Cycle to Lake Junaluska


The following article was written by Mark Andrews, pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in Hickory, NC, and co-founder of Cycle to Lake Junaluska.

The Holy Rollers are a group of United Methodist cyclists who ride together once a year over the course of several days leading up to the annual meeting of the Virginia Conference.  I first learned about the Holy Rollers several years ago and, as an avid recreational cyclist, thought how much fun it would be to do something similar leading up to our annual conference in Western North Carolina.  Thinking it would be a formidable administrative task to sponsor such a ride I let the idea sit on the back burner until casually mentioning it to another cycling preacher and friend, Doug Miller.Cycle to Lake J image

Through Doug’s initiative, and in partnership with Brad Farrington of the Wesley Foundation at Appalachian State University, we have launched Cycle to Lake Junaluska.  A 501(c) 3 non-profit organization through the Appalachian Wesley Foundation, Cycle to Lake Junaluska is designed to promote fellowship, physical fitness through cycling, and raise monies for various ministries of the United Methodist Church in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference (WNCC).

The first ever Cycle to Lake Junaluska benefit ride will take place this June 16-18, in the days leading up to Annual Conference. Over the course of three days and 160+ miles, we will ride from the WNC Conference Center in Charlotte to Casar UMC where we will spend the first night (62 miles).  The next day will bring the challenging climb to Black Mountain UMC where we will spend our second night (53 miles).  The last day will be an unhurried ride in the rolling valleys circumnavigating Asheville to Lake Junaluska (47 miles).

What’s Included In The Ride:

  • Indoor camping and limited RV camping
  • Ken’s Bike Shop mechanic at camp (fees may apply)
  • Printed maps and cue sheets
  • Marked roads and route SAG support
  • Rest Stops with drinks, fresh fruit & assorted snacks
  • Restrooms at host sites and at some rest stops
  • Shower facilities each day and night

Riders may choose to ride one day or all three. T-Shirts and cycling jerseys are available for purchase.  There will also be a “swag” bag of gifts from our sponsors, including the Clergy Health Initiative’s Pastor & Parish curriculum – a wonderful resource for strengthening relations between clergy and congregations and promoting the health of pastors. As a benefit ride in support of the various campus ministries in Western North Carolina, donations will be accepted.

This year’s route is outstanding and our overnight hosts will be providing great food and activities each evening. We may not be Holy Rollers but through three days of pedaling we may certainly become “spirited spinners” of our wheels.  For brochures, registration and more information go to the C2LJ website and sign up today.

-Mark Andrews (pictured below with his bike)Mark Andrews

Healthy Pastor


The following reflection from Pastor Grace Hackney was originally posted on the Spirited Life blog in January 2010 and is re-posted here with her permission.  Pastor Hackney was a Group 1 Spirited Life participant and is an elder in the Corridor District of the NCCUMC.Pastor Hackney

I want to be a healthy pastor. I know that mind, body and spirit are tightly interwoven. I know that God wants me to be healthy, whole, undivided. I learned as a child that my body was a temple of the Holy Spirit. But I also learned that we are clay pots, easily broken, able to be used even with cracks.  I know from experience that sometimes we are better vessels for the Holy Spirit when we are broken; it is only then that we can get ourselves out of the way and make room for the mighty Spirit of God to work.

I want to be a healthy pastor, in the fullest sense of the word. I was a Health and Physical Education major and captain of the field hockey team. As a young adult I ran a marathon. I married an exercise physiologist. As a young mother, I kept our children away from sodas and fast food and turned off the television except for special occasions.

I want to be a healthy pastor.

Last month I found myself sitting in the dentist’s chair with my mouth stretched open for a full two and a half hours as I received two gold crowns for Christmas. As I lay there unable to speak or move, my mind took me to the past seven years as a full-time elder in the church. “How has ministry changed me?” I pondered.

As a Wesleyan, I would like to say I have moved at least a little bit closer to perfection, or that I have at least glimpsed moments of perfection as I have pastored, preached, prodded, and otherwise served as shepherd of this flock.

Mouth stretched open, I counted the ways my body has changed in seven years: two gold crowns, fifteen added pounds, more gray hair. I have moved from perimenopause to menopause in seven years. I have sweated during the prayer of confession and bled as I broke the Body of Christ. I have joined the apostle Paul in sleepless nights and the Council has been witness to my mood swings, far surpassing those of pubescent girls.

