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Christian Scientists, at annual meeting, focus on Christly 'simplicity'

The church increased savings and expenditures, according to reports. Monitor editor Richard Bergenheim takes on additional role as church president.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 4, 2008

Dual role: Richard Bergenheim, editor of the Monitor, is also the new president of The First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Melanie Stetson Freeman - Staff

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At their annual meeting in Boston June 2, Christian Scientists focused on the theme, "The simplicity that is in Christ," a phrase drawn from one of St. Paul's messages to the Corinthians in the Bible.

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The Board of Directors of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, urged members – both in Boston and around the world participating via a webcast – to celebrate the pure Christliness that heals.

"One Bible translation gives that phrase 'simplicity in Christ' as 'single-minded devotion to Christ,' " noted Margaret Rogers, one of the five members of the board.

The directors elaborated on what could distract people from such single-mindedness – such as materialism, lack of compassion, or divisiveness within the church. They delivered their message in two parts. The first was a videotaped conversation during their recent trip to São Paulo, Brazil. Then they all participated in giving the Clerk's report to the audience gathered at what's known as The Mother Church in Boston.

Richard Bergenheim conducted the meeting as the new president of the church. He will serve a one-year term and continue in his role as editor of The Christian Science Monitor.

Mr. Bergenheim, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science, plans to travel to discuss with members ways to broaden support for the church's periodicals. The Christian Science Publishing Society produces weekly and monthly religious magazines and other products, including this newspaper.

It’s not the first time for such jobs to overlap in the church. Monitor editor in chief Erwin Canham served as president of the church in 1966.

Church founder Mary Baker Eddy started the Monitor in 1908. To celebrate its 100th year, the paper plans a series of "Centennial Conversations" – through live forums and on its website, www.csmonitor.com. Themes will range from building peace to tackling climate change.

Thomas Black, chairman of the Board of Directors, noted in a financial report that the church's total funds on hand amount to $496 million; the past year's expenditures were $113 million; and the church has no debt.

Treasurer Ned Odegaard added that the unrestricted General Fund now stands at $165 million, up from $146 million last year. That's the result of a decision by the board to increase savings, he said.

The past year's spending was up from $97 million the previous year, Mr. Odegaard said in an interview, largely because the Publishing House building was refurbished to accommodate nearly all of the church's Boston employees. Two other buildings at the Back Bay headquarters have now been mostly vacated in preparation for short-term leasing.

The meeting included an update on various activities to support youth and youthfulness in the church, including summits, blogs, and lecture podcasts.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Mrs. Eddy's establishment of Christian Science nursing. These nurses give practical, nonmedical support to patients receiving spiritual treatment from Christian Science practitioners.

During a hymn sing on June 1, the congregation raised their voices in a sample of new songs from a hymnal supplement due out this fall from The Christian Science Publishing Society. The compositions, ranging in style from folk to gospel, will be the first additions to the Christian Science Hymnal since 1932.

The church recently admitted new members from 39 countries, according to a church official. The video recording of the June 2 meeting is available at www.churchofchristscientist.org

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