Mississippi takes part in health conference


Special to the Advocate
The theme of the Mississippi Annual Conference for the quadrennium has been “Arise Shine.”

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward has led the annual conference in living through four focus areas, one of which is health and wellness. In addition to the conference’s emphasis on health and wellness, the 2008 General Conference also adopted this as one of its four areas of focus.

On Sept. 21-24, the 4th Annual National Congregational Health Ministries Conference was held at Lake Junaluska, N.C. It was sponsored by the General Board of Global Ministries Health and Welfare and the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits. The theme of the conference was “Empowering Ministries of Health: Connecting Around the World.”

The conference gave participants tools for mobilizing local churches and annual conferences to actively incorporate the Wesleyan tradition for holistic wellness.

Through workshops, plenary sessions, networking and worship, participants spent three days exploring ways to address the health needs in local communities and throughout the world. Sam Dixon, UMCOR top executive, reminded participants of the ways United Methodists are reaching out through the Global Health Initiative and striving to eradicate the diseases of poverty. At the same time, he asserted, “All is not well in health in the United States. . .when people must choose between purchasing a gallon of milk, a gallon of gas or diabetes medicine.”

Following opening worship, a dinner sponsored by the Clergy Health Initiative of the Duke Divinity School encouraged jurisdiction networking. Guests shared successes and challenges of their health programs. Ministries range from local churches incorporating the needs of families dealing with autism to building conference-wide faith community nurse networks.

For some, this was the first time attending the health conference but many have attended the annual event for years. Patricia Magyar, UMCOR Health executive, said the number of attendees has more than doubled since the first conference in 2004. With more than 180 registrants, this is the largest group and the second year the event was at full-capacity.

In addition to plenary sessions and electives, attendees had a choice of four distinct tracks to strengthen and evaluate health ministries. The conference empowers the church community to provide a wellness service that is an effective ministry tool to serve its congregants in mind, body and spirit. For information visit http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/newsroom/release/archives08/gatheringforwellness/.

“The presenters and participants to the health conference from our annual conference were very informative, impressive, motivational and encouraging,” said the Rev. Dr. Embra Jackson, administrative assistant to Ward who also serves on the task force that organized the conference.

He also said that Ward has been a presenter at the last two conferences and that this year former Mississippi Bishop Ken Carder was a presenter. 

In addition to Jackson, approximately nine other persons from the Mississippi Annual Conference attended the conference including:

• Tupelo District Superintendent the Rev. Carl Grubbs
• Conference Treasurer David Stotts
• The Rev. Andy Ray of Tupelo First UMC
• Senatobia District Superintendent the Rev. Victoria S. Tandy
• Catherine Cheney of Jackson Aldersgate, parish nurse at the Craft Home run by Jackson Alta Woods UMC
• Kay Jones of Jackson Wells UMC, parish nurse
• Lorene Nevels, Jackson Wells UMC
• The Rev. Joe Ranger, chaplain, Methodist Healthcare, Memphis
• Elaine Dye of Jackson, customer relations director for Amazing Pace
•Lee Burdine of Columbus, COO for Amazing Pace.

The next conference is scheduled for Sept. 21-23, 2009 in Lakewood, Colo., near Denver. In the meantime, persons who desire to learn more about the conference may visit:

• www.gbophb.org; Bishop Mike Watson, Clergy and Congregational Health: Strengthening the Connection
• www.new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/newsroom.

In addition, Jackson has a DVD recording for each session that a member of the Mississippi Annual Conference led.