Merge a classic trilogy with a new cult classic, and something extra-ordinary is created. That's right kiddies - Anakin Dynamite! I found this to be a pretty funny synthesis of the best parts from Napolean set in the world of Star Wars. Check it out!
Growing up, nothing was more fun on the beach than building a castle. I did reach a point, however, where I realized that they were all the same and doomed to be reclaimed by the sea. It appears, though, that some people were not daunted by this futility and, much like Calvin and his snowmen, have displayed amazing creativity and ingenuity in sand sculpture. Exhibits A and B represent the destruction of my childhood compromise with myself that nothing substantial had ever been made from sand on a beach. I would be sad and disillusioned, but these are so cool…well, I can't be sad.
April 19, 2005 Dear fellow Mother Church members, This is a lengthy report of about 13 printed pages. If you want to forward it to other Mother Church members, it will help to copy and paste the contents into a new email to retain the format. There is also a PDF file attached to this email that you can use to print or to attach to emails. The following report is a consolidation of the detailed notes of several attendees. Every effort has been made to express fairly what was said. Comments aren't always word for word, and not every statement is included, but what is collected here depicts the meeting as closely as possible under the circumstances. EVENT: Town Meeting between members of The Mother Church and the Christian Science Board of Directors PLACE: First Church of Christ, Scientist, Baltimore, Maryland DATE: April 16, 2005 The meeting began shortly after 10:00 a.m. and continued until a little after 1:00 p.m. There was one break and the meeting continued without breaking into small groups as originally planned. This seemed wise, as there were issues that had not yet been covered in the Town Meeting. The moderator explained that questions (apparently submitted to the moderator before the meeting) would be addressed in the following categories: Joint Branch Church Activities Finances Board Salaries The Library Matters of Conscience The Manual Readers (style of conducting the services) Membership Requirements The Bible Science and Health The Periodicals Lectures Reading Rooms Two moderators from the host church presented questions that had been received in a particular category and invited others in the audience to ask questions in that category also. The categories not covered were Board Salaries and Science and Health, although references were made throughout the meeting to Science and Health. Individuals were able to ask follow-up questions and there were a few instances where comments were made without questions being asked. Generally, the questions seemed more specifically focused and more challenging than some of those at the meeting in L.A. The format, however, was comparable although the meeting as not as lengthy and there was not an opportunity for people to make comments at the end of the meeting as in L.A. The similarities with the L.A. meeting are to be found in the somewhat evasive answers given ("we're considering," "we're praying," instead of specifically and directly answering the questions); the adoption of repeated phrases such as "a work in progress;" the slogan of "one voice, one heart, one Mind;" the analogy of the "big tent" (which we were told is embracing everyone and perhaps various views); the analogy of the "swinging pendulum" (which is determining TMC policy or trying to find "the middle position"). But having said this, the Board of Directors did seem genuinely friendly and respectful of the members. For the most part, they all expressed at times an accurate sense of what was necessary for the movement – a stronger demonstration of healing. For their part, the members appeared grateful for the Board's time and efforts and gave them a round of applause followed by a standing ovation at the conclusion of the meeting. Almost every seat was taken in the auditorium, which seats about a thousand. (The singing of "Feed My Sheep" was glorious with all those voices in harmony!) * * * *
* The Directors were warmly received with a standing ovation and
introduced themselves very briefly. Mary Trammell, the current chair, spoke about her background and announced that the chair would rotate each year. Vic Westberg who introduced himself as a former businessman interested in "the bottom line" and remarked, "This is what we're bringing to the church," followed her. Trammell quickly suggested: "Let's tell them about church: ‘one voice, one heart, one Mind'" – a slogan that seems to appear at these meetings with increasing frequency. Tom Black said he had been praying to know that Christian Science is the "dynamic, final revelation" and not just "another candy bar" in the counter of health-care. Walter Jones spoke of what Christian Science brings to the forefront regarding supply. Finally, Nate Talbot spoke of unity, a sense of unity with God. He said if we find our unity with God, we would find our unity with each other. He said that they were there to listen and dialogue, that they had no agenda, and would respond after the meeting to those interested in staying on to speak with them. QUESTION: HOW DOES THE BOARD VIEW JOINT MEETINGS SUCH AS THESE AND WILL THESE MEETINGS REPLACE ANNUAL MEETING? Nate Talbot: The Board of Directors respects branch activities and will not try to impose on these activities except where they violate the Manual. Some ideas may work (e.g., Sentinel Radio Programs jointly sponsored by churches) and some may not. It's a matter of individual demonstration. No, they do not replace Annual Meeting, which will be much abbreviated this year (one hour long followed by a Town Meeting). QUESTION: FINANCIAL STATUS OF THE MOTHER CHURCH? Walter Jones: Discipline in matters of finance has brought expenses down from $180 to $100 million. Ways are being discussed to increase the General Fund, which at present