Voices of faith: Former attorney now devotes time to spiritual healing

Don Wallingford is a Christian Science practitioner, an individual who devotes his full time to the practice of healing through prayer according to the teachings of Christian Science.

A former practicing attorney, Wallingford's education and training are in law. It was his experience as a young attorney that made him want to help others in the process of healing their lives. Christian Science is a religious teaching that follows the interpretation of the Bible by Mary Baker Eddy in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," first published in 1875.

Wallingford, a 59-year-old Lilburn resident, is a husband, father and grandfather and is a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Lilburn.

Q: How long have you been a Christian Science practitioner?

A: I've been a full-time Christian Science practitioner for 18 years. That's how long I've lived in Georgia and been a member of this church. Christian Science practitioners are self-employed, not church employees.

Q: How and when did you know that this is what you wanted to do as your life's work?

A: I was raised in a home where Christian values as practiced in Christian Science were part of every day, so the idea of facing daily life in spiritual terms was natural to me. I saw my parents work through family challenges with prayer. In college, I became more demanding about religion, taking Bible courses, studying the Bible for myself and taking a course of religious instruction.

The "when" first happened when I was in my mid 20s, a newly licensed attorney with a general practice firm near Chicago. I had several probate cases and my heart yearned to help these people heal their own hearts rather than just handle the details of the decedent's estate. Eventually, it became possible to leave other employment and do this full-time.

Q: Who would you say was the greatest influence on you and your choice?

A: My wife Connie shares my commitment to Christ, and early on our parents were all lovingly supportive as we turned from the law career to this life. Theologians, people in the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy were, of course, influential. Also, my children have had a huge influence on my career. Their honest, innocent hearts kept me on the path.

Q: What would you say is the most challenging thing about your job?

A: Living in contradiction of the world's priorities. It's the challenge of translating spiritual ideas into human terms.

The same thing was challenging for Christ. Then, as now, the public is awed by human power and infatuated with the accumulation of wealth. We tend to evaluate most things from the standpoint of how they pay, rather than how much good they do.

The most challenging thing is nothing new, really. It's trying to live with the Sermon on the Mount and let that define the world we inhabit, rather than trying to support maxed-out credit cards and let our material success validate our concept of God.

Q: What are your long-term goals as a Christian Science practitioner?

A: I'd like to help others appreciate spiritual healing so deeply that they expand their own practice. I'd like every individual who attends our church to know that he or she is loved and appreciated, and that they are in a place that values the healing presence of Christ.

Q: Who would you most like to meet, and why?

A: I think the civil rights movement in America is one of the most miraculous events in world history. I know that's a sweeping statement, but I believe it. That whole transformation of American society is a remarkable thing, and of course it's still going on.

So if your question includes people no longer living, I suppose I'd answer Martin Luther King Jr. But if we're talking about those still with us, I would love to sit down with Rachel Robinson (Jackie Robinson's widow) and learn from her.

Q: If you had to name one thing that's changed the most in Gwinnett's worship and religious trends over the years, what would it be?

A: We've gotten bigger, more prosperous and perhaps over-organized. I hope we haven't become too much like the world, and that we remember to live, in many ways, as the loyal opposition to society's trends and fads.

Q: What is your favorite Scripture?

A: Micah 6:8. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

Don Wallingford will present "The Ultimate Navigation System: The Presence of God's Goodness" at 2 p.m. Nov. 4 at the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Atlanta. The public is invited to attend. First Church of Christ, Scientist, is located at 1235 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta (across the street from the High Museum).

Each week, the Daily Post profiles a different religious leader in Gwinnett. If you have a suggestion on who we should profile next, e-mail features@gwinnettdailypost.com.