By Edwin Modlin, Washington Daily News
The Rev. Charles Smith, a longtime member of the North Carolina Council of Churches, received its 2011 Distinguished Service Award earlier this month at [St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh].
- George Reed, the council’s executive director, said the honor recognizes Smith’s commitment to the council’s twin goals of social justice and ecumenism. The council represents 18 Christian denominations.
Reed said Smith, who grew up in Washington, served on the council’s executive board, serving as chairman of its personnel committee from 1994 to 2010.
“In chairing the personnel committee, Charles played an instrumental role in the work of the council as most of those currently on our staff were hired under his leadership. The continuing success of their work is a reflection on him,” Reed said. “At the same time, he served as a faithful advocate on the council’s behalf to the Methodist Conference and has been a continuing connection in our relationship with Duke University. His service has been invaluable.”
Reed said Smith retired in 2008 as executive director of Connectional Ministries for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. He was a trustee and member of the General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.
Smith currently serves as pastor-in-residence at Duke University Divinity School and is a trustee emeritus at Duke University, where he served on the trustees board from 1998 to 2010.
Reed said presentations of the award began in 1953.
“The award recognizes somebody who has worked for the churches for a lengthy period of time, having worked on issues important to us and helped us internally to keep the organization going,” Reed said.
Reed said the council seeks nominations yearly, noting that a small committee choose award recipients.
“We had several really strong contenders this year,” he said. “However, the committee was unanimous in selecting Charles, and only Charles, to receive it this year.”
Presenting the award to Smith was his colleague and friend, the Rev. Joe Mann, also with Duke University Divinity School.
Mann spoke of Smith’s accomplishments and endeavors over the years.
“And to think, we could’ve lost him to a career as an opera singer,” Mann said in his presentation speech. “In 1972, Charles was a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera’s young-singers competition in Atlanta.”
Smith said he was fortunate to take voice classes while a student at Duke University and be in a position to earn a scholarship to The Julliard School in New York City. Smith chose another career path.
“Regarding the award, it’s just nice to be in good company,” Smith said. “There are many friends and colleagues who were my predecessors and I’m deeply honored to receive the award.”
“It is something that I value and am really honored to receive the award,” Smith said. “It’s just really nice to receive such recognition from a group that I have a high regard for is something special to me.”
Smith has been a member of the North Carolina Council of Churches since he began his career in ministry in 1966.
“It’s been one of the organizations that I have cared about, deeply, and am happy to participate in,” he said. “We just celebrated its 75th anniversary. It was started by a divinity-school professor to promote Christian unity and to try to end segregation.”
Smith those were pretty lofty goals, especially in the mid 1930s. However, the council worked at achieving those goals, he said.