has $60 million plus $280 million in restricted funds. Income from membership and subscriptions should cause an increase in the Fund. Vic Westberg: Another consideration is to ensure that Monitor does not draw down the General Fund. By 2008 the Monitor will draw zero from the General Fund (again reported almost gleefully as it was in the L.A. meeting.) Content and delivery are also under consideration. Mary Baker Eddy wanted the Monitor to have "short articles for busy people" such as USA Today has. We will retain what we do well. FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: What steps are you taking already to reduce the Monitor's draw from the General Fund? Vic Westberg: We have "cut out a lot of fat." Walter Jones interjected at this point to remind Mr. Westberg that there had been some bequests to help with this. When someone from the floor asked about legal ventures for capital partnerships, Mr. Jones replied that there were none, just individuals working together. Vic Westberg: The Monitor is "a work in progress." QUESTION: ARE THE PERIODICALS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE WITHOUT CHARGE ON THE WEB AND WILL THIS AFFECT SALES AND SUBSCRIPTIONS? Vic Westberg: Yes, but we want to reach more people and we might get more subscriptions online. Mary Trammell: Complete periodicals are not available now on the web except to a small degree (e.g., excerpts on spirituality.com). Spirituality.com is now part of the Publishing Society so there is a "more overt form of Christian Science" such as one would find in the periodicals, but this effort is also a "work in progress." (They would like to make this a profitable affair, but concede that making money on the Internet has also eluded other businesses. (See below for their plans for an online Reading Room and how that could be profitable.) QUESTION: WHY ISN'T THE LIBRARY SEPARATE FROM THE CHURCH FINANCES AS IT WAS ORIGINALLY CONCEIVED? Walter Jones: It's a matter of the auditors wanting everything included in a consolidated financial statement. FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: Why did the cost of the Library go from $50 to $80 million, threatening the church with bankruptcy? Walter Jones: Originally, $50 million was planned for build out and construction. $47 million came directly from the field, $11 million from fundraising and $9 million from Mother Church and Publishing Society funds not allocated – a total of $67 million. We thought that yearly operating expenses would be in the $5 million range, but we hope to bring this down. As for rumors of bankruptcy in the field, there is "not a shred of truth" to this. We must consider the whole picture, the funds, spending and expenditures. "Income now exceeds expenses." We have a "good measure of health" for the short term, but there is some concern about successful operation in the long term. Nate Talbot: Two years ago there was $2 million in the General Fund; now there is $60 million. Mary Trammell: Discipline and not just cutting back is important. As we looked at the expenses and looked at the Manual, we found that we were doing some things beyond the scope of the Manual. For example, we now publish the Herald in those fields rather than here, although Boston retains editorial control. Vic Westberg: The Deed of Trust tells us how we must run our "business." Mary Baker Eddy was a "shrewd business woman" and she knew the "human picture." COMMENT FROM THE FLOOR: If people would only visit the Library they would not count it a cost. If members are entertaining thoughts of bankruptcy, then perhaps they should increase their contributions. QUESTION: WHAT ABOUT THE BOSTON GLOBE ARTICLE REPORTING $10 MILLION MISSING? (Initially, the Directors looked puzzled, but then Walter Jones responded.) Walter Jones: This concerns a wrong amount inserted on the 990 form placed there by Ernst and Young (the auditors) for some financial reason. Ned Odegaard (who is the current Treasurer) spoke to them about this and the mistake was corrected. Nate Talbot: This figure did not change the bottom line, however. COMMENT AND QUESTION: I WAS ONE OF THE SIGNERS OF THE KEEPING THE PROMISE PLEDGE AND I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM THE CLERK OF THE MOTHER CHURCH WITH THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT: "WE HAVE ACCEPTED EACH OF YOUR NAMES WITH CARE AND RESPECT" AND FURTHER "YOU ARE TRULY VALUED AS ALL MEMBERS ARE." THE TONE OF THIS LETTER IS IN STRONG CONTRAST TO THE LAST LETTER THAT WAS SENT TO THE TEACHER WHO WROTE MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE. SHE WAS TOLD ONLY THAT THE BOARD HAS FOUND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE "INVALID," AND THAT THE BOARD HAS NO TIME FOR "ENDLESS DISCUSSION." IF YOU ARE TRULY WILLING TO LISTEN TO THE MANY MOTHER CHURCH MEMBERS WHO ARE SUPPORTING THE COMPLAINT, MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE, AND IF YOU RESPECT THESE MANY MEMBERS, WHY HAVE YOU NOT RESPECTED THE TEACHER WHO WROTE THE COMPLAINT? SHE AND ANOTHER WERE SEVERELY DISCIPLINED – PUT ON PROBATION, THEIR ASSOCIATIONS DISSOLVED, AND THEIR JOURNAL LISTINGS REMOVED – ALL WITHOUT THE BOARD HAVING FOLLOWED THE MATTHEW CODE, AS THE MANUAL REQUIRES. IN FACT, THESE TEACHERS HAVE NEVER EVEN BEEN GIVEN A SPECIFIC REASON OR CHARGE FOR THIS DISCIPLINE. ARE YOU GOING TO REINSTATE THESE TEACHERS AS EVIDENCE THAT YOU REALLY DO RESPECT AND LISTEN TO MEMBERS, INCLDING THOSE WHO HAVE FOLLOWED THE DUTY OUTLINED IN ARTICLE 1, SECTION 9? Mary Trammell: "Nothing would make us happier than to have a meeting of the minds." Only Walter Jones and myself were on the Board of Directors at that time and there was much agonizing over every passage. We realized the great care that went into this. QUESTIONER FOLLOWS UP: Why could this teacher not share [the complaint] with the field [without being disciplined]? We can't just be told that you're praying about it. Nate Talbot tries to interrupt but the questioner said "I need to finish," and relates an experience she had which drove her to support Matters of Conscience in which a Mother Church employee, called the "Science and Health representative," and subsequently the lecturer herself, went over the heads of branch members and made all the arrangements for their lecture, in complete violation of the Manual (Art. XXIII, Section 1). "Even worse," the speaker said, "when this error was respectfully pointed out to both the Mother Church employee involved and the lecturer, there was no indication from them that a mistake had been made. The entire action was justified as a directive from the top and we were pressured to comply."