April 12, 2005
Dear fellow Mother Church members:
The following is a lengthy report (about 18 pages when printed) compiled from extensive notes taken by a member who attended the “town meeting” with the Christian Science Board of Directors in Los Angeles. If you want to forward this email to other members, remember that some of the formatting will change each time it is forwarded. Cutting and pasting the contents
of the message into a new email will help retain the original formatting and make the report easier to read. An attachment of the report in Acrobat PDF format is also being sent, which you can forward, download, and print out to share.
At the very end of the report is a “sum up” that may be particularly helpful to those who will be attending future meetings of this kind. At this date, it is believed there will be meetings in Baltimore; Portland, Oregon; possibly St. Louis; Houston; and Australia.
Event: Town meeting between members of The Mother Church and the Christian Science Board of Directors
Location: Twenty-eighth Church of Christ Scientist, Los Angeles
Date: Saturday, April 9, 2005
Sponsor: Tenth Church of Christ Scientist, Los Angeles (as well as the participation of several other branch churches in Los Angeles)
The meeting began shortly after 1:00 p.m. and continued until about 5:40. There was only one break, lasting only a few minutes. The church has a seating capacity of 800 and I would say that most seats were taken. Not everyone, of course, stayed for the entirety of the meeting but by the end there were still a good number of people present.
Among the opening remarks by two members of the hosting organization (Tenth Church) — before the Board was introduced — it was announced that no one was permitted to make a recording of the proceedings. (This document was compiled from notes taken during the meeting and includes some but not all of the questions and answers.) They explained that members were free to ask any questions they wanted and that the Board was prepared to stay as long as members still had questions.
It is true that members were free to question the Board on any topic. Some members spent a certain amount of time building up to their question. For the most part, they were not interrupted. The Board (and the audience) listened attentively and politely. In a few cases, where the speaker seemed to take quite a lot of time and where there seemed to be no question in
sight, the moderator (one of those who circulated and provided microphones) asked the member to please state his/her question. This was only done in cases where it seemed, to my mind, entirely appropriate.
It was an environment, then, in which members could truly feel free to express themselves. I will say, however, that it is in the interest of those asking questions to state up front whatever relevant facts s/he wants to have made known surrounding the question since, once the member has spoken, the microphone is given back to one of the ushers and the Board begins their response. If the questioner feels the Board’s comments obscure or in any way distort important (but unstated) facts of the case, s/he finds him/herself unable to clarify for the simple reason that the microphone has, by then, moved to another part of the hall. It would seem awkward to ask, in the middle of the Board’s response, for the microphone to be returned.
Members might consider, in future meetings, holding on to the mike until the Board has finished responding to the question so that the member might have the opportunity to clarify or present relevant facts in response to the Board’s comments. No one announced, at the beginning of the meeting, that members were required to return the mike after having asked their
question, but this seemed to have happened naturally. I see no reason why a member couldn’t ask, at the outset, whether one might be permitted to keep the mike handy until after the Board had finished responding, in case the questioner felt the need to follow up by clarifying something that might have been obscured. It would also give the speaker the opportunity to
repeat his/her question in the event that it had not been answered. Since there were several mikes in circulation, there would be no problem in making a mike quickly available to the next questioner. Whether or not this would be permitted, the problem could be, to some extent, circumvented by a careful presentation of the question which would include important background information — information that needs to be “out there.” You’ll have a sense of this as you read my account of the proceedings. (NOTE: In other cities, perhaps microphones could be placed on stands and members could line up to ask their questions. Then the questioner could stay at the mike until his or her question was asked and answered.)
There were preliminary remarks by the two hosts who said that the “great push [in the church] the last few months has been for unity.” The Board members were introduced. Although there was a table and five chairs set up for them on the stage, they began by standing down in the audience, in front of the first row, and taking a few minutes each to introduce themselves. They were warm and friendly and frequently peppered their comments with witty remarks.
A few highlights from among their introductory comments:
Mary Trammell spoke of “one voice, one mind, one heart,” presenting this as a kind of theme for their work.
Vic Westberg said that early on in his study, he was particularly impressed with Questions and Answers (Miscellaneous Writings) and that this is something he lives by. He spoke of the importance of the “simple seekers of Truth” — not shutting people out. He said they have a wonderful Board, that there is a real sense of unity.
Tom Black said that Christian Science is not just “something else.” [not just one more religion]. It is an incomparable thing — the Comforter. It stands alone as the final revelation of scientific healing.
Walter Jones spoke of God’s gracious abundance which is present in our movement.
What follows are the questions from the Field and the responses by the Board. This is not always — but is frequently — a word for word transcription. I have greatly abbreviated some of the questions and comments, omitted some questions and comments (for lack of time to write everything down) and have sometimes put things in my own words (since, again, there was not time to do a verbatim account of each statement). That said, I accounted for the majority of questions and comments/responses.
Q: Since there seem to be various reports and misunderstandings [about CS?] out there, have we considered having someone in marketing address this to handle it immediately? [The speaker gave no examples. My sense of what he meant was that the public in general does not really know what CS is and that maybe a good marketing person could help us out.]
