"In a traditional church, God is over here," said Paula Brandes as she reached her hand away from her body. "In Religious Science, God is within us. We don't have to reach out to find God. We see God as our equal." Brandes serves as the teacher for the children's group at Midtown Church. "Christians want to be your parent, laying down the law for you. Christians, and most religions, have all sorts of rules. Christians have a need for this. They need and want this structure." Brandes compared Christians to children who thrive in a disciplined environment. "For me, I don't want a structure. I don't want to pray to God, I want to pray with God. I am equal with God. I know this seems so New Age, and yet it is inherent in who we are as people. If people were given their own free choice, I think they'd want this. I just can't see God as a god who wants to be the boss as [these other religions do].
"Whatever the path that is serving you, it is welcome here. We don't want to change people. When people are ready for change, we are ready to facilitate this. We believe that you have to power to create your own reality. We facilitate this to help people find inner truth, which is different for everyone," said Brandes. "When it feels loving, that is your truth. When you separate people, that isn't love. Any church that practices separation in any way is pulling us away from our truth. I would not say they are in error, but for some reason there is a lesson they need to learn."
Midtown Church's services are held at the Hillcrest Masonic Lodge. The 10:30 a.m. service is a celebration service with songs. The 9 a.m. service is described by a brochure as the contemplative service, which includes time for meditation and the use of visualization techniques. At the 9 a.m. service, Reverend Kevin Bucy asked the 35 congregants to close their eyes and recite, "May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be happy.
"May is the month of Buddha. Today, we are going to talk about the Heart of Compassion. This is the Catholic concept of the Sacred Heart. It is a global heart. This really means we are all connected beyond race, faith, lifestyle choices, or ethnicity," said Bucy in his message "The Seed of Full Potential." "It is our responsibility to work for a world that works for everyone. Our goal is to create a world without hunger or war. Isn't that the teaching of Jesus and Buddha? That we are all connected? The potential within us is the power to create a world that works for us. If we create a world of love and compassion, it changes the outside world."
After service, people gathered in the Lodge's gym for coffee. "All roads lead to God," said Sara Flynn, a congregant. "People come from different walks of life to attend Midtown. I was an atheist at first, but now I believe in my divine right." Flynn said she embraces all people's spiritual journeys. "I don't agree with the Catholic beliefs on homosexuality. We can both be right even if we don't agree on the issues. I know some people like the robes, rituals, and ceremonies Catholicism has to offer."
"Catholics see homosexuality as a sin," said Paula Brandes. "They are creating a world where they are afraid of homosexuals. I don't condone this, but all roads lead to God. I just really hope they don't act on this or hurt someone."
"We are going to stay away from any Fundamentalist views," commented Reverend Bucy when asked about his views of other faiths. "As ministers, we promise not to talk down about any religions. We don't believe in wrong or evil. God is the only power and God is all love. There is no Satan at large. Our motto is, 'love God and do what you will'."
Reverend Bucy said, "When you die, you will have a greater experience with God. I'm not exactly sure what that means. To the degree we live wrongly, there will be consequences. This is not punishment, but I'm not really clear on all this."
"The Religious Science church goes back to Mary Baker Eddy in that it is metaphysically based, but there is not a lot of dogma to it," said Jacob Glass who teaches a midweek class. "The main difference between Religious Science and Christian Science is that we have no problem with seeing doctors and taking medicine." Glass teaches a class on miracles. "I have never seen a miracle, personally, but I've had people who have e-mailed me that they have," said Glass.
Glass spoke about his view of the afterlife. "I believe in reincarnation, that we are born again until we don't need to come back anymore. Reincarnation is for people who don't get it. There is karma for people to work out. If a person stole in life, they will need to come back and learn before they can go on." Glass said that once, while in meditation, he experienced a glimpse of one of his past lives. "I was a man in a teaching position, but I wasn't using it in the right way. I was teaching from fear rather than love." Glass said this experience was in the medieval times. "I could tell this because the castles and landscape around me in my visions." Glass declined to disclose any other information because he felt this was private information.
Denomination: United Church of Religious Science
Founded locally: 2001
Senior pastor: Kevin Bucy
Congregation size: 200
Staff size: 2 full-time, 4 part-time
Sunday school enrollment: 25
Annual budget: did not say
Weekly giving: did not say
Singles program: no
Dress: casual to business casual
Sunday worship: 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour