By By Carrie Ann Knauer and Neighborhoods correspondent
Sep 19, 2014 | 3:00 AM
While churches often encourage fellowshipping over food — breaking bread together at potluck dinners and other bountiful meals — members of Strawbridge United Methodist Church in New Windsor spent the summer bonding over a new activity: losing weight.
From July 6 to Sept. 7, about 20 members of the church competed against — and encouraged — each other in a Biggest Loser contest, named after the popular TV show.
Church member and registered nurse Vera Paylor, of Westminster, said she got the idea after she struggled to lose some weight and thought it could be helpful to herself and others if there was a group that could go through the process together.
"I'm an RN. I just take the knowledge that I know and share it," Paylor said. After church each week, she would share information on the right way to lose weight, she said, and the participants could try the tips on their own.
Paylor said there are lots of fad diets out there, but her biggest message was to eat a balanced diet and increase exercise. And to that end, she held weekly exercise nights for those who could make it, often taking a walk from the church around the community or using the walking trail at Union Bridge Wetlands Park.
The contest started July 6, with each participant having an initial weigh-in and being assigned a random number for identification purposes. That way Paylor could post their progress sheets on the board each week without anyone being embarrassed about others knowing their weight.
Each participant paid $5 to join, she said, and were subject to a penalty fee of $1 for every pound they gained each week. Even Paylor herself was subject to some of those penalty fees, she said, but it was a good motivator to help get back on track for the next week.
Ambassador Blango Ross Jr., pastor at Strawbridge UMC, said the contest was good for church fellowship, but also had a faith basis to it.
Scriptures refer to the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, Ross said, and taking care of the body should be equivalent to other ceremonial rituals within the church.
Paylor said she made an effort to keep the event faith-based as well, inspired by 1 Corinthians 10:31, which states "Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God," she said.
Church member Kim Jones, of Westminster, said that rather than focusing on the competition aspect, she found the contest to be more about support in her quest to be more healthy.
"It's the most supportive way to do it," Jones said. "Friends and family, if they're not dieting with you, it's harder."
Paylor said she offered prizes each week, ranging from health-minded cookbooks to water bottles to jump ropes.
Church member Ula Scott, of Frederick, said she thought the program helped her learn more about fitness and see results. Paylor had given her a goal of walking 1,500 steps per day, Scott said, which she found she can do in 14 minutes by walking around her neighborhood.
The total amount of weight lost by the church members was 55 pounds, Paylor said, and while the contest officially ended, that doesn't mean the weight loss journey is over for many of the participants.
"They want to keep going with it," she said with a laugh. "I told them 'I want you guys to keep going, by all means, keep on losing.'"
Polish Pottery Bingo
The Union Bridge Lions Club is sponsoring a Polish Pottery Bingo Oct. 3 at the New Windsor fire company hall at 101 High St., New Windsor.
Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and games will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15, and it is recommended that tickets be reserved in advance because a limited number are being sold. Tickets will be available at the door if there are any remaining. The ticket includes 20 games.