Nate Talbot: How is CS going to find its way into the world? Marketing might be one way but it’s really about us as healers. It’s healing that will get the public’s attention.
Vic Westberg: In the Publishing Society, there is a fantastic marketing person for the periodicals and he is also a great metaphysician. We see things moving in that area. This person’s expertise as a metaphysician goes hand in hand with his expertise in marketing. There is a new manager in CS Publishing Society. During the last annual meeting, the Board asked the
Field for suggestions and lots were given. A Blue Ribbon panel was formed [to respond to the question of how best to reach the public]. But there was no real silver bullet there. But one young consultant from Comcast said: “When you don’t have the money to increase your subscription base, you have to be innovative.” That person is now the manager of the CS Publishing Society.
Walter Jones: The question [from the audience] had to do with misunderstandings. This is the realm of the Committee on Publication. It’s not about marketing but rather about correcting.
Tom Black: Tells of a conversation he had where it was brought out that we can have great marketing, etc. but that unless we handle the mental resistance to CS, it is doomed to failure. We need to be handling the underlying resistance through Manual provisions.
Q: Many concerned Christian Scientists feel that the Board of Directors has not yet addressed the Matters of Conscience complaint fairly. Can we expect that the Board of Directors will address the Matters of Conscience complaint fairly and will the two teachers who presented the complaint have their credentials and Journal listings reinstated?”
[There was some applause in the audience.]
Nate Talbot: We’ve really prayed about it. The Field has no idea. The Board has taken seriously a lot of issues… I’ve been impressed with how much thought has been given.
Mary Trammell: I was present at the meeting. It went into the night. There was great appreciation for the prayer that had gone into that document. As for the teachers being reinstated: nothing would make us happier. Our hearts are certainly open.
Vic Westberg: The Manual is there for healing; it’s not punitive. We are still working on MOC and will continue. Rest assured that we’re working on it. It’s a work in progress.
Tom Black: I was not on the Board then. A day does not pass that each of us reaches for the Manual and we pore over it as best we are able. This Board is not representing itself as infallible. I personally don’t think it was handled unwisely. Sometimes decisions need to be made “right or wrong.” [I think his thought was that sometimes one might find out that one's
decision in a particular situation was not right.] No one can ever be excluded from the love of God.
Walter Jones: We really took seriously all of the Manual provisions that were in the document. We’re striving to do the best of our ability. We prayed it through to do what came to us. It’s always a matter of prayer. Something I wasn’t prepared for as how much time is devoted to matters of this kind. When it comes to the Manual, it requires our best prayer.
Nate Talbot: There’s difference between neglecting to hear and having a difference of opinion. This doesn’t mean we haven’t listened. When members of the Field bring up these questions, it calls for a lot of patience and a lot of trust to know that divine Love is working out its purpose. A lot more healing comes by standing back and watching divine Love working out its purpose. Sometimes, if we push a point, its not the best way to proceed — we’re learning how to trust each other.
Mary Trammell: We would really invite your prayers.
[At that point, we heard someone from the front of the auditorium ask the question: "What's Matters of Conscience?!" There was some laughter since the responses by the Board had been going on for some time by then. The host from the branch church (who was one of the people bringing the microphone around) started to try to answer the question. He said that Matters of Conscience was put together by "a group of Christian Scientists..." at which point people in the audience spoke up, objecting. Someone said "No, it's not the Mailing Fund." One woman raised her hand and asked for the microphone. She said she could explain very briefly what Matters of Conscience was: that it was an extensive document presenting Manual violations that needed to be corrected, that it was not written by a group, that it was written by one person -- a Christian Science practitioner and teacher, Elaine Natale Davidson. The woman said that since it was a long document, she would not go into the contents but explained that there is an extensive Web site that presents full coverage on this subject. The Matters of Conscience document itself is not on the Web site, she said, but the site tells members where they can obtain a copy of the document and the site presents thorough background material, Q&A, etc, and can be found at www.mattersofconscience.org.]
Mary Trammell: Family needs to stick together. We like to think of Christian Science as a large tent. There is room in it for all of us. I was speaking with someone who spoke of different opinions being expressed about a particular topic. The universal tent of Christian Science is large enough to embrace all of us in its Love.
Nate Talbot: I spoke to someone who had a concern. Her concern was: “the colors of the Trade Editions were not dignified.” [laughter from the audience] This was her honest view.
[Whisper overheard near me: "That's not what we're talking about!"]
It’s not so easy to say “You’re right. You’re wrong.” Listen, respect — this family — we want to feel this family has some cohesiveness.
Tom Black: When we have a tumbling stone, the edges get roughed off [smoothed out]. That kind of reminds me of church work. When the rough edges get smoothed off, we work together better.
[What one notices in the Board's comments is that they never say what action was taken. One would get the false impression that they responded to the complaint in a careful way and even expressed appreciation for the document. The actions they actually took were never mentioned. It would have been important for the questioner to have made known (at the time of posing the question) some or all of the following facts.
** that the Board did not respond to the complaint when it was first presented by Mrs. Davidson (Jan. 4, 2002) who proceeded according to the first step of the Matthew Code and according to the Manual (Article I, Section 9).
