Hulapalooza! Bishop Holston challenges UMC to get moving

Hula hoop event fuels fitness-fueled Abundant Health Initiative

By Jessica Brodie

COLUMBIA—Armed with a hula hoop and a commitment to fitness, South Carolina’s bishop is calling on United Methodists across the nation to join him in the denomination’s Abundant Health Initiative.

“Abundant health is living healthy and being healthy. We’re challenging everyone across the denomination to join us in the Abundant Health Initiative ‘Hulapalooza,’ South Carolina and beyond,” Bishop Jonathan Holston said as he and his extended cabinet gathered in October at the conference center for a hula-hooping celebration.

Hulapalooza is an effort to help the UMC embrace physical fitness in any way, whether that is hula hooping, running, walking, biking or other strenuous activity. Holston chose hula hooping because he said it’s a fun activity for children in many different countries, and people of all ages and ability levels can try it.

“Oh my goodness, I hope that everyone is excited about hula hooping because I am,” Holston said, laughing as he demonstrated—successfully!—how to hoop.

To kick off Hulapalooza, Holston and the other South Carolina United Methodist leaders donned hoops and showed off their skills (watch the video at Now, they are encouraging United Methodist churches and individuals to join them and make their own hula-hooping (or other fitness) video, then mark it with the hashtag #getmovingumcsc and post it on social media.

Embracing physical activity is fun, and it is part of abundant health,” said the Rev. Kathy James, director of Connectional Ministries. “Jesus said, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,’ and there is a physical, spiritual and missional aspect to that.”

James also said it’s fun to embrace our bodies “as instruments and gifts from God we need to care for and use.”

What is abundant health?

Abundant health is part of one of the UMC’s Four Areas of Focus, Improving Global Health, which involves increasing the health and well-being of children and adults across the globe. The focus area has a goal of improving the well-being of 1 million children in this quadrennium through efforts like Imagine No Malaria, proper nutrition, physical activity, mental health and substance abuse treatment and awareness.

Holston chairs the UMC’s Missional Engagements committee, which encompasses abundant health.

In South Carolina, the conference has taken steps toward that goal by participating in the Faith Activity and Nutrition program, a partnership between the conference and the University of South Carolina to help UMCs in this state craft a program to eat better, exercise more and increase their knowledge about overall health.

Hulapalooza is the latest step in the emphasis on health.

District superintendents, also captured on video, have been finessing their hula hoop skills and will be working in their districts to encourage churches to make their own videos.

The hope, James said, is that other annual conferences will join South Carolina, and soon the whole Methodist connection will celebrate fitness by hula hooping.

Director of Congregational Development the Rev. Sara White, who is on the General Board of Global Ministries, said that if laughter and movement were the sole purpose of the Hulapalooza movement, it would be a positive contribution, but it is so much more than that.

“In our world with true vulnerability of children due to war-driven resettlement, with poverty making the day of birth for some children their most dangerous day and with the children of South Carolina bearing the nation’s second highest children’s obesity rate, it provides a way for every United Methodist faith community to engage in discovery of need and options for helping,” White said.

District superintendents said Hulapalooza, and hula hooping in general, is a fun way to stay fit and underscore the importance of health, both in the conference and across the globe.

“Picking up the hula hoop again was humbling, laughable, challenging and made me sore is places I haven’t felt for a while,” said the Rev. Joe Long, Rock Hill District superintendent, noting the Cabinet is made up of some really good sports. “It was fun to play with a toy I really could do 59 years ago. … I hope United Methodists discover the hula hoop or others ways to stay active and fit.”

The Rev. Sandra Stevens-Poirel, Charleston District superintendent, is doing her part to spread the news in the Charleston District and even have hula hoops on hand for use during breaks at district meetings.

“The challenge is being well received and is a source of connecting people through the joy of laughter and humor!” Stevens-Poirel said. “The word is spreading—we’re excited about being a part of the bishop’s challenge for healthy living and to get moving.”

Spartanburg District Superintendent the Rev. Paul Harmon said while he never was good at hula-hooping, even as a teenager, ”I think it’s a great ice breaker, and a good way to start a conversation about being more active in congregational settings.”

Hula hoop and other fitness videos should be posted on social media with the #getmovingumcsc hashtag.

Get Periodic Updates from the Advocate We never sell or share your information. You can unsubscribe from receiving our emails at any time.