Wednesday, February 7, 2018

FAN Program Pastor Interview

It is hard to believe that St. John’s UMC has been a part of the FAN program for almost 9 months now! I am so thrilled with the enthusiasm and participation of our church. Not only are the members embracing healthier options, but the pastors are also focusing on finding ways to improve their health. Pastor Rett graciously agreed to participate in a short FAN program interview. Below are the interview questions and answers.

Why do you think healthy eating is important?

Healthy eating is important because it honors the ways God created us and the world as good. When we practice healthy eating we acknowledge God's intention for us to feel and be healthy and happy. 

Are there any Bible verses that encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle? Which ones?

The Daniel story. 'I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.' Paul's discussion of faith as being like training and competing as an athlete.

Healthy lifestyles include activity, healthy eating, stress management, and adequate sleep and down time. What are some healthy habits you have adopted over the years?

I work out for an hour a day, generally 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of strength training. I try to manage my calorie intake as well as I regulate my macro nutrient proportions. I try to take time to be outside walking, biking, swimming or working in the yard. I aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep (as long as my children cooperate). I try to take Friday's off of work as often as I can.

What, if any, other habits you would like to work on?

I need to work on taking extended times off of work (multiple days in a row), for the purpose of refreshing and refocusing.

Thank you Pastor Rett for taking the time to encourage us to continue to strive and grow. I love that Pastor Rett included the need for time off and rest. This is such a critical part to health that we often forget. I also enjoyed reading the Bible verses that encourage Pastor Rett.

I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite Bible verses that encourage a healthy lifestyle? By the way, mine is 1 Corinthians 10: 31, “ So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” 

What healthy habits have you adopted? What other habits would you like to work on? 

Feel free to email me, Lacy Ngo, your answers!

Friday, September 1, 2017

When A Sermon "Called Me Out" in a Good Way by Lacy Ngo

 You know those sermons that make you feel like you are being “called out,” and yet you feel encouraged because the words were exactly what you needed to hear? Yep, last Sunday was one of those sermons for me. 
Pastor Rett’s sermon was about finding your spiritual gifts. He reminded us that we SHOULD SERVE in the church, BUT we should find something that not only fits our spiritual gifts but also is a passion of ours. We shouldn’t serve begrudgingly or reluctantly. Well to put it as Pastor Rett put it, “We sometimes sound like Eeyore when we speak about “having to serve.”  Like Eeyore, we groan, (insert pitiful voice here), “Woah is me, I have to keep the nursery” or “I have to usher today.” Ummm, I’m pretty sure I have sounded like this time and again, aaaand I am pretty sure I have even said something like this to Pastor Rett! Ouch, Pastor Rett, why you gotta’ bring it so close to home?!

 Fortunately he doesn’t just stop there; he gives us some solutions for our Eeyore service attitude.  He goes on to say that if we are feeling burdened from serving, then, maybe we are serving in the wrong areas. Our church has a Spiritual Gifts survey online, which can help us START thinking about where we may excel at serving. This survey helps us determine the spiritual gifts that God gave us. God gave us these gifts for a reason. He WANTS us to use them! Matching your service to your spiritual gifts is a huge step in determining your best places to serve, but I want to add a little book club wisdom from Beverly Marks here.  One book club evening, Beverly Marks said that she thinks God not only gives us Spiritual gifts, but also gives us a passion for where God wants us to serve. If we don’t have passion, we are probably not going to do a superior job.  Passion doesn’t mean we won’t have to step out of our comfort zone. We may have a passion for something and STILL not want to do it because we feel too busy or too scared. After all, the Bible shows us many examples of people not wanting to answer God’s call at first. BUT in those stores, the people in the Bible still had a passion as well as a gift for what they were being called to do.  Take Moses for example. He didn’t want to step out of his comfort zone and into danger by leading the Israelites out of slavery. But you could see he had a passion for helping the Israelites fight this injustice. My goodness, he even attacked a man for beating an Israelite. Luckily Moses started following God’s lead instead of JUST his passion after that. 
Figuring out your passion takes time, and I think may even change, as God needs us in different areas. God calls us to serve, but sometimes it takes us a little time to figure out where we should serve. Not knowing yet where we fit best doesn’t give us an excuse not to serve. Sometimes we have to take an educated guess as to where we should serve and just serve. While serving, we learn our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes, and where our passions lie. We can still make a difference while we are trying to figure it all out. 
Serve! God may surprise you. God may lead you to something that you didn’t even know was going to be your passion. This happened to me recently in regards to the FAN program. Things just kept lining up in a certain way that made me feel I was suppose to combine my faith with nutrition education background.  Here is the kicker. I felt like God was leading me to do this, but I didn’t know it was going to be my passion!  While serving I have found several passions like hosting for Family Promise, writing for the church blog, participating in a Christian book club, and now the FAN program. I get excited when I think about it! FAN even inspired me to start my own faith based nutrition blog called Mindfulness in Faith and Food. 
So this brings me to the “Call to Action” part of the post. We are starting a “What is your Passion?” blog series. Where have you felt called to serve?”  “What lead you to serve in this way?” What experiences have you had while serving?” Please send me your stories. 
If you don’t know your gifts (or even if you do) take the Spiritual gifts survey. You can take the survey by clicking here.  I plan on taking the survey again because I know myself a little better now. Remember to pray before you take the survey and pray again after you take the survey.  And if you are approached about serving, pray before saying ‘no’ or ‘yes.’ 

