“I was born an activist with a natural inclination at helping people,” says Deb Simons-Reeves. “Already as a child I wanted badly to help my father who was an alcoholic.”

Simons-Reeves grew up in Saugatuck, a small resort town on Lake Michigan, and from a very young age attended, with her mother, the local Episcopal church. At age 14 she discovered the stories and the teachings of the Bible through an illustrated cartoon-style book, and inspired by it, taught regularly Sunday school.

She graduated at age 16 from high school and attended Ringling College of Art and Design, in Sarasota, FL, to study arts. A year later, however, she eloped, interrupted her college education, and became, like her husband, a river boat pilot, maneuvering an excursion boat on the Kalamazoo river.

Thanks to her husband, a Christian Scientist, Simons-Reeves became interested in the Christian Science faith. Her interest deepened significantly when at age 19 and pregnant with her 1st child, she became very sick and was healed by Christian Science prayer. She has been a staunch Christian Scientist follower ever since.

Wanting always to help others, Simons-Reeves served for 9 years on the school board of her town, aiming at improving its school system. In doing so she involved mothers in the community and insured the schools were running well and the best teachers hired. She also served on the chamber of commerce helping develop the businesses of the town.

Relocating later with her family to Murray, Western Kentucky, she volunteered in the Kentucky State penitentiary, providing Bible studies and counseling to the inmates. Working in the prisons prompted her to pursue her education and she joined Murray State university, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in both criminal justice and social work. She was then 41 years old.

As a social worker, Simons-Reeves worked for Brighton Center, in Northern KY.
“I ran a government-funded program, helping high school drop outs find jobs, also reintegrate school whenever possible,” she says.

Simons-Reeves also always cared for and empowered kids. She has been a longtime cubscouts and girlscouts leader, guiding the youngsters and taking them regularly on camping trips. Now older and having difficulty facing the harshness and inconvenience of outdoor camping, she sets up, during the entire summer, a tent in her own backyard, inviting kids form the neighborhood, also their friends, to spend time there. She also has been regularly teaching swimming to children, initially in Saugatuck and Murray and now at the YMCA in Norwood where she currently lives.

“I have a large van,” she says. “I use it on a regular basis to pick up kids of various ethnic backgrounds and from various neighborhoods, taking them to Sunday school at my church, to the YMCA for swimming, to rollerskating, or simply to my backyard to camp and do bonfires.”

For many years she also set up, with other members of her church, an after school program at the Pendleton Arts Center, downtown Cincinnati. The program was open free, 3 afternoons a week, to any kids from the neighborhood who wanted to study, do arts, or get involved in other recreational activities.

In addition to her community, Simons-Reeves remained all along very involved in her Christian Science church. On may occasions she represented it on church councils, meeting with ministers and other representatives, discussing what could be done to improve matters in the community. She has been working in the Christian Science Reading room now for 20 years, initially as a volunteer, and since last year as a head librarian. Interested in becoming a Christian Science practitioner in order to help people heal by prayer, she attended school for that purpose and obtained a certificate that allowed her to practice.

“I wanted to ease people’s suffering and pain, to help them heal, and I believed in the efficacy of the Bible,” says Simons-Reeves. “Most people do not pray or trust in prayer, but i had seen wonderful things happen through Christian Science practice.” “I wanted to help others deal positively with their fears, gain confidence, and understand the power of the Bible,” she adds.

When asked about her practice in relation to modern medicine, Simons-Reeves is quick to answer:  “It is not either or; they can complement each other.” And she clarifies the essence of Christian Science practice stating:

“It is not faith healing alone. It is based on connecting with the spirituality of human beings who are created at the image of God. A Christian Science practitioner heals by understanding that spiritual reality which is in fact the real person.”

Simons-Reeves stresses the importance of establishing a relationship with God thanks to which many wonderful things can happen. She mentions Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s prayer, and the psalms 23 (The Lord is my shepherd…) and 91 (The Lord is my refuge and my fortress…) on which Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, based her religion.

“I try to live according to the Sermon on the Mount which teaches us how to behave as human beings, how to show compassion and love, how to lift up our fellow men,” she says. “It is a daily discipline not always easy to follow; the human ego is a devil…”

Now in her eighties, Simons-Reeves would like to continue to grow, always trying to be a better person, learning by helping others.

“When I was doing social work we studied personality types. I am the helper type and have it in my genes. I want to help everyone, humans, animals, you name it…” she states.

During the winter months, for instance, Simons-Reeves is always concerned for the birds, making sure their feeders are full, and asking her relatives for bird seeds as Holiday gifts. She also takes care of several dogs and cats, domesticated and stray, in her own home.

Living her life, Simons-Reeves is in tune with her spiritual being and with the presence of God in herself and in others. By her actions and her prayers she always try to extend that presence and make it manifest, wherever she is, and with whomever she deals.


What is Christian Science

Christian Science is a set of beliefs and practices developed in 19th-century New England by Mary Baker Eddy, who argued in her book Science and Health (1875) the need to return to "primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing;" that a permanent relationship with God results in physical, mental, and emotional healing; and that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone. The book, claimed to be divinely inspired, became Christian Science's central text, along with the Bible.

The Church of Christ, Scientist, was founded in 1879 and in 1894 the Mother Church was built in Boston, Massachusetts.

Even though a Protestant Christian religion, Christian Science theology holds key differences with other branches of Christianity. Its adherents believe that reality is purely spiritual and the material world an illusion; that humans are "incapable of sin, sickness and death" and that disease is a mental error rather than physical disorder; and that the sick should be treated not by medicine, but by a form of prayer that seeks to correct the beliefs responsible for the illusion of ill health. Eddy taught that the healing Christian Scientists do is in line with what Jesus taught his disciples to do.

Christian Scientists refer to God as "Father-Mother." They believe that Christ's call is for all Christians, across denominational borders, to unite together to profess his message.

The church is known for its newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, which won seven Pulitzer Prizes, and for its public Reading Rooms around the world.

Membership in the Christian Science Church has been steadily declining over the past 45 years. There are currently approximately 800 Churches of Christ, Scientist in the U.S. and approximately 85,000 members worldwide.

Religious Peacemakers is a regular column published in Streetvibes; it highlights Greater Cincinnati individuals who use their faith and religious beliefs for peace and justice and for a better world.

It is authored by Saad Ghosn, founder and president of SOS (Save Our Souls) ART.