I want to be a healthy pastor. I tell the congregation that I cannot live into my baptism until they live into their baptisms. I cannot be healthy unless they are committed to my health. I tell them, “it takes a community to practice Sabbath.”  The reverse is also true: they cannot live into their baptisms unless I live into my ordination; they cannot be a healthy congregation unless I am committed to their health. We need each other as we seek to be healthy, in the fullest sense of the word.

Wendell Berry has famously said that the smallest unit of health is community. Being a pastor is teaching me that. Women in their 50s are going to go through menopause and are probably going to have dental issues just as surely as teenagers are going to have acne. How we live with each other during these stages of life can be witness to our love of God and neighbor. It means that as pastors, we are fully human, and only striving for the spark of the Divine. It means that daily, we must step off the pedestals our parishioners try to put us on and into the muck and mire of living together. It means we make appointments with ourselves to walk, to ponder, to garden, to knit. It means we care what our church potlucks look like. It means we don’t bring a pound cake to the Trustees meeting because we love George, who is diabetic, and love doesn’t tempt one another.

I want to be a healthy pastor. I wonder if the salvation of the world is actually dependent upon our commitment to each other: body, mind, and soul. I wonder what Church would look like if we really believed that God loved us so much that he gave us his Son so that we could all be healthy, so that we could love one another so much that it would really matter what we ate, how we used our time, how we lived our lives together. I wonder if the non-Christian world would see us and say, “See how those Christians love one another?!”

I want to be a healthy pastor. Will you help me?

-Grace Hackney

Homegrown: NC Women’s Preaching Festival


In an article on sustaining pastoral excellence, the Rev. Sally Brower, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, writes:

“For women clergy, sustaining pastoral excellence is not only about spiritual practices and leadership skills. It is also about retaining gifted women pastors for whom ministry is all too often an ordeal of grace under fire.”

As a young female member of my church, my heart warms at the sound of a feminine voice resounding from our pulpit. Hearing the gospel articulated by a woman has a refreshing sense of strength and courage.

Women are not new to ministry — witness Mary, the Mother of our Lord, and her cousin Elizabeth. However, women are relatively new to the world of formal preaching and inclusion in denominational leadership roles, and this still-recent cultural shift can create unique challenges for female pastors.

img_2104 A pregnant minister once told me that the number one question she is asked is, “Are you going to keep preaching?” “Yes, Lord willing,” she frequently replies. It is not a harmful question or an unexpected one, but I don’t believe that male pastors get asked the same question when their wives give birth or when they adopt a child.

On top of the biases that color others’ view of women in ministry are the questions that female pastors often ask themselves (ones that are equally reflective of our cultural expectations): How will I pay for childcare on a pastor’s salary? Make time to cook dinner and clean my house when I’m on call 24/7? Make visits to the hospital with a nursing baby? How do I come across as nurturing but not too soft? How can I be feminine without being hyper-emotional? How can I, as a woman, be unique — but not too different from men?

Do you find yourself longing to be in the company of other female ministers? Worshiping with one another is a way of sustaining one’s ministry and diving into these questions.

Join us at Homegrown: North Carolina’s Women’s Preaching Festival this fall, October 10 and 11 in Durham, N.C. to receive the word from and worship with other female clergy and explore all that women have to offer the church.

–Kelli Sittser

Living Wholly in Christian Community: A Lectionary Reflection on Hebrews 13


Welcome to the ninth in a special summer series of guest posts featuring lectionary-based reflections on health. We offer these reflections in the hope that in the coming weeks, you’ll consider the lectionary readings in a new light — one of health and wholeness. We will post the reflections on Wednesdays, a week and a half prior to the Sundays on which the readings fall.

Our ninth guest post is by Christi O. Brown, reflecting on Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16.* 

The sermon was delivered, hands had been shaken, and the church doors were locked for the day. Now, it was time for the pastor’s favorite part of the week – Sunday afternoon. The family lingered over lunch, and then, ah, a glorious nap.

Five o’clock rolled around all too quickly. The young adult group from church would be arriving soon. They were in the midst of a six-week study on holistic health. They trickled in, chit-chatting about their latest projects, weekend trips, and job interviews. Then after an opening prayer, they turned to the sermon for the day, which had focused on Hebrews 13, a particularly apt scripture for this group. One of them looked at the pastor. “I liked your message this morning. But I wondered if you have thoughts about how to put it into practice.”

