Noted architect Irving Gill certainly left his mark on Coronado in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He designed celebrated homes and buildings all over the island that still stand today; a testament to his craftsmanship.
One such building is the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Coronado on the corner of Eighth Avenue and C Street. The church, which will celebrate its centennial in February, was formally granted its charter on Feb. 18, 1916. By 1928, the temporary building that had housed the church had been leveled and construction was completed on Gill’s design. The first church service in the building was held on Dec. 3, 1928. Only nine years later in October 1937, the church was dedicated — free of debt. And nearly a half century later, in June 1980, the Coronado Historical Association declared the church a historic landmark.
Gill’s design for the church was a departure from the heavy Victorian influence that dominated San Diego in the early 1900s. At the turn of the century Gill was inspired by adobe missions and favored simple elements such as flat roofs, concrete, white or near-white exterior and interior walls, skylights, and ground-level arches and breezeways reminiscent of the California missions. Each of these elements is prominent in the First Church of Christ, Scientist, where members, such as Margaret Richardson, still enjoy the simple beauty of his design.
“The church has natural air conditioning and such a nice air flow because of all the breezeways and arches — it kind of feels like Hawaii!” said Richardson, who is also the church’s Reading Room librarian. “And because of the skylight and tall arched windows inside the church, we don’t even have to turn on the lights if we don’t want to.”
Lofted above the main congregation room is an organ pavilion, housing an organ that was built right into the building in 1928 (the pipes are in the walls). Resident organist Loren-James Clark plays for every Sunday service, and offers an annual free organ concert to the public (scheduled for 5 p.m., Sept. 12 this year, and will include a harpist and tenor soloist). “It’s such beautiful music,” Richardson said. “And it’s really fun because he also used to practice at the Methodist Church in Mission Valley, so quite a few people from that congregation come over to enjoy the concert as well.”
Nestled above the grand arched windows on either side of the main hall are two colorful stained-glass windows. One, depicting Jesus Christ, is original. The other, which lists the church’s Seven Synonyms for God (life, truth, love, spirit, soul, mind and principle), was donated by a family in the late 1940s.
In a 1913 edition of Sunset Magazine, Gill said “If we, the architects of the West, wish to do great work we must dare to be simple, must have the courage to fling aside every device that distracts the eye from structural beauty, must break through convention and get down to fundamental truths.” This sentiment is fitting for the philosophy of the church, which says it is “based on eternal truths of the Bible.”
“We believe in restoring primitive Christianity through the lost element of healing, through prayer and the simple truth that God is good, God takes care of you, and God is love,” Richardson explained. (The words “God is Love” are emblazoned behind the readers’ pulpit and on the main wall of the nursery.)
Christian Science was developed by Mary Baker Eddy in 1866. After suffering an injury, Eddy began studying the Bible and, in particular, stories of Jesus’ healing. For years she studied these stories and, in 1875, wrote a book called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, describing the teachings and healings of Jesus as a complete and coherent science that was demonstrated and proven through his healings. This book and the Bible serve as the two central texts for the religion.
On any given Sunday, in every single Christian Science church, the same service is offered. Two readers, who are elected by church members, use a quarterly publication in conjunction with Bible scripture and hymns to deliver a unified message.
Allison Logan, who has been the church reader for five years, explained the central tenet of Christian Science: “We believe that Jesus heals and he came here to teach us how to heal. It wasn’t just about the people he taught and healed when he was alive; the idea was for those teachings and healings to be passed on. Somehow along the line that got lost, and Mary Baker Eddy rediscovered it.”
Sunday services work in conjunction with the Wednesday “testimony meetings,” where church members share stories of healing. Both are open to the public. Richardson explained that testimony meetings tend to be an intimate, family-size group of people, whereas Sunday services can be around 50 people. The church Reading Room, which offers an array of Christian Science literature and a quiet place for study, is open to the public Mondays and Tuesdays from noon to 2 p.m., Wednesdays from 4 to 6:30 p.m., and Sundays from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Public church tours are also available during these times.
“All of our services are healing services — and when you come you should expect healing,” said Richardson. A lot of the testimonies are from people who have been healed by church services.”
First Church of Christ Scientist,
1123 Eighth Street, (619) 435-4383
Sunday service & Sunday school, 10 a.m.
Wednesday testimony meeting, 7 p.m.