At Christian Science Annual Meeting, church officers say they're listening

The Annual Meeting of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, took place Monday in Boston, with the Board of Directors encouraging a dialogue with church members.

By , Staff writer

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    The Annual Meeting of The First Church of Christ, Scientist opens in Boston, on June 6.
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The Christian Science Board of Directors is listening – and wants to continue engaging in a dialogue with church members. That was a key message at the Annual Meeting of The First Church of Christ, Scientist.

“We’re ready to talk about things,” commented one church member in a video shown at the meeting Monday.

Concurred Michael Pabst, chairman of the five-member Board of Directors, who conducted the meeting: “The meeting today is not a culmination but a continuation” of frank, unscripted conversations with church members.

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While unity is important to the church’s future prosperity, “Unity is not uniformity,” Mr. Pabst told the gathering. Speaking to the same subject, one church member in a video noted, “Everybody brings something to church.” Another commented, “There is unity in diversity.”

The meeting, held at the denomination's home church in Boston, known as The Mother Church, had an unusually informal tone. The officers of the church were all seated in an arc and held a conversation that covered three major topics: the spiritual foundation of church, the challenges facing the church, and the solutions that are at hand.

Monday’s meeting was preceded on Friday and Saturday by a Boston Church Alive Summit, a series of special meetings for members that explored how to more actively fulfill the church’s healing mission.

Boston was the sixth worldwide location for such a summit, Pabst noted. In addition, he said, more than 30 Church Alive workshops have been held worldwide. Twenty more will take place in coming weeks.

The new president of The Mother Church, Marta Greenwood, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from London, opened the meeting with readings from the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the denomination more than a century ago. “The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding ...,” she read from the definition of church found in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mrs. Eddy’s seminal work.

Outgoing president Fujiko Signs, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher based in Tokyo, thanked the worldwide church membership for its prayers for the people of Japan following the recent earthquake and tsunami and for its “generous contributions” of aid. “Love [God] is caring for our church,” she told the gathering, as well as for the church's people and communities.

The church reported $514 million in funds on hand, though church Treasurer J. Edward (Ned) Odegaard noted that much of that money was restricted to specific uses by its donors. The church has no indebtedness and spent $93 million during the past fiscal year.

As previously announced, Mr. Odegaard will be leaving his position later this year to take up the full-time public practice of Christian Science healing. The new treasurer will be Lyon Osborn, who currently serves as manager of the Christian Science Publishing Society.

As also previously announced, The Christian Science Journal, Christian Science Sentinel, and The Herald of Christian Science will be available via online subscription beginning in the first quarter of 2012, said board member Mary Trammell, who is also editor in chief of the Christian Science Publishing Society. And Bill Dawley has stepped down as editor of these periodicals to take up a role as a full-time practitioner of Christian Science healing. He will be replaced by Dorothy Estes, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Sacramento, Calif.

In addition to these periodicals, the church publishes The Christian Science Monitor – available at csmonitor.com, in a weekly print edition, and via e-mail newsletters and an e-mailed daily news briefing.

Members from around the United States and the world attended Monday’s gathering. Many others worldwide participated through an Internet connection. A video replay of the 90-minute meeting is available at christianscience.com/church/the-mother-church/annual-meeting.

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