By CHRIS SCHUTZ
Members of Trinity United Methodist Church in far eastern Oklahoma are taking steps to improve their health, and on the way the church received top honors from the state’s Certified Healthy Oklahoma program.
The program gives recognition to organizations that encourage healthy behavior. It can also bring discounts on the cost of health insurance, said Debbie Ware, director of wellness for the Oklahoma Conference.
Trinity was among several United Methodist churches in Oklahoma that were recognized at the program’s awards luncheon March 2 in Norman.
Christina Clark leads Trinity’s efforts to encourage healthy living. She is the wife of Pastor Craig Clark.
Trinity’s program includes free workout classes for women, basketball for youths, and blood drives. The church also operates a food pantry that offers healthy options to 40-50 families.
The women’s workouts serve a dual purpose – the women also socialize when they come to class.
The church’s program helps solve a problem common in rural areas: lack of access to gyms, Christina said. "It’s a burden on families."
Christina said she is a self-taught fitness instructor who also leads workouts for seniors. She also periodically cooks a healthy community dinner that is served at the church.
Scripture related to health and food is often a part of the event.
Activities at the church are "free to the community," Christina said. Purpose is to "get people in the church and see the wonderful things that we provide."
Trinity UMC is located between Muldrow and Roland, 8 miles from Fort Smith, Ark.
Certified Healthy Oklahoma recognizes the efforts of congregations, businesses, communities, schools, restaurants, campuses, and early childhood programs, according to the awards luncheon pamphlet.
At the luncheon, Trinity received a top ranking of "Excellence" for its efforts. Next came two United Methodist congregations that received "merit" awards: Tahlequah-First and OKC-St. Luke’s. "Basic" honors went to Wagoner-First and Skyline Urban Ministry.
The Oklahoma Conference, in the business category of awards, received "basic" recognition for its efforts, Ware said. The Conference holds annual health screenings to check things such as blood pressure, body mass index, and cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
Of particular concern is the health of clergy, who often "don’t take care of themselves well enough," Ware said.
Living in a healthy way is "really important."
A Conference goal is to sustain its health insurance plan for clergy and their dependents. "We realize that our health is going to affect our medical insurance costs," Ware said.
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