Church leaders in south-west London have committed themselves to adopting a healthier lifestyle.
The group of 10 leaders were shocked into taking action after a New York Times article reported higher rates of obesity, hypertension and depression among church leaders.
The 'Vicar's Vitality' campaign was launched by YMCA London South West with the aim of giving local church leaders easy access to fitness facilities.
The YMCA conducted its own research ahead of the campaign launch, with some alarming results.
In its survey of church leaders in the area, 70 per cent were found to have some form of medical condition that has required attention.
Nearly half said they consume alcohol up to five times a week but nearly 75% also said they were motivated to exercise at least for a couple of hours a week.
Richard James, chief executive of YMCA London South West, said “The New York Times article concerned us. And looking at our local church leaders we discovered that of the 100 on our database, seven had been signed off for long term sickness in recent years and months.
"We took this further with some local research and found that while they were not necessarily living the healthiest of lifestyles, the motivation was there to do so.
"From that basis, we wanted to ensure that their enthusiasm for exercise and a healthy lifestyle wasn’t wasted and they had the capacity and support to do just that."
Lesley Charlton, Minister at the United Reform Church in Kingston, has taken up the scheme.
“I am grateful to God for the joy exercise gives me and during the most demanding times in my ministry work, I have been kept sane by prayer and exercise," she said.
"I love the YMCA for a range of reasons but top of the list is that the money I pay for classes is used for Kingdom causes.”
Congregations can even refer their church leaders to the scheme if they are worried about their health.
Mr James continues: “The Church and its leaders support our community in so many ways and we hope that this scheme goes towards solving that quandary of ‘who supports those who support us’.
"We want church congregations to know that if they’re concerned over the health and well-being of their church leader they can recommend this scheme and equally church leaders can refer each other.”
London church leaders commit to getting fit
Published 27 October 2012