ELCA NEWS SERVICE
October 6, 2006
Women of the ELCA Raises Up Healthy Women and Girls
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- "Raising Up Healthy Women and Girls" is the health initiative of Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The women's organization of the ELCA gathered about 60 women and girls for its first Healthy Hearts Event here Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
Worship, prayer, singing, yoga, water aerobics, walking, stretching, journaling and meditation rounded out the program of speakers, small-group discussions and exhibits. Participants came from as far away as Florida.
Speakers discussed emotional, spiritual and physical health. All three speakers emphasized the importance of balancing all forms of health.
The Rev. Mary B. Stein-Webber, Trinity Lutheran Church, Oakland, Calif., is a licensed counselor and director for "A Safe Place to Heal," a Christian counseling center in Oakland.
Stein-Webber said others, especially family members, influence our emotional health with their positive and negative messages. "Being aware and awake of how they impact us is one of the most important things in the world," she said.
The messages from others combine with the emotional responses people choose to assign to each event in their lives, Stein-Webber said. When the messages and responses are negative, they must be confronted and corrected, "if we are ever to be healthy," she said.
"Jesus told people the truth about who they were, and then he set them free," Stein-Webber said. "I love that about him."
The Rev. Dawn D. Hansen, director for programs, Women of the ELCA, started her presentation on spiritual health with some questions: "What is the shape of your spirit? What does it feel like? What does it look like? How do you feed your spirit?"
Exercise benefits spiritual health much the same way it benefits physical health, Hansen said. Participants said they "fed their spirits" through prayer, music, Bible reading and fun.
"Laughter is a very important piece in keeping our spirits flexible, adaptable, resilient, elastic and open to new things, change," Hansen said. "The ability to play is a flexible spirit," she said.
The church is often seen as "sanctuary" from the "big bad world" of change, Hansen said, and "growing up" is equated with "growing closed." Jesus said believers mature by becoming like children, she said, trusting God to provide.
Dr. Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, a family physician in St. Paul, Minn., and author of "The Right Road: Life Choices for Clergy" discussed the place of physical health within a "wholeness wheel" that included emotional, social, vocational, intellectual and spiritual health.
Halaas challenged each participant to write her own "prescription for good health," setting specific goals in each area of health. Lifestyle accounts for about half of a person's health issues, she said, stressing the importance of goals ranging from regular exercise to keeping in touch with friends and volunteering.
Jan Hultgren participates in the "St. Paul Healthy Heart Million-Minute Challenge." She told the audience about the program that involves about 20 people at any time at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Villa Park, Ill.
It began about three years ago, Hultgen said. Participants keep track of the minutes they exercise -- walking, cycling, jogging, etc. -- and phone in their numbers each month. Totals are recorded on a chart at the church and reported in the bulletin, she said.
Each February, around St. Valentine's Day, the congregation hosts a heart-healthy lunch or breakfast, to celebrate progress and to present awards. Hultgren said participants are about 280,000 minutes away from meeting the challenge to log one million minutes of exercise.
At Capital Drive Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, "The Journey to Healthy Living" uses competition as an incentive. Julie Pekarske, RN, serves as parish nurse for the congregation in partnership with Luther Manor, Wauwatosa, Wis.
Participants receive a book with suggested Bible readings and information about healthy food and activities -- from exercise to social events and service opportunities. Pekarske told the audience that points are awarded for each activity.
Each week the 30 to 40 participants phone in their points, and the numbers are totaled for each of their teams, she said.
"We did it before Thanksgiving," Pekarske said. "People did feel good about going into the holidays, because they were eating healthier and exercising," she said.
Pekarske said one reason she attended the Women of the ELCA's Healthy Hearts Event was to gather fresh ideas for her program's book and to develop new activities for longtime participants.
The Women of the ELCA's Chicago event included a Healthy Hearts Fair. A softly lit room, filled with gentle sounds and aromas, featured several tables positioned in the shape of a heart. Each "station" included information or exercises that illustrated a different aspect of a healthy heart.
The next Healthy Hearts Event is planned for Oct. 27-29 at the Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons and the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center, Greensboro, N.C.
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The home page for Women of the ELCA is at http://www.womenoftheELCA.org/ and information about "A Safe Place to Heal: Christian Counseling" is at http://www.safeplacetoheal.com on the Web.
The Wholeness Wheel is at http://www.ELCA.org/health/wholenesswheel.html and the ELCA social statement on "Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor" is at http://www.ELCA.org/socialstatements/health/ on the ELCA Web site.
Audio of Jan Hultgren describing the "St. Paul Healthy Heart Million-Minute Challenge" is at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/061005A.mp3 and Julie Pekarske, RN, describing "The Journey to Healthy Living" is at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/061005B.mp3 on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog