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A celebration of spiritual healing worldwide

At annual meeting, Christian Scientists hear accounts from Europe, Africa, the US.

"A celebration of healing" was the theme of the 2001 annual meeting of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, held Monday in Boston.

Members attending from around the world heard reports focused on the church's healing mission and on a commemoration of 125 years of publishing "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the principal work of church founder Mary Baker Eddy.

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William Moody, who served as church president for the past year, told of his travels to more than 80 cities in the US and other countries to meet with local Christian Scientists about their own healing experiences and their commitment to active healing work in their communities.

"As I traveled from Toronto, Canada, to Perth, Australia; from Albuquerque, N.M., in the US to Manchester, England," he said, "I learned how lives had been transformed and saved."

The healings shared "covered the range of human experience": homelessness, bankruptcy, unemployment, broken marriages, and a wide range of physical conditions, such as deafness, blindness, a broken neck, heart attacks, food poisoning, brain tumor, kidney disease, and cancers.

At yesterday's meeting, members also heard, via video, testimonies of individuals who described healings resulting from their study of "Science and Health." Johnson Adejemilua of Nigeria, for example, told of a healing of high blood pressure. Allen Tanner, a Protestant chaplain in a hospital in the US, shared how he witnessed - along with the doctors - the healing of an AIDS patient who had been given only weeks to live.

"The story that today's healing harvest tells is remarkable," said Virginia Harris, chairman of the Christian Science Board of Directors. "It's proof that the reinstatement of primitive Christianity is at hand."

New appointments

Christiane West Little, of Washington, D.C., was named president for the coming year. A practitioner and teacher of Christian Science who speaks six languages, Mrs. Little will visit many non-English-speaking countries in coming months to continue gathering evidence of spiritual healing. The church has an international membership and earlier this month welcomed new members from 41 countries.

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Other incoming officers are Candace du Mars of Olympia, Wash., who will serve as first reader of The Mother Church, and Mr. Moody of New Orleans, La., as second reader.

During the course of this year's 125th anniversary of "Science and Health," Little said, some 5,000 letters and e-mails received from many countries commented on how people's lives had been transformed by reading the book, which is published in 17 languages. The letters were in response to a special gift edition of the book sent to members.

Mrs. Harris shared some recent publication milestones. "More copies of 'Science and Health' were sold and distributed this year than in any previous year," she said. Last month, the book passed the 10 million mark, with 1 million copies "reaching the hands of seekers in just the last five years."

John Selover, a board member and manager of The Christian Science Publishing Society, reported that more than 600,000 people are now visiting the website of The Christian Science Monitor each month, and reading more than 5 million pages of Monitor content.

Other efforts to reach out in response to the world's spiritual needs were highlighted, including magazines in five languages for teenagers and young children, and a special Herald magazine focused on Africa, with articles in several languages. In coming months, the church intends to develop special initiatives with students in Christian Science Organizations based on college and university campuses.

Church finances

Reporting on the financial picture of The Mother Church, Treasurer Walter Jones said that funds on hand total $323 million in cash and securities, a decrease from last year of $37 million. The decrease, he explained, was due both to an increase in planned expenditures and to investment market declines. The value of the church's portfolio declined by 6 percent.

Total funds on hand include $207 million in restricted funds and $116 million in unrestricted funds, which can be used for any board-approved purpose. Spending for the year was $141 million from both funds, up $33 million from the previous year. The church has no indebtedness.

One important expense, Mr. Jones said, involves the reconstruction of the fountain on the church plaza, which is open to children and families in the community. The work will be finished in time for the June 19 start of a church-sponsored program called Summer SOULstice, which provides lunch-time music, dance, crafts, and concerts involving the Boston Symphony and other local groups.

Jones reported that $53.8 million in donations and pledges has been received for a program to renovate the church's facilities. The goal for renovation work is $55.4 million. Jones said the fund remains open to cover rising construction costs and newly identified needs. Some $26 million of the donations to the fund were spent on capital projects this year. Renovation of the Publishing Society building has reached a stage that will allow the staff of The Christian Science Monitor to return to a remodeled newsroom in July.

In the same building, progress is being made on the new four-story Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity, which will be a focal point at next year's annual meeting. Harris announced a church members' ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held June 3, 2002, and said members will be able to take tours of the library, which won't officially open to the public until the fall of 2002.

In reviewing the past year's progress, Harris said, "What a joyous celebration of healing! What a powerful beginning of the new century!"

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor