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How a Book Is Changing Seekers' Lives

At annual meeting, Christian Scientists focus on the healing effect of Science and Health

Carolyn Moulton spent 22 years as an emergency-room nurse. Now she is helping people overcome physical and emotional problems through a different and, she says, more effective method - prayer.

The change came about during a rain delay on a golf course. Ms. Moulton had been suffering from a muscle-joint disorder. A friend told her about Science and Health, the textbook of Christian Science, and its spiritual approach to healing. She was healed after reading the book.

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Her experience is one of many accounts given of the transforming effect of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" at the church's annual meeting yesterday in Boston.

In an era of emerging interest in spiritual healing, the conclave focused on how the book, written more than a century ago by Mary Baker Eddy, is meeting the needs of a growing number of people worldwide - including Moulton and others who had worked in the medical community for years.

"Society today is journeying in a wilderness [of] matter-based health care and traditional medicine," Virginia S. Harris, chairman of the board of directors of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, told some 2,000 people gathered at the church's headquarters. "They're searching for freedom, health, and well-being for the Promised Land of Christian Science and spiritual healing."

Progress report

On an overcast day, reports were given by the Christian Science Board of Directors, the church's five-member governing board, and from church members worldwide on the textbook, which is based on the teachings and curative laws in the Bible.

Several reports revealed how some members of the medical community are searching for an added dimension of spirituality:

* Giulia Plum, a former psychotherapist from Connecticut, related how ideas in Science and Health began to transform her own health and her work as a therapist.

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* Pamela K. Martin, a registered nurse for 25 years, told how she was healed of ailments ranging from arthritis to a tumor after turning to prayer. She is now a Christian Science practitioner.

* Elizabeth Veneris, a Stanford University student, recounted how the Christian Science organization on campus held a lecture at the university's medical school. It was attended by more than 200 people.

At the annual meeting, J. Thomas Black, a Christian Science teacher and practitioner from Birmingham, Mich., was appointed president of the church. He observed that "Christian Scientists have been coming together this year, perhaps as never before, to consider the place of [Science and Health] in our times." Meetings for this purpose have been held in 52 cities here in the United States and elsewhere in the world, he said.

The church, which also publishes this newspaper, reported that its finances have improved this year. The church's treasurer, John Selover, noted that the church is operating within a balanced budget. It had $251 million in funds on hand on April 30, 1997. This represents an increase of $23 million over last year. Of that total, $154 million is restricted funds, and $98 million is unrestricted.

Church finances

Operating and capital expenditures for the fiscal year were $75 million, up $11 million from last year. Most of the additional expense will come from one-time close-down costs associated with broadcasting activities. Mr. Selover reported that after a careful evaluation of the church's short-wave and public radio broadcasts, the church is making some changes.

With "particular regard to short-wave radio, there have been shifts in listenership because of both technical advances in broadcasting and world political changes," he said. "We see that there are ways to be more cost-effective in reaching international audiences."

The church plans to sell its shortwave facilities on Saipan and in South Carolina. It is also offering for sale its radio news capabilities. A research-and-development team is exploring new broadcasting ventures.

Selover reported that there are two lawsuits pending against the church. One was filed by two members against several of the present and former officers of The Mother Church and The Christian Science Publishing Society. It is now before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. A decision isn't expected for several months.

A second suit, filed by a children's medical health-care advocacy group, attempts to end the reimbursement of Christian Science nursing care by Medicare and Medicaid programs. Reimbursement payments will continue as an appeal goes forward.

On another subject, Selover said restoration of the church edifices in Boston is about 75 percent complete. Now work is beginning on other buildings at headquarters.

Olga Chaffee, the church's clerk, reported that the church has taken in new members from a number of countries, including Cameroon, Saudi Arabia, Congo, Namibia, and Haiti.

M. Victor Westberg, manager of the Committee on Publication, the public-affairs arm of the church, told of progress achieved by the committee and volunteers around the country who have been working to preserve religious rights.

David L. Degler of Nashville, Tenn., and Mary Weldon Ridgway of Richardson, Texas, continue in the final year of their three-year terms as first and second readers. Members of the board of directors are Selover, Mrs. Chaffee, Mrs. Harris, William H. Hill, and J. Anthony Periton.

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