…We (Matters of Conscience supporters) are not disloyal" but we want answers – yes or no – and not "maybe." Mary Trammell: The Manual prohibits us from discussing the business of the Board of Directors. "Not everything we've done has been totally right. Like everyone, we do our best. Clearly, mistakes have been made and I am sorry for your experience (with the lecture)." Tom Black: Quotes a reference to the Mathew Code in the Manual as calling for "immediate action" and seemed to say that he supported that in this case. "Take it to the Church" makes us seem like a Congregational Church, telling members everything about our business. [Is his last statement now an argument against acting upon the duty outlined in the Manual: Article I, Section 9, and the need to follow the Matthew Code?] Nate Talbot: I was very impressed with the thought and prayer over this issue of discipline. The sense in the Field is that the Board of Directors failed "to hear." The Board of Directors "didn't neglect to hear but had a difference of opinion." [Matters of Conscience is always referred to in terms of "opinions" rather than as matters of ethics, matters of right and wrong. There seems no willingness on the part of the Directors to discuss whether the Directors were ever in violation of By-Laws, in other words, whether their actions were right or wrong. All is "opinion."] QUESTIONER FOLLOWS UP AGAIN: If Matters of Conscience is "invalid" then why not excommunicate all who supported it and not just the teachers? Mary Trammell: Excommunication did not occur. It is important to make that clarification here and Christian Science can heal this problem as well. MODERATOR SAYS THAT WE MUST MOVE ON (some applause from the audience) THEN HE FOLLOWS WITH THE STATEMENT THAT HE UNDERSTANDS THAT THERE IS A GREAT DEPTH OF FEELING ABOUT THIS. Nate Talbot: The Manual is not here to punish; it is here to heal. Walter Jones: There has been no disciplining of those in the Field who have commented. MODERATOR: There were more questions sent to us about Matters of Conscience and people being de-listed than in any other category. QUESTION: I AM A NEW MEMBER OF THE MOTHER CHURCH AND I AM GRATEFUL FOR THIS MEETING TODAY. I AM CONCERNED, HOWEVER, THAT THE CHURCH MIGHT "WATER DOWN" THE THEOLOGY IN THE PERIODICALS AND MIGHT TAKE ON ACTIVITIES JUST TO GET MORE REVENUE OR TO MAKE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MORE APPEALING GENERALLY. I WAS AFRAID THAT IF I WROTE TO THE BOARD OF MY CONCERNS THAT I COULD NOT BE LISTED. IS THIS TRUE? Mary Trammell: Around 1991 when I came to Boston, I realized that we were just "talking to ourselves" in the periodicals. When the periodicals began "to speak in a way that wouldn't exclude someone who was new or the general public," I found myself agreeing with this approach. We "went too far with spirituality.com" where there was no mention of Christian Science or God or the Bible. The aim in January 2005, however, was to adjust to "a middle position" so that members can be nourished. Thus, the Christian Science Publishing Society is now responsible for spirituality.com. [Is this "middle position" a search for a compromise between stronger, clearer metaphysics and a thinner, watered down version? What does a "middle position" mean? In future meetings members may want to pursue this, because many members do not feel that the 1991 periodicals, especially the Sentinel, were talking only to Christian Scientists or "excluding the public." In fact, many members feel that the Sentinels of that period were "abreast of the times" – and that they were very useful to share with newcomers because the writing was accessible yet had a lot of depth. Will the periodicals return to the high standard of writing, editing, and metaphysics of the period before the editors of the religious periodicals resigned (February 1992) for reasons of conscience? There could be more specific and focused questions about the periodicals and the quality of writing and editing.] Vic Westberg: I once attended what I thought was a "dull service" but I realized later that "solid metaphysics are needed as that's what the world wants and that's what we need to give mankind." (This QUESTIONER did not ask a follow-up on the Journal-listing issue, even though they only addressed part of her comment.) COMMENT FROM THE FLOOR: Please don't water it down (Christian Science theology), as it is not necessary to short-change the public. Christian Scientists need to acknowledge the world's ability to understand Christian Science. COMMENT FROM THE FLOOR: I have been a member of the Mother Church since the 1970's. When at first I had trouble understanding Science and Health, I went to the periodicals of the 1950's. They were wonderful and there was no jargon there. I have canceled my subscription to the (current) periodicals but I might re-subscribe. I still love the bound volumes. Nate Talbot: All have a spiritual sense and we are trying to address that spiritual sense. MODERATOR COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR: Reminds everyone that Tom Black has a great article in the next Journal. QUESTION (in two parts): (1) WHY IS THE CHURCH NOT GROWING AND WHY ARE THERE SO FEW YOUNG PEOPLE? (2) WHAT IS THE FUTURE LEADERSHIP OF THE CHURCH AND HOW ARE YOU CULTIVATING IT? Tom Black: There are "many answers and facets as to why Christian Science is not growing." The Board of Directors