Christian Science Church - stressing 'mission focus' - cuts real-estate costs
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, the publisher of this newspaper, Thursday announced plans for major changes in its real estate holdings, including the sale of buildings located outside Boston that have significant architectural and sentimental value.Skip to next paragraph
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The steps are being taken "to make certain that all of our activities and spending priorities are focused on the support ... of the healing work being done by all of our church members," said Nathan Talbot, chairman of The Christian Science Board of Directors, the church's governing body. The moves have the goal of helping reduce the 25 percent share of the organization's budget that is now spent on real estate-related costs.
The directors said they planned to sell two homes in Massachusetts where Mary Baker Eddy, the church's Founder, had lived. "This has not been an easy decision," the board said in a statement to be published in the Christian Science Journal.
Church officials stressed that economic concerns were not the primary drivers in the decision to put Mrs. Eddy's homes on the market.
In an interview, Mr. Talbot explained why the homes were being sold now, after being retained for nearly a century. "There are two factors," Talbot said. "One is humanity's need for healing. And the second is a look at our membership that has been drifting downward. And why has it been drifting downward? We think part of the answer to turning that around is being better healers."
Talbot continued, "And what is going to help us be better healers? Keeping a clear focus. And what is distracting from that focus - well, there are several things, and we are setting them aside. And devoting so much of our resources to property management is one of them. That is why it is so important that people see that the financial decision is secondary. We think property management is a symbol of what can distract. We want to be free to devote every possible resource to our healing mission."
The homes are located in the communities of Lynn and Chestnut Hill. Key historical items in the homes will be preserved in accordance with curatorial standards, the board said.
The church also said it would vacate and seek revenue-producing uses for a 26-story office tower and a structure known as the Church Colonnade on its 14-acre campus in Boston's Back Bay section. Both buildings were designed by I.M. Pei & Partners and Araldo Cossutta Associated Architects. The Pei firm's work is widely discussed by architecture critics.
Since one-third of church employees have been laid off in recent years, all current employees can be housed in the Christian Science Publishing House Building at Massachusetts Avenue and Norway Street.
Church executives said they have retained Leggat McCall Properties LLC, a real estate consulting firm, to help consider other options for the organization's extensive real estate holdings near the Prudential Center, a booming area of offices, shops, and apartments.
"We want to assure the residents of Boston that we will continue to maintain the high standard of stewardship and care for the Christian Science Plaza in this community in the years and decades to come," Mr. Talbot said.
As part of its revised real estate strategy, a building the church owns in Washington, D.C., which was designed by the Pei/Cossutta team, is being sold. The seven-story structure, located two blocks from the White House on 16th Street, houses the Monitor's Washington bureau, which will move elsewhere in the city. The Washington site also includes Third Church of Christ, Scientist, whose members are examining several options to have a continued presence in downtown Washington.