This is exactly the kind of question the author of Hebrews was responding to in chapter 13. As Tom Long has noted in his book Interpretation: Hebrews, the stylistic shift of this chapter indicates the formal part of the preacher’s sermon is over. Now it is on to the announcements, joys, and concerns – the point where teachings are put into practice.

DSC_0043This passage indicates what it means to be embodied Christians living faithfully in community. Hebrews 13 is a marker of what the Bible has to say about holistically living out the Christian faith. The formula in this passage is profuse, including mutual love, hospitality, empathy, simplicity, honoring relationships, praising God, giving thanks, doing good, and sharing. Overall, it is a reminder of the importance of Christian community in our ability to live wholly. None of the things the author exhorts us to do can be accomplished alone. We need to have others in our lives with whom to share mutual love, support, and accountability. As embodied members of Christ, it is our duty and privilege to care for, nurture, and help others, fully empathizing with their circumstances.

Though we’re not imprisoned in jail or tortured like some of the early Christians this letter addresses, we are each imprisoned and tortured by our own vices. Living in Christian
community, the author of Hebrews recognizes that we must try to understand the pain and struggles of others and to be vulnerable with one another, sharing even our most shameful challenges. And it isn’t easy. The obstacles that prevent us from living holistically – whether they include overeating, avoiding exercise, working too many hours, or becoming impatient with our families – often seem like things we should be able to manage ourselves. However, this passage reminds us that the Lord is our helper, and that it is grace that strengthens the heart. The grace to live wholly is found in true Christian communities. As we run the race with perseverance, Christ is our anchor and our community is our coach. Though it’s not easy to run or stay on track when pursuing balance, the good news is that the race is not run alone.

DSC_4295Living as embodied members of Christian community is extremely helpful in times of transition, which is the one thing most young adults have in common (as do United Methodist pastors.) Change is the norm: young adults are often living in a liminal space – betwixt and between towns, jobs, serious relationships, kids. It is challenging to live holistically when nothing seems grounded or stable. This is why the mutual love and hospitality that the author of Hebrews mentions as present in a Christian community are so important. It is via the love and encouragement of others that all of us are able to press on toward living our lives as fully and faithfully as possible. In our times of discouragement, it is helpful to remember that even the author of Hebrews asks for prayer in order to pursue the goal of acting honorably. This act demonstrates the need for Christian community, where we most strongly experience the prayer, support, and grace we need to fully live.

brownChristi O. Brown is a pastoral associate at First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, S.C., and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Questions for reflection:

• The Bible recounts numerous stories of God’s calling folk individually – Moses at the burning bush, Isaiah in the temple at Jerusalem, Saul on the Damascus Road, Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism – but in each case, the call is to equip them to be sent
back into the community of God’s people. How might the struggle to be healthier – mentally, physically, spiritually – be God’s summons to be shaped for a more powerful ministry in the church?

• In the self-help section of any bookstore are hundreds of titles: diets, self-esteem guides, toolkits for a happier marriage, and manuals to more effective management of every imaginable topic. Is the cry for self-help a lament that community has been lost?

* These reflections first appeared in the collection, “Connecting the Mind, Body and Spirit: Reflections on Health,” produced by the Duke Clergy Health Initiative in summer 2010.

Sabbath space for Christian leaders


The following is a guest post by Dayna Olson-Getty of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School:

We all know that conflict can take a heavy toll on our physical and emotional well-being. When our calling to embody the gospel leads us to intentionally enter into deep and long-standing conflicts within a congregation, denomination or organization, or to seek to bridge divisions in our communities for the sake of working for justice and peace, the toll can be even higher. A safe space to rest, receive, and be renewed among like-minded peers can provide a powerful antidote to the stress and isolation that this work often brings.

summer-institute_450x300The Duke Divinity School Summer Institute is designed to be just such a space, and we encourage you to join us for it May 27 – June 1.

Our goal is to empower and sustain those whose ministry takes them into difficult spaces and relationships for the sake of leading the church towards more fully embodying God’s kingdom. We provide Sabbath space for deepening and renewing the Christian leaders whose work involves reconciliation, social justice, and peace-building.

We’ve designed the Summer Institute to be a space for clergy and other Christian leaders to develop new friendships with like-minded peers and mentors in the context of a diverse community (our participants come from a wide range of denominations, ministry contexts, and roles).