feels that all we have to offer is the theology of Science and Health. If we were raising the dead there would be no problem. (The Directors repeat this often in these Town Meetings.) What is required is devotion to Christian Science theology and the purification that comes from this. As for future leadership we don't look to a particular age group but to a level of spirituality. (He then spoke of what he thinks the membership needs to do to cultivate this leadership: A special sized Science and Health and Bible for young people; music and a Quarterly that appeal to the young. We can put out the slickest magazines, but unless followed by demonstration, they end up in a "landfill." We must handle animal magnetism, i.e., the divisiveness. Walter Jones: (Speaks about the importance of living Christian Science teaching so that when people get to know you, that helps the movement.) Nate Talbot: As a movement, we may "have underestimated this revelation. The second coming is here as Christian Science and this is the answer for the whole world." The carnal mind, however, resists Christian Science. QUESTION: WHAT ABOUT THE RELAXED REQUIREMENTS FOR PRACTITIONER OR NURSE AND CLASS INSTRUCTION? RABBIS AND MEDICAL PEOPLE ARE TAKING CLASS WITH NO INTENTION OF JOINING THE CHURCH. Vic Westberg: Quotes Jesus as saying "If they are not against us, they are for us." [?] As for class instruction, even if they are not members, they will have the Comforter. Applications for Journal listings are increasing; 38 recent listings in the Journal, etc. Walter Jones: Obstacles are being removed to becoming a practitioner. [Since he admitted that there were, as he called them, "obstacles" being removed, it would have been interesting if someone had asked him to define these "obstacles." Many are concerned about the removal of strong standards and requirements for Journal-listing.] Nate Talbot: Spoke of a letter sent to the practitioners concerning five areas that they need to work on. They have put these concerns on a "laminated label" which they carry around with them. We should be a "church of healers and not a church of patients." We are all practitioners; let us all demonstrate Christian Science. QUESTION: IS THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS CONCERNED ABOUT THE PERSONAL SENSE EXPRESSED BY FIRST READERS AT THE MOTHER CHURCH AND SOME IN THE FIELD, AS THE MANUAL REQUIRES AN IMPERSONAL SENSE FOR THE SERVICE? WHAT IS THE BOARD DOING TO ENFORCE THIS MANUAL REQUIREMENT? [This probably would be in reference to the personal introductions, chatty announcements, little jokes, and what seem to be questionable "commercials" on various subjects by the Readers at Mother Church services, going on for some years now.] Nate Talbot: Quoted Mary Baker Eddy on visiting a CS church (with no context given): "This church is as cold as the marble floors." Hence, our efforts to bring "warmth and personal care where needed." Also, if we looked back to some in the Bible who were so enthusiastic about the Messiah, we might think that they were "too personal about the second coming." We need to give room for people to express themselves. "If the pendulum swings too far, it will swing back." [Note: This freely swinging "pendulum" is a frequent analogy, and one that causes some serious concern when it comes to Board attitudes about church policies and decisions – and not just the question that was asked about the Readers and the services. Is the way our church does things just a matter of a swinging pendulum or personal styles? There are four references to "pendulum" in S&H. None of them is positive. The pendulum is descriptive of thought not aligned with Science or Principle, having no fixity. Are members to trust that the pendulum will sooner or later swing in the opposite direction on all issues, but then, in time, will also swing back again – interminably? This "swinging pendulum" sense of things doesn't address the need for a stable, Principle-based (but not cold or rigid) standard in our church activities. "Impersonal" isn't to be equated with "cold."] Tom Black: The service needs devout prayer that spiritualizes the congregation. Don't "second-guess from tradition." Just think about the "Pentecostal fervor of those in the Bible." Sometimes there is applause after the solo in the Mother Church, sometimes not. The need is to spiritualize the congregation to attract others. [At this point Mary Trammell notes that Tom Black had given a humorous rendition of what the service would be like if a Reader followed the Manual exactly. She then asks Tom to repeat this at this meeting.] Tom Black: "If we follow the Manual exactly (shout from the balcony: "as you should!"), this is what it would sound like: (picks up Manual) "HYMN" (some laughter) SCRIPTURAL SELECTION." He concluded by saying that we should let the healing Christ guide our services and (seemed to be saying) that members should not get upset about the style of the service. QUESTION: ACCORDING TO MRS. EDDY, "ETERNITY AWAITS OUR MANUAL." HOW DARE WE GO THE DIRECTION OF THE WORLD? WHO ARE WE NOT TO FOLLOW THE DEEDS OF TRUST? SHE SAID THAT NO NEW TENETS WERE TO BE WRITTEN. MRS. EDDY EXPECTED US TO OBEY THE MANUAL WITHOUT ANY DEVIATION. CAN YOU BE TRUSTED TO FOLLOW THIS MANUAL? Walter Jones: We keep it at our side. Perhaps we need to earn that trust. We do believe "eternity awaits the Manual." FOLLOW-UP COMMENT BY SAME QUESTIONER: The greatest period of growth in our church came when there was no compromise. COMMENT FROM THE FLOOR: It is by loving, rather than judging others, that we grow. Thanks the Board of Directors for coming. COMMENT AND QUESTION: I AM GRATEFUL TO HEAR THAT CORRECTIONS ARE BEING MADE IN THE PERIODICALS AND HOPE THAT WE DON'T LOSE SIGHT OF THE THEOLOGY. HERE'S A PROBLEM: WHEN MISTAKES ARE MADE, THESE NEED TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED AS MISTAKES AND NOT JUST AS A CHANGE IN DIRECTION. (Questioner then gives example of the so-called "correction" to what was an already correct