The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." - Pablo Picasso
The founding of RCS with Pastor Robert Johnson describing Sister Angela Mary Parker. Video courtesy of St. Paul Church and Bob Mackowski with Open Aperture Photography (www.openapphoto.com).
In New Bern, North Carolina, the concept of a soup kitchen wasn't exactly new.
In fact, it was the success of similar initiatives in other eastern North Carolina cities and across the country that led to the idea of creating one in New Bern. The journey began in 1982 when Sister Angela Mary Parker started with nothing more than a pot of soup in the back of her station wagon.
Today, that humble start has evolved into Religious Community Service’s (RCS) Community Kitchen. A soup kitchen in its truest sense is a program that provides a free meal to anyone in need, with volunteers and food sourced from the community. There are no expectations or requirements of the recipients, simply a hot meal and a warm smile to brighten their day.
In the early summer of 1983, Christ Episcopal Church hosted a meeting of the minds. Among those present were Dr. William Hunt and Sister Angela Mary Parker, who called together a group of 30 interested parishioners. Harold Bassett spoke about his involvement in the Kingston soup kitchen and the outreach ministry provided by Saint Mary's Episcopal Church. The gathering made it clear that there was enough interest to pursue the feasibility of such a program in New Bern.
Dr. Hunt, a vestry member at Christ Episcopal Church, took the lead and formed a steering committee. The committee included John Poland as Chairman, Helen Rawls, Kenneth Chance, Terry Brubaker, and Larry Chewning. Their goal was to determine the need for a soup kitchen in New Bern and communicate that need through the proper channels to make it a reality.
In the summer of 1983, a meeting was held at Christ Episcopal Church to discuss the possibility of a soup kitchen program in New Bern.
The interest in pursuing such a program led to forming a steering committee consisting of dedicated individuals like John Poland, Helen Rawls, Kenneth Chance, Terry Brubaker, and Larry Chewning. Their first order of business was to visit existing soup kitchens in eastern North Carolina, with Ellen Rawls at the helm, to gather data on the number of people being served and whether the need was being met.
The compiled data was then presented to Religious Community Services (RCS), with the understanding that this program would involve all churches in New Bern, not just the Episcopal Church.
Representatives from member churches of RCS attended informational meetings to learn about the soup kitchen concept and went back to their respective churches to communicate what they had learned. Momentum and interest in the program continued to grow, and when the vote came up at a regular meeting of RCS, the project received unanimous approval.
RCS formed a committee with Burton Whiteside as its chairman after the approval. Sister Angela Mary Parker, who had been serving as a fifth-grade teacher at Saint Paul's Catholic School, became available to work as a full-time soup kitchen director.
Her appointment received unanimous approval from the RCS board.
RCS officially opened at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church on Bern Street on November 5, 1984. Almost a year later, on August 19, 1985, RCS opened its new and first standalone building.
History At A Glance
A First Years Report