An interdenominational collaboration aimed at helping the needy in St George’s is set to resume next month.
Richard Allen AME Church and St Peter’s Anglican Church have run a soup kitchen every Wednesday in the Old Town since December.
The collaboration is a direct response to the pandemic and the financial strain it has placed on many people.
Reverend Dr Lorne Bean, pastor of the Richard Allen AME Church, explained that the effort was the brainchild of Phyllis Simons, the president of the church’s Women’s Missionary Society.
“She had talked with our parliamentary constituency representative, Renee Ming who was heading a feeding programme on weekends.
“Sister Simons asked her about how a programme could be run, then put the idea to me as something that our Mother Vernon Women’s Missionary Society could do. I got on board with the idea, and together with the missionaries we worked to make it a reality as of the first week in December 2020.”
Although efforts are on pause this month, the purpose of the ministry remains two-fold, Mr Bean explained: to provide a service and to also create a space to “engage” the community and “bring people closer to God and each other”.
“The soup kitchen’s purpose is to serve the community, to help fill the gap that people experienced in getting meals, not just on weekends, but also during the week. The soup kitchen also allows RAAME members to engage in what I’ve come to believe is our church’s special purpose, which is to bring people closer to God and to each other,” he added.
The only obstacle was Richard Allen’s Queen Street location. The church is not on a bus route and it was thought that getting there on foot might be challenging for some families.
“We considered running the soup programme from our own church’s premises but then we thought about how accessible we would be to the people we wanted to help,” Mr Bean said. “Our church does not have the most ideal spot so we considered what would be a better location.
“St Peter’s sits right on the roadside of the Duke of York Street, the main street running through the Town of St George. St Peter’s is also centrally located in the town, which is Bermuda’s only Unesco World Heritage site. Their church hall would be the ideal place to operate the soup kitchen. So we approached our friend Gillian Outerbridge at St Peter’s with the idea. She consulted with members of the St Peter’s family, and we got the green light to make use of their Claire Spencer Hall for the soup kitchen.”
Ms Outerbridge, who runs the office at St Peter’s, was excited about the opportunity to collaborate.
“St Peter’s Church has a longstanding policy of permitting the no-charge use of the Edith Clair Spencer Hall by other local church groups,” she explained.
“In the past the hall has been used on a Friday or Saturday for a bake sale or fundraising lunch. We were more than happy to welcome a team of cooks from Richard Allen AME Church to use the hall for the weekly distribution of a soup meal to the disadvantaged.”
St Peter’s priest Reverend Tom Slawson said: “We are delighted to work with our neighbourhood churches in the service of our local community in any way that we can. This is just one example of [our] continuing Christian outreach.”
The parish of St George’s has a ministerial alliance which links Christian congregations together to work on projects and host public events. This interdenominational collaboration is important for the faith community as it reflects a common foundation of service to both God and humanity, Mr Bean said.“Relationship building between faith communities or ‘sister churches’ is very important, in fact, it is crucial. Consider what this collaboration has done for our locale.
“RAAME’s soup kitchen at St Peter’s is the latest example of how our faith communities’ collaboration works. The effort also enables us to put out the message of the reconciling gospel of Jesus Christ in more than just words, but also in deeds.”
He continued: “Some members of the business community in St George have assisted in [many] outreach efforts, including ours. So, not only do we have the church involved in helping the community but the political and the commercial communities also partner to help their neighbours.”