statement concerning radical reliance and not mixing Christian Science and medicine. The correct statement, called "The Standpoint of Christian Science Treatment" was published in the December 1999 Journal. That issue of the Journal was subsequently recalled and reissued with a statement (from Bill Moody, then the Editor) substituting a new statement from the Board of Directors in the January 2000 Journal called "Compassion and healing in the twenty-first century" which noticeably compromised Mrs. Eddy's theology. Then the questioner asks): WOULD THIS HAPPEN AGAIN? IF THESE KINDS OF SUBSTITUTIONS ARE NOT SEEN AS ERRORS – THEOLOGICAL ERRORS – AND ADMITTEED AS SUCH, THEY CAN BE REPEATED. WHAT ABOUT THE QUALFICATIONS FOR MEMBERSHIP OR CLASS? WE CAN'T AFFORD THE LAXITY OF REMOVING STANDARDS FOR MEMBERSHIP IN OUR CHURCH – STANDARDS SUCH AS NO DRINKING, SMOKING, DRUGS, OR INCOMAPTIBLE LIFESTYLES. STANDARDS MUST BE RESTATED. ANOTHER SERIOUS MISTAKE IN MISREPRESENTING THE THEOLOGY OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE WAS THE PUBLICATION OF "DESTINY OF THE MOTHER HURCH" [BY BLISS KNAPP]. I REALIZE THE RETRACTION OF BLISS KNAPP'S "DESTINY" IS A HARD QUESTION BECAUSE SO MUCH MONEY WAS INVOLVED – [IN PAYMENT TO THE CHURCH FOR PUBLISHING IT AS AUTHORIZED CHRISTIAN SCIENCE LITERATURE]. DESTINY IS INCORRECT THEOLOGY, AND THE MONEY MUST BE REPAID. (Applause) Nate Talbot: Since this was a comment and not a question, we'll take this into consideration and discuss it among ourselves. (GROANS AND SHOUTS OF "NO" from the audience and then Mr. Talbot continued.) Nate Talbot: Mrs. Eddy allowed members to write recommendations for those applying for membership. Standards for Membership: You in the field approve the applicant; the teacher signs the application. We must believe in the doctrines of Christian Science and those in the field must uphold these doctrines. He notes further that standards differ in areas over the world. "What we require for someone in Nigeria signing an application may be a little different than from someone in Baltimore. Really there's only one standard: ‘Are you a believer in the doctrines of Christian Science?' Are you (those of us in the audience) finding someone who is enough of a believer in Christian Science? Mary Baker Eddy points to perfidy as one of the worst sins. If you don't know what it means, it would be a good idea to find out. It means a breach of trust, unfaithfulness. If you look up what she (MBE) says on this subject you'll find this was pretty important to her." [Nate Talbot's comment about "perfidy" seemed to deflect attention from these deeper considerations: If applicants are not fully committed to Christian Science and prepared to live its teachings, what is the meaning of membership? Does Mr. Talbot mean that we should adapt membership requirements to whatever the standards or cultural traditions are in a local community? In other words, are the moral standards of Christian Science not to be considered as firm standards of conduct, but rather as relative, and possibly shifting (like a pendulum) in the direction of what people may generally practice or be tolerant of in any given place and time? Future Town Meetings may want to pursue this further. No mention was made of Vic Westberg's comment in L.A. that the "old restrictions" such as smoking, drinking, and drugs, should be removed.] Mary Trammell: Each branch church is free to set its own standards. [The Board did not mention specifically at this meeting that the current administration feels that it is not a problem if a Mother Church applicant smokes, drinks, or uses drugs, but individual Directors have been heard to say as much on various occasions over recent years. The Board seemed to be saying, at this meeting, that it is up to the members in the field to uphold whatever standard they personally think is appropriate, but that the Board of Directors is not going to define what that standard is or isn't. Perhaps someone should have brought up some of our Leader's specific statements defining the moral standards of Christian Science such as: S&H 454:1, Ret. 65:8, '00 6:19, My. 106:22, My. 114:3, S&H 406:28] QUESTION AND COMMENT: I AM DISAPPOINTED THAT A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS WOULD MAKE LIGHT OF THE ORDER OF SERVICE IN THE MANUAL. MRS. EDDY PROVIDED THIS ORDER OF SERVICE AS MANY PREACHERS OF THE DAY WERE MAKING FUN OF IT. DOES THE MOTHER CHURCH HIRE NON-CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS? Walter Jones: We will staff as appropriate according to the expertise required. There are non-Christian Scientists at the Monitor, in the shops and the Library – any area where special expertise is required. Mary Trammell: Sometimes non-Christian Scientists have become Christian Scientists with this exposure. I've had one to apply for class instruction with me. Tom Black: Senior Managers are eager to advertise in the Journal. Currently, a senior Library official, the Office of General Counsel, and the Treasurer are all practitioners. Nate Talbot: Our first choice is for a Christian Scientist. But, if we need a plumber, for example, we might have to hire a non-Christian Scientist. (At noon we took a ten-minute break and I don't think many people left as the auditorium was still filled almost to capacity) -— PART TWO -— Nate Talbot: Before we resume questions from the floor, we would like to comment in more depth on two issues that were raised earlier. On the issue of non-Christian Scientists, Mary Trammell has a comment. Mary Trammell: I just thought that I would mention that Mary Baker Eddy had a non-Christian as Editor of the Christian Scientist Periodicals. His name was Henry Wiggins and Mrs. Eddy considered him to be a "trusted ally." Nate Talbot: And the second issue we wish to further comment on is the Bliss Knapp book. Mary? Mary Trammell: "Well, that's certainly passing the book!" (Laughter from audience) She says Nate did this as she has a background and interest in scholarship and a PhD in Literature. Therefore, she