The night before US Army Chaplain Janet Yarlott Horton left Germany last year to deliver an Easter sunrise service in Tuzla, Bosnia, her cat suddenly leapt from her arms and left deep claw wounds on her lips and chin.
As a Christian Scientist, Colonel Horton yesterday spoke about treating her wounds exclusively through prayer. She told the annual meeting of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, that her healing was quick and complete.
The colonel's account of the healing took place in the context of the wider spiritual purpose on her Bosnia mission - to bring healing to one of the most religiously divided countries in Eastern Europe.
This dual theme - individual spiritual healing and healing as a divine blessing for all theologies - was explored by church officers, members, and visitors from other denominations at yesterday's meeting. Jon G. Harder, incoming president of The Mother Church, told the meeting: "A great religious awakening is under way. Genuine spirituality bridges over outworn denominational borders." He added, "We're at a point of historic change - a new birth in theology and practice."
The annual meeting was held this year at Boston's Symphony Hall. The church's historic Mother Church, the usual site, is undergoing extensive renovation.
Members heard reports on a number of topics, including the strengthening of church finances and the current restoration program of major church properties.
Virginia S. Harris, chairman of the Christian Science Board of Directors, highlighted the medical community's growing interest in spiritual healing. She said: "The discussion and questioning is no longer, 'Is spiritual healing possible?' but 'How is it done?' "
She cited several examples of Christian Science lecturers invited to participate in discussions on healing at medical centers and universities. "Medicine is rediscovering the potential of a healing theology," she said. The impetus for this is the "leaven" of Christian Science, she said. "We are living in times of theological revolution. In just a very few years, much of the world has come from the strongly held belief that 'God is dead' to embracing the actuality of spiritual healing through the power of God."
Speaking on videotape, noted theologian Harvey Cox of the Harvard Divinity School, acknowledged that Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was instrumental in establishing spiritual healing in the 20th century as an integral part of Christianity.
"I think Christian Scientists and Mrs. Eddy in particular," Dr. Cox said, "were simply a little ahead of their time in something which began in other denominations rather quickly after that, taking its own form and expression." He observed that today "virtually every Christian denomination you can think of, in one way or another, has retrieved ways of healing within Christian worship and liturgy."
More than a century ago, Mrs. Eddy wrote "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," her textbook explaining the principles of Christian Science.
Mrs. Harris said public interest in the book continues worldwide with sales reaching more than 100,000 for the fourth year in a row. Many of these new readers, Harris said, "see Science and Health as making the Bible more significant to them."
Also on video, Dr. John Fellers, executive director of the Institute of Religion at the Texas Medical Center, said that Christian Science has led the way for today's re-exploration of healing. "It was [Christian Scientists]," he said, "who kept alive the spiritual dimension in healing and well-ness for a long, long time, when the rest of us really weren't thinking about it very much."
Reporting on the church's outreach, Olga M. Chaffee, clerk of The Mother Church, said that last year the church welcomed new members from 43 countries and 42 states. She noted that the textbook was being welcomed into other churches and arenas.
Ms. Chaffee reported that at the Disciples Baptist Church in Boston, the Rev. Tina Saxon provided copies of Science and Health to every family with a child in Sunday School. Speaking on videotape, Dr. Saxon called for tolerance and understanding among religions.
"If all of us, The Mother Church, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Pentecostals, the Catholics, if all people who believe in God ... don't come to some close belief in the spirit of the Christ, we are going to blow ourselves apart," Saxon said. "We all need to come to the Christ consciousness."
As examples of lives transformed, Katherine DeGrow, a former United Methodist minister, told the audience that by reading Science and Health she experienced what she called a "leavening" of her thought in understanding her identity as a sinless reflection of God.
Ms. Degrow concluded that Christian Scientists "can join hands with our brothers and sisters of all faiths and bring this healing gospel and [Science and Health] which expounds it to a waiting and a hungry world."
Bernard Medford said that after many years of struggling with diabetes, his life is now free of medication after being healed by studying the Bible and Science and Health. Now a Christian Science practitioner, he said he believed "that all Christian churches will be turning to [Science and Health] in the future."
Reporting on church finances, Treasurer Walter D. Jones said funds on hand total $302 million, up $51 million from a year ago. Of the $302 million, $117 million are unrestricted funds, up $19 million. Restricted funds total $185 million, up $32 million.
The church's only external debt is $1.3 million for capital leases. That is down 2 million a year ago. Mr. Jones said "the church's only internal indebtedness, which is the pension reserve, has been reduced to $35.2 million." Last year's capital and net operating expenses were $73 million, down by $2 million from the previous year.
Other incoming church officers announced were J. Thomas Black of Southfield, Mich., as the new First Reader of The Mother Church; and Patricia Tupper Hyatt of Columbia, S.C., as the new Second Reader.