There are roughly 3,000 churches in West Virginia. "Churches can be an important part of the answer to our health problems," he said. "It's got me thinking how we could spread this statewide."
Here's how they do it
When it's too cold to walk outside, the Little Dove walkers do laps around the basement fellowship room instead. "Thirty-two times around is a mile," Thompson said.
"We aren't doing this so we can be good-looking," Pastor Maynard said. "We're doing it so we can feel better and see our grandkids grow up. Enjoy the life God gave us."
Surrounded by junk-food ads, with no gym, they're learning how to protect themselves anyhow.
A typical session: At about 6 p.m., they pull into the parking lot and drift inside in sweatshirts and running shoes, hugging and weighing in, joking and checking blood pressures. "If you take those shoes off, you'll weigh less" somebody says. "I want you to look at how loose my pants are!" someone else says.
"Fellowship is the glue that holds it together," Pastor Maynard said. "We call it Fitness and Fellowship."
Mostly in their 50s and 60s, they pray and stretch, do knee bends, waist twists and leg lifts, and then start walking.
Ninety-year-old Arva Reynolds troops along, her Lifeline Rescue button hanging around her neck. People like to tease her about the time she pushed the button to find out if it would work, and a bunch of firemen arrived at her house. "I just wanted to see if I could get me a man," she said, shrugging. Everyone laughed.
They walk after Wednesday night church, too. That's three nights a week. Most exercise on their own, too.
Since May, they've shed several hundred pounds, collectively, and drastically lowered their blood pressure and sugar, fellowshipping and laughing all the way. "Others can see how well it's working," Pastor Maynard said. New people keep joining, he said, including some who don't attend Little Dove.
In the fall, a church member led them in the Arthritis Foundation's five-week "Walk with Ease" stretching program. "We still use lot of those exercises," Maynard said. They use others they got from Dr. Oz on TV.
"It goes by quick when you have people to talk with!" Beulah Davis said.
"We fellowship before and after we walk," Maynard said. "Lots of nights, we'll be here another hour, telling stories, laughing, praying, trading recipes and Bible health trivia, solving problems.
"We trade healthy recipes we find on the Internet, or sometimes tell how we changed a recipe to make it healthier," he added.
"We try to apply what we've learned at church dinners. We bring healthier dishes, grilled chicken instead of fried, vegetable dishes, what have you. We're still Baptists, and Baptists like to eat, but we've got choices at the dinners now."
"This has been good for the church. It's brought us all a lot closer," Thompson said. "We're taking care of each other. That makes you close."
"The fellowship keeps them coming back, the way they support and care for each other," Marcum said. If they had to exercise on their own, many probably wouldn't, she said.
"If people from another church want to do this, they should feel free to contact me," Pastor Maynard said.
The Little Dove program is taking a break for Christmas, he said, but come 2013, "We'll be walking again. This isn't a fad. It's lifestyle change."
Reach Kate Long at katel...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1798.