Spirited Life video


We’re excited to introduce our new Spirited Life video, featuring pastors Eldrick Davis, Alexis Coleman, and Bob Kretzu.

Each of them was kind enough to let us spend a day with them and learn about their life in ministry and their experience in Spirited Life.  Their stories vary widely — they’ve tackled grief, stress, questions of vocational call, and weight loss (as of last July, Eldrick had lost 101 pounds(!), sustained in part by the support of his congregation.)  Their stories are both real and representative of many we’ve heard throughout Spirited Life, and we’re thankful they were willing to share them so openly.

Please share the video and help us spread the word about Spirited Life.

Kate Rugani

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

Pastor Spotlight: Andrew Brown – the Faster Pastor


Wellness advocates repeatedly remind one another that their work is not about themselves, but about providing space to pastors that do not otherwise have a sounding board of their own. With just a simple opening question, we never really know how a conversation will flow until it flows. Of course, the talks can run the gamut…and then there is the occasional surprise.

“Hello Pastor XYZ! What’s new? What’s exciting? What’s different?” That was my admittedly corny opening for calls on this particular day. Before I could mentally rapture myself to the unemployment line for such a clumsy opening, the pastor says, “Well, I raced a school bus yesterday!”

As it turns out, Rev. Andrew Brown, senior pastor of Hawthorne Lane UMC in Charlotte, happens to be the winner of the 2012 “Faster Pastor” race, an annual spectacle in which “local men of the cloth wheel 13-ton monstrous machines…

Pastor Andrew was kind enough to grant an interview to Spirited Life about this incredible experience.

ME: What made you decide to enter the ‘Faster Pastor’ race?  How did you hear about it?

ANDREW: I received an email from the district office saying they needed pastors to drive in a school bus race. It sounded interesting; who wouldn’t want to drive a bus around a race track when someone else is paying for the gas!

ME: Describe your bus – who painted it?

ANDREW: I rallied some of our church members to get a pit crew together. They were responsible for the design and painting of the bus. The pit crew consisted of children, youth, and enough adults to make it legal. We had an artist and an interior designer on the crew. The final design was created by one of our church’s fifth graders; “Jesus Take the Wheel” was the theme. Everybody really got into it.

ME: What was it like to get behind the wheel?

ANDREW: Getting behind the wheel was a rush – a four-point harness, a full face helmet with radio receivers, and a couple of track mechanics explaining how to drive the bus.

ME: Did you do a donut in the grass after you won the race?

ANDREW: [Laughing] No, the engine wouldn’t go fast enough.

ME: What was your winning strategy, and what did you do to celebrate?

ANDREW: I don’t think I really had a winning strategy. I was surprised to win. I just went back to the lessons I learned in childhood driving go-carts. Go fast and stay upright.

I wasn’t really sure how to drive against a bunch of pastors. I mean, I didn’t know if they would drive aggressive or not. Then, when we went into the first turn, one of the other drivers nailed me in the back fender and I thought, “OK…it’s on!”  I did my best to keep it together, and everything worked out great!

We had about 30 people from our congregation come to watch the race, including my wife and two of our children. The Faster Pastor race was a novelty race between the real [NASCAR] races that night.

Also my parents, who have both gone through some serious health issues lately, were there, and that really meant a lot. They rode from their home, about 2 hours away, with my oldest brother and his wife. After the race (and the win) I went with my family to Cracker Barrel to celebrate. We brought the trophy in [the restaurant], sat it on the table and had a great time!

ME: Are you in again next year?

ANDREW: I don’t know if I will be able to do it again next year. But I would love to do it again.

ME: Assuming this is one fun way to let off some steam, what are some of the other ways you try to reduce stress?

PASTOR: I didn’t enter the race to reduce stress. I did it to have fun. I believe there is in each of us a kid who “had to” grow up. It is important for us to let that kid out from time to time and have fun! Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at when he said you must enter the Kingdom as a little child.

As Pastor Andrew enthusiastically described his experience, he said, “I’ve gotta take more chances in life!” It sounded as if he had rediscovered some laughter and adrenaline that he had been missing. It seems that this experience gave him an opportunity to channel fun memories from his childhood, while creating lasting memories for his congregants and family members in the stands as supportive witnesses.

