Friday, March 11, 2011

Sunday Memories

First Church of Christ Scientist, Reno, Nevada
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,
FSA/OWI Collection,
[reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]

First Church of Christ Scientist, Reno, Nevada
Photograph courtesy of Sam Brackstone, 2010
Paul R. Williams Project

Images we receive as a child can stick with us for a lifetime.  One of those images for me is the First Church of Christ Scientist in Reno, Nevada (pictures above).  My father was raised as a Christian Scientist.  He read Bible verses to me from the time I could first sit still.  Occasionally, he would take me to the Christian Science Church for Sunday School.

As you can see from the pictures above, this was a gorgeous building!  I was very little (as evidenced below), and I can remember climbing up those massive stairs and feeling like I was climbing to heaven.

Little LaurieBee

There was a very large room (or at least it seemed very large to my 4-year-old mind) where several classes met.  Because several classes met in this large room, every class spoke in whispers so as not to disturb the other classes.  There was a feeling of reverence that was very special to me.  I often think about this on Sunday when I'm teaching the 3-year-olds in our Mormon Primary (the equivalent of Sunday School).  There is a vast difference in decibel levels between Mormon Primary and Christian Science Sunday School.  Some Sundays I long for that reverence!

My Sunday School teacher taught us to memorize the ten commandments.  Each week, as we memorized one of the commandments, she placed a gold star on the inside cover of our Bible, or Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.  I was using my Dad's Bible and Science and Health, and he kept them there until he died.  I now have them.  Two of the stars have fallen off and been lost, but eight of them still survive.

I learned things in Sunday School that have stayed with me all my life.  I learned the 5 G's:  God, Good, Guides, Guards, and Governs me.  About 15 years ago or so, I came out of the building where I worked very late at night.  The doors locked behind me, and I looked up to see three very large men sitting on the hood of my Honda.  I had this overwhelming feeling that if panic set it, I was dead.  I heard the words in my head:  God, Good, Guides, Guards, and Governs me.  I held up my head, walked to my car, got in, locked the doors, started the engine, and slowly drove off.  It was not until I put the car in gear that the men jumped off my hood.  I had not thought of the 5 G's in many years -- but I'll never forget them now!

I also learned this:  Thy kingdom come.  Let the reign of divine truth, light, and love be established in me and rule out of me all sin.  And may thy word enrich the affections of all mankind and govern them.  -- Mary Baker Eddy

As I grew older, sometimes Dad would take me to the adult Wednesday evening meetings.  It was a special time for the two of us.

Part of my Sunday School experience was Dad; part of it was the Sunday School teachers; and part of it was this "heavenly" building.  I did a little research on the building.  The architect was Paul Revere Williams, who was a 20th century designer.  He is the first documented African American member of the American Institute of Architects, and the first to become an AIA Fellow.  The building was sold in 1998 to Moya Lear, wife of Bill Lear, who built the Lear jets.  Mrs. Lear donated the building to the Reno-Sparks Theater Community Coalition for restoration.  (My sisters need to take me there the next time I'm in Reno.)

There is a website devoted to Williams' works, and it is certainly worth a look.  It's called the Paul Williams Project at the Art Museum, University of Memphis.  You can find more pictures of this beautiful building on the site here:

Many thanks to Deborah Brackstone and Lisa Francisco at the University of Memphis for their help in supplying Sam Brackstone's wonderful picture, as well as pointing me in the direction of the Library of Congress for the other picture.

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