by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/episcopal-fitbit">Episcopal Fitbit</a></h1>

Already using Fitbit? Join our group at Episcopal Fitbit!

A few weeks ago, my wife told me that she was being given a fitness tracker that would allow her to earn rewards, including possible premium reductions for hitting certain goals. The data from her fitness tracker is uploaded to an application that interfaces with her work's health insurance provider. This is not something I even realized these new 'superpedometers' could do!

Once I saw how motivating an enhanced fitness tracker was for her, I decided to get one also for my personal use. Unfortunately, I do not earn discounts on health insurance, although I did sync it with my Walgreens rewards program and earn points there. The Wirecutter website has quickly become my go-to source for tech info and sure enough, they had recently done an intensive review of fitness trackers and crowned the Fitbit One as most worth our hard-earned money. I purchased one immediately.

Why a Fitness Tracker?

From The Wirecutter:

Basically, it’s a wearable mini-computer that uses sensors to gather different types of data about your activity and body. The most common included sensor is an accelerometer which measures steps and other movements. It then uses algorithms to translate these readings into more helpful figures like the number of calories burned and distance traveled. Some models can even track sleep cycles. Additionally, the One has a built-in altimeter that allows it to factor in stairs and hill-climbs to get a more accurate read on how hard you’re working and how many calories you’ve burned. All of this information is then synced to a smartphone app or computer where you can analyze your habits and gain insight into your health and wellbeing. But data is just one part of the picture.

Fitness trackers, in general, don’t just measure activity–they actually motivate people to exercise more.

This has certainly been true in our case. My wife and I have begun tracking our food through the website, helping us see how many calories we are eating (and burning). Some foods we thought were good for us are actually surprisingly high in calories. We have started walking more often to local restaurants instead of immediately getting in the car. In general, the Fitbit One has made us far more aware of our activity levels and food consumption. 

Isn't this just an expensive pedometer?

In a sense, yes. However, for many people, seeing your data over time is tremendously motivating. The Fitbit automatically sends your activity to your computer, including your # of steps, calories burned and stairs climbed. The website then charts each of these items along with any other activity you add (weight, food, weightlifting, etc.) and provides you easy access to graphs and historical information. It will even show you exactly what time of day you were active (or inactive). 

Personally, I find it very motivating to see a record of my activity. I sit at my desk most of the day and it's been shocking to see just how little I move during the day. I have been inspired to add more steps on a daily basis, even though I am still falling short of my goals. However, the awareness of my actual vs. perceived activity alone is tremendously beneficial. 

The Fitbit Community

One additional factor in choosing Fitbit is the existing community. Once I started looking around, I realized how many other people are using them, including many at my own parish. I had no idea these things even existed, let alone were so popular! You can join groups based on location, interest, amount of weight you're losing, what kind of work you do, goals, etc. These groups then post encouraging messages, issue challenges and allow members to share information. It's nice when you are having an off week to read through some of the message boards. 

Episcopal Fitbit

Realizing how many in my own parish were using a Fitbit, I decided to start a group for Episcopalians to join and encourage each other. If you are a Fitbit user, join our group at Episcopal Fitbit. We are currently exploring various challenges, goals and ways to encourage you to move more. We think it's going to be a lot of fun!

**Note: No one at NEHM has received any compensation or gifts in any form from Fitbit.

See previous blog posts about Fitbit by Episcopalians here, here, here, and here

by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/amy-richter">Amy Richter: Seeking Balance in a Frantic World - A Christian Approach</a></h1>

We were thrilled to have the Rev. Dr. Amy Richter as our keynote speaker at this year's NEHM conference. Amy's message was an important one for us, and I know it resonated for many throughout the weekend. Amy has graciously offered to allow us to share her remarks with the larger public. Many thanks to Amy for a tremendous contribution to our gathering!
-Matthew Ellis, NEHM

"Seeking Balance in a Frantic World: A Christian Approach"

[T]he lens through which I want to approach this topic is looking at Jesus. But I need to start by saying something out loud that we all to some extent already know: that in many of the ways that we think of balance, Jesus is a terrible role model. If balance, as commonly conceived, is about moderation--the right amount of being and doing, of giving and receiving, of busyness and rest, of time together and time apart--for sustainability and self-preservation, then Jesus is a really bad example.