** that after Mrs. Davidson (with Joseph Eller, CSB as a witness), proceeded with the second step of the Matthew Code (Feb. 22, 2002), the Board did finally meet with the two teachers (March 7, 2002). During the meeting, the entire Matters of Conscience complaint was declared "invalid" by the Board. The Directors claimed that there was not even one single
instance of a By-Law having been violated by them, despite the extensive documented evidence.
** that the two teachers, who were forbidden from taking notes during the meeting, were told not to share the complaint with any other member, not to speak to anyone about the complaint, nor to reveal anything that was said in the meeting -- at the risk of disciplinary action.
** that Mrs. Davidson and Mr. Eller then brought the complaint "unto the church" according to the third step of the Matthew Code. The Board subsequently placed the two teachers on probation, dissolved their associations, and declared that their students were no longer considered to be class taught.
** that the Board never stated what the two teachers were being charged with (considering that the filing of a complaint and following the Matthew Code are Manual directives and obviously are not, therefore, punishable offenses). This failure of the Board to state charges and to follow the Matthew Code is in itself a Manual violation.
** that the Board, without warning or communication to the two teachers, discontinued the teachers' Journal listings. The Board has, to date, never stated what the teachers have been charged with.
Perhaps, in order to make one's question concise, the questioner could refer to one or more of these facts. It would be important to point out that the Board of Directors has not communicated directly with the teachers since Mr. Talbot's January 30, 2004 letter informing them that the Board had no more time to spend on Matters of Conscience (which was referred to as "your views and opinions") and that the teachers stood in need of repentance. [One can read Mr. Talbot's entire letter by going to www.mattersofconscience.org. Click on Matters of Conscience, click on Matthew Code, click on Narrative of Events, scroll down through the section called Further Events to last paragraph. Then click on The Directors'
January 2004 letter. This is a PDF file that can be viewed, downloaded, and printed out.]
In the question: “Can we expect that the Board of Directors will address the MOC complaint fairly . . . ?” it would have been very important to be explicit, in a succinct way, about what had been “unfair” in the Board’s actions — what the Board did and did not do.
Q: The speaker expressed concern about the way Christian Science lectures have changed. There are currently constraints on lecturers — geographical and other constraints. Is the Board considering reviewing this policy? Are they considering going back to an earlier approach?
Nate Talbot: We’ve seen some innovations to respond to the problem of what some saw as us [Christian Scientists] just speaking to ourselves. If we consider the Sermon on the Mount, how much metaphysics is really in that sermon? Not so much. It’s really about good ideals. The statement: “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect,” that
lights up the entire Sermon on the Mount. So in lectures, it’s not so simple as just “putting in more metaphysics.” I can tell you, we’re giving lots of thought to the lectures. There are some things that are changing. How clearly are we helping the public understand what Christian Science is — the fact that we’re not “New Age”? We’re looking at some of the concerns from the
Field. The motives, the prayers, will go right on just as they have for decades.
Vic Westberg: It’s not about putting more metaphysics in. It’s about talking in a language the person can understand. Sometimes one puts too much metaphysics in it. I remember feeling that, early on in my study of CS. Listening to someone and wondering what had been said. There needs to be a balance. Understandable metaphysics for the newcomer. [small
amount of applause from the audience]
Tom Black: The office of Teacher of CS is a sacred sacred responsibility. To be appointed a teacher of CS means that the person is willing to embrace that calling for the rest of his life. Mr. Black referred to the moral imperative of teaching. It is a very high calling. As a result, it just unfolded that we [Board of Education?] could write a letter to teachers — they were received with great warmth — saying that before you accept to give a talk in a branch church, consider these things we’ve been discussing.
Walter Jones: We’re not laying down hard and fast rules, we’re appealing to your spiritual sense, your spiritual judgment. It’s the same for practitioners. Teachers and practitioners should really engage the Field in their practice and teaching. [Giving public talks] is enjoyable and engaging but what is the best thing for us to do? It may be just staying there in the practice.
Nate Talbot: If we were the kind of healers that Christ Jesus called for — if we are raising the dead — [that's what will communicate].
Tom Black: This church really is a healing church. [some applause]
Q: The questioner brought up the marketing idea again. Healing is our best marketing tool, it’s true, but healing comes with human footsteps. Having been raised in CS, I’ve seen the wonderful way the Sunday School brings people into the church. In light of that, and while acknowledging that branch churches do their own thing and The Mother Church does its own thing, do you feel there is a way for Boston to help the branches by, for example, putting resources on the Web site that branch Sunday School teachers could plug into. There are things, also, that might be shared with Readers — resources.
Mary Trammell: One of the things we’ve been thinking about and are close to initiating is a church discussion board [on the Web site] where people could share ideas with each other. For example: “I’ve got this kind of class and these problems.” The Web site is currently being replanned. Some [part of it] could be used for church work: How to make the services fresh and inspiring; things that work; things that don’t work, etc. The CS Journal will start a series soon on things that have helped promote growth in a branch church. They will feature, in a given issue, a particular branch church. They [the CS Journal] would love to hear from you.
Walter Jones: I love the emphasis and the kind of prayer going into Sunday School. Mrs. Eddy saw that there was something about Sunday School that was able to spur growth. There are Sunday Schools that really pray about their community. We see children starting to come to Sunday School “because we love them, we care about them.”
Vic Westberg: There is work being done on a “Children’s Quarterly” — it’s in the process of being put together. This came in from the Field.
Nate Talbot: We value ideas from the Field. For example, the Quarterly for children. The sample we tried out on some kids [worked very well]. They can hardly wait to get into the lesson Sermon. I’d be interested in having a growing number of practitioners and teachers teaching in Sunday School.
Q: The speaker expressed gratitude for the Board coming to California. He said it helps to overcome a “we vs. they” attitude and remarked that, in looking at the five Board members, he saw “no horns or halos.” [uproarious laughter from the audience and the Board] Many years ago, The Mother Church had a film which consisted of interviews with Christian Scientists all
over the world in which the speakers gave testimonies. Why are these not made available today? This sort of thing is never dated.
Vic Westberg: [I didn't quite follow what Mr. Westberg said but he spoke, I think, of thank you cards that were sent from the Board to people who had contributed to the Tsunami fund, through The Mother Church, saying that he could see this would be well received. I don't know how this was related to the question.]
Tom Black: There is no absence of nifty ideas. But they all cost money! We’re very committed to “wisdom, economy, and brotherly love.” We must spend funds that come in with great wisdom. One little thing we have been doing: the Tsunami fund. We would ask the television dept. of The Mother Church to say on TV “Thanks a lot. We appreciate your love for the
people of Asia.” And then post it on the Internet. [I think he was saying that that's something they'd like to do.] And the Thank You cards for the Tsunami fund — the Sunday School kids are so thrilled by those little cards!
[I didn't understood how these comments on the Tsunami fund serves as a response to the question about films of Christian Scientists giving testimonies of healing]
Nate Talbot: It’s not just the post cards. It illustrates our desire to listen to the Field. We’ve come out to the Field. This just helps us keep our connection.
[I relate the following just to give a sense of the range of things presented from the audience]
Q: A few years ago at Annual Meeting there was a list of spurious books [posted]. Yet Mrs. Eddy felt her students should be capable of choosing their own reading. There was an effort to prevent the notion of “authorized” literature. I served as Clerk in a branch church for 13 years. During that time, only one book thrilled me: it demonstrated advanced thought. But it was not “authorized literature”! I discarded the book [for that reason]. Many years later, the same book came back to me. It was written by an individual who was a devoted CS for 60 years. It began in a simple way explaining Mrs. Eddy’s thought. I have bought some books by this individual. I have begun to understand “the system” — the categories…
Divine Science alone. Everything explained [in this book] — all those people were excommunicated. [The speaker went on at some length explaining that Science is a divine demand, not human and how we need to allow the advancing thought to be expressed. At that point, the usher asked her if she had a question. She said that her question was: Would The Mother
Church consider publishing these books?
Tom Black: The editors and directors have a responsibility to do their best to maintain the purity and accuracy of the literature.
[It would have been good, needless to say, if someone with a microphone had asked about Destiny, at that moment, or about other instances of problematic literature published by the CS Publishing Society -- articles in the periodicals, for example. No one followed up on this point, then or later in the meeting.]
Nate Talbot: We receive these books regularly. We consider them and it goes through a vigorous process but we in no way guarantee we would publish it.
Q: We used to have the CS Monitor Youth Forum. [applause] It was backed by the Board of Directors. It brought a lot of youth into the movement. What is its value, in your mind?
Mary Trammell: We’d be happy to consider it again. It’s a case of finding what will best meet the need of today’s youth.
Vic Westberg: If it met a need in the past, it surely would again.
Q: What’s the difference between a lecture and a workshop?
Nate Talbot: When I think of “lecture,” I find myself less concerned about format than content. Radio programs, [talks where] exchanges are given. It’s an issue that’s very much being discussed in the Board of Lectureship.
Q: But what are the workshops?
Nate Talbot: It can take different forms. It might include dialogue. It could make Science and Health available to participants, etc. Is that a lecture? It is if it includes all that Mrs. Eddy calls for in a lecture.
Comment from a member: For the person who wondered about a Web site that would offer information and resources for Sunday School teachers, there already is something like that. It’s biblewise.com and is written by Christian Scientists.
Q: What programs are being cancelled, people being fired, non-Christian Scientists hired to work in the Library. Can you clarify?
Walter Jones: We have gone through a period of lay-offs. There are 572 employees now. When the entire church plaza was built, they anticipated a capacity of thousands, but now, with the computer, we don’t need as much employment at The Mother Church — for example the case of the Herald. Regarding the recent lay-offs, it was an organizational decision. It
was not an easy decision. We have had some people in Human Resources who have said it was handled very harmoniously. At the Mary Baker Eddy Library, the Monitor and in other departments, there are non-Scientists and Scientists. But the non-Scientists [like the Scientists] support the activity they are involved in. Hiring is taken very seriously. We certainly appreciate the way everyone who is there now is dedicated.
Q: What programs have been cancelled — tours, etc.?
