Pastor pedals for a purpose


Pastor Andy James of Choctaw is wheel enthusiastic about exercise.

By Holly McCray

The road rolls away behind him, and cyclist Andy James closes in on new mile markers in his journey to be healthier.

After resuming bicycling as exercise, the pastor of Choctaw UMC also is pedaling toward two distinct goals. One offers him a financial benefit. The second benefits pastors whom he has never met and who have no wheels.

Rev. James’ is riding to win for all.

Recent news of a wellness incentive for clergy caught his attention, James said. Beginning in January, clergy who qualify can save money -- as much as $60 monthly -- on their health insurance.

Health screening at Annual Conference

In each of six categories, a $10 discount on the monthly premium is available to each full-time, active-status clergyperson who meets the critera. He/she must be enrolled in the Oklahoma Conference Health Benefits Plan. (This incentive program does not include dependents.)

James plans to qualify for his first $10 savings by undergoing a free health screening at Annual Conference later this month.

The testing will take place in the Kramer School of Nursing at Oklahoma City University. (The screenings are free for anyone, including dependents, enrolled in the Health Benefits Plan.)

James expects his test results will help him save more money. The other five incentive categories require healthy ranges for blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, and body mass; and not using tobacco products.

James wants to start 2014 by claiming the full wellness reward.

However, he’s already seeing other benefits from riding, and not only physical gains.

"I’ve noticed things about the Choctaw community by riding that I wouldn’t have seen in the car," James said.

Perhaps the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing him onto new routes.

FreeWheel ride will help others

James will roll out in June on a 509-mile benefit ride, as he participates in Oklahoma FreeWheel. He wants to raise $5,090 for "Motorcycles and Bicycles," a United Methodist Advance project that provides such transportation to pastors in India.

FreeWheel is a weeklong excursion ride between Idabel and Joplin, Mo. Finding a relatable Advance project was serendipitous for the pastor, who searched the online Advance catalog.

James also hopes the benefit ride boosts awareness at Choctaw UMC about "our connectional DNA" as United Methodists.

"There are many ordinary ways we can do things to participate in mission in a broader sense," he said.

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