Almost everyone's got a "religion" horror story: the priests or the nuns, the crackdown on dancing, drinking — hell, even laughing — the knit brows of a wrathful God staring down from a stained-glass window. But no matter what the trauma, the life of the spirit just can't be kept down. For those looking for community spirituality without dogma, East Bay Church of Religious Science in Temescal is the place to visit. Its roots are in the New Thought movement of the late 19th century, which emphasizes metaphysical beliefs such as the idea that the spirit is all-encompassing and that true human selfhood is divine; founder Ernest Holmes emphasized not the authority of religious leaders or beliefs but rather the authority of spiritual experience. The church is dedicated to no less than "the spiritual transformation of the entire planet," holding its three Sunday services in an old Temescal building that used to be a bar. The stately Reverend Elloise, who is the founder of this congregation and preaches most Sundays, tends to exhort her flock to recognize and align themselves with that universal presence that undergirds all. And don't be surprised if one of the church's three choirs breaks out in "Love Train" or something from "The Wiz" — at the Church of Religious Science, it's all about joy, not rules.
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