takes a great interest in this book from a scholar's point of view. The church couldn't be seen as suppressing this book just because it might have a different point of view. Since Bliss Knapp covered the history of the church from 1879 to 1892 his work is considered primary material for the history of the church and this is a "strong argument" for the book. [It should be noted that Bliss Knapp's book, "Destiny of The Mother Church" was brought up recently at another Town Meeting in California and the same reasons were given.] Mary Trammell did say that she could not accept the "colorful" theology contained in the book, but she qualified that remark by citing the Gospels of the New Testament as also containing different views. "We can pick and choose in those accounts what best fits our theology." [Of course, the Gospels don't change the theology as Bliss Knapp does.] Tom Black: This is also a "work in progress." Bliss Knapp considered Mary Baker Eddy to be the woman in the Apocalypse and "some prominent people listed in the Journal during his time also believed that." Mrs. Eddy tells us to look for her in her works. By that standard we could say that no biography gives us the true picture of Mrs. Eddy. In the "big tent" we are all embraced. It is wide enough to include every sincere thinker who is trying to demonstrate Christian Science truths." [What strikes me after re-reading and typing this discussion is that the Board seems willing to make room for differing views, even if they represent incorrect theology, as in the case of Bliss Knapp. Note that Mr. Black observed that "some prominent people listed in the Journal" in Knapp's time agreed with his theology. But on the other hand, with Matters of Conscience, which the Board has labeled "differing views or opinions" (and there is certainly no incorrect theology in Matters of Conscience), their "big tent" standard doesn't seem to apply. The teachers who took the complaint to the officers and finally to the church (as specified in the Mathew Code), should be included in this "big tent" if indeed it is "wide enough" to include "sincere thinkers trying to demonstrate Christian Science truths." Considering how transparent the scholarship/historical argument is for Bliss Knapp, perhaps one might continue pressing this issue at future Town Meetings. The "suppression" argument, too, lacks a reasonable basis, since there is a vast difference between "suppressing" a book and publishing a book as authorized Christian Science literature. Scholars would not have been deprived of access to Destiny if the Publishing Society had never issued it. The book was available through other sources. This scholarship/historical argument has been used since 1991. But such a rationale could not possibly supercede the authority of Mrs. Eddy's divinely inspired Manual By-Law (Article VIII, Section 11): "No Incorrect Literature," which unequivocally declares that "A member of this Church shall neither buy, sell, nor circulate Christian Science literature which is not correct…" and also warns that "a departure from the spirit or letter of this By-Law involves schisms in our Church and the possible loss, for a time, of Christian Science." If the scholarly/historical argument were to hold sway, the CS Publishing Society and Reading Rooms surely would end up as the "big tent," carrying all kinds of diverse opinions on Christian Science by all kinds of authors, whether or not these fairly depict Mrs. Eddy and her theology. In fact, this is exactly what has happened with Gillian Gill's biography of Mary Baker Eddy which insults and misinterprets our Leader but which nonetheless is included in the Reading Rooms and has been strongly pushed by the church. The "big tent" paradigm is very worrisome.] Nate Talbot: We understand the depth of feeling here and we are not ignoring it; we're praying about it. COMMENT AND QUESTION: THE BIG TENT HAS TO COME TOGETHER AT THE TOP. IF YOU ARE STRIVING TO STICK TO THE MANUAL, WHAT ABOUT THE STRICTLY PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE OF MRS. EDDY BEING MADE AVAILABLE IN THE LIBRARY? Walter Jones: The placement of this material in the Library enabled us to maintain the copyright for this material. The Board of Directors has a responsibility for the intellectual property of Mrs. Eddy. Advises everyone to read the copyright law as he has. Mary Trammell: Mrs. Eddy's comments about "strictly personal" or "strictly confidential" correspondence sometimes meant (in the opinion of the Board of Directors) "just for that moment" and not for all time. Example: the appointment of an individual that was later made public and then the need for confidentiality would no longer be needed. The lion's share of this correspondence was made available. A small percentage was withheld but might be released later. MODERATOR ANNOUNCED THAT FIFTEEN MINUTES REMAINED FOR A DISCUSSION OF THE BIBLE, LECTURES AND READING ROOMS. Mary Trammell: On the Bible and its different versions: The Board of Directors has researched this question thoroughly and will be publishing a 1300-word statement in the June Journal on this question. We want views and prayer from the field on this issue. Mrs. Eddy called the King James Version of the Bible "the love of my life." Many quotes come from this version and when her assistants used other versions, she said it must be the "King James Version verbatim." At one point, the editor of the periodicals said that other translations were to be used, only to be corrected by Mrs. Eddy. She had some 40 Bibles in modern and historic translations and used the Revised King James, the American Standard, etc. The logo from the Monitor, the Cross and the Crown, were all from a version other than the King James. Mrs. Eddy used the RSV for the services for an entire year. After the Quarterly was introduced, the King James Version was used but the Golden Text and Responsive Reading used another version. "No definite translation is designated in the Manual" and we ask for your views on the