Walter Jones: The tours at the Church are not being held. The tours of houses — Lynn and 400 Beacon St — are not being held now. But we hope to move through that. We’re thinking through it, to see, for example, if there is an alternative to paid staff. We definitely want to get them going again.
Q: I commend you on the edition of the Bible that matches the Trade Edition. There had been the problem of presenting Science and Health by itself.
Tom Black: At the Reading Room on Mass. Ave, in the window, we’re working to bring the Bible into a balanced position vis-à-vis Science and Health. [vigorous applause]
Nate Talbot: The pendulum will swing in our movement just as it did in Mrs. Eddy’s time [in putting emphasis on one thing or another.]
[The writer feels compelled to note that the pendulum, in Mrs. Eddy's time, never swung in the direction of separating the Bible from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures or from emphasizing the textbook and de-emphasizing the Bible.]
Q: Regarding lectures in our branch church, they don’t seem to have anything to do with the Manual. For example, in lieu of a regular lecture, we were assigned someone to give a lecture to us to which none of our members could attend, and no invited guests — it was given at California State Univ. I certainly agree with Mrs. Eddy’s provision to serve but . . . We did not even choose the lecturer. In lieu of our having a lecture for our members, there was an “inspirational meeting” at our church. We could send notices to other churches but the talk given did not fulfill the requirement of the Manual — the text of the lecture is to be mailed to The Mother Church for approval. The speaker included things that seemed inappropriate, speaking, for example of “Saint Philomena” [although addressing her as a person and not as a saint]. Normally we’ve given very successful lectures. For example, we had 500 attendees one year, 300 another year. I don’t see that the Board of Lectureship should be assigning lectures that we can’t attend. There is a rumor that all lectures in churches will be dropped.
Nate Talbot: At the Board of Lectureship, we’re certainly examining the question. The branch church works with the lecturer. Lecturers need to respect the ideals of the branch church. This doesn’t mean new avenues can’t be explored.
Q: What do you see as the strategic direction of the Church in the next five years? Recently there has been great outreach. I’m concerned the pendulum will swing back.
Vic Westberg: We had an invitation in Eugene, OR. One person said: “I hope you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” We heard that loud and clear and the baby will not be thrown out with the bathwater.
Mary Trammell: We don’t have a grand strategic plan. We want to stay as close to this book [she holds up the Manual] as we possibly can, to nurture those and companion those walking in the path of Christian Science. We’re finding that there won’t be a big change of plans. We’re going to go forward with the structure Mrs. Eddy gave us.
Nate Talbot: [quotes from a letter Mrs. Eddy wrote] “They sprang from necessity, the logic of events” and I think we’re following that.
Q: I’m the Assistant Committee on Publication (L.A.). I wonder about financial responsibility. With diminishing numbers in our churches and financial challenges in The Mother Church, what is the responsibility of each of us?
Walter Jones: What part do we all play? I just love this concept. The restoration of the buildings is a constant. In 2000, we knew that the crest of renewal was coming to a close. It was time to take a fresh look. Time for streamlining. The current level of income is not sustaining expenses. We’re trying to reduce expenditures. Trying to get it to $100 million in expenditures. At the end of the day we have to really pray about it. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about this. We’re thinking about a lot of things. What can we do? We’re here to listen! It’s incredible, what it takes to run technical things. Wherever we can find savings, we try to do that.
Tom Black: Per capita tax — “What can we do?” You got our letter? Our thoughts about Church, etc. We don’t ask each other “how much do you contribute?” Same here [we're not going to ask you that]. But what we’d love to see you do is to take it to your heavenly Father.
Q: Since the 1960s, our work with The Mother Church was based on our confidence in The Mother Church. There was a system of checks and balances on the Directors, in the Manual. That got upset when the Board of Directors went to court to change that. Then [the church] got into trouble with expenditures. The Committee on Business was done away with. The checks and balances don’t seem to be there now. We’ve lost a lot of confidence in the Board of Directors. Do you have any thought about the closer provision of checks and balances, where the Committee on Business really did something, so we can have more confidence in the Board of Directors operating as Mrs. Eddy intended? For example, the Clerk not being on the Board, etc.
Mary Trammell: The Board has really loved working with the Finance Committee. We’re supported by that system of checks and balances. [Do note that] while Mrs. Eddy was with us, the Clerk was on the Board. It may not be the best way for this time but it does serve us [to have committee members be on the Board, and be able to work closely with them].
Nate Talbot: Credibility. We’ve given a huge amount of thought to this issue. We decided that we just have to earn it. One way is through these meetings. Maybe in a year or two, you’ll take a look at how we’re coming along and you’ll have to decide [if we're doing a good job].
Walter Jones: When in 1992, the then Directors made the adjustment to have various cabinet posts taken on by Board members, it seemed most right (as it was in Mrs. Eddy’s time). Will we always have these same procedures? [We don't know]. We’re listening, we’re praying our way.
Tom Black: The Treasurer is no longer a member of the Board. Accountability is the ability to count [laughter from the audience], but we realize we cannot share with the Field all the pennies and dimes. But there is a wonderful ability — your ability to know, your spiritual discernment.
