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Proselytizing on the Common - The Church of Scientology comes to town

Title: Proselytizing on the Common - The Church of Scientology comes to town
Date: Thursday, 14 June 2007
Publisher: Worcester Magazine
Author: Chet Williamson
Main source:

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For the past week, they set up big yellow tents with three snow-cone points and little flags on top on the Common right behind City Hall. From a distance you'd have thought that the circus had come to town. It didn't. It was the Church of Scientology's International Volunteer Minister Pioneer Cavalcade, a kind of roving revival tent show to spread the word of church founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Emblazed across the front of the tents were the words: "Do Something About it," a reference to an old Hubbard writing: "If one is going to find fault with something, it implies that he wishes to do something about it and would if he could. If one does not like the crime, injustice and violence of this society, he can do something about it. He can become a Volunteer Minister and help civilize it, bring it conscience and kindness and love and freedom from travail by insisting into it trust, decency, honesty and tolerance."

According to its official Web site, the word Scientology means "the study of truth." "Scientology is the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others and all of life. The Scientology religion comprises a body of knowledge extending from certain fundamental truths."

Last week, volunteer ministers traveled in from Boston for the Worcester cavalcade. One such minister is Rev. Nanette Ciano, who has been working with Scientology for more than 30 years. She remembers when the church had a storefront across from the common on Front Street. "I keep in touch with many members from that group," she says. "They are in Boston."

By design, these traveling cavalcades will be coming to another city near you. Each month the church plans to visit major cities and communities around the world. The hope is to reach "thousands at a time."

Ciano was accompanied by fellow ministers John Franczak, who was busy securing the tents and Pobporn Leurchakittikul, who sat at a front table as the curious stopped by. One gentleman with a shaved head and tattoos snaking up his arm approached the group shouting in a classic Worcester accent, "Hey, what have we going on here?" The trio greeted him with some free pamphlets. He sized them up, and quietly left.

Inside the tents were large banners displaying such catchphrases as "Respect For Self and Others" and "Integrity and Honesty." There were a series of tables with books and literature written Hubbard. In another area there was a collection of chairs, waiting for a group of people to show up, at which time a spontaneous lecture would be given by one of the ministers.

In another corner were three massage tables. That's where you could learn how to "heal one self." Reading from one of the banners, Ciano says, "Communication with the body lessens when one is ill or injured." She then points to a booklet called, Assists for Illnesses and Injuries. From the chapter, "Helping an Individual Heal Himself," she reads: "Injuries, operations, delivery of babies, severe illnesses and periods of intense emotional shock all deserve to be handled with thorough and complete assists." The booklet sells for $5.

Ready for business: Church of Scientology representatives (from left) John Franczak, Rev. Nanette Ciano and Pobporn Leurchakittikul set up shop on Worcester Common.

Ciano says a woman stopped by from a local drug rehabilitation center. After hearing that she gives lectures such as "Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Life," the woman invited Ciano to the halfway house to speak.

After speaking at length with the trio of ministers they directed further inquiries to Rev. Gerard Renna of the Church of Scientology in Boston. "The worldwide cavalcade goes to remote areas where there are no churches," he says. When asked about the former Worcester storefront, Renna says, "It was at 16 Front St. In fact, we actually started on Main Street. We opened it up in 1974."

Thinking it was the Worcester of old, Renna says the Worcester visit was not what he expected. After a few days in town, he asked his ministers how it was going. "You must have hundreds of people." he enthused. "They said, ‘No, it's quiet.' I said, ‘What about the mall?' They said, ‘It's not here any more.'"

Obviously disappointed, Renna adds, "You open up a place and the community runs it. I think most of the Scientologists come to Boston now. What it is, is: People like to know about Scientology. You give them the opportunity for them to actually find out for themselves."

Next stop for the cavalcade is a two-day visit to Portland, Maine.