I mean no disrespect, and I really don't mean to be flippant. Jesus is my Lord and Savior, our lifelong pattern, as the Christmas hymn “Once in Royal David City” says. But in so many ways, his life shows extreme, not balance. And I think it's important to say this, because there are some important ways where Jesus is an example, needs to be an example, for us who are trying to follow him, to be his hands and heart in the world as St. Teresa says, but also some ways in which, if we tried to follow Jesus in pursuit of balance we will fail, and possibly miss our calling, to be the people God intends us each to be. We all know or can think of experiences in our lives in which answering the question What Would Jesus Do, does not necessarily lead to a fruitful answer if our concern is balance, thought of as moderation for sustainability.

For one thing, what the Gospels record as Jesus’ active ministry lasted at most, if we take the gospel of John for our guide, three years. Jesus was not worried about a pension program that requires 30 years of active as the Christmas hymn “Once in Royal David City” says. But in so many ways, his life shows extreme, not balance. And I think it's important to say this, because there are some important ways where Jesus is an example, needs to be an example, for us who are trying to follow him, to be his hands and heart in the world as St. Teresa says, but also some ways in which, if we tried to follow Jesus in pursuit of balance we will fail, and possibly miss our calling, to be the people God intends us each to be. We all know or can think of experiences in our lives in which answering the question What Would Jesus Do, does not necessarily lead to a fruitful answer if our concern is balance, thought of as moderation for sustainability.

Read the whole presentation here.

by Matthew Ellis   |   comments

Vinny DeMarco of Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence gave two workshops at our conference in Baltimore recently. This is an important issue and as I reflect on Vinny's presentation, this is a good time to revisit the Episcopal Church's resolutions on guns and other information relating to this topic.

What does the Episcopal Church say about gun violence?

We have put together this document that includes the most recent Executive Council resolution, as well as relevant gun control resolutions from past conventions. NEHM uses official church policy as stated in these resolutions to determine positions of advocacy.

From Episcopal Public Policy Network:

  1. Tell Congress to Take Common Sense Steps to Challenge Our Culture of Violence
  2. Share the Presiding Bishop’s Testimony - Transforming Our Culture of Violence

From Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence:

Take Action! Let your senator know where you stand!

Out of 100 members of the United States Senate, 55 voted for strong background checks legislation. Unfortunately, Senate rules require 60 votes. Use the form linked above to thank senators who stood with the 92% of the American people who support strong background checks AND/OR to send a note of persuasion to those who did not.

Take Action! Let your Representative know where you stand!

There is now a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives requiring background checks on gun purchases. We have drafted template messages based on whether your representative is already a cosponsor, is likely to be a cosponsor, or needs some additional encouragement to support the legislation. All you have to do is provide your zip code and address to get started and then add a personal touch to your message.

Maryland Episcopal Bishop Eugene Sutton praises Maryland's new gun violence prevention law:

This law has a requirement that handgun purchasers first go through a fingerprint based background check and get a license from the State Police in order to purchase a handgun. Why is this provision important? Here is the answer.

See the full press release from Maryland here.

Additional resources for gun violence prevention can be found here.

tags Guns
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<h1><a href="/blog/health-ministers-calm-centered-and-recharging">Health Ministers: Calm, Centered and Recharging</a></h1>

Each week, we’ll share interesting health and healing-related stories in the news. Following is a round up of articles about physical, emotional and spiritual health and healing that could be applied to health ministries.

The Benefits of Slumber

It’s not just your concentration and productivity that suffers when you skimp on sleep, your entire body is affected: hormones, blood pressure, immune and cardiovascular systems. Risks spikes from chronic sleep depravation, including obesity, heart disease and infections.  

But even if you intend to get enough sleep, sometimes stress, anxiety or caffeine intake make it difficult. Cut off caffeine intake by 2:00 p.m., create a winding down ritual to quiet your mind and prepare your mind and body for sleep.

Caffeine: Manage Your Energy Wisely

Caffeine, a stimulant, can definitely increase your energy level. But it can decrease it, too. It all depends on when and how much you consume.

Your alertness increases with a little caffeine, so having a cup of coffee before going to a meeting or starting on a project can help sharpen your mind. Early in the morning it can be enough to produce a spark, but beware—what goes up must go down. You may find your energy, attention span and ability to focus decline if you reach for your second, third or fourth cup.  