Two years or so down the road you may find we’re doing okay. [weak applause from audience]
Nate Talbot: Your spiritual sense is so important. There are those who would bring down our movement — we have to be sure [to defend against that]. [vigorous applause from audience]
Q: Regarding the question of inclusiveness in the church, The Mother Church has, in my opinion, far more inclusive criteria than branch churches. There are lifestyle criteria [in branch churches] that require total abstinence from drugs, alcohol, etc. . . I’m not allowed to join the branch church for this reason. We’re keeping folks out who could be making a contribution. Could the Board make it clear what The Mother Church requires for membership? Many of us are hungry for guidance. You five — the current holders of the organization — I would like a statement from The Mother Church about this.
Vic Westberg: At one point, I was asked to return to California [to take up an assignment]. My qualifications: teacher / practitioner / president of the Board of Education. Among the [branch church] membership questions: Do you smoke, drink or use drugs? I felt the question should be removed. A lot of the branch churches have these lists of do’s and don’t's that they
haven’t looked at for years. Things are different now. The branch in question finally did remove those old restrictions.
Nate Talbot: The tone The Mother Church sets as it looks at membership: Mrs. Eddy puts it in your hands. The member who signs his/her approval [of an applicant]. We [members] turn to the Manual — believing in the doctrines of Christian Science. Each member will have to pray through it. At The Mother Church we look to the Field for assurance that you’re following the Manual.
Q: Thank you for the in-depth articles in the periodicals — there are great changes. Someone previously spoke about outreach to the community in a non-denominational way. Do you see Christian Science as non-denominational or do you see it as denominational?
Mary Trammell: What if we said “both”? It depends on how you look at it. The Church [the Sunday School, etc.] are denominational. But Christian Science is the law of God, the laws of the universe. Anybody can demonstrate, in any church. We’ve seen so many examples of those who don’t want to darken the doors of our church or any church but who practice Christian Science. So in that sense, it’s “supra-denominational.” It acknowledges the allness and goodness of God.
Walter Jones: Mrs. Eddy dedicates her textbook to “honest seekers for Truth.” (SH xii).
Nate Talbot: We’re different from every other church in that we are a very inclusive church. You don’t have to be a member in order to come to church, to study the Lesson, to go to the Reading Room, etc.
Comment from a member: When I took class, I came upon a passage in one of Mrs. Eddy’s letters. She requested special prayers for peace: “I cited, as our present need, faith in God’s disposal of events.” (My. 167:24) That’s where we all need some more work.
Q: There have been great Lessons (the weekly Lesson Sermons) since the beginning of the year. Huge change. Any remarks on where you’re going on that?
Vic Westberg: The six members we have on the committee are outstanding. We want no so much scholars as people who work well together. One puts a lesson together and puts it on the table. The other five comment, critique, etc. Then, when they’re all comfortable with it, it’s sent to the Trustees, then to the Board. And boy, do we listen to the Field. Adjustments are made
according to what the Field says. The highest revenue comes from the Bible Lessons (the Quarterly). The Full Text Quarterly is the one everyone wants. Sometimes we get letters requesting that we go back to marking the books [uproarious laughter in the audience but, from others, applause]. [Mr. Westberg then said they certainly would not be eliminating the Full Text Quarterly.]
Q: I like the idea of being inclusive but Mrs. Eddy was concerned about mixing Christian Science with other things — was mindful of keeping the distinction of Christian Science. The Journal and Sentinel have been trying to blur the distinction [with comments about mind/body; doctors into spirituality, etc.]. What do you think about assuring the distinction between Christian Science and [other things].
Mary Trammell: The interview with Dr. Benson was to show the leavening effect of Christian Science in society today. But the uniqueness of Christian Science has to be presented. We’re trying to be super careful to make it clear why such an interview would take place. For example, making clear that “mind/body” does not represent Christian Science but the fact that there are healing services, etc. shows the effect of the leavening of Truth at work in society today. But as you say, we have to be more careful in presenting such things. We’re working on it.
Nate Talbot: One thing we could do would be to shy away from it. “My discovery, that erring, mortal, misnamed mind produces all the organism and action of the mortal body, set my thoughts to work in new channels, and led up to my demonstration of the proposition that Mind is All and matter is naught as the leading factor in Mind-science” (SH 108:30). Her
struggle with this question of mind/body led her to this discovery that Mind is all. We need to be there helping. It may be a very helpful thing to see this wrestling going on [in thought today].
Q: On the subject of outreach: the pamphlets were helpful. For example “Christian Science Practice” and “The Pastor to the World.” Can these be brought out again?
Mary Trammell: We can’t do everything. Choices have to be made. Decisions have been: if we want to support what’s in the Manual, that would be the Sentinel and Journal. The pamphlets aren’t in the Manual. As we take the weekly manna from the Christian Science Publishing Society and utilize them. . . and let editors know what you want. [There can be another issue of the Sentinel where these things can be presented.]
Vic Westberg: These pamphlets are old. I get more out of the Sentinel. It’s up to date. It deals with the issues of today. If you have an issue you want to be covered, get in touch with us.
Mary Trammell: The editor of the Sentinel said to us: “Ask them for ideas!” He’s serious!
