UCC congregations lace up to meet 'Three Million Walking Challenge'
Written by Jeff Woodard
January 26, 2011

Positioning its momentum squarely onto the trail blazed by First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative to battle obesity in America, the United Church of Christ is asking all of its churches to get up and get going.

As part of the "Three Million Walking Challenge," the UCC goal is for at least 250 churches and/or 2,500 UCC members to commit to walking 5 miles or 10,000 steps a week in two phases – Jan. 30-June 17, and July 11- Nov. 18.

The combined goal is 600,000 miles. Final totals will be sent to Obama, whose hope is that faith and community organizations nationwide walk a collective 3 million miles by the end of November.

Setting the early pace for the longer haul was the high-energy worship service Jan. 19 in the Amistad Chapel at the UCC's national headquarters in Cleveland. Worshipers sampled "Instant Recess! Bringing Mind-Body-Spirit Wellness Into Our Faith Journeys," a session developed by a member of the "Let's Move" campaign that invites participants to move for 10 minutes of health.

"It featured a great YouTube video that had everyone on their feet and in their chairs walking with a dance beat with some simple exercises," says Kimberly Whitney, UCC minister for community life and assistant to the Collegium. "It was inspired by (UCC Minister for Health Care Justice) Barbara Baylor's reading of the Beatitudes from a lens for good health."

Meanwhile, in Pendleton, S.C., Pastor Susie Smith and members of Peace Congregational UCC – a new-church start prepared to receive full UCC standing this spring – have April 2 highlighted on their calendars.

"We are planning the first annual Peace Power Run for our community," says Smith. "It will be a 5k-certified course run as part of Pendleton's Spring Jubilee."

Impetus for the event was generated by Peace Congregational members and avid runners Nancy King and Maria Mayorga. One day during their mind-clearing, energizing run, the idea for the race emerged.

"The historic division of our Community Square has this juried art show (Spring Jubilee) on the first Saturday in April," says King, noting that a quarter-mile "fun run" for children will also be held. "They said they'd tie our church's race into promotion of their event if we give them a percentage of the money to help them restore one of the historical buildings."

Partnering with Spring Jubilee has helped Peace Congregational to a fast start out of the marketing blocks. "They put our church's name and event on their advertising to places like Charlotte and Atlanta, and all over the arts community," says King.

Peace Congregational is extending an extravagant invitation to any and all out-of-towners traveling to Pendleton for the run. "If they can get here, we'll find a place from them to stay," says Smith, further sweetening the pot by noting that early spring weather in Pendleton can be most comfortable.

A 20-week milestone celebration will be held at General Synod the first week in July in Tampa, Fla., to recognize individuals and/or churches for their commitment to walking during the first five months of the challenge. Those participating in the second half will be honored in November.

Research data has shown that walking briskly for 30 minutes five times a week can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and some cancers. It also aids brain power and long-term weight management; creates an overall sense of well-being; and may lead to reduced health-insurance costs.

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