Body and Soul Program, Epworth UMC, Berkeley, CA

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“We all have challenges to body and soul. While we cannot control every factor in our lives, we can make choices that support health and move us closer to the abundant life God intends for us . . . .” With these words, the Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart, pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley, California, preached about stewarding the gift of life, including our bodies and souls.

She envisioned a three-month Pentecost adventure to pursue:
1. Physical health awareness with positive support for healthy habits and choices;
2. Spiritual renewal by encouraging prayer, meditation, study and service;
3. Nurture of mental health through reading and conversations; and
4. Community growth by gathering, knowing, and praying for one another.

Eighty church members participated in small groups of six to eight people. Everyone tracked daily points for activities in each of the goal areas: water, prayer/meditation, exercise, Bible reading, wellness, fruits and vegetables, community, Body of Christ, and a personal health goal. Then group leaders turned in their combined group points every week. In each small group, members created their own group covenants and shared in confidentiality for support and accountability. There was a mid-program Check-In event, a Saturday retreat, and a celebration at the end.

“We had amazing pastoral counseling and small-group work,” says Pastor Odette. “Every person who had a personal goal found a spiritual purpose underneath that. . . . There were a lot of wonderful surprises.”
Questions for Discussion
* How does your congregation encourage good stewardship of members’ bodies and health?
* What one idea from this program could you adopt or adapt for your church?

Written 12/7/2010 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church

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