Q: Regarding the Sunday services: What are the new things you do to reach out to newcomers? Is the work of the First Reader regimented or more improvised? Is the New King James version of the Bible being used in Sunday School or just for Wednesday?
Tom Black: Mrs. Eddy provides that Wednesday and the first part of the Sunday service is up to the First Reader. As the membership supports the First Reader and loves the services [quotes Mrs. Eddy], rather than an occasional objection or second guessing the First Reader, there is more of a spirit of demonstration in the service instead of trying to get a bunch
of mortal minds to agree on things. (He gives the example of being told he shouldn’t say, in the service, “Good morning.”) [laughter in the audience] (And then he does an example of “following the order of service, presented in the Manual, to the letter: he picks up the book and in a stern voice says: “Hymn!” [laughter]
Q: We have to be aware that the medical profession is strong in the minds of people. Their thought is being leavened. We really need to pray about this. When people say: “You don’t believe in doctors?” What do we say? [She tells of this sort of experience she had where she explained that she turned to God for healing, that it wasn't that she "didn't believe in doctors" but didn't find the need for medical help. She thought the CS connection to the Harvard Medical Symposium was good since it brought more visibility of CS]
Vic Westberg: You should be Committee on Publication!
Q: In the chapter called “Fruitage” we read the testimonies of newcomers to CS. The healing occurred from reading Science and Health. None mentions working with practitioners. What methods today continue to be in place to put Science and Health into the hands of the public? There are the Reading Rooms, and practitioners. There used to be programs — the desire has
Tom Black: We expect there will be continued interest in that book as it continues its work of leavening thought.
Nate Talbot: The more healing we do, the more people will want it. [Stressed the importance of putting the book in the hands of humanity.]
Vic Westberg: [explained that there were more practitioners in the Journal -- 37 new ones last month and only 8 going out, 6 having passed on]. The tide is changing. We can’t keep up with the applications. [There was no reference to the fact that the Journal-listing procedure now is very lax and that this is actually a worrisome factor to many.]
Walter Jones: We certainly believe in the healing power of this book.
Q: What about blacklisting? Will this policy be stopped? And is the Board considering modifying the Mary Baker Eddy Library in terms of its content or the use of its space?
Tom Black: As for blacklisting, this Board is acutely aware of the need for compassion. There is today no blacklist — none. Notice the articles in the periodicals (by people whose name you haven’t seen for awhile). “In my Father’s house, there are many mansions.”
Nate Talbot: Some people have marginalized themselves. [He gave example of one person whom he contacted, asking him to reapply for Journal listing.] That person doesn’t see that as the right step right now. We have a love for a lot of people in our movement who have felt unloved.
Walter Jones: The Library. This is a time of budgeting and strategizing. One idea is to sharpen the strength of the collection (on the 4th floor). On the other floors, make an opportunity for people to have some exposure [to Mrs. Eddy and her writings?] We’re striving to have the periodicals for sale in the shop. We [will/have?] put the MBE exhibit on the first floor. The Mapparium attracts 200,000 people a year. In recent months, a wish to bring more of a sense of Mrs. Eddy on those lower floors. But it’s a work in progress. The Monitor is also a work in progress. We appreciate people’s patience as we work things through.
Q: Quotes Winston Churchill: “Mistakes made in the heat of battle will be lightly dealt with.” We need to support each other and not tear each other down. Regarding the Library: what is the thinking behind the range of books not related to Christian Science or Mrs. Eddy’s writings?
Walter Jones: We’re trying to present the correspondence in a context. There are various ways to do that. There are books on the topic of spirituality and healing. This was very present in Mrs. Eddy’s writing and correspondence. The Library provides a context [that includes other period writers, etc.]. [Mr. Jones spoke of the need to be alert and defend ourselves against animal magnetism within our movement.] We have to guard against “friendly fire” in our movement.
Q: Thank you for supporting the idea of community. How can we be more relevant in our community. [The speaker] has felt that the community thinks Christian Scientists haven’t been responsible for their children. There can be progress with our music, our hymns. Could a Quarterly for young people embrace a different version for the Bible that would be more readily
Vic Westberg: A new hymnal was worked on 12-15 years ago. There were financial problems and it didn’t represent such a change [musically]. Today, we’re looking for contemporary music — better music, more up to date. We’re selecting a number of composers. That’s a couple of years off.
Nate Talbot: At The Mother Church, they’ve used sheet music in the service. It adds a nice freshness.
Mary Trammell: The King James Version of the Bible. We’ve been getting quite a lot of questions about this. Mrs. Eddy never declared that she wanted only the King James used. Clearly she preferred it. Probably it was the best translation at the time. In her books, she quotes (with few exceptions) from the King James Version. An exception is the “cross and crown” — that from the Revised King James Version. And the logo on the Monitor — it’s a quotation from the American Standard Version. Ultimately, it makes sense to use (for the Lessons) the King James Version, since all of the quotations in Science and Health use that. But the bottom line is that there isn’t a clear directive. [She explains that they may soon publish in the Journal some research on the history of Mrs. Eddy's use of the Bible.]
