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UUMA/UUA Health & Wellness Pilot Program
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Connections are made slowly,” writes, Marge Piercy, "sometimes they grow underground. You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.”


Who we are and how we are is whole. We are not broken bodies and selves in need of fixing – as commercials and much of popular culture would have us believe. And, as true as this may be, the demands of our lives, ministries, and days can leave us depleted, overwhelmed, feeling less than able to minister to…and may lead to the development of habits that cause us to neglect our bodies and souls. Alternatively, we may have internalized scripts that tell us: who we are is in need of fixing; in need of being made whole.


Health and wellness is about many things, including the slow yet positive lifestyle shifts that reflects a commitment to discerning the type of changes you want to make and the life you wish to live in order to be a faithful steward of your being and vital member of the community of which you are a part. It can be a radical act of self-preservation that cuts against the grain of a culture that promotes "busyness” and in favor of taking the time to tend to one’s body, heart, and spirit.


For many, the practice of health and wellness can be a luxury for reasons connected to the lack of economic resources, demanding/unyielding schedules, lack of health insurance, living at the intersection of multiple identities that often incur the damaging effects of systemic inequality and/or social stigmas that promote shame and much more. Yet, as clergy, part of living our call must include being good stewards of our whole selves, so that we are able to participate fully in the communities we serve. And, in so doing, work with those communities to dismantle the aforementioned forms of oppression.


This health and wellness initiative promises a supportive, non-judgmental environment in which coaches will meet you exactly where you are and work with you (in a group and individual setting) on the goals you’ve identified. Our coaches are sensitive to your unique needs with a depth of understanding about what it means to serve in this way. You can expect to be equipped with tools for long-term lifestyle changes that reflect the goals you’ve identified.


Marge Piercy writes "Live a life you can endure: Make love that’s loving. … Live as if you liked yourself … reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.”


Our invitation is to reach out…to live as if you liked yourself, to practice the radical act of self-preservation in service of your own worthy life and a greater good.



Help Yourself and Your Colleagues Too

The UUMA, in cooperation with the UUA Health Plan and the Office of Ministries and Faith Development, is in the midst of offering UU ministers a pilot program to test how we can improve the health and wellbeing of ministers though participation in a comprehensive wellness program.


We are not reinventing the wheel with this program. We have been collaborating with Duke University and their Clergy Health Initiative to craft the pilot content, decide how best to shape it to fit UU values and the scope of our funding, and to select Wellness Coaching resources skilled in the special needs of clergy. We are combining Duke’s five years of experience with clergy wellness research and program delivery with six years of UUA Health Plan experience to craft a program that could have an important impact on how our ministers approach wellness, self-care, and the stresses that are part of the 24/7 commitment to serving a congregation.   (The initial pilot is only open to parish ministers; future program offerings will be for all UUMA members.)


A pilot program is not for everyone, because like any clinical trial, it is in part a leap of faith. Participation is voluntary. We hope that there are enough of you who feel that empowering our UU clergy to take care of their own health is a worthy enough goal to commit six months to the study.


Here are the gateway criteria:

  •  in an active ministry, in a congregation
  • under age 65
  • member of the UUA Health Plan Standard PPO and a UUMA member in good standing
  • had a complete annual physical within the past 12 months
  • have a copy of the annual physical results and be willing to release the basic #s, including height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol (with HDL/LDL if available), triglycerides, blood glucose from that physical
  • agree to release results of first annual physical following completion of the program
  • attendance at the Ministry Days collegial conversation in Louisville or view the video from the conversation


Here is what pilot participants agree to:

  • A 6-month commitment – change takes time, and 6 months gives you time to establish new habits
  • Complete a pre- and post-participation "perception of wellness” survey, adapted from the work at Duke University
  • If your BMI – your "body mass index” -- is 30 +, begin a diet program. (For example, your BMI would be 30, if you were 5’2” and 165 pounds, or 5’6” and 185 pounds, or 5’10” and 210 pounds) Your Wellness Advocate can help you with your diet planning and how you integrate diet into your daily activities. The UUA has an agreement with Weight Watchers Online, and we will subsidize the full cost for 6 months. If you want to use a different approach, such as Weight Watchers meetings, NutriSystem, or Jenny Craig, we will reimburse you up to $20 a month for 6 months.
  • Develop an exercise plan – any combination of cardio and strength training that you feel is possible. The UUA, through Highmark, has an extensive network of health clubs available for $25/month, if that is your chosen route. Your Wellness Advocate is available to assist you with developing and sticking to your new program. At a minimum, we want you to keep an exercise log for 6 months.
  • Take part in a monthly moderated online group, using Google Hangout or similar service, to discuss specific stress-inducing components of clergy life. Depending on the final size of the pilot group, we will split into two groups of 10 or so. The gatherings will be led by a Duke Wellness Advocate. Over the six months of the pilot, your group will discuss compassion fatigue, structural issues in the congregation, respite strategies, money issues, and privacy/boundary issues. Your Wellness Advocate will also check in with you once a month (unless you decline this outreach), and will be available for questions via email.
  • Join a closed networking group which will be used to share experiences with other members of the select group. (Mango is the UUA’s preferred networking tool, used for a variety of projects. It is closed, secure, and ad-free – other than that it looks and feels a lot like Facebook. The UUA IT department will set it up for the group.) We know that not everyone will become a contributor, but we want you to have a secure forum where you can comment, and where you can help guide the future direction of this program.
  • Develop, as a group, a model covenant between the minister and the congregation, recognizing the importance of taking time to engage in exercise, private reflection/meditation/prayer, time for the minister to be completely "off the clock”, and time for collegial discussion of the causes of and cures for clergy stress. Mango offers a supportive environment for collaboration and joint editing.
  • Take part in an open blog that can be read by UUMA colleagues, where you can post highlights – or lowlights – of your experience. The Health Plan Office will set up the blog. Again, we know that not everyone can be a blogger. This is an opportunity to share with your UUMA colleagues anything that you find valuable -- or frustrating – about trying to establish a new wellness routine while living a demanding ministry.


How to apply

Applications have now closed for the Pilot Program. 

Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409
© 2016 Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association.