Dr. Terence L. Mayes Sr. was looking for a creative way to reach homebound members of his church and others who aren't able to make it to a traditional weekly Bible study.
What happened has exceeded the Warren Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church pastor's wildest dreams.
"I was trying to get the congregation more involved without having to come to the local church," Mayes said.
What he had in mind, in essence, was a Bible study by conference call. As soon as he found a company that offered free conferencing, he was in business.
Less than six months after Mayes started the Tuesday morning devotional, it averages between 20 and 50 people a week and is gaining new people each session.
"It's really become great for us," he said. "We reach people, and it's a blessing for the church and supportive of [its] ministry."
Each 6:30 a.m. session includes times devoted to prayer requests, an interdenominational Sunday school lesson and praise reports. The session is done at 7.
The Sunday school lesson presenters vary each week and include three Warren Chapel members (the Rev. Frank Buckley, Walter Parks and Lewis Henderson) and two other pastors (Dr. Sheila E. Harris of Fayetteville AME, a former Chattanoogan, and the Rev. Willie Ison of Mission Ridge Baptist).
If one of the presenters can't make it, Mayes fills in.
Along the way, he said, local, national and international issues come up and are discussed.
One recent week, Mayes said, the issue of when life begins came up and its relation to Mississippi's personhood amendment that was voted down earlier this month at the ballot box.
"It gives us opportunities to talk about these issues," he said. "We have opportunities to hear different thoughts from
Mayes said word of mouth has grown the study, and it has had callers from Columbia, Tenn., Atlanta, New York and California. The majority of callers now are not members of Warren Chapel, he said.
Within a minute of the end of each week's session, the church receives via email a report indicating how many people were online, how long they were online and where they were calling from.
The hour may seem early, Mayes said, but it allows all participants the comfort of calling from home, perhaps even from their bed.
"We wanted to catch people before it's time to go to work," he said. "We wanted to get young people before they go to school."
The Bible study is open to the public and may be accessed at no cost on Tuesday mornings at 6:25 by calling 605-562-3000. The necessary access code is 595408#.
"It's been a very rewarding ministry for us," Mayes said. It's succeeded "way beyond what I had anticipated."
Contact Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497.