A New Home for Christian Science Nursing Students

We are pleased to announce the opening of a new Asher House in May 2016 at Arden Wood in San Francisco, California. This House will be exclusively for Christian Science nursing students.

The following article is a re-print of an article published in the November 2015 issue of Heart to Heart, Arden Wood’s bi-annual newsletter:

A New Home for Christian Science Nursing Students
By Jim Bencivenga, Asher Student Foundation trustee

How can we grow our outreach and service to students who are Christian Scientists? This burning questions guided our board of trustees through three months of strategic planning. Many of our board meetings and planning meetings took place at Arden Wood. When you walk through the front door, you can immediately feel what a special place this is. This is a quiet, pervasive, spiritual atmosphere that supports our work. On several occasions during our meetings, we learned of the critical need for skilled Christian Science nurses around the country, and for affordable housing for CSN students right here at Arden Wood. After some healthy discussion, the ASF board voted unanimously to grant funds to renovate an onsite building to meet the housing need – and we could not be more pleased!

As we learned, the demand from CSN applicants has exceeded Arden Wood’s housing options for several years now. Similar to the rents in Boston and New York City, San Francisco rents are well beyond the means of a CSN – or two or three together – for a closet-sized apartment. At the same time, the demand for trained CSNs around the country has far outpaced the number of trained CSNs. Arden Wood’s response to this two-fold challenge was to consider Elisha’s question: “… what hast thou in the house?” (II Kings 4:2). That’s when the Arden Wood Cottage came into focus as a viable onsite option – after extensive renovations, that is.

And so, reason and revelation met and married through the course of several discussions and a terrific presentation by Arden Wood Board President Wylie Greig and Vice-President Mark Nelson. Wylie and Mark helped us understand the widespread need for trained CSNs at all Christian Science care facilities. We also learned that the Cottage had once been a dormitory and then become a residence; with upgrading and renovations, it could become CSN student housing. Walking through the building, we noticed that the work is all internal – there’s no change to the footprint. Then we learned about the potential applicants, who are mostly from abroad and with limited means. In light of the national need for more skilled CSNs, we knew this was a project we wanted to support.

Finally, we made the decision to do this as a pilot project rather than a one-time grant. We want to learn all we can from this process in the event that we decide to support other Christian Science organizations in a similar way. This project prompted our trustees to push the boundaries of our thinking to new horizons in terms of why ASF exists and what more ASF can do to serve our movement. When all the details fell into place so beautifully, it was sterling proof that it was a Principle-inspired idea. We are eager to see where it leads!

Below: Current renovations under way on Asher Cottage (front, back and interior views)