If you would like to check out the whole sermon, you can find it here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Our FAN Kickoff Was a Success! by Lacy Ngo

We had all kinds of goodies on our FAN table. We had several handouts available including a handout that provided tips on how to be an active kid, and a handout that showed what a healthy plate should look like. By the way, the “Myplate” recommends about half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables; one forth of your plate should be filled with grains (whole grains whenever possible); and one forth of your plate should be filled with lean proteins. The dairy is included as a cup of skim milk on the side. Other forms of dairy can be added to food as the dairy source as well.
The biggest hit of our FAN table, however, was the fruit, granola, and Greek yogurt parfaits. All ages were raving about the parfaits.
We even had a FAN survey to find out what ways our church members hope the FAN program can help. We discovered that people are interested in continuing to offer fitness opportunities in the church like the dance classes and the chair fitness classes as well as adding a new activity that can be modified for those that want higher intensity or for those who want lower intensity. We discovered that while our church members love and look forward to the 3rd Sunday donuts, some feel that they would stay and mingle more if there was a healthy option available. According to the feedback, members would rather receive help through awareness, reminders, and encouragement instead of implementing actual nutrition and fitness policies.
Since the FAN program announcement, I am pleasantly surprised at how much just having these recent reminders has encouraged all of us, including me, to make better choices. Here are a few changes I have ALREADY seen:
* The volunteers for the annual ice cream social decided to offer a salad AND ice cream  at the social this year.
* Bananas were offered at an early morning meeting
* The book club social provided healthy appetizers that were heavy on the vegetables.
* The candy that is often given out to children after a children’s activity was replaced with another option.
* Healthy snacks were offered to the children this year during the annual skills camp.
* We have been providing more roasted chicken verses fried for our meals.
* More healthy choices were provided at the Contemporary Service snack table.
These are just a few that I noticed since the FAN program was announced. Way to go St. John’s UMC!
On the FAN table, we also provided a box for any nutrition questions our members might have. We were approached with many great nutrition questions. I was so pleased with all the interest. The questions and answers are below:
1.     What are the benefits of Greek yogurt?
·      Yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium, and probiotics, and for those hoping to lose weight, Greek yogurt is filling, meaning you will feel fuller on less calories. Moreover, Greek yogurt has zero saturated fat and cholesterol. Greek yogurt has fewer carbohydrates and sugar and more protein than yogurt.
2.     Is yogurt healthy? What about GMOs?
First, you may wonder, what are GMOs. GMOs are genetically modified or genetically engineered foods. GMO plants are beneficial because they can tolerate heat, cold, drought, pesticides and herbicides. They can also increase shelf life, control pollination, decrease the need for pesticides, improve the growth and yield of crops, and can even improve nutritional quality of the food. By being able to improve the growth and yield of crops, using GMO plants can help meet the needs of an ever-expanding population. The benefits of GMOs are many, but are they safe? GMO foods have been around since 1996, and have been studied for years. So what does the science say after reviewing the research? According to the World Health Organization, each GMO is different and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis; however, the GMO foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risk to humans. We should continue to study GMOs to gather more long-term data. The take home message is eating a GMO vegetable or yogurt made with milk from GMO fed cows is still much healthier than eating a giant sausage biscuit and tater tots for breakfast. If GMOs still make you uncomfortable, look for the organic label. Either way you are still eating more fruits and vegetables, which is benefiting your health.
3.     Is the sugar in yogurt okay?

The short answer is that just like fruit, dairy naturally contains sugar, but yogurt, like fruit, naturally contains so many important nutrients and benefits as well so avoiding these foods for health reasons would be counter productive. However some yogurt have added sugar along with the sugar naturally in yogurt. Unfortunately, food labels only list TOTAL sugar, not added sugar. The good news is that sometime in 2018 nutrition labels will actually list the amount of added sugar. In the meantime, compare labels and look for the higher protein, lower total sugar yogurts. Also, remember to eat everything in moderation. Many “good” foods have pros AND cons so avoid overeating in general. The take home message is that yes, yogurt has natural sugar, but if you have limited your honeybun to only occasionally and have started regularly eating fruit and yogurt instead, good job! You are now getting a filling food with great nutritional benefits vs. an empty calorie honeybun.

