When Ginny Price began her call as pastor of New Hope Lutheran Church, Columbia, Md., one of her first agenda items was to join a gym. “I take to heart the ‘body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you …’ and have faithfully exercised for many years,” she said, quoting 1 Corinthians 6:19. “Little did I realize the much larger impact this would have on me, the chaurch and the community.”
Between weight sets, Price read books like Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and Michelle Alexander’s A New Jim Crow. The books garnered interest from fellow gym-goers, leading to talks on racial justice and faith.
Price developed a close friendship with 28-year-old Steven Lewis, who spoke candidly with her about his concerns as a young African American man living in the era of Freddie Gray. “It was a really difficult time,” she remembered.
One day, Lewis told Price he wanted to do something to “proactively strengthen the relationship between the black community and the police.” Price agreed. Together, they formed Conversation in Come-UNITY. The bimonthly meetings connect members of their gym, New Hope and the community at large for discussions on racism, white privilege and current events. The talks have been a source of racial healing and reconciliation for all involved, Price said.
This led the duo to organize Come-UNITY Kickball, an annual game bringing together police with their community, particularly people of color, and Potluck with the Police, an opportunity to share a meal and stories of race relations.
Now, after two years of community organizing, Price said “the gym has changed. … We’re more connected because of this.” And at New Hope, members embrace racial justice as central to their ministry.
From the pulpit, she often asks the congregation, “Where is your gym?” meaning, “Where is the place you have
an opportunity to minister to people in ways you would never imagine?”
Today, Price continues to be a fixture at the gym. In fact, she’s so popular there, she’s often interrupted while writing sermons on the step machine. Price, for one, is grateful for the opportunity for outreach.
“I have become, in effect, a gym pastor,” she said. “Meeting people where they are at the gym, discovering and sharing God’s love, exercising physical and spiritual muscles, has produced much fruit in unexpected ways and places.”
This article is a sidebar to our January 2019 cover story, “Fit and faithful.”