A visit this June to the Main Adult Detention Facility (Sonoma County-Santa Rosa, CA) calls to thought the words of a hymn: "Healed is thy hardness, His love hath dissolved it, Full is the promise, the blessing how kind; So shall His tenderness teach thee compassion, So all the merciful, mercy shall find." (Hymn 278:3)
The following report gives an insider look at what happened from the viewpoint of one of the two Chaplains that accompanied me.
Institution(s): Main Adult Detention Facility (Sonoma County-Santa Rosa)
Chaplain: Angela Sage Larsen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Primary Local Committee: NorthBay@LightinPrison.org
Date range: June 7, 2017 - June 7, 2017
Permissions: OK to share narrative report publicly.
Christian Science Societies in Healdsburg and Lakeport, and First Churches of Christ, Scientist in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Petaluma sponsored a Christian Science lecture by Michelle Nanouche, CSB; Assistant Chaplain Linda Bishop and I accompanied her for what was an extraordinary and holy experience. 40 women attended and we discovered that though it has been 3 years since a chaplain has visited this facility (and a change of administration), at least 2 women were studying Christian Science literature that had been left in our attempt to re-introduce Cristian Science to the facility.
Though the administration was eager for us to come, before today, there was a sense that there would be a wait for regular visits until there was more of a demand. Before the lecture even started, there was a demand--and not surprisingly, after the lecture, the deputy requested us to supply them with options for when our regular times for church services could be!! (In the question and answer session, one detainee asked, "How often can 'Christian Science' come??" The deputy joked, "Every week!" Which seemed doable to me!)
Michelle brought out how forgiveness was not only possible, but natural, based on Christ Jesus' example; she emphasized and explained the Sermon on the Mount and its significance and where it is found in the Bible. One takeaway that I and others appreciated deeply was Michelle's likening sin to anger and replacing sin with the word "anger" in this quote from Science and Health: "Suffer no claim of [anger] ... to grow upon the thought. Dismiss it with an abiding conviction that it is illegitimate, because you know that God is no more the author of sickness than He is of [anger]" (Science and Health, p. 390).
- "Why is it called a 'science'? Are there periodic tables?"
- "How can you forgive someone and is it the same as justifying their bad behavior; like saying they did it because they had a bad childhood, etc?"
- "Does 'raise the dead' [words of Jesus that appear on the cover of Science and Health] go against the Christian demand to stay away from [spiritualism]?"
One woman told me she was trying to find her place as she was born Muslim but had an atheist father and a Catholic mother--her father being especially outspoken about his beliefs. I told her that often atheists were thinking people who could not accept things at face value, like accepting there is a God who could allow evil things to happen. I told her that Science and Health was written for and dedicated to "thinkers," and Mrs. Eddy understood how to address those hard questions; I assured the woman that she would find what she needed in that book along with the Bible (and that of course, we'd come back to see her too). She was so gentle and genuinely inquisitive.
Another woman asked if we had "Daily Breads," a publication from another denomination. I told her about the Bible Lesson sermons we have and showed her in Science and Health the spiritual interpretation of the line in the Lord's Prayer that has "daily bread" as "grace for today." I showed another woman who was asking about the relationship of the Bible and Science and Health the First Tenet, which states that "the inspired word of the Bible is our sufficient guide to eternal life." I told her that Science and Health would help her understand the "inspired word of the Bible." She enthusiastically took both books.
One woman rushed to the table of books, grabbing a Science and Health like a parched person would accept a big cup of water. She clutched it to her chest, breathing, "I need this book.”
The lecturer told us and the administrators that it was the best facility she'd ever visited; she said that obviously the women were respected and treated with love and compassion--she could tell because of how they acted. The administrators were so pleased and confirmed that their priority of low (no) recidivism would be reached by respecting the detainees (male and female at this facility) and providing spiritual education for them as well as vocational skills. In short, it was a big, happy love fest and Linda and I can't wait to go back. She will be taking more Science and Healths tomorrow as we ran out and there was still a demand for the book!
As always, I'm humbly honored and overjoyed to see the Holy Ghost at work in human consciousness intimately revealing to each of us, exactly how we need it, the presence and omnipotence of divine Love. How amazing to have this experience on the heels of Annual Meeting and the field report from Third Church, Christ, Scientist, Dallas who attested to institutional work revitalizing their church!