Monday, June 12, 2017

So What is this FAN (Faith, Activity, and Nutrition) and How Will Our Church Benefit From Being Part of the Program? by Lacy Ngo, MS, RD

The church is here to most importantly spread God's word and God's love. Yet the church is also here to care for its members. The FAN program was formed to help with just that: caring for the health of our members. Some of our members have expressed a desire for this aspect of care.

The FAN program has three goals, which are:
1.     Increase physical activity
2.     Increase availability of fruits and vegetables at church, and
3.     Increase the availability of whole grain foods at church
The FAN program has a few requirements and many options on how our church can improve our ability to serve our church family in this way.
A few things you will see are:
·       A monthly FAN informational table in the church lobby. The table will have FAN newsletters, handouts, a place for you to ask a dietitian your nutrition and fitness questions, and even some healthy morning snacks will sometimes be provided for your enjoyment.
·       You can also checkout an updated monthly bulletin board, and
·       The monthly FAN bulletin inserts in your church bulletins. 
Do you want a little more? Sign up for the 8-week nutrition and fitness program starting August 27th. We will meet for a boot camp style fitness program, and we will spend some time learning nutrition tips from a dietitian. This program will be held every Sunday at 4:30. The workout will be tailored to you. Sign up in the lobby during the FAN kickoff Sunday or by emailing Lacy Ngo at
Speaking of the FAN kickoff Sunday, please stop by our first FAN table on June 25th.
Lastly, keep checking this blog for even more nutrition information.
In fact, our first nutrition and fitness blog tips are listed below:

Easy Ways to Increase The Availability of Nutritious Foods at Church Activities
So your group is in charge of the church Wednesday night supper, and you want to make something delicious and nutritious for a large crowd; but what can you do? Don’t worry; you won’t need to change your whole menu to GREATLY improve your recipes for large crowds. Just follow three simple steps, and your same delicious recipes will become drastically healthier:
1.     Add more vegetables to your own recipes
2.     Use whole grain pasta, bread, and rice in your own recipes.
3.     Always have at least one fruit or vegetable as a side
That is it! Walla, you have a healthier meal to serve your church family.
Whew, that was simple. Now the meals are healthier, but what about snacks? So you are in charge of snacks for a church event, and you want to purchase snacks in bulk.  Perishables like fruit and vegetables are not going to work for you. Can you still provide healthier snacks?
Yes, you can! Simply buy cheerio’s, popcorn (which is a whole grain), or whole grain goldfish, and you have now increased the availability of whole grains in the church. One simple snack solution, and you are providing your church loved ones with healthier snack options.
Remember, it is not about taking foods away, but about having healthier options available.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

St. John's Musical Magnum Opus (Omaggio a Helton and Revels) by Lauren Reinhardt on behalf of SPRC

For more than two decades, two people at St. John’s have been working to bring us closer to each other and help us come together as a congregation to glorify God—Wes Revels (1993) and Mary Ann Helton (1999). As we consider all the families who have grown up under their music and tutelage, the harmony of the men’s chorus, the chancel choir, and the handbell choirs (children and adults)—their impact is monumental.
Concurrently, Mary Ann was the choral director at Rock Hill High, when she finally retired in her 36th year in 2009. “That was my calling,” she says, “but work at St. John’s was also a joy as well as service.” Additionally, she formed the men’s chorus in 2010, has participated on a Nicaragua mission trip, and delivers food via Hunger Outreach every month. Wes has helped foster a love of music in many piano and hand bell students, has played hundreds of weddings and funerals, and served as the Mother of the Groom during the St. John’s Womanless Wedding. They have both helped with VBS, with Wes once breaking his arm on a pew the first day!
Wes and Mary Ann have been a dynamic duo, effortlessly accompanying each other, even during moments of crisis. There was a time on Christmas Eve when the organ got stuck, and Wes rushed to the basement to cut the power to the organ. Not missing a beat, Mary Ann went to the piano to keep the music going. As the adage goes, the show must go on.
In fact, this Christmas will be the first in the last 20+ years that they will have time off from Christmas music. Mary Ann’s only lament is, “We had the best seats in the house.” Wes confirms, saying, “To look out from the organ in the choir loft and see the people and candles is magical.”
And that’s one of the things they’ll miss the most. When asked if they ever anticipated staying as long as they have, neither did, but they enjoyed it every day and will miss all the people very much.
But retirement isn’t the end, it’s just one more movement in the musical composition of their lives. Mary Ann grew up at St. John’s and will continue to serve faithfully on the missions team and lead the First Sunday Food Outreach team beginning in July, but she excited about traveling more and spending time in the yard. Wes has promised to come back to visit and will keep in touch, but he is eager to spend more time at the beach, write some music, and study photography—his photo of the fountain at Fountain Park on Easter morning was recently featured in the Down Home magazine published by The Herald. He will also continue to teach private piano lessons.
There’s so much more that could be said about these precious people and the stories they shared, including wild antics of a monkey named Chico, but as Wes winked and chuckled—but said in all seriousness, “Don’t include this…it’s off the record.”
However, in all seriousness, Wes and Mary Ann didn’t strike it rich in their music ministry, but they have achieved a success beyond riches and fame. They have touched the lives of generations here, fostering a love of music, uplifting hearts with favorite hymns, and all the while glorifying God in their ministry to this church. They have given us beautiful music, and we are better—more united—for it.
We wish Wes and Mary Ann the very best and much happiness in their retirement. Please come congratulate them during a reception in their honor after the 11am service on Sunday, June 25th.