As men and women of clergy who are dealing with countless stressors spiritually and professionally, it can be easy to forget or bypass those hobbies, those moments that give us a chance to have fun. Have you put a hobby on the back burner? How long ago? Maybe it is time to think about reconnecting with something fun that will give you joy, laughter and some great memories.


— Angela MacDonald

(Pictures and YouTube video provided by Jami Brown and CMS/HHP Photo)

Pastor Spotlight: Jim Bell on Spiritual Retreats


Jim Bell is a Spirited Life participant who serves as pastor of Rosemary UMC in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. For the past six years, he has taken a day away every three months for an individual spiritual retreat. Jim graciously took the time to answer my questions about this practice.

What does one of your typical spiritual retreats involve?

JIM: They include silent listening, scripture reading, reflection, spiritual reading, walking and praying, lunch – usually in silence – journaling, and assessment of my priorities for the next three months.

I have gone on these retreats at retreat centers – like Avila Retreat Center located north of Durham – camps, public libraries and college libraries.

Why do you take regular retreats?  What’s your motivation?

JIM: I realize that my spiritual well-being is essential to my life as a follower of Christ and as a pastor.  I do this to have an intentional time of listening to God.  In 30 minutes of silent listening on a retreat, I sense God’s presence and direction more powerfully and clearly than in most of my daily prayers.  It is very helpful to me to travel to a location besides my home or study.

I go on retreat to refocus my spiritual life and to refocus on God’s priorities for my ministry.  It is easy for me to get caught up in the day-to-day routines and demands of ministry and lose sight of the big picture.  Without fail, I depart from each retreat renewed, refreshed, energized and grateful for the opportunity to spend time with God.

How are you able to get away amidst the ongoing demands of your work?

JIM: I make this a priority for me.  I am intentional about scheduling these retreats months in advance.  Sometimes I have to adjust.  When a pastoral emergency occurred and I couldn’t reschedule the retreat, I went on retreat for half a day.

Do you have a favorite memory from your spiritual retreats?

JIM: In May one year I went on retreat to a colleague’s vacation home on Lake Gaston.  It was a couple of months following my mother’s death.  She had struggled with vascular dementia for eight years.  Helping to care for her during that time was a privilege for me, but it was also exhausting.

On the retreat these words from Psalm 23,  “He restoreth my soul,” and “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me,” echoed in my soul.  I reread Henri Nouwen’s book, In Memoriam, a personal account of spirituality and grief that he authored after his mother’s death.  To read it and let it soak into my heart in the beautiful solitude of the lake was a profound healing experience for me.     

Are there any resources on spiritual retreats that you recommend?

JIM: Two books that have helped me the most in shaping these retreats are A Guide to Retreat for All God’s Shepherds by Rueben P. Job, and Time Away – A Guide for Personal Retreat by Ben Campbell Johnson and Paul H. Lang.


Thanks, Jim, for sharing with us about this important piece of your life and ministry.

–Tommy Grimm

Pastor Spotlight: Laura Stern


Rev. Laura Stern is the pastor at Ocracoke United Methodist Church and one of our Group 2 Spirited Life participants. In the passage below, she shares her experience in the program as well as some of the resources she’s found most meaningful as she works to maintain a balanced life:

“I have enjoyed being part of the Spirited Life program. The program sets aside intentional time and space to take seriously the balance (or lack thereof) in my life and ministry.  As a solo pastor and mother of three small children living on a remote island, life is a constant juggling act. Since beginning the program in 2012, I have been exploring ways to bring together the various moving parts in my life.

I have discovered a renewed interest in reading and writing. Setting aside a devotional time early in the morning before the household wakes allows time to pray, think, read, and write.

Some favorite books as-of-late include: The Pastor: A Memoir, by Eugene Peterson; Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott; Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life, by Kathleen Norris; and, the classic for any island pastor, Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Each of these books remind me of the profound depth, possibility, and hope within pastoral ministry.

Between bulletin revisions and waiting for the church copier to warm up, a few clicks online can keep the brain going. Blogs that offer good food-for-thought for me include Jan Richardson’s The Painted Prayerbook and posts on rachelheldevans.com.

Writing and reading are two sides of the same coin. While enjoying reading, I keep pushing myself to write. It is a form of spiritual discipline that helps me make connections, add dimension, and stay relevant to my calling.

