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First Church of Christ, Scientist, celebrates 100 years

Church members and current readers Dottie Lehuta (left) and Suzanne Montgomery rise with their congregation to sing during the March 19th Sunday service at Olympia First Church of Christ, Scientist, as it celebrates 100 years.
Church members and current readers Dottie Lehuta (left) and Suzanne Montgomery rise with their congregation to sing during the March 19th Sunday service at Olympia First Church of Christ, Scientist, as it celebrates 100 years. sbloom@theolympian.com

Christian Scientists have called Olympia home for more than 100 years, but officially it’s exactly 100 because the Olympia church was formally recognized in January 1917.

One-hundred years later, the church — First Church of Christ, Scientist — has settled into a new home, including a Sunday school, in west Olympia.

For most of its history, Olympia Christian Scientists held services in the same building that is now home to Temple Beth Hatfiloh in downtown Olympia. But their numbers dwindled to the point that they didn’t need as much space, said Geroge Krusz, a longtime Christian Scientist as well as church board member.

Krusz was on hand Sunday to explain the services. Instead of a pastor, minister or priest leading the services, there are two readers, one who reads from the Bible and the other from a corresponding passage in “Science and Health,” the textbook written by Mary Baker Eddy, the church’s founder. Eddy believed in prayer-based healing.

The congregation sang hymns throughout the hourlong service, and a soloist stood to sing “All Is Infinite Mind,” hitting pitch-perfect notes.

The Church of Christ, Scientist, is headquartered in Boston, the city where it was founded in 1879, and is perhaps best known for its Christian Science Reading Rooms, including a recently renovated location on Washington Street in downtown Olympia. It also produces the Christian Science Monitor, a Pulitzer prize-winning publication.

In 2004, church members voted to sell their previous location to Temple Beth Hatfiloh and then acquired 10 acres in west Olympia off Evergreen Park Drive, said member Stephanie Plakos. Part of the land was sold to the city and to a developer. Proceeds of the sale were used to build the new church, she said. While the church waited for the work to be compete, the congregation temporarily used the State Theater on Fourth Avenue.

Ross Matteson said he has been a member of the church since he was a student at The Evergreen State College in the mid-1970s. Matteson, who sculpts, enjoys the wide spectrum of people who attend the church, he said.

Virginia Britt, 95, has been a church member since 1931 when she attended Sunday school. She graduated from Olympia High School and served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II. She worked as a secretary for three years, Britt said, taking shorthand and typing 75 words per minute.

Bill Curtis, 72, also is a longtime member of the church. Curtis taught Latin and history at Olympia High School for 37 years. He also coached, including the boy’s basketball team, which won the state championship in 1986.

“It’s a way of life,” said Curtis about how Christian Science applies to everyday living.

The church will celebrate its anniversary with events throughout the year, including what the church calls “Christian Science: What It Is and How It Works,” which is set for 11 a.m. May 20. The church also will have an open house for its downtown reading room Oct. 6-8.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, is at 1475 Evergreen Park Drive SW Olympia.

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