Why Walk

A Journey for Body and Spirit

For most people, walking is a simple form of exercise. Weather permitting, walkers can be outside on nature paths, sidewalks, or tracks. They can also be inside malls, large stores or fitness centers. Individuals can choose the length of time and pace of walking.

The health benefits of a brisk walking habit are well known, including:

  • weight loss
  • stress management
  • improved mental health
  • lowered blood pressure
  • restorative sleep
  • cardiovascular health

But what are the spiritual health benefits of walking? Here are a few:

  • time for prayer
  • marveling in the body God created
  • giving thanks for creation
  • sharing with a companion walker
  • sense of stewardship for God’s gift of life

Why should congregations get involved with walking programs? Our faith unites the body and spirit in a whole being. A walking program has physical benefits while also drawing us closer to God by adding an intentional reflective or devotional element. Stepping away—literally—from the demands of our daily routines to walk, reflect and pray reminds us that God created us and wants to come near to us.

The Bible is full of stories of journeys, beginning with Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis. As God’s story of salvation unfolds in the Scriptures, we read of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants walking out of Egypt and to the promised land. Spies journeyed through the promised land to bring Joshua a report. Ruth and Naomi walked out of Moab and on to Bethlehem. Israelites journeyed into captivity and then back to Jerusalem to rebuild. Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaped threat by journeying to Egypt. The ministries of Jesus and his disciples took them on foot all over the Judean countryside. Paul journeyed through Gentile regions with the good news of Jesus and then on to Rome.

“Forty days” is a recurring theme for events in the Bible, and from this context we get the 40 days of Lent and other periods of intentional spiritual practice. This season is often used as an intentional time to engage in spiritual practices or establish new spiritual habits. Forty days can change us. Prayer, fasting, and personal goals come into focus during the weeks of remembering Christ’s sacrificial death. After the 40 days of Lent, the joy of the resurrection burst on us, and we carry this joy into our new habits.

Lent is a time to explore walking as a spiritual practice that takes us closer to the heart of God, but certainly walking programs can begin and end at other times of the year as well. Congregational walks take a variety of forms: walks around the community for special purposes, such as praying for the neighborhood; community-centered walks that welcome the wider community into the healthy activity of the congregation; devotional walks that include reflection and prayer while walking; virtual destination walks that challenge a congregation’s members to collectively achieve a joint goal for miles walked.

Congregational walking programs don’t have to be complicated: a few friends, choice of routes, a devotional resource, and a system for keeping track of progress are the basics. Walking as a spiritual practice invites us to enter into the lands of the Bible, bring body and spirit together, and experience greater well-being.

 

Congregational Walking Programs

Walking with Jesus: Six Weeks of Devotions for Body and Spirit
Walking with Jesus is a six-week program designed to help you make small changes and simple lifestyle improvements in your health and to grow in faith. An inspiring devotional dimension to the program reminds you of the connection between health in body and spirit. As you work on physical health goals, daily Scripture readings and meditations help you follow the routes that Jesus walked.

Christ Walk: A 40-Day Spiritual Fitness Program
by Anna Fitch Courie (www.churchpublishing.org, 2015)
A registered nurse, Anna Fitch Courie started Christ Walk in her local Episcopal congregation. The book that resulted includes several 40-day routes. The Nazareth Challenge is 60 miles between Jesus’ hometown and Jerusalm—about 1.6 miles of walking each day. The Jerusalem to Damascus Route represents the apostle Paul’s conversion story with about 3.75 miles per day. The Jerusalem Challenge follows Jesus’ route through his final days, with 2.2 miles of walking per day. The Damascus to Caesarea Journey is 5 miles per day. The Exodus Challenge, the most ambitious challenge, covers the route Jews walked to the promised land and covers 9.4 miles a day of walking.

Walk to Jerusalem and Walk to Bethlehem
(St. John Providence Health System Warren, MI)
These popular walks begin at your location and end in the Holy Land. Calculate the distance from your city to Jerusalem, then challenge members to collectively walk that many miles in a set amount of time. The materials include organizing tools, devotionals and tips for a successful program. Call 1-888-440-7325 to order.

Walking Moais: Community Engagement
Fort Worth’s Blue Zones Project® includes “Walking Moais,” groups of five to eight people who walk together for at least ten weeks. The Wellness Committee at First Presbyterian Church has encouraged the congregation to join the community-wide health initiative. The Japanese word moai means “meeting for a common purpose,” a thought that lends itself to committing to walking as a spiritual practice with a group of friends. Other community programs may easily be adapted to an intentional purpose as well.

Sidewalk Marathon: An Inspiring 30-day Walking Program
(Catholic Health Initiatives)
This community walking programs invites participants to walk a marathon (26.2 miles) over the course of a month. Individuals may choose to cultivate this discipline or welcome others to walk together for both the physical and relational benefits.

Do you have a walking program you love? Share it with us on our Facebook page or mention us on Instagram!

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