In an age of the Internet and growing hunger for spirituality, the Christian Science Church is expanding its presence in cyberspace.
The Boston-based First Church of Christ, Scientist is planning to put Mary Baker Eddy's book - "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" - online this year in a quest to make it more accessible. The decision, announced yesterday at the church's annual meeting, coincides with the 125th anniversary of the publishing of the book.
The Web site will be interactive and debut this fall. It will include the full text of the book, which is in the public domain, but won't be able to be downloaded. Material from other church periodicals, including The Christian Science Journal and Christian Science Sentinel, will also be available online.
Demand for Science and Health has been increasing. Last year, more than 200,000 copies of the book were "sold and distributed" - more than at any time since it was first published in 1875 - according to Virginia S. Harris, chairman of the Christian Science Board of Directors.
In honor of the anniversary, several new editions of the book will also be available starting in the fall -including a smaller version of its current paperback edition. The church also announced plans for a major library dedicated to its founder, Mrs. Eddy (see story, above). It will have a related Web site, marybakereddy.org. The site is available now, but will launch in an expanded form next spring.
Live video coverage of the meeting was beamed to members around the world for the first time via the Web. Throughout the session, reports focused on the benefits the church's teachings can bring to all of human thought - a continuation from three previous gatherings, which focused on its leavening role in science, theology, and medicine.
"The world longs to know God," said William E. Moody, incoming president of The Mother Church. "We are all striving to know God. And the Science of Christ is bringing each of us to a closer, deeper understanding of God. The leaven of Truth is revealing the powerful healing grace of infinite Love."
This year the church welcomed new members from 39 countries, including Russia, Indonesia, and Uruguay, reported Olga Chaffee, clerk of The Mother Church. Walter D. Jones, the church's treasurer, outlined the money the church has spent in carrying out its mission. He said funds on hand total $360 million in cash and securities, a $42 million increase over a year ago. Of that, $143 million is unrestricted money that can be used for any board-approved purpose and $217 is restricted funds.
THE church's capital and operating expenses were $108 million, up $26 million from the previous year. Some of the increase was due to restoration projects at the church's headquarters and other one-time capital costs.
The proceedings were run this year by Mr. Moody. In expanded duties as Mother Church president, he will travel around the world over the next year gathering accounts of healing and share his findings at next year's meeting. His report, as Mrs. Chaffee put it, "will be part of the record documenting the impact that Mary Baker Eddy's discovery and reinstatement of primitive Christianity are having on our lives today."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society