By Rochelle Thompson 

“Preaching, Teaching, Caring, and Sharing until He Comes Again!” is the motto of Priestley Chapel M. B. Church in Canton. Priestley is a church where worship is not a duty but a delight, and the church is dedicated to helping communities in Madison County. Although Madison County leads the state and sometimes meets national averages in health factors, health behaviors, and social and economic factors, obesity rates remain above the national average.

Priestley Chapel Pastor Robert McCallum is dedicated to ensuring that the congregation understands the importance of good health, and he leads by example. His goal is to encourage the members to strive for healthy lifestyles. In 2019, the church dedicated its new state-of-the-art Multi Purpose Center. Now that we live in a post-pandemic environment, the church has created the Health & Healing at the Chapel program. The project is a four-part plan to improve congregation and community health outcomes by conducting onsite activities in the Health and Wellness Center and offsite activities in the community. The Health and Wellness Ministry spearheads activities and works with the auxiliary ministries to execute a comprehensive plan to meet the church’s and community’s needs.

To help with Priestley’s endeavors, the church received a grant from the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH). The grant dates are September 1, 2023, to April 30, 2024. The funding has assisted Priestley Chapel in hosting Zumba workouts, educational workshops and health observances, and supporting community partners with health-related activities. 

As an alternative to Halloween, the church hosted a harvest festival that included a trunk or treat competition, with competitors giving out healthy treats from their trunks, and a nutritious meal was served at the end of the evening. Also, the church partnered with Our Daily Bread Ministries for their annual color walk and had the most participants at the event. Church members also enjoyed a cooking demonstration focusing on diabetes and learned alternate ways to season food, the importance of baking versus frying, and ideas for trying different vegetables as sides.

Events for 2024 will include health assessment and health screening events, more educational workshops, a CPR certification for members, mental health resources, open court basketball, and workout classes, in addition to themed events like a Valentine’s Day couples’ cooking class, health and wellness bingo, and a March Madness basketball shootout. MSDH funding will help build the capacity of Priestley’s health and wellness ministry. 

Pastor McCallum’s primary goal is to create a culture of health with a focus on sustainability. Priestley’s Health & Healing at the Chapel program provides health and healing for the mind, body and soul!

If your church is interested in creating a health and wellness ministry, contact the Mississippi State Department of Health Office of Health Equity at 601-206-1055.

Rochelle Thompson is a Director of Health Promotions at the American Lung Association and a fitness instructor/coach in Madison County. She lives in north Madison County with her husband, Montel, and her furry family (Duke and Lady).