Presbyterians Today

OCT 2018

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SERVANTS OCTOBER Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay I t's your birthday. The phone rings. While it could be a family member or a friend wishing you well on your special day, the last thing you might expect to hear is a 99-year-old man on the other end of the call singing "Happy Birthday" to you. But that's exactly what happens to those who attend Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Carl Webb has found his purpose, his "call" so to speak, in serving God. And that "call" is to be the birthday crooner of the church. In all of the 18 years of this unique ministry, Webb has had only †ve days off. And that's only because on those days he didn't have anyone to sing "Happy Birthday" to, he says. Webb has also kept track of the number of calls he has made over the years. "I've done between 35,000 and 36,000 'Happy Birthday' calls to people at my church — even strang- ers," Webb said. More than 2,000 people attend Westminster Presbyterian. Webb estimates that he averages six calls a day. He's found himself on the cover of the Sunday edition of the Greensboro News & Record, and NBC Nightly News — with viewership in the millions — featured him recently on one of its segments. "I've hit the big time," Webb said, laughing. Webb moved to Greensboro after his wife of 54 years, Connie, passed away in 1996. They were from Eden, North Carolina, where he once worked for a radio station. "I was the voice of 'the wonderful land of Eden, WLOE,' " Webb said, repeating the station's tagline from back in the day. Webb was also a renowned soloist, using his God-given gift of song for all of Eden. "He was the famous wedding and funeral person," said his daughter Betsy Hyslop, director of music minis- tries at Westminster Presbyterian. Webb now lives with Hyslop in her family's basement. When he started going to church with her, he noticed church secretaries taking a sheet of paper from a packet on one of the church's walls. "What is that, Betsy?" he inquired. His daughter replied that it was a list of birthdays for the month — for all of the people who went to church. "I thought, 'Doggone it, you love to sing,' " Webb said. "You can sing 'Happy Birthday' to people." He asked for a copy of the birthday list, and the "Birthday Man" was born. At †rst, though, Hyslop was worried — and not because her father couldn't sing. He'd been doing that in public since he was a child, and his voice was still †ne. She was worried because she just wasn't sure how people would respond to getting a call from someone they might not know. Sure enough, one day, a woman from the church called Webb. "Somebody from this number called my boy and sang 'Happy Birthday.' Who was it?" she asked. "She was a little taken aback," said Hyslop. Shortly thereafter, a pulpit Senior sings birthday greetings to all Man lives into the joy of God's 'call' BY PAUL SEEBECK Carl Webb proves you are never too old to serve God. The 99-year-old has a "Happy Birthday" ministry, in which he dials church members and nonmembers alike and sings to them on their special day. KHADEJEH NIKOUYEH/NEWS & RECORD

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