Still waters

Church of Scientology Mission of Sierra Nevada

Scientology course supervisor Debbie Henning discusses some of the core teachings.

Scientology course supervisor Debbie Henning discusses some of the core teachings.

Photo By David Robert

The Church of Scientology Mission of Sierra Nevada, 428 Ralston St., 322-4141. Hours are 3:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Thursdays. For more information, see

These are times that try men’s souls. I was going out of town Saturday and the early part of Sunday, so more traditional church hours were unavailable to me. One gentleman invited me to his church for a Sunday evening service, but through no fault of his own, the regular minister was going to be gone. (By the way, most people who’ve been kind enough to invite me to their places of worship are not ministers and don’t necessarily know their pastor’s schedule. It’s cool; please don’t feel like you need anyone’s permission to introduce me and the paper’s readers to your spiritual place.) When I got home Sunday afternoon, I consulted the Internet and found a perfectly adequate service—but when I got there, the church had become a daycare center. I should have known when the area code was still 702.

But the Church of Scientology’s Web site was new and had non-Sunday hours of operation. It’s a lovely little converted home off West Fourth Street. During office hours, the knocker is more for decoration than utility, so try the door.

Public executive secretary Fred answered my knock and ushered me into the entryway. We sat down, and I explained my mission. He’s a charming, open guy, originally from the Philippines.

The building feels as much like a school as a church. There’s a desk immediately in front of the door. To the left is a small room with a row of six chairs, a white board, a lectern and a large television. The floors are hardwood with rugs. There are olive draperies.

Past the entryway was a room with shelves of lectures, an E-Meter (measures spiritual distress) and another electronic device for watching lectures.

Fred took me to an interior room farther beyond that and told me a bit about the much-publicized personality test and gave me one to complete at my leisure. It’s a 200-question test that asks such things as: Do you consider the best points of people and only rarely speak slightingly of them? Does life seem rather vague and unreal to you?

As he responded to my questions, it occurred to him that it would be easiest to let the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, tell me the basics of the faith. He took me back to the multimedia room to watch the 1966 An Introduction to Scientology.

I’ve got to admit, I’ve read the “objective” media reports about Scientology. The honey-red haired Hubbard’s explanation of his beliefs is pretty simple: Humans are spiritual beings. People are primarily concerned with survival. If people try, they can improve their lives and relationships. He also said Scientology has proven there is life after death. I didn’t hear a lot that most religious people would have problems with. Fred said he didn’t have any conflicts between his Catholicism and Scientology.

We met course supervisor Debbie Henning, who escorted Fred and I upstairs to more classrooms, where she showed us some of the course catalogs, which had such headings as Starting a Successful Marriage, Overcoming Ups and Downs in Life and Personal Values and Integrity. She explained that Scientology requires people to improve themselves. There are no teachers, per se. It’s more about guidance than dogma.

I found the Church of Scientology Mission of Sierra Nevada very interesting, but I’d have to return to get a more sophisticated idea of its principles. The people I met were certainly friendly and willing to explain. It might be the kind of place for seekers who find something lacking in more conventional varieties of religious experience.




Want to introduce Brian to your place of worship? Call 324-4440 ext. 3525.