The second in a series encouraging good physical health of pastors and parishioners across Michigan. Move more and thrive!
Michigan Conference Communications
Getting a move on in Michigan’s beautiful outdoors is a cherished spiritual practice for three United Methodist elders. These two active clergy and one retiree daily feed their souls and bodies while engaged in movement activities and enjoying trees, water, and sunshine.
The Rev. Taek Kim, pastor at Carleton United Methodist Church; the Rev. Mary McInnes, senior pastor at South Lyon UMC; and the Rev. Dr. Brent McCumons, retired, have found different ways to partner with family members as they move for their health.
“This is one way I can love God,” Kim said about his physical activities. “I want my kids to see that as well. I take care of my body for God. God gave me this body; it is a temple and houses my soul.”
McInnes has discovered that as she’s become more active, she’s found more opportunities to build relationships with her children, other family members, church members, and friends.
“I was able to put healthy things in place for my girls before I could for myself,” McInnes said. “Now, as I’ve gotten healthier, it has strengthened my relationship with them and my ability to do things with them and others.”
When McCumons and his wife, Marlene, both retired from active employment, they launched into an intentional retirement plan. “We vowed to spend more time with each other, with family and improving our health,” Brent said. Marlene added, “And we really like the outdoors.”
Activities with children
Kim finds that merely moving around makes a big difference in his health. “I used to think that walking was a waste of time,” said Kim, a former competitive tennis player. “Then, I started dating my now-wife, and she wanted to go for a walk. Now, I get paid to walk. I love it!”
Active and retired clergy enrolled in the group health plan of the Michigan Conference can participate in the Virgin Pulse program. Participants receive an activity tracker to monitor progress toward health goals and rewards. Points can be earned for accumulating steps or active minutes. Each move results in rewards such as cash, health insurance premium reductions, or deposits in a health savings account.
“Exercise helps maintain good cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility and overall physical health,” Kim said. “Spiritually, I believe that by taking care of my body, which not only is my earthly vessel but also the host of my soul and God’s Holy Spirit, through exercise, healthy eating and living allows me to be at my best in my walk with God and service with others. I am not hindered by issues and ailments that can be kept at bay with being physically active and healthy.”
In recent years as Kim’s three children have grown and undertaken new sports, Kim has found opportunities for trying new activities, such as coaching their soccer team and completing triathlons after an injury sidelined his tennis playing.
“My goal is to stay engaged with my family,” he said. “There are all kinds of ways to do that. I keep trying new things.
“I am closer with my children and wife since we walk, bike, swim, and play together. I have more energy than before and do not say I’m too tired or can’t play very long with them as I used to at certain points in my life when I wasn’t as physically active.”
In addition to building good relationships with his wife and family, Kim believes exercising helps reduce his stress levels.
“When I am swimming, I think about the stress and let it go – I give it to God,” Kim remarked. “Then, when I go back to church, I can be fully present and compartmentalize it better. Sometimes going for a long walk, I can process better. I have more energy in the pulpit and dealing with challenging situations.”
Fitness after weight loss
Several years ago, McInnes found herself spending precious time with logistics planning for visits with parishioners because her weight had created mobility issues. “My highest weight was 463 pounds,” she said. “All movement was a lot (of work and planning). Even as a pastor to make hospital visits, I had to make a plan. Luckily, I could still move, but I was limited in what I could do. Serving communion while standing and holding the bread in one hand and the cup in another, my back would begin to hurt. I wasn’t able to focus on each person.”
McInnes chose to launch a journey of health and wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. She has lost 300 pounds in recent years.
“I lost 100 pounds with basic changes and movement,” McInnes said. “Then I stalled and couldn’t lose. So I added a tool of bariatric surgery, and I lost another 100. Then I had to lose another 100 on my own. I said yes, post-surgery to do missionary work in Haiti. Before, I was limited because I had to purchase a second airplane seat.”
McInnes’s husband, Damon, has joined Mary on the weight-loss, improved-health journey.
“Part of what Damon and I do is try to have date nights,” Mary said, “and we try to make those events active events — sometimes taking a walk downtown or inside a mall at a quick pace. Or grabbing the bikes and having a picnic while we’re there. Our favorite thing is kayaking – so maybe kayaking and coffee in the morning or eating dinner in the kayaks. Instead of making date night eating out at a restaurant, we are incorporating movement.”
In addition to being able to do more activities with her children, including kayaking at the Upper Peninsula’s Pictured Rocks and being a band mom running props onto the field, McInnes believes she now has even more new ventures ahead.
“I’ve had a good relationship with God,” she said, “but I realize I probably limited what God could do with me if I had been in a physical healthier spot. I love the fact that I have created health for my body that doesn’t limit my possibilities anymore. At work, if I feel led by the Holy Spirit, I can kneel at the rail and not worry about how to get up.”
Adjusting to aging
The McCumons love being outdoors, particularly enjoying woods and water. They find physical movement essential as they age.
“We have to stay active,” Brent said, “to maintain muscle tone, flexibility, and particularly for balance. Also, we no longer have yard work, so we needed to replace those chore activities.”
Previously active bicycle-riders, Brent said that he was having back pain after a ride from what was diagnosed as arthritis in his lower back. So, they opted to research and purchase two recumbent trikes.
“They are like riding a bike on a Lazy Boy,” Brent said. “There’s support for the back and your rear while getting exercise and enjoying being outside.”
The McCumons found a growing network of new biking trails locally and across Michigan that has been built on old railroad beds or along rivers and lakes. They also ride their trikes or walk each day to meals in their retirement community.
“The nice thing about living here,” Marlene said, “is that there is little vehicle traffic, the roads are smooth, and we see lots of people we know to stop and chat.” When the winter weather hits, the McCumons plan to make regular visits to the community wellness center to use the pool, walking track, and exercise equipment.
“When our grandkids were here this summer, we weren’t able to ride the trikes because the kids were riding them all day,” Brent said. “We loved it!”
Never too late to start
All three pastors embody the spirit that it is never too late to begin exercising for one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
“Transformation is possible no matter what – it is never too late,” McInnes said. “Never give up on yourself and putting things in place for a healthy life.”
Making time for exercising activities is a priority for all three clergy and their spouses. Though McInnes no longer has to spend time planning around her old mobility constraints, she is intentional about scheduling exercise. “We have to schedule those activities,” she said. “We have to make them a priority. I, as a pastor, have to schedule and make the activities and me a priority. I’m responsible.”
Kim encourages others who may not have an exercise routine to begin by walking. Do something to get moving.
“I think walking is what God wants us to do,” Kim said. “Think of it – Jesus walked. We can walk with Jesus, too.”