Glenwood Christian Scientists mark 100 years in same church
Post Independent Correspondent
Glenwood’s first and only Christian Science Church is celebrating its centennial this season.
The historic church building, constructed in 1916 when the town of Glenwood Springs was hardly three decades old, is a familiar landmark for downtown residents and visitors. Located at the corner of 10th Street and Cooper Avenue, its large windows, modest white exterior and tidy lawn have remained essentially unchanged since the church’s completion a century ago.
“Even in the early days, people came to this area in droves seeking healing — as we all know, the hot springs had a reputation for helping people with certain physical conditions,” said Joel Belmont, who serves on the church’s board of directors and as its “first reader,” which he describes as a pastor-like role. “Healing is also a cornerstone of our faith, and the church in Glenwood was founded by a woman who was healed here as well.”
According to a historical church document dated 1941 that recounts the faith organization’s local beginnings, a Mattie Mahala White came to Glenwood Springs in 1897 with her daughter Susie Hughes while suffering from debilitating physical challenges. White and Hughes reported healing after working with a Christian Science practitioner from Salt Lake City, and soon thereafter began sharing the teachings of Christian Science with friends and neighbors in White’s home.
In 1904, an official Christian Science Society was formed, and the group began holding regular Sunday services and Wednesday evening testimonial meetings just as the church still does today. By 1916, the society had transitioned to being known as the First Church of Christ, Scientist and was able to move into its freshly constructed building at 10th and Cooper.
“The church in Glenwood Springs is one of the earlier pioneering ones in the small mountain towns,” said Denver-based Christian Science practitioner David Price, who also serves as a church media spokesman for Colorado. “Churches in Denver and Colorado Springs were founded before the turn of the 20th century, and many people who had experienced or heard about healings there later took that knowledge to smaller towns in the state and founded churches in their new communities.
“We don’t proselytize — in other words, we don’t go out and try to bring others in; rather, we hope to lead by example. It says a lot that the Glenwood church is celebrating a century of healing and service to the community,” Price said.
Today there are 28 Christian Science churches around the state, including branches in Aspen, Grand Junction, Durango and many along the Front Range.
Price explained that the Christian Science faith was founded in 1879 in Boston by Mary Baker Eddy. Her beliefs and spiritual findings became the basis of the denomination, which for its members center on prayer-based healing and the practical teachings of Jesus. Referred to by the church as a spiritual pioneer specializing in science, theology and medicine, Eddy wrote more than a dozen books on these subjects — most notably “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” which is utilized as a central text alongside the Bible during services. Eddy also founded a number of periodicals including The Christian Science Monitor, which has been awarded multiple Pulitzer Prizes and today is regarded as a respected and predominantly secular news organization.
“Mary Baker Eddy had a bad fall on some ice in her early years, but after studying her Bible she found healing in the scriptures,” Price said. “She spent years helping teach others how to find the same sense of healing, and called her discovery Christian Science.”
Curious community members can learn more about Christian Science healings during the local church’s 7 p.m. Wednesday testimonial meetings, when accounts of recovery from ailments and injuries are detailed by members. An hour-long 10 a.m. sermon is also presented every Sunday.
“Our Sunday services are the same across all churches all over the world,” Belmont said. “As first reader I help develop a more localized lesson on Wednesdays, but on Sundays the sermon lesson is the same here as it is in Germany, or China or anywhere, as determined by the Mother Church in Boston.”
Belmont, who has been involved with the Glenwood branch for about 10 years, has also set up an audio-visual testimony outreach experience for passersby along 10th street. There, visitors can view information about the church and also step inside its public reading room for research, solitude or prayer. The room is open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Mondays and Saturdays, and 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
“We invite everyone in the community to attend our Sunday service on Dec. 4 and stay for an open house to tour the church for our 100th anniversary and learn more,” Belmont said. “We will hold another open house after our Dec. 7 evening meeting, and will be doing a hymn sing following our meeting on Dec. 21. All are welcome.”
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Glenwood Springs Police have arrested former U.S. Senate candidate Mark H. Aspiri of Silt on charges of criminal extortion, ethnic intimidation harassment and theft crimes involving threats made against a local Hispanic man.