Byrd Chapel picks up the 'Pace'


An Advocate Online Advance Article

CARRIERE — Good health, both physical and spiritual, were celebrated at a special service at Byrd Chapel United Methodist Church.

“Our challenge is to pick up the pace,” said the Rev. Carl Heberg, “to eat right, walk and do things that are healthy for the spirit and the body.”

Heberg’s challenge was part of a Sept. 16 celebration of The Amazing Pace wellness program for Byrd’s Chapel and Wesley Chapel UMCs. Offered in association with the Mississippi Conference’s Board of Medical Benefits, Amazing Pace encourages participants to become more active, leading to better health and lower insurance costs.

Heberg and his wife Jennie Heberg have participated in the program since it was formally introduced at Annual Conference in June. One of the components is wearing a pedometer that records steps, with a goal of 10,000 per day. As of Sept. 15, Amazing Pacers had recorded 214,410,000 steps, or 107,205 miles, about three and one-half times around the earth.

“When we started, I was probably morbidly obese,” Jennie Heberg said as one of two offering testimonies about the program. “When we get through with this, I won’t be obese.”

Jennie Heberg said obesity is common among clergy and their spouses. Obesity is common among all Mississippians. Recent health statistics ranked Mississippi first among the 50 states for percentage of obese population. “Mississippi is first in obesity,” Jennie Heberg said, “but we’re going to be first in wellness.”

Carl Heberg admitted that while often busy at work, he is not physically active. The Hebergs have made a commitment to take 10,000 steps a day and watch what they eat.

Also speaking at the event was the Rev. Sheila Cumbest, conference director of Ministerial Services. Cumbest related how several years ago she exercised regularly, but a job change led to less exercise.

“When we moved to Jackson five years ago, our lives changed and we stopped exercising,” said Cumbest. “When Amazing Pace began, I became concerned about how little I was doing.

“My mother had said when I reached 45 what I was eating and doing was going to catch up with me. I didn’t believe her, but it did.”

Cumbest's step total ranks regularly among the highest in the conference. Participants track their performance.

Carl Heberg said the service came about from conversations with officials from HealthBux, which developed the program. The celebration was held on the day the second Amazing Pace 10-week journey began.

The program offers 10-week "journeys" coordinated with journeys in the Bible. The Amazing Pace Web site lists mileage goals and devotionals to correspond to the journey. Participants are able to upload their steps from their pedometer to the Web site so their data is recorded.

Lee Burdine, who helped develop the program, also attended the service. “It doesn’t have to be a big church to participate,” he said. “It’s made such an impact on this church that we felt we needed to have a celebration after the first journey.”

In addition to the testimonies, the liturgy focused on physical and spiritual health. The church’s children’s choir sang songs that had been adapted to reflect the Amazing Pace, including one about Jacob’s journey to marry Rachel.

Anyone on the conference insurance plan can participate in Amazing Pace at no cost. Anybody not on conference health insurance, lay or clergy, may participate at a nominal cost. Heath Bux, the Amazing Pace rewards, can be earned by anyone.