The full Q and A with Wes and Mary Ann:

Q: What’s a song you never get tired of hearing?

Mary Ann – so many. Maybe one of the Paul Manz Christmas arrangements, such as “E’en So Lord, Quickly Come.”
Wes – I like the Wesley hymns, especially “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”
Q: What are your retirement plans?

Mary Ann – I hope to finally get my house cleaned out (laughs). But I just want to enjoy each day, work in the yard, do some accompanying at Winthrop. And more traveling.

Wes – I will go to the beach more often. I’ve always enjoyed photography, but I want to learn more about photography. I want to write some music.

Q: How has the music program(s) and your involvement changed since you started?

Mary Ann – I founded the Men’s Chorus in 2010, and I’ll continue to lead that as long as they’re interested in singing. As to how things have changed, I think the number one change is commitment. Church used to be where everything happened, and now many folks are gone on Sundays.

Wes – St. John’s was one of the first churches to have a handbell choir. We still have an active handbell program and have the original bells that go 5 octaves. We now have three worship services each Sunday, as well as a Taize meditation service during the Lenten and Advent seasons. I started the Lessons and Carols service in 1993 and is now a tradition at Christmas time each year.

Q: What drew you to music, and what was the path you took?

Mary Ann – I grew up in this church. My mother always wanted to do music—to play piano—but she was raised in the depression-era and couldn’t afford it. So she had me take lessons starting in 2nd grade with Mrs. McCrory. Mrs. McCroty said I had talent and I moved to a Winthrop teacher, Mary Elizabeth Dunlap. I had to practice 30 minutes every single morning. I continued taking from Ms. Dunlap, who told me to get a musical education degree. I wanted to be a music teacher. So I went to Florida State and got a Master’s degree in choral music. My first job was in elementary school, but then I went to Rock Hill High School as their choral director for 36 years. That was my calling. This work at St. John’s has been a joy, but it’s time for young blood with stars in their eyes.

Wes – I always wanted to study piano. I started 2nd grade and went each year until one time in middle school, I told my mom I was quitting – and she turned and looked at me and said NO you aren’t. That was the last time I ever said I would quit, and I never did. I went to a private boarding school in Kentucky and music was pervasive—wonderful. Then I studied at Southern Wesleyan University, University of Georgia, and Winthrop. I’ve served ARP, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, and Methodist denominations. Being Samuel Wesley, I had to be Methodist. During my tenure at University Lutheran in Clemson and at Ebenezer ARP, a pipe organ was installed. The organ at St. John’s was installed in 1924 and renovated in late 90s while I was here. We also purchased three new (wonderful) Yamaha pianos.

Q: How did you get to St. John’s?

Mary Ann – Well, I grew up in this church! I came to work as interim in 1988 and stayed until 1993. Then I came back in 1999.

Wes – My wife, Pam, and I were doing a duo piano recital for a music club in our home. St. John’s member, the late Margie Hood, asked me if I was looking for a change. I had been serving for the last 11.5 years as the organist/choir director at Ebenezer ARP. I applied and was hired at St. John’s and my first Sunday was June 13, 1993.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory?

Both: Christmas Eve service. We have the best seats in the house. The people and candles is magical. Another favorite is the Ascension stained glass window at the rear of the sanctuary. It is beautiful at sunset, and they enjoyed seeing it during Wednesday night choir practice.
And then there was the story about the organ going off during the middle of a sermon and Chico the monkey….

“But don’t include this…it’s off the record.” – Wes