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Storms throw clergy wellness program off track (Nov. 30, 2004)

Storms throw clergy wellness program off track (Nov. 30, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Storms throw clergy wellness program off track 

Nov. 30, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0201}

An e-Review Feature
By John M. De Marco**

VIERA — Despite regularly serving up an oratorical menu of spiritual health, clergy often are prone to a lack of health when it comes to their own physical fitness. To address this tendency, a Melbourne District-based parish nurse has spearheaded a program encouraging pastors to eat better and exercise more often.

Although slowed somewhat by the September hurricanes that battered the district's churches in Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties, some Melbourne District clergy are seeking to raise the bar on their own well-being so they can more effectively serve others.

The district's clergy wellness program kicked off Aug. 18-just before the onslaught of Frances and Jeanne-and is being led by Ginny Pearcy, a registered nurse and the spouse of the Rev. Bob Pearcy, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church on Merritt Island. Pearcy is also coordinating the conference's parish nurse program and leading its Healthy Congregations task force.

The district's voluntary program emphasizes the emotional, physical and spiritual health of clergy. Pearcy hopes the initiative will help lower insurance claims and premiums through better health and result in increased clergy productivity and healthier family life.

Pearcy stressed the importance of personal meditative time during her presentation at the Aug. 18 district clergy gathering. She also distributed free pedometers to encourage 30 minutes of walking every day, gave out water bottles to emphasize the importance of adequate daily water intake and provided free blood pressure screenings for all present. The Rev. Mike Oliver, superintendent of the district, and the Rev. Corky Calhoun, pastor of Georgiana United Methodist Church on Merritt Island, performed a skit symbolizing the challenges clergy face in staying physically fit. 

At her request, several pastors have e-mailed Pearcy to keep her updated on their progress. Some reported steady exercise and an improved diet, while others targeted hurricane-related stress as attributing to weight gain and lack of physical activity.

"The hurricane season robbed me of my faithful exercise program and healthy diet," one pastor wrote Pearcy. "Prior to that I had been losing weight (say seven to eight pounds) and enjoying a disciplined life. I'm ready to get back to it now. Pray for me!"

Pearcy said she has lost 11 pounds since August, while her husband, Bob, has shed more than 20.

Pearcy, who earned a certificate of Christian studies from Asbury Theological Seminary's Orlando's campus, put together a health fair at the 2002 Florida Annual Conference Event. During free blood pressure screenings, three pastors were advised to head straight to the emergency room for treatment. 

"They hadn't even been on anything for blood pressure. That got me to thinking that we had to do something on an individual level for pastors," Pearcy said.

She learned about a program in the Dakotas Annual Conference that featured "pacesetters groups" getting together on a monthly basis to talk about nutrition and exercise. Pearcy received the go-ahead from the Florida Conference and some funding from the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to initiate the program locally. The program may expand beyond the Melbourne District to include all district superintendents and employees of the United Methodist Conference Center in Lakeland.

Pearcy hopes to make more presentations at district gatherings, to talk about how people are doing and perform more blood pressure checks. She also wants to see the district's numerous parish nurses meet regularly with interested groups of clergy and for clergy members to gather together and motivate each other. Depending on interest, the program will span through at least May.

"I'm not going to give up on this. It's just that we got slowed down [by the hurricanes]," Pearcy said.


This article relates to Health and Wholeness.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.