The Commercial Appeal

Editor gets churches talking about faith, nutrition

- By Stacey Wiedower

Faith, health, food and family. To Memphis native Sarah Ranson, they’re what life is all about.

So when she was asked to take part in a voluntary review committee for the Church Health Reader, then a fledgling online publicatio­n of the Church Health Center, Ransom jumped at the chance. At the time she was a new mom and a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Faith and health are two things people don’t typically pair together,” said Ranson, who examined the relationsh­ip between the two discipline­s while earning a master’s in liberal studies. “In St. Louis, I worked on my church’s community garden. I started to think a little more in-depth about ideas of health and nutrition and what that has to do with our faith.”

When Ranson and her family moved home to Memphis three years later, the Church Health Reader was transition­ing into print, and the publicatio­n needed a new editor. She was the perfect fit.

“Health ministries are new and expanding, and people are starting to think about health in a different way,” she said. “We are a health ministry magazine, so what we wanted to do was take the core message of the Church Health Center and bring it into churches.”

The Church Health Center provides health care services for the working uninsured and offers a wide variety of wellness programs for people from all walks of life. The Church Health Reader, now in print for nearly two years, has seen its subscripti­on base grow rapidly, Ranson said, as health ministries around the country expand. At a recent Best of the Christian Press awards event, the “We are a health ministry magazine, so what we wanted to do was take the core message of the Church Health Center and bring it into churches,” says Sarah Ranson.

publicatio­n brought home seven awards.

And with an obesity epidemic sweeping the nation and health care a topic of conversati­on, Ranson believes there’s never been a better time for discourse on how churches can have impact on the health and lifestyles of their congregati­ons.

“Churches can be really influentia­l in people’s lives,” she said. “This is a way to get into churches and talk about faith and health.”

As editor of Church Health Reader, Ranson talks to church leaders and members around the country to learn about programs that bridge the issues of faith, health and nutrition. Her goal for the publicatio­n is to communicat­e ideas that can be replicated in churches across the United States.

“Somebody might read something and see something they can do in their own church, whether it’s starting an exercise program or starting a program for the mentally ill,” she said. “My favorite part of my job is talking to people all over the country, in congregati­ons from Brooklyn, N.Y., to small towns in the Midwest to California. It’s amazing the different takes they have on things.”

In her spare time, Ranson works on the Memphis Empty Bowls Project, an annual event she co-founded that raises funds for local hunger relief organizati­ons. Not surprising­ly, she’s also heavily involved in her church.

Ranson would love to see a grass-roots movement toward better nutrition and healthier lifestyles take hold in the nation’s religious institu- tions.

Because, after all, she said, “the most unhealthy meal you’ll ever eat is Wednesday night at church.”

What’s your proudest moment so far, careerwise?

Definitely the Church Health Reader winning a Best in Class award. We’ve only been in print for two years, so being recognized at a national level was quite exciting. I’m also very excited about our most recent issue: food and faith!

What are your five favorite things about Memphis?

I love the city’s authentici­ty and ingenuity. Memphis is a city that is pulling itself up by its bootstraps and is doing a phenomenal job. A begrudging five would be: the warm people, Shelby Farms, the great farmers markets, the Memphis Zoo and the Trust Me vegetarian plate at McEwen’s on Monroe.

What’s the best advice you’ve received, and from whom?

When my twins were very little, an elderly woman stopped me in the grocery store and wistfully explained that she used to clean the kitchen floor every night when her children were young. She now wished she hadn’t wasted that time doing something that in truth mattered so little. I think about that interactio­n a lot and remember to try and not sweat the small stuff in life.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A time traveler. I was a history nerd.

Where is the No. 1 place in the world you’d like to travel?

Both my husband and I would love to visit North Africa. We’ll make it happen — one day!

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