The brick-and-stone church on Morris Avenue might not be as recognizable to most Rockville Centre residents as St. Agnes Cathedral or one of the village’s synagogues, but each week, passionate followers of Christian Science congregate there to share the ways in which the religion has impacted their lives.
“When the condition is present which you say induces disease, whether it be air, exercise, heredity, contagion, or accident, then . . . shut out these unhealthy thoughts and fears,” said Robin Hicks at a recent Wednesday-night testimony meeting at the First Church of Christ, Scientist. Hicks was quoting from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the religion’s main textbook, written by Mary Baker Eddy.
“The issues of pain or pleasure must come through mind,” Hicks continued, “and like a watchman forsaking his post, we admit the intruding belief, forgetting that through divine help we can forbid this entrance.”
Hicks, a former Rockville Centre resident who now lives in Wantagh, has been a member of the church for more than 30 years. It does not have an official leader. Instead, the Bible and
Eddy’s book serve as the church’s pastor, according to Jamie, Robin’s husband.
The Christian Science Church was founded nearly 140 years ago, after Eddy, who lived in New Hampshire, was reportedly raised from her deathbed in 1866 by reading the Bible. She spent three years searching the Scriptures to discover how she had been healed.
Eddy began healing others and teaching the methods she found in the Bible. Followers believed she proved that some miracles that Jesus performed, such as healing the sick, could be repeated.
In 1875, she published “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” which explained what she had discovered about healing through prayer. Though deeply rooted in the Congregational Church, she founded a new Christian denomination, the Church of Christ, Scientist, in 1879.
The church’s headquarters are in Boston, and there are affiliated churches in more than 130 countries. There are an estimated 100,000 followers of Christian Science in the U.S. Rockville Centre’s church, built in 1931, is one of 10 on Long Island, and was the first of its kind in the area.
Robin Hicks noted that the religion is Bible-based and that its followers are Christians, emphasizing that Christian Science should not be confused with Scientology.
“We’re not saying we’re scientists, like physical scientists and chemistry scientists,” her husband said. “… It has science behind its name because anything that’s a science has laws that make it provable, and anyone who follows those laws can prove it for themselves.”
Growing up in Wantagh in a Christian Science family, Jamie said he did not explicitly share his faith with others, often simply saying that he was a Protestant. “Now I’m an adult, and I’ve proven it, so I know it and I want to share it,” he said, adding that he does not go out of his way to try to convert anyone.
Hicks, who works in construction, recalled once accidentally shooting himself with a nail gun. “Being stupid manifested itself as a nail in my leg,” he said. God is not stupid, he explained, and because he is a child of God, neither is he.
As he focused on those thoughts, the pain began to subside, he claimed, and the nail, which he said had disappeared deep into his leg, began to slowly come out. Through deep understanding of man’s relationship with God, Hicks said, he was healed. Prayer is not just about hope and pleading, he explained, but rather about understanding what God is to man and what man is to God. “Healing is not recovery,” he noted. “Healing is discovery.”
Robin said she has not been to a doctor since she was 5, relying instead on prayer to heal. She recalled a time years ago where she had double pneumonia, which she said she healed through prayer in six days. She added that she has often been able to improve relationships with people through the same process, ultimately seeing the best in people. Prayer even ridded her grandfather of cancer, she said.
“That’s what Christian Science is,” Robin said. “It’s unseeing what the picture looks like, and it’s seeing perfection . . . and that’s how you heal.”
Each Wednesday night, all are welcome at the church to share how Christian Science has impacted their lives. On Saturday afternoon, the church’s upstairs reading room is open, and on Sunday there is a service and Sunday School.
Laura Saer, 54, who grew up in a Catholic household, said that her mother sought peace of mind that she was not getting through Catholicism. She discovered a Christian Science reading room one day in Lynbrook, where they lived, and bought a copy of Baker Eddy’s book. “She took the book and put it on the kitchen table, and she said, ‘This is the truth,’” recalled Saer, who was 6 or so at the time.
Despite her mother’s new beliefs, Saer remained a student at St. Joseph’s School in Hewlett until eighth grade. Though she recalls being healed of mumps when she was young, she battled severe depression as a teenager.
At age 17, she went to a testimony meeting at the Rockville Centre church. “I felt like I was the cool one,” Saer recalled. “... I was like, ‘Wow, these people are really squares.’” But a seed had been planted, she said, and after a year of Sunday School and weekly visits to a Christian Science practitioner — who offers prayer on request to help people, and helps guide study of the religion — she became a regular member in 1982, moving to the village.
Despite all the synagogues and Catholic and Protestant churches around the village, Saer said she does not feel out of place. “I try not to see we and them,” she said. “… We’re all one child of God. It’s the human that makes the factions.”
Christian Scientists acknowledge that they are sometimes misunderstood. “You’re the people that don’t smoke, you don’t drink, you don’t take drugs, you don’t go to doctors,” Jamie said, quoting others’ reactions. “Yes, but do you know why?”
Robin noted that although she and Jamie do not go to doctors or take medicine, Christian Scientists make their own decisions in that regard, and are not pressured by anyone.
“Anybody can do it,” Jamie said of healing through prayer. “You can be a practicing Catholic or practicing Jew or practicing anything else, but if you abide by the laws of Jesus in an orderly fashion, you will prove it to yourself.”