We begin and end each day with a worship service that is crafted to nurture, challenge, and sustain weary leaders. Throughout the week, theological teaching and reflection from world-class theologians is woven together with inspiring and challenging examples of vibrant Christian leadership in difficult contexts. The result is a framework for personal and communal transformation that leaders can use in a wide range of contexts.

For many pastors, Summer Institute has been tremendously rejuvenating.

Chip Edens, rector of the 5,000 member Christ Episcopal Church in Charlotte, attended the Institute in 2009.

The Institute offered me the most important continuing education experience I have had in my 15 years of ministry. The combination of outstanding lectures from experienced leaders, the conversations I had with a very diverse group of individuals, and the extraordinary worship all challenged me and renewed my determination and hope in the work of reconciliation and justice in my own community. I thank God for the experience.

Gene Graham, a lay-leader from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, attended in 2009 and 2010. She characterized her experience as a week of learning and inspiration.

The leadership was outstanding. The participants represented a world-wide network deeply committed to a myriad of reconciliation initiatives.  I left the Institute awakened to the hope and the pain of the reconciliation journey and armed with stories, contacts, and resources to enrich my church’s commitment to the Beloved Community.

Graham has since helped to found reVision, a program that provides a place for youth in crisis in Southwest Houston to disengage from their gang culture, develop a strong peer group of new friends and take control of their futures.

Summer Institute participants spend their afternoons in small interactive seminars that focus on a particular topic and provide opportunities to address their own strategic and pressing concerns and questions. This year’s Institute seminars include:

  • Living in the Tension: Human Sexuality in the Time between the Times with Andrew Marin and Tracy Merrick
  • Shaping Congregations for Faithfulness across Divides with Curtiss DeYoung and Cheryl Sanders
  • Building Beloved Communities of Justice and Advocacy with the Poor with Mary Nelson
  • Everyday Practices for Reconciliation Where You Are with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
  • Introduction to Reconciliation with Edgardo Colón-Emeric
  • Listening Together: Muslims and Christians Reading Scripture with Ellen Davis and Abdullah Antepli
  • Transforming Academic Institutions for Reconciliation with Peter Cha
  • Pursuing Reconciliation Institutionally with Chris Rice and Abi Riak

I encourage you to consider joining us this summer. The “Shaping Congregations” seminar — which focuses on diversity as an increasing, unavoidable and defining force within many congregations — could be particularly insightful for pastors serving churches at all stages of readiness for change.

More information about the program is available on our website: We’ll be accepting applications until April 30, and we do have scholarship funds for those who need them.

Race of Grace 5k



The warmer weather and longer days are beckoning many of us outdoors after some dismal winter months.  The popularity of road races will soon become evident as communities hit the streets to sweat in honor of their favorite charities, to challenge their fitness, or just as an excuse to delight in the outdoors with loved ones.

North Carolina boasts innumerable road races year-round, but there is only one we know of that has a ‘Clergy Division’ as a prize category: the Race of Grace and House Your Neighbor 5k.  This 3.1 mile run/walk was formerly the Race of Grace 5k, which began in 2004 when 65 United Methodist Churches participated in the event to help alleviate suffering of neighbors impacted by hunger, homelessness, and lack of adequate healthcare.

race for grace

Since then, they have joined forces with the NCSU chapter for Habitat for Humanity to offer one great big event!  Over the past 14 years, these two events have given away over $340,000!  This year, Habitat for Humanity of Wake County will be the beneficiary.

Want to get involved? Check out their website to register to walk/run, donate, and volunteer.  They’ve also put promotional resources together, including bulletin blurbs for your worship bulletin or posters for the church halls.

We wish the event a great success and applaud the Race of Grace’s efforts to promote physical activity and enjoyment of the outdoors along with raising money to help provide shelter for our neighbors.

The Lord does not delight in the strength of the horse nor the speed of the runner, but the Lord takes delight in those who fear him and who hope in his steadfast love.

Psalm 147: 10-11

Catherine Wilson

Photo by flickr user Jim Larson, via Creative Commons.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for Him


…Guest post by wellness advocate Lisa MacKenzie…

When I was a girl back in the 1960’s, spring was my favorite time of year.  My grandmother would pore over seed catalogs, begin spring-cleaning, and take me for walks in the woods to look for signs of spring.  Many weekend mornings we would walk to the Susquehanna River to fish, watch, and wait.  As my grandmother sat quietly on a log looking at the water, looking upward, and looking at me, I wasn’t sure what we were waiting for, but I knew that whatever it was it was important.  She would sigh, and I knew to be quiet. Like kindred spirits, she and I knew when to be still and when to talk to each other. I loved her.

