Birmingham First United Methodist Church organized a telephone ministry as a way of connecting members and friends of the congregation during COVID-19.
Although she was not feeling well and feeling a little anxious, she picked up the phone and made the first call.
Karen Eschebach, Birmingham First member, is a member of the Unfinished Christian Women’s journey group. She is also active on the church’s Connecting Hospitality Ministry Team. Mary Feldmaier, another member of the group and Director of Membership and Connecting Ministries for Birmingham First, reached out to Karen when the COVID-19 pandemic began to ask Karen if she would be a part of a team of volunteers who would check-in with other members during the stay-at-home order.
“I knew how comforting it was to be connected with others during this time since friends had checked in with me and my small group continued to connect via Zoom instead of meeting in person,” Karen explained. “I thought about those who were alone and wondered how they were staying connected. So, I said ‘Yes’ to Mary’s request.”
Along with Caring Ministries, led by Lisa Marsh, Karen was one of over 25 people who contacted 2,000 church members of all ages, including senior members as well as parents of young families.
“I didn’t know anyone on the list and felt a little anxious about calling them and not knowing exactly what to talk about,” Karen admitted. But as she started to call the people on the list, she quickly discovered that she did have things in common with them.
On one call, Karen quickly realized the rummage sale was a connector for them. Both volunteered at the sale but had never met. “After a fun conversation where neither of us wanted to hang-up, we decided to make a plan to meet in person before the next rummage sale. I really look forward to meeting her,” Karen stated.
Common connections with others did not stop there. Karen also found people who had similar interests to hers, such as quilting and making masks. “I normally attend worship in the Christian Life Center, and I had calls with people who attended worship in the Sanctuary. We would talk about our experiences at worship. We both enjoyed hearing about the other services.”
Although not all people were available and she left lots of cheerful messages, for those with whom she did connect, she was able to provide encouragement, pray with them, and assist those having specific needs. One person needed help with technology, and Karen forwarded that information on to the correct Birmingham First staff.
“People were very thankful when they received the calls, and I now have reasons to search them out in church and continue to build our relationship,” Karen said.
When asked how this helped her on her discipleship journey, she responded, “After I would hang up, I would then reach out to others in the church that were not on my list and also my neighbors. I have participated in numerous other activities at church, but making these calls was going outside of my comfort zone. This activity didn’t take much time, but the results were very worthwhile.”