by V. Star Campbell
The First Church of Christ, Scientist (also known as the Christian Science church) has been located at 617 East Hamilton Avenue since 1965 but its history in State College goes back much further!
In 1922 the first Christian Science services were held by students and faculty in Room 100 of the Horticulture Building at Penn State and in subsequent years attendees from the community met in 405 Old Main, the Friends’ Meeting House on South Atherton St., the Little Theatre in the basement of Old Main and, in 1935, the group moved downtown and rented the Odd Fellows Hall on East College Ave.
In 1941, the group was formally organized as the Christian Science Society of State College and in 1946, the Society moved to the second floor of 108 W. Beaver Ave. By 1949, the growth and activities warranted a change of status from “society” to “church” and First Church of Christ, Scientist, State College, was established. In addition, there was a need for larger premises with a ground floor for a public Christian Science Reading Room, thus in 1952, the church found suitable space at 133 W. Beaver Avenue.
Ground was broken for the construction of the church edifice at 617 E. Hamilton Ave. in the Spring of 1965 and the first service was held on Dec. 5, 1965. The land was formerly owned by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints and East Hamilton Avenue actually ended where our church now sits (University Drive at East Hamilton Avenue did not exist in 1965). In December, 1969, the indebtedness of the construction was completely repaid. Christian Science churches are dedicated when free of debt, thus, the church’s dedication date was May 3, 1970. The church was subsequently awarded the “Focus on Appearance” award by the State College Community Appearance and Design Review Board in 1973.
The Christian Science church is “designed to commemorate the word and works of Our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” The church was founded by Mary Baker Eddy and is the only American-born religion founded by a woman. The unabridged Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the foundation for the theology and practice of Christian Science.
The Bible and the textbook Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy are the Pastor of the church. There is no clergy. On Sundays, a Bible Lesson-Sermon of passages from these books is presented by Readers elected by the congregation. Wednesday services include topical readings from the Bible and Science and Health and time for congregants to share how study of the Scripture has illumined their inseparable relationship with God and brought about healing through prayer.
A Christian Science Reading Room is located in every town that has a Christian Science church. The State College Reading Room has existed for 80 years—in the State College Hotel in the 1940s, on West Beaver Avenue in the 1950s and 60s, at 208 and 218 South Allen St. across from Schlow Library from 1979 to 2017, and now temporarily in our church edifice. Reading Rooms are for the use of the public—to research prayer and healing, to ask questions, and to purchase Christian Science literature, music, children’s books, Bibles, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as well as other works by Mary Baker Eddy. Our Reading Room is open Monday-Friday, 11:30-1:30pm. In addition, Bible Study is offered on Tuesdays from 12:15-1:00pm and on Thursdays the Study Group reads and discusses various works by Mary Baker Eddy. All of these activities are open to the public; however, they are currently suspended during the coronavirus “stay-at-home” order by PA Governor Wolf.
Our church and Reading Room are engaged in the community by: participating in interfaith events; donating food and other items to food banks, Centre Safe and other organizations; serving as the warm-up center during First Night and the volunteer welcome center during Arts Festival for over 10 years; and providing subscriptions to The Christian Science Monitor international newspaper to area libraries and school districts for several decades. The church also provides a free Christian Science lecture/talk to the community each year on a timely topic.
For more information about the Christian Science church, visit www.ChristianScience.com. For specific information about our local church and Reading Room and its activities, visit www.abouthealing.org or call 814-234-2194.
V. Star Campbell, is the Reading Room Librarian and a church board member. She also volunteers for AAUW State College, Red Cross, RSVP Pen Pal Program, VITA tax assistance program, and Youth Aid Panel in Bellefonte.