When the Rev. Dr. Byron Peart, D.Min. ’17, began leading churches many years ago, one of the first things he noticed was the focus on sweets. Hospitality almost always brought out the cookies, doughnuts and cakes. Fresh fruits and vegetables made rare appearances.
Concerned about his congregants’ health, he focused his Doctor of Ministry project on looking at how people eat in church and improving on it, as well as improving the overall health of his congregation.
Emanuel Temple of Prayer in West Hartford, which the Rev. Dr. Peart has led for a dozen years, is a Pentecostal church with congregants of mostly Caribbean descent. A native of Jamaica himself, the Rev. Dr. Peart knew his efforts might meet with a bit of resistance since many of his congregants had diets “laden with salt and sugar.”
His project was to “create a health-minded culture by using holistic health initiatives.” Those included health fairs and sessions on the importance of diet, exercise and sleep. Essentially, he wanted his church to adopt his own passion for health and good food.
The project started by identifying the health issues at hand, then forming health and wellness teams that enlightened families about making good choices.
“Most people are interested in making their lives better,” he said. “Everyone is interested in food.”
Now, he said, “this is part of who we are as a culture.”
The initiative will not end with his graduation, he added. He hopes to see the publication of his project as “10 Steps to Creating a Healthier Congregation.”
The Rev. Dr. Peart earned his MA in Religious Studies with a focus on Theology and Ethics in 2014, and his D.Min in 2017.
“A Hartford Seminary education is unique and profoundly enriching due to the emphasis on religious diversity,” he said. “At Hartford Seminary you will find gifted and caring faculty and staff who comprise a strong family oriented community. Also, you will meet and develop significant friendships with students from various faith traditions, ethnic, and national origin.”