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At annual meeting, Christian Scientists celebrate 'pearl of great price'

The annual meeting of Christian Scientists Monday focused on the church's healing ministry. It also reported improved finances since last year.

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Two years ago the church incurred extra expenses as its activities were consolidated mostly into a single building on the church's campus in Boston's Bay Bay neighborhood. Last year, The Christian Science Monitor received extra support as it made the transition from a daily print newspaper to an continuous online news source and a weekly print magazine.

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With those exceptions, the church's finances have been "in a pretty consistent zone the last four or five years,” Mr. Odegaard said. What church members want to know is whether the church's financial position is basically OK, he said. “And it is OK, it’s very OK,” he said.

Redeveloping the church campus

The church continues to move ahead with plans to develop its Boston property, said Ms. Trammel in an interview prior to the meeting.

“The plaza improvements that will be going on will improve the financial situation of the church in terms of paying for our real estate holdings, [and] covering the expenses which they have entailed, which have been considerable,” she said. “Roughly 20 to 25 percent of every dollar that members currently give to The Mother Church each year is devoted to just maintaining our real estate property right here” in Boston, she said.

The aim, when the development is complete in about a decade, is that the church then could “spend all of our incoming contributions on [our] mission, which undoubtedly is what the members would feel the best about. I know I would be a lot happier knowing it's going to that than to buildings we aren’t using.”

Though Internet viewing figures from this year's meeting aren't yet available, viewers in 37 countries watched or listened live via 5,426 Internet connections last year, a church spokeswoman said. Many of those connections would have multiple viewers, she added.

The church named Fujiko Signs as its president for the coming year. Ms. Signs, a Christian Science lecturer, practitioner, and teacher, is the first Japanese person to serve as president of The Mother Church. Karl Sandberg of Norwell, Mass., and Marian English of Colorado Springs, Colo., were appointed as First and Second Readers of The Mother Church, to conduct services for the Boston congregation from June 2010 to June 2013.

The meeting represented "a celebration" that explored the theme of "The Pearl of Great Price" in its meaning to the church and the world, Trammel said. “We’re really thrilled about this simple message. It means a lot to go right back to Jesus’ words. He’s the master Christian.”