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Issue Date:  March 5, 2004

American Baptist churches send clergy to the gym

American Baptists have made clergy health a priority under a under a five-year program adopted by their Ministerial Leadership Commission. The program, called the Clergy Health Initiative, aims at making “the well-being of [the church’s] ministerial leaders a core value.”

As part of this program, the church leadership last November awarded 35 “wellness grants” that ministerial leaders can use for health-related activities such as memberships in local health or fitness clubs, family memberships at YMCAs or retreats at American Baptist conference centers or camps. Each grant was for $300.

The Clergy Health Initiative seeks to promote preventative measures to guard against ministry burnout, physical deterioration, and dysfunctional personal, family and social life. Announcing the program two years ago, the leadership commission noted that it was each local congregation’s responsibility to help healthy clergy stay healthy “while helping others to reach acceptable levels of well-being.”

The commission defines “clergy health” to include balanced nutrition, emotional well-being, periods of spiritual reflection and a sense of fulfillment from one’s job.

As part of the health initiative, the commission also promotes an annual Clergy Appreciation Season that runs October through November. The commission has posted on its Web site ( 10 ways congregations can show appreciation for their clergy.

“Ministerial leaders cannot be healthy by themselves,” said the commission’s executive director, the Rev. Ivan George. “Providing the wellness grant and performing other acts of support during Clergy Appreciation Season and throughout the year are ways in which the local congregation … becomes a partner with the ministerial leader in the pursuit of healthy lifestyles.”

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, March 5, 2004

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