March is Women’s History Month. Each week, we’ll profile an incredible woman whose work over the years has made Myrtle Avenue a great place.
Born to Serve: Bishop A. Rice
For more than 20 years, a door has been open in Clinton Hill to those in need of help and hope. The Bishop Memorial Mission at Myrtle Avenue and Emerson Place is truly that – a mission. A mission led by a woman who has been dedicated to service and faith. This week, we sat down with Bishop Rice, founder and minister at the Bishop Memorial Mission and church, to learn more about her and the mission’s work in serving the neighborhood for more than two decades.
Personally Called to Serve
Bishop A. Rice says she was always called to serve, a feeling that was present from her childhood in South Carolina, to when she moved to Fort Greene in the 1970s, and still today. While originally she thought that meant going into education and becoming a teacher, she found the calling to serve in a spiritual sense strong and became a minister.
The Mission’s Work
Bishop Rice runs the mission with three H’s in mind: Give hope to the hopeless, feed the hungry, and help the helpless. The mission began with preparing meals for the hungry, and that work continues with a weekly pantry, open to anyone in hunger with no questions asked. In addition to food, the Mission also provides free clothing and runs programming for youth. From their preschool programs to after-school activities for kids, Bishop Rice believes it is vital to have activities for local youth because “there’s a lot of good children but we make them by not providing them services.”
“When people are in need, take them at their own worth; not what they think they’re worth.”
– Bishop A. Rice
All of these programs lead a full schedule each week for Bishop Rice and volunteers at the Mission. The food pantry is available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning; adult Bible study is Wednesday evenings, youth night on Fridays, and church services on Sunday.
A Changing Neighborhood
Since moving to Brooklyn in the early 1970s, Bishop Rice has seen tremendous change in Fort the Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods. There are some of the smaller changes like seeing businesses close, including the Renken Diner at the corner of Myrtle and Classon (where Tipsy wine and spirits is now), where she worked as a waitress in the 1970s and 80s. She of course also remembers seismic events, like 9/11 when she opened the mission’s doors to house and feed volunteer firefighters who had arrived from Texas to help with the aftermath.
And there are larger issues, including displacement of residents due to rising housing costs. While the Bishop has seen neighbors and church members move out, she, of course, has seen many new faces arrive in the neighborhood as well. To the new neighbors, she invites them to become involved by volunteering at the church or donating clothes. As the Bishop said in our interview, “everybody can help somebody.”
To learn more, please visit the mission at 127 Emerson Place (between Myrtle & Willoughby), call (917) 648-3836, or follow them on Facebook.