"We want people of faith and all North Carolinians to live healthy, long lives."

For many North Carolinians, church is the center of their community. Now, through Partners in Health and Wholeness, an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches, churchgoers are connecting to the deep link between their faith and their health.

At the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Eastover, just outside of Fayetteville, Monday evenings kick off a week of healthy living. They open with a circle of prayer, pop in a CD, and spend the next hour in their spiritual home – taking care of their physical health. “A healthy body is a growing body,” says Rev. William L. Neill, pastor of Mount Zion. “We want our folk not only to take care of the spiritual and prepare for that eternal security, but also while you’re here, you need to take care of yourself. We believe in that.”

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation supports the North Carolina Council of Churches program that empowers local congregations to align faith and health through clergy leadership, worship aids, and transforming church policies and activities to promote physical as well as spiritual well-being.

At Mount Zion, Neill and members of the congregation have lost weight and have been able to discontinue some of their medications as a result of healthier lifestyle changes. Congregations from across North Caroina are getting involved – demonstrating their commitment to health as a practice of their faith. and taking better care of their bodies. For example, Mount Nebo Pentecostal Holiness Church in Ramseur added a walking track, adopted healthy church policies and partnered with the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Faithful Families to offer a nine-week nutrition program for its members. And in Chapel Hill, University United Methodist Church created a Culinary Council that chooses menus and lists calorie counts when preparing healthy foods for special events.

Representing 6,200 churches with 1.5 million members, the faith-based Council of Churches bridges across denominations, races and economic status. With a unique role supporting both faith and health, the Council has the potential to enable thousands of congregations to align faith and health both in the sanctuary and in the social hall.

“We want people of faith and all North Carolinians to live healthy, long lives,” says Willona Stallings, program coordinator for the N.C. Council of Churches.

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