Christian Scientists gathered in Boston this week for their annual meeting, which focused on the theme "What does it take to be a healer?"
The gathering, June 3 and 4, emphasized the import of Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and its call for a deep change in ways of thinking and living in order to follow his example and healing works.
"The Sermon on the Mount is ... a guideline for what it means to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven," said Nathan Talbot, a member of the church's board of directors.
In addition to hearing reports from church officers, members shared experiences and discussed innovations in Sunday School and the church's worldwide youth initiative, TMC Youth.
Christian Science practitioners from five continents spoke of how cultivating the qualities called for in the Sermon on the Mount figures in their healing work. Practitioners are engaged full time in spiritual healing through prayer. A woman from Brazil spoke of the role "not judging" others played in healing a man in extreme pain. A man from Austria emphasized spiritual humility – trusting God's goodness and power – as central to curing a facial growth. A Nigerian practitioner described how meekness and an understanding of God's love, dissolving resentment, resulted in the restoration of a friend's cancerous leg.
"Healing is important because it is an outward sign, a verification, of the inward change of thought," said Thomas Black, another board member.
The Christian Science church is comprised of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – known as The Mother Church (TMC) – and branch churches around the world, each democratically run by local members. The church was founded by Mary Baker Eddy to "reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." (Mrs. Eddy also founded this newspaper.)
This spring, the church accepted new members from 33 countries.
At Monday's meeting, three new church officers were named: the president and two readers to conduct The Mother Church services. The church does not have clergy. The Sunday sermon includes selections read from the two books that serve as the church's pastor: the Holy Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by Mrs. Eddy.
The new president is Mark Swinney, a practitioner who teaches Christian Science in Albuquerque, N.M. "The coming year will be a time of looking to ways Jesus' example and Mary Baker Eddy's teachings ... unite and equip us as a family of healers," says Mr. Swinney in an e-mail message.
The new readers are Curtis Wahlberg of Los Angeles and Elizabeth Schaefer of San Antonio, Texas, both practitioners and teachers of Christian Science.
In a report on finances, board member Walter Jones said the church spent $97 million last year, total funds on hand amount to $474 million, and there is no indebtedness. Treasurer Ned Odegaard added that unrestricted monies in the General Fund amount to $146 million.
The two-year-old initiative to engage young people worldwide in the healing mission involves "spiritual activist summits" and Web-based interaction via tmcyouth.com. In Web forums, youths share how they pray about personal, community, and global issues. Podcasts of talks by experienced healers are also available. The next summit will be in Missouri on Labor Day weekend.
This week, several youths at the meeting spoke of how they resolved relationship and employment problems. A high school wrestler from Virginia told of a healing of ringworm that enabled him to return to competition within three days.
The annual meeting closed with a live musical rendition, by voice and chamber instruments, of "The Master's Voice," composed by Sally DeFord.