|General Conference to include emphasis on health |
A UMNS Report
Nurse Therese Pineda and the Rev. Daniel R. Morley
of First United Methodist Church in Gilbert, Ariz., practice Sign Chi
Do, a stress management exercise she will teach during the 2008 General
Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.
A UMNS photo by Bob Ralston.
By Deborah White*
April 15, 2008
A new focus on health at the 2008 General Conference will include
daily fitness walks and a Health and Wholeness booth offering blood
pressure checks, relaxation exercises, massage chairs and interactive
General Conference, the top legislative assembly of The United
Methodist Church, meets April 23-May 2 at the Forth Worth (Texas)
Convention Center. Almost 1,000 delegates will act on more than 1,500
pieces of proposed legislation during 10 consecutive days of meetings.
Six United Methodist agencies sponsoring the Health and Wholeness
booth envision the 30-by-80-foot space as an oasis from the stresses of
the conference—a place to relax while learning more about personal
health, congregational health ministries, healthcare advocacy and global
Free water bottles, pedometers and apples will be available at the
booth to encourage healthy behavior during the assembly, which can be
mentally and physically demanding because of the heavy workload, long
hours, tight schedules and a lack of sleep.
"We believe United Methodists are called to work toward a global
society of persons who are spiritually, physically, mentally and
emotionally healthy," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of
United Methodist Communications. He and other members of the Interagency
Health and Wholeness Task Force planned the booth and related
activities in cooperation with the Central Texas Annual (regional)
Conference host committee.
As a break from long hours of sitting, group fitness walks will start
near the convention center each day at 12:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. led by
host committee members. Participants will receive T-shirts with "I
Walked with the World" printed in nine languages.
Visitors to the booth will be invited to hear personal health stories
from around the world, advocate for health issues via computers, learn
about health ministries and take assessments of their physical,
spiritual and financial health.
"People will have a chance to look at ways to be personally healthy and
how to participate in the development of public policy that would be
beneficial to people around the world for healthier lives," Hollon said.
The Rev. Larry Hollon
To help delegates and visitors relax, the booth features a serene
design that incorporates photos of health ministries, Scripture verses
and quotes from Methodism founder John Wesley, as well as eight massage
chairs and an area for stress-management exercises.
Next to the booth, a prayer room sponsored by the host committee will
include quiet spaces for personal reflection and a labyrinth for
Health fairs offering free screenings and health tips are planned for
April 25, April 29 and April 30 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sponsors are
Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital and Methodist Health System based
About 20 local parish nurses will volunteer on a rotating basis to
provide blood pressure checks every day from 7:45-9:15 a.m., noon-1:15
p.m. and 4:30-5:30 p.m. They also will provide information about parish
nursing and health ministries.
During scheduled times for blood pressure checks from April 28 to May
1, visitors to the booth can learn Sign Chi Do, a prayerful exercise
that incorporates sign language gestures, deep breathing, slow movements
"I’m a much healthier person because of Sign Chi Do," said Therese
Pineda, R.N., a parish nurse at First United Methodist Church in
Gilbert, Ariz., who will teach the stress-management exercise. Dr. Anne
Borik of Phoenix, developer of Sign Chi Do, taught it to participants of
the United Methodist Pre-General Conference News Briefing in January.
"It’s a way to instantly center ourselves, be prayerful, feel free of
all the things that happen at General Conference and be refreshed,"
said Patricia Magyar, executive secretary of Health and Welfare at the
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, who will coordinate the
booth during the conference. "It’s easy and it’s fun," she added.
Health as wholeness
The health focus is the result of two years of planning by the
interagency task force, which includes United Methodist Communications
and the boards of Global Ministries, Discipleship, Pension and Health
Benefits, Church and Society and Higher Education and Ministry.
The task force formed in 2005 when Hollon invited other agency leaders
to discuss how their intense interests in health and wholeness could
impact and strengthen each other. "It evolved into a conversation about
General Conference and this booth," said Barbara Boigegrain, chief
executive of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits.
Participants in group fitness walks offered daily at General Conference
will receive a T-shirt labeled "I Walked with the World," available in nine languages. A UMNS graphic courtesy
of the United Methodist Interagency
Health and Wholeness Task Force.
"We want to start to make people aware of the importance of health
and defining it as health as wholeness––mind, body, spiritual,
financial––the whole picture," Boigegrain said. The task force also
wants to spark interest in health, educate participants about a wide
range of health issues and equip them with tools to take action after
"We hope this gathering can be a stepping-off point to encourage
attendees to actively identify and improve their own healthful habits
and extend health awareness to their families, congregations and,
consequently, the world we serve," she said.
*White is associate editor of Interpreter magazine and a member of the leadership team for an annual United Methodist health ministries conference.
News media contact: Deborah White, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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