different versions after the research is published in the June Journal. Nate Talbot: As for the Lectures, we want to be respectful of your views. The Board of Directors does have a role to play, but we will not impose our views on you. I'm not so much concerned about the format for the lectures but the substance of the lectures must include the basics: God, the Christ, Christian Science. We must be sure that we are doing what Mrs. Eddy would want us to do with regard to lectures in the community. "There isn't much metaphysics in the Sermon on the Mount. We want the power of the spirit behind what's being said." Tom Black: The Reading Rooms fall under The Writings of Mary Baker Eddy. (I might not have heard this correctly!) A new manager was just appointed to find "a clear sense of activity." We need new hymns, new bindings for Science and Health, new translations of Science and Health, especially Spanish and Portuguese. We are also considering a virtual Reading Room – putting the Reading Room online. A lot of things are "works in progress." The meeting adjourned shortly after 1:00 p.m. [We are grateful to have received notes from the L.A. meeting prior to this one, and hope these notes on the Baltimore meeting may be helpful to others, including those who may be thinking about attending upcoming meetings in Portland, Oregon; St. Louis; Houston; and elsewhere. The L.A. recommendation for prepared, well-focused, concise questions and for keeping the microphone for possible follow-up questions was good advice. We also agree that honest and challenging questions can be asked in a respectful way, and that maintaining a truly respectful atmosphere is an important aspect of demonstrating church.]
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 not diminished. 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 understandable? 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.
Do you have a secret no one knows? Skeletons in the closet? Done or thought something you think no one else would understand? Is it killing you holding the secret in? Perhaps you need to share it, even if it is in an anonymous fashion. PostSecret is a collection of secrets that have been created on postcards and sent to the site. No real commentary on the submissions, just presenting them in their original and unaltered format. Quite a flashlight into the deeper, darker elements of humanity. Word of caution: This site may evoke a host of emotions - be prepared mentally.
Sushi is good… For those of you who are not so thrilled at the thought of fresh fish wrapped with rice and seaweed, may I suggest you try Miso on Meramac. Now, I know what you're thinking after visiting the site - "Why ASP?". Certainly we would hope they would have better sense. In their defense, I think they spend a lot of time on sushi and are not current about their web options. That aside, it is a good two hours later and I still can taste the wonderful food prepared for us as we sat there. I challenge any sushi-hater to go there with an open mind and try it out. In fact, let me know and I'll go with you. Do bring your pocketbook though; its not cheap to convince you that sushi is wonderful.
Want to name your baby a unique name? Although I have no idea where the statistics and such are being drawn from, this is a nifty site that will tell you the usage of a host of names over the years. Apparently the name Dick really hit its highmark in the 1930's. It's good to see James is going strong!
Lewis arrived at my house around 6:00 pm and we left for the dome. Our plan: Sell our tickets for a butt load of money and watch the game with a big group of fans outside the stadium. Unfortunately, we were a couple hours late for the big spenders. We did get a $408 offer but decided it would be a better decision to watch the game instead of taking a $92 hit for nothing. So in we went. Having seats in the 2nd furthest section of the stadium, we decided that the first level was a much more pleasurable vantage point. With that in mind, we cruised the aisleways, looking for open seats. Along the way, we met two nice couples who had some tremendous seats. In talking, we discovered the seats in front of them belonged to some diehard Louisville fans and they thought these fans probably would not show up for the game. Awesome, we now had seats in Row T, just off center court! Before we took our seats though, Vince Vaughn passed us by. Lewis, seeing him first, gave him a high-five and received Vince's hand in his and a wink. We brushed shoulders with Vince Vaughn! That was pretty sweet. Two minutes later, Tim Robbins passed by us too. At this point, the couples pointed out the booth that Michael Jordan, Dean Smith, Charles Barkley, and Carmelo Anthony, among others, were sitting in. So we took our seats in row T, hopeful, praying that no one whould show with tickets for those seats. Up until two minutes before gametime, we were okay. We had one scare, but apparently the guy was hard of seeing and thought Row T was O…go figure. Sadly, the duo was ousted when the four ticket holders showed up to claim their seats. Undaunted, we continued about the first level, stopping along the aisleways to watch the game before being ushered on by the staff. At half time, we found some seats behind the basket where we could see the entire court fairly well. While waiting for the second half to begin, I was perusing the fans walking around, looking for other celebrities. I almost did not recognize the first guy who passed by about four seats away from me - Jay Z. He and his humongous bodyguard, that is. We also saw Tony Banks, Tubby Smith, Hubie Brown, the Marquette coach, the UConn coach, Lil Wayne, and Ciara, among others. While Illinois didn't pull off the victory, I was very happy with how the game turned out. We had a great view the whole time, had fun with the fans, finding celebrities, and watching two talented basketball teams battle it out for a national championship. I am definitely putting in my reservation for the 2006 Final Four in Indy!
So there we were, watching the men's final four teams practicing on Friday before the showdown Saturday. I was on my way to meet some friends in the upper deck and saying good by to some friends who were taking off, one of which was Lewis Howes. As we are chatting, he mentions wanting to come down after the games on Saturday and see if we can get a ticket off of a losing team's fan for the championship game. "Sounds like a plan" I said, and so we made a verbal agreement to do just that. The next day, we actually did go down there. With about 10 minutes left in the second half of the UNC - State game, we departed my house for downtown. Getting to the dome with about 2 minutes left in the game, we find at least 300 people with the same intentions as ours, and this was just at one of the four main exits for the dome. To top it all off, there were people there ready to spend $1000 per ticket! Undaunted, we took up a position near the door and held up two fingers. The fans that had attended the game must have felt like cattle, being herded by huge lines of people wanting to buy their tickets. Some took it graciously; others were down right nasty. Perhaps 45 minutes into our plan, I began to feel hopeless as it seemed no one with a ticket was batting an eyelash at the people offerring thousands for their tickets. It was then that Lewis called me over to talk with a guy who apparently was selling two tickets. The interesting thing about how this guy had slipped by everyone else was how he worded his sales pitch. "I have two tickets for $600, but they will just get you in the doors." Most hopefuls passed him off as a scam, saying they wanted seats. Lewis, however, followed up with the guy and foud out that the tickets were pretty much the farthest seats from the court. We figured we could always seat hop and walk along the aisleways so all we needed were tickets to get in the doors. Lewis then negotioated him down from $600 to $500 for the pair of tickets. At this point, I went scurrying off to find an ATM and withdrawl the $250 needed for my ticket. Dear City of St. Louis, Please put ATMs on every corner. So I spent the better part of two hours searching for an ATM that wasn't out of money. Meanwhile, Lewis was chatting with the guy, all the while being bombarded by other hopeful buyers offering 7 and 8 hundred dollars for the pair or tickets. Our guy was awesome; he simply told everyone he had already sold the tickets to Lewis for $500 and wasn't considering any other offers!! Once I located an ATM, I found that there were about 60 people on line for it. This was unacceptable. It was here I realized the college education I had just finished was going to pay off. I likened this line to the lunch line on Sundays after church. How many times did I slide in the front and start talking to someone there, thus making it seem they had been saving my spot? Countless times, that how many! Only this time, I knew no one. Well, about 6 people from the front was this small group of women, all in their mid-20's and attractive. That's where I made my entrance. I stood next to the tallest of the three and stood and faced the ATM. She turned and asked if I was waiting for the ATM. I said, "Yes". She then pointed out to me that the line started on the other side of the street. I said, "Interesting." So then asked if I was going to cut all of those people. I replied, "Well, I was hoping to come up here, talk to you like we knew each other and those behind would simply see that you were holding my spot for me. Obviously I'd let you go first." So she said okay and we continued chatting about where we lived and what we did. Almost got away with it too. The fella behind these ladies saw what happend and asked one of the other women what was going on. Not being privy to my conversation with the tall girl, she told him I was cutting. I was bigger than this guy but stll didn't want a scene, so I stepped behind the tall girl to talk to this gentleman. Turns out he was very cool! I explained to him that I need the cash quickly to get tickets for the game and was hoping we could be friends for a few minutes until we had used the ATM. Without missing a beat, he put his arm around me and started laughing, and we talked about basketball. Turns out he was an Arizona faithful and was brought to tears with Illinois' win in the regional finals. So after this guy gets his money, I start getting mine. Turns out I can only withdraw $200 per day. Drat!! I have maybe $10 in cash in my wallet. Needless to say, I booked it the five or so city blocks back to the dome where Lewis was still hanging out with the guy. Explaining the situation, Lewis says he can get $50 more out of his account to cover me. So the three of us start walking to find an ATM in a less busy section of town. Along the way, we find out this guy sells tickets like this for a living. He had bought two tickets for $2750 and sold each one for $3000 a piece! He also told us a story of how he snuck into this year's Superbowl. We finally find an ATM and Lewis gets the extra money. Cash and tickets are exchanged and now Lewis and I are going to the game tonight! The plan is to see if we can't resell these suckers for $1000 a piece or so, and if not, hey, we're going to the championship game!
All right, going a little "main-stream" here and using an automatic blog creation tool known as WordPress. Chewing the Cud (this blog) is about having conversations about whatever. Most likely I am the only one who ever looks at this site so it will be my ruminations, but hey, it's good to talk to yourself sometimes. Chew away!