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The Healthy Church Challenge draws 1,000 participants from 49 churches

Nearly 1,000 people from 49 churches came to weigh in for the launch of “The Healthy Church Challenge” 100-day weight loss competition.

by Wiley Henry
Special to the Tri-State Challenge

Nearly 1,000 people from 49 churches came to weigh in for the launch of “The Healthy Church Challenge” 100-day weight loss competition at Southwest Tennessee Community College last Saturday (March 10). Old and young alike of all shapes and sizes attended the daylong event, which featured weigh-ins, educational exhibits and fun.

 Wanda Taylor, a nurse at Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corporation, watches as Anne Sharpe, a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church weighs in for the Healthy Church Challenge 100-day weight loss and competition. Joyce Johnson, a volunteer, assists Taylor during the daylong weigh-in on March 10. (Photo by Wiley Henry)

The renowned community choir of Billy Rivers and the Angelic Voices of Faith, under the direction of both Rivers and Michael Dodson, started the morning off with melodious gospel music as participants continued to sign in and make their way to the scales.

Michael Adrian Davis, the popular radio personality at Hallelujah 95.7 FM, served as the emcee. Though serving in an official capacity, Davis joined his church in participating and even weighed in.

“I see our people suffering from those things that could be avoided,” he said. “I just wanted to bring awareness to the fact that we as a people need to participate in our own health. We live for today and don’t think about tomorrow.”

Davis said people must eat right and exercise to avoid those catastrophic diseases that ravage the body, adding, “After losing my wife to cancer, it possibly could have been circumvented. So the Healthy Church Challenge is near and dear to my heart.”

A number of members from Cummings Street Baptist Church in the Whitehaven community are taking the challenge seriously. Naudia James, the church’s health ministry coordinator, said she signed up nearly 40 people for the weight loss competition and a chance for the church to win a $5,000 gift certificate to a sporting goods store and nutritional counseling. The individual who loses the most weight will receive a $500 gift certificate to a sporting goods store.

“We see the need for people to become healthier and take care of their temple,” said James, who teaches fitness classes four days a week at her church, including aerobics and Zumba. “The pastor has been talking about a healthy church for a while now.”

“A lot of people in the black church are overweight and unhealthy,” said Freda T. Boyce, who co-pastors Proceeding Word Faith Center in the Frayser community with her husband, Marvell T. Boyce, the senior pastor.

She said the Healthy Church Challenge is an extension of what Proceeding Word has been doing already to help the members shed those unwanted pounds. So when she heard about the Challenge, she jumped at the chance to participate.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to lose weight, get healthy, and win prizes for the church,” said Boyce, noting that the church started an exercise program a year ago for married couples, but discovered it was advantageous to include the whole church. She calls it “Fitness to Witness.”

“We are a young church,” she said. “We’ve been doing this since the ministry first started. We had a lot of people who lost weight. When you lose weight, you feel healthy and energized. And we are very competitive.”

That competitive spirit is the impetus that organizers hope will motivate participants to eat healthy, exercise and change their sedentary lifestyle throughout the 100-day competition and beyond.

The next series of weigh-ins begin Saturday, April 7, at the Church Wellness Center, 1115 Union Ave., from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On Saturday, March 24, Donna Richardson Joyner, an internationally renowned fitness expert, will participate in the Challenge as an inspirational motivator and will coach and work out with participants who want to get healthy. The event is for all participants currently signed up for the Challenge.

The Challenge wraps up with an Obesity Summit scheduled for June 16, and with a walk on June 17 at the Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival in Douglass Park. At the finale, participants will walk around as gospel music wafts through the park and winners will be announced. Both events are open to the public.

The Healthy Church Challenge is presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Along with BlueCross, the Challenge is sponsored by Baptist Memorial Health Care, News Channel 3, Hallelujah 95.7 FM, The New Tri-State Defender, and the Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival.

For more information, call 901-278-0881 or visit Facebook.com/TheHealthyChurchChallenge.



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