Nate Talbot: We were even prepared to have a Golden Text from another version, but we’d like to have a little bit more dialogue with the Field. So first they’ll publish the research. It’s not about the Lesson Sermon (which will continue to use the King James Version) but rather about the benediction, etc.
Walter Jones: Reaching young people. Mrs. Eddy had a conviction that Science and Health could be clearly understood. As I’ve mentored my children, [I've worked with the idea that there] is no obstacle to drinking in the Truth. We need to actively pray about this.
Q: There have been various initiatives in the past 15-20 years. Which ones have been effective in advancing Christian Science? How do you define success? Do you want to learn from lessons of the past — the good past? How will those shape the mission?
Nate Talbot: Success: How much is the Christ, Truth reaching consciousness?
Tom Black: [Quotes Mrs. Eddy]: “When I was its pastor, and in the pulpit every Sunday, my church increased in members, and its spiritual growth kept pace with its increasing popularity” (Ret. 44:10). As far as looking at the past, that’s a little hard to do — there are so many interpretations about why something did or did not work. Where the spirituality of the
individual Christian Scientist is genuine, the healing flows. That’s the best way to reach the community. That’s the real success.
Walter Jones: Handling animal magnetism: we want to know we’re doing our part in handling what would come in [the war? I wasn't able to hear these last two words clearly]. We definitely have lessons to learn but we really want to be at work [defending against animal magnetism]. We want to reach that heart that we want to reach.
Tom Black: [quotes again from Ret. 44]
Q: The importance of the structure of church: It’s distressing that there are few young people in church. The CSO was so inspiring for me. We need more of this. We don’t need to lighten” Christian Science but we need a way to reach youth. For example, via the Web site or by encouraging young Christian Scientists to hang out together, by encouraging [music] bands [of
Christian Scientists] to travel. What is the church doing to inspire programs that reach youth?
Walter Jones: We’d love to have you write us or call us. The Web site is in progress. I’d be interested to know what specifically you’re looking for there.
Q: Last year’s Annual Meeting: we were presented with a dark picture of the finances. Do you consider the finances of The Mother Church good, great, in need? Can you comment about the Monitor — it was said that we need to bring the finances in order “or else.”
Vic Westberg: 2008: that’s the goal for the Monitor to not be drawing from church funds. The target last year was $7.1 million. The target for 2008 is zero. This year, we cut the budget by $5 million. We think we’ll hit our goal before 2008.
Nate Talbot: This is rooted in our sense of the Manual — learning how to be obedient to the Manual.
Walter Jones: In the long term, we need to take steps — in the form of legacies. Saving those for the long term situation, more than we have in the past. It’s a work in progress. If the book as it reaches hearts, people subscribing to the periodicals, people subscribing to the Monitor — all the elements are there. Your fellow members — someone attending your church — maybe there is something you can do to mentor that person. Something we can all do is to have people subscribing, etc.
Nate Talbot: In the short term: this last year, we’ve exercised a very very high degree of discipline.
Q: On the subject of pamphlets: why can’t they be on spirituality.com for a fee? In the Hippocratic oath that doctor’s take, one reads: “Man remedies, only God heals.”
Q: Contributions: have they gone up? down?
[I didn't note who responded, I think it was Nate Talbot]: The number of contributors has gone down but the giving is higher.
Tom Black: Could people tell us now what this meeting has meant to you?
[Comment from a member]: Thank you for eliminating Virginia Harris from the Board! [sounds in the audience of dismay with the speaker]
[The Directors told that person they would be happy to meet with her after the meeting -- in other words they were able to get her to sit down.]
[What followed were individual members -- maybe 10 or 12 -- expressing gratitude for the meeting. I suspect we will hear about these at Annual Meeting. The comments were effusive, laudatory. The Board smiled warmly and nodded.]
To sum up:
The intention of this report was to record, as fully as possible, what the Directors and members said without suggesting possible motives. This report doesn’t claim to have provided verbatim and complete quotations of each speaker. It is nonetheless an accurate rendering of content and often does present a word for word transcription. While each member will have to
make his/her own evaluation of the comments recorded here, the impression of the note-taker (and of some other members in attendance) was that there was considerable vagueness, even evasiveness, in some of the Directors’ responses. Repeatedly we were told that prayer and the Manual are the Board’s main considerations, but still, many crucial aspects of Manual compliance were left unclear and remained unanswered.
Since these meetings are meant for a two-way exchange, it is important that the Field’s concerns be both clearly expressed and honestly addressed. As mentioned at the beginning of this report, members who attend upcoming meetings might want to carefully prepare their questions ahead of time in writing. This would enable questions to be spoken in a concise and
focused way. It would be helpful, also, for members to pursue follow-up questions and introduce relevant points or facts if they believe that their question wasn’t really addressed or that the response lacked an important fact or factor. If attendees of various field meetings take careful notes and are willing to share them with other Mother Church members, this may enable a comparison of what was said at the various meetings and help piece together a fuller picture of the Directors’ intents for the church. (It seems that these days an email sent to a few friends can be forwarded and from there find its way around the field with surprising speed). Everyone is grateful when communications are kept respectful and in the spirit of Church family, and at the same time, the atmosphere remains open enough for honest, even if controversial, questions to be asked.