It’s not just coffee that people reach for when they need a jolt: energy drinks have become increasingly popular. Varying widely in caffeine content, some contain as much or more as a cup of coffee—and loads of sugar. It’s a combination sure to produce an energy crash and craving for more.

How much is too much?

To get the energizing effects of caffeine, use it judiciously. It can cause insomnia, especially when consumed in large amounts or after 2 p.m. Some people are so sensitive to the effects of caffeine that having a single cup of coffee in the morning can interfere with their sleep at night. And that can definitely lower your energy. If you are such a person, it’s best to avoid caffeine entirely: try switching to decaf or try green tea. Although it, too, contains some caffeine, green tea is much easier on the body and contains a wealth of health benefits.

- Bruce Nickerson

The Quiet Health-Care Revolution

This provider model is producing great results by combining some high tech features with simple, common sense problem solving.
Wireless scales connected to CareMore’s clinics and a proactive staff detected early warning signs on a congestive heart failure patient. Focusing on regular toenail trimmings to prevent falls? Absolutely, and CareMore, which operates 26 care centers focused on more than 50,000 Medicare Advantage patients, is proving it has the right approach:
• Hospitalization rate is 24 percent below average.
• Hospital stays are 38 percent lower.
• Amputation rate among diabetics = 60 percent lower than average.
• Member costs are 18 percent below average.

Impressive results. But what stood out to me is that this company really promotes creative thinking. It’s the insight, knowing what to do with the data and information that’s to be celebrated here. 

How might you think out of the box in your health ministry?

Texas: Diocese Approves Transfer of Hospital

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas approved today a definitive agreement for the transfer of St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System to Catholic Health Initiatives, a nationally recognized health care system.

From Clowning to Kayaking, Hobbies Offer Clergy Respite, Re-Engagement

We all need to blow off steam. It’s hard to lead and serve others when you are processing your feelings about difficult things that happen in life. Here are a few examples of how clergy members recharge and re-center themselves.


Terra Hoskins contributes to the NEHM and NEAC blog on a freelance basis. As principal of Hoskins Interactive, an inbound marketing consultancy, she helps organizations improve the quality of website traffic needed to expand business. Follow Terra on her blog and on Twitter: @terrahoskins.

photo credit: hey mr glen via photopin cc
by The Rev. 'Bean' Murray   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/may-is-mental-health-awareness-month-guest-post-from-emin">May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Guest Post from EMIN</a></h1>

Editor's Note: This is a guest blog from the Rev. 'Bean' Murray, coordinator of Episcopal Mental Illness Network. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a good opportunity to remember that all of our congregations have members facing mental illness issues whether they have a diagnosed disorder, have a family member with a disorder, or are a caregiver. It is estimated that at any given time, one fourth of the people in our pews are facing such issues.

Questions to Ask

This month can be a time to take stock of how well our congregations are welcoming to people with a mental illness:

  • Do we ever have adult forum offerings about mental health and serious mental illness?
  • Does the subject of mental illness ever come up from the pulpit?
  • Would a person facing a mental illness feel comfortable bringing a mental health issue to our clergy?
  • Does the church library have any books about mental illness and questions of faith?
  • If they contact the church for assistance, do we treat families facing serious mental illness issues the way we would any other family by offering pastoral care visits, bringing the Eucharist, or offering to bring meals or run errands?
  • Do our members feel that they have to keep mental illness issues secret?

The Episcopal Mental Illness Network (EMIN) wants to help our congregations to be welcoming to people with serious mental illnesses and to their families and friends. Stigma is an added burden to our members. Most congregations share the same stereotypes as the society at large, and that often can keep people with serious mental illnesses from fully participating in our faith communities.

Resources for Fighting Stigma

One way to help fight stigma is to start a mental illness ministry whose mission is to help educate the congregation about the nature of mental illness and about the resources in the community that are available to help. EMIN’s website, http://www.eminnews.org, has suggestions on how to start such a ministry and a tool for assessing how welcoming your church is today.

Some other good resources for making our congregations more welcoming are Mental Health Ministries and Pathways to Promise.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America have valuable information for consumers and advocates. [Ed. note: NEHM has included these in our resources tagged mental health; see blogs and social media in our Media section.]

EMIN produces an electronic newsletter twice a year that features what congregations around the country are doing to address the issues of mental illness and communities of faith. If you want to share information about a program that our readers might find interesting or if you want to sign up for the “EMIN News,” you can send us a message at news4emin@gmail.com.