to the more simple and contemporary, and so I wasn’t moved by the Basilica, as many people are.  However, as I went to leave I saw that welcoming summer light flooding through the expansive opening.  Now that did touch a spiritual nerve!  That, I thought, symbolises my sense of what Church has meant to me – a doorway out of the chilly gloom of my own material thinking and into the embrace of Christ’s spiritual light and warmth – the consciousness of God’s radiant, impartial love for one and all.

There probably isn’t a church on this planet that couldn’t do a better job of consistently representing that Christly warmth and light, including my own.  But I feel the following definition of Church, from the Glossary section of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (page 583), captures a timeless ideal that all who love Christ can profitably ponder and strive to better implement.

    CHURCH. 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 strikes me as a good description of the early church of ardent believers who had seen the healing that Jesus did, and had learnt from him to “go, and do thou likewise”.  And it is a good model for those – like Christian Scientists – who strive to see that original healing Christianity of Jesus gain traction once again in this 21st century, as it did for about 300 years after the Saviour’s crucifixion and resurrection.
Added on August 20, 2010:
Here is a really helpful article on that true, spiritual nature of Church at its best, by Christian Science lecturer Evan Mehlenbacher.

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Author:Tony Lobl

I write and speak on spirituality from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I am also an Associate Editor for the Christian Science periodicals. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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