Last month, I pursued an entire week of writing and learning through an opportunity hosted by the Collegeville Institute entitled “Theology in the Real World: A Week with Kathleen Norris.”  It was an invaluable opportunity to spend a week away from church and family responsibilities, to work alongside pastors and writers from across denominations, and to learn from a bestselling author of creative non-fiction.

I think the core of Spirited Life is about discovery, or perhaps re-discovery, of ourselves, our calling, and joy within our lives. Over the past few months, this discovery has taken the form of reading and writing. I look forward to what other discoveries will come about as I continue through the Spirited Life program.”

Compiled by Catherine Wilson

Photo courtesy of Laura Stern, featuring her children Gretchen (7), Nicholas (4), and Charlie (2).

Pastor spotlight: Lee Pittard


In an interview with North Carolina Health News’ Rose Hoban, Rev. Lee Pittard shared his journey toward wellness as a participant in Spirited Life.

Initially a skeptic, Lee signed up for Spirited Life because he thought it was expected of him.  But “when I actually saw that I was making progress and having a different attitude, I thought, ‘changing things is possible,’” he said.

One of Lee’s initial goals was to acknowledge his stress-eating patterns and form some new habits to help with weight loss.

Realizing the importance of community support, Lee made a request to his congregation that they stop feeding him so much.  “A lot of people would make a cake for me for my birthday in December,” he explained. “I told them this past year, ‘Don’t love me so much. Just tell me happy birthday, but no more cakes!’”

He also enlisted the help of a wellness advocate.  “Having a Spirited Life coach email me and check up on my progress has been really useful. One thing I need is someone to hold me accountable for exercising,” he said.

Lee began with walking as his main form of exercise; he now jogs 3-4 times each week. He chose running in part because it was an activity he could do with his son, who runs cross country for his high school.  In April, Lee achieved one of his health goals when he completed a 5K race, beating the time he had set for himself.

By late April, Lee had lost almost a hundred pounds, and his blood pressure is down.  “I’ve lost over 11 inches in my waist, and gone from an 18.5 neck shirt to a 16-16.5,” he said. “I can’t even wear my robe anymore; I trip over the extra material.”

Lee will graduate from Spirited Life at the end of 2012 and plans to continue working hard toward achieving his health goals. “Multiple times we get reports of pastors who have had heart attacks or strokes, and weight on top of stress plays a factor,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen to me.”

-Compiled by Kelli Christianson

Read the full North Carolina Health News article here.


Pastor spotlight: Charles Lindquist


Rev. Charles Lindquist, one of our Group 2 Spirited Life participants, has had great success using the mindful eating program Naturally Slim and creating his own exercise routine.  Read on to hear more about Charles’ experience in his own words!

“I started the Naturally Slim program on March 13, 2012.  I found it to be jam-packed with great and useful information.  So far I have lost 35 pounds and over 20 inches overall in body measurements.

Because of Naturally Slim, I feel better and better every day.  My clothes are all too big and I am choosing to purchase temporary replacements from Goodwill and other thrift stores until I get to my ideal weight and can purchase a new wardrobe.  What a great problem to have!

For exercise, I use my Total Gym (Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley advertise this), which I have been using off and on for several years.  I have recently, within the last three weeks, incorporated a StreetStrider into my exercise routine.  I choose to work out two short periods (20 minutes on StreetStrider and 15 minutes on Total Gym), once in the morning and once in the evening, rather than doing it in one long workout each day.  I also try to play at least nine holes of golf a week, which is my way of relaxing and reducing stress.

I love the StreetStrider because it actually makes working out fun.  I have always loved the elliptical machine because of the cross training it provides; however, I find staying in one spot, staring at the wall or other people boring!  The StreetStrider is the elliptical that moves with you.  I usually ride mine about 6:00 am, a good time to view rabbits, deer, and other wildlife.  Besides that, it truly works.

My advice to other pastors: If you’re on the Naturally Slim program, just do it; have faith and follow the program.  As Marcia says, ‘the best exercise to get in shape is any exercise that you will do.’ She also says, ‘it is not what you eat but when and how you eat!’  If you have an opportunity to sign up for the Naturally Slim program, jump at it. It is not a diet but a way of life.”

Do you have a success story you want to share?  Leave a note in the comment section below.  We’d love to hear from you!

Compiled by Katie Huffman