As I grew, my grandmother became more fragile and my walks became solitary, but I found joy in running home to tell her that I had found the first lady slippers in the woods.  She would say, “It’s a new beginning, and you saw it my girl–you saw it.”  I didn’t know what she meant, but I loved her, and I knew it was important.

My grandmother and I hardly ever went to church, but on Good Friday when I was 15, we went to the little Episcopal Church in town where lots of people I knew attended.  It was raining and the church was damp and cold; we sang a sad song, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord, and my grandmother cried.  We held each other’s hands, and I had a sense of what we were waiting for.  We walked home in the rain.

Years later, I remember these times together: we were watching for Love and waiting for a new beginning.  Now I know that you don’t have to wait for God’s Love, but sometimes you have to wait for yourself to understand that there’s nothing more important.

–Lisa MacKenzie

Images from flickr users Frank G Heron (top) and lars hammar (below), both via creative commons.

A friend who cares


Today, a quote from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

Which person in your life means the most to you?  Take a few moments today to lift them up in prayer.

–Kate Rugani

The Healthy Mind Platter


It seems there are no shortage of riffs on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid and (newer) choose my plate graphics, which depict the food groups that should be included as part of a healthy diet.  A few weeks ago, we blogged about the Food for Thought Pyramid, a tongue-in-cheek look at what really makes us healthy.

Here’s another, the creation of Daniel Siegel and David Rock, who wondered what the equivalent ‘diet’ would be for a healthy mind.  They developed The Healthy Mind Platter, with seven daily essential mental activities they claim are necessary for optimum mental health.  These activities serve to both strengthen your brain’s internal connections and your connections with those you share your life with.

There is not a temporal serving size for each component, as every individual is different and their needs may change over time.  The goals of The Healthy Mind Platter are to draw attention to a spectrum of essential mental activities and to encourage people to take steps toward achieving balanced mental health by including each of those activities in their daily routine, even if only for a few moments.

I was particularly interested by the yin and yang, the opposite and complimentary nature of the activities.  For example, ‘focus time’ is defined as time spent pursuing tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain, whereas ‘down time’ is non-focused time, which allows the mind to completely wander and relax, allowing the brain to recharge.  The same contrasting nature exists between time spent sleeping and time being physically active, or time spent connecting with others versus ‘time in,’ which they describe as time spent quietly reflecting internally.

I wonder if individuals have a tendency to spend more time on one end of the continuum than on the other end and whether the task of investing equal amounts of time on both ends of the spectrum is challenging.  For example, I sometimes have a tendency to overbook connecting with friends and family, and this leaves me little time for meditation and journaling, which are activities I’ve found to be equally important to my ability to recharge.

One way the platter’s creators suggest using the tool is to map out an average day in your life and see how much time you spend engaged in each activity.  If you find there is an activity that is not a part of your routine, consider whether there is there a way to insert even 2 or 3 minutes of it each day. After all, we appreciate the importance of variety in a nutritionally balanced diet, so why shouldn’t it be the same when it comes to mental health?

Catherine Wilson

Image used with permission. © 2011 David Rock and Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. (;

Spotlight on Unity UMC Walking Ministry


Spirited Life participant Rev. Tim Whittington started the Walking Ministry at Unity United Methodist Church in Kannapolis, N.C, in response to the benefits he has experienced from his participation in Spirited Life and more specifically, the healthy eating program Naturally Slim.

Church members meet at Food Lion in Mooresville each Saturday morning at eight and take a two-mile walk through town, exercising their bodies and spreading the word about their church.  The group always opens with a prayer, and walkers are encouraged to go at their own pace.

Pastor Tim attributes the success of the Walking Ministry to the fact that it provides motivation and fellowship for participants, and it’s a unique way for people to get out and exercise.  They hope to eventually expand their walking to other days of the week as well.

Pastor Tim says, “We walk to keep our bodies (God’s temple) healthy for Him.  The healthier we are, the stronger our discipleship will be.”

To Pastor Tim and the Unity UMC Walkers, keep up the great work, and thanks for being an inspiration to us all!

-Compiled by Katie Huffman

Photo by Tim Whittington