So Jesus called [the twelve apostles] and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant.” —Mark 10:42-43
Many of us heard this Gospel read in our worship on Sunday. Jesus tells his disciples (and us) that a community of his followers needs to reflect the reality of the kin-dom of God: that the way to abundant life is not power over one another but power together; a community lifted through its members serving and receiving from each other.
We think of tyrants as ruthless people who wish evil on others. But the power imbalance that Jesus decries also plays out among many of us who seek to do good. The traditional models of charity that we participate in do little to disrupt the power dynamics of society; there is still a powerful group lording over another, and a subservient group dependent on another.
Following the way of Jesus challenges us to disrupt this status quo. At Prince of Peace, our purpose statement is “Lifting every voice with the joy of Jesus!” We desire community where every person’s voice is heard, their gifts cherished, their dignity honored. Where every person has something to offer and every person’s needs are met. Where we find power together rather than over another. This is the kin-dom dream that we pray to be born into the world.
One answer to that prayer came last spring, when community partners asked us to host Greensboro’s first Freedom Fridge, a free public refrigerator and pantry stocked and maintained by the community.
The proposal came to us from Greensboro (GSO) Mutual Aid, a grassroots organization that formed in 2020. “Mutual aid” refers to a model of communities sharing resources to meet the needs of everyone in the community, rather than leaving individuals to fend for themselves. Underserved communities have always done this out of necessity. It’s a system of solidarity: neighbors uniting in a common struggle.
When people in our congregation heard this vision, it sounded familiar. “I was most excited about the concept of mutual aid, which was new to me,” says congregation member Alice Drake. “Prince of Peace already has that reputation, so this seemed like a perfect fit for us.”
GSO Mutual Aid organized during the pandemic and months of protests against racial injustice to crowdsource community needs, including financial assistance and other material goods, like food. Earlier this year, the group connected with two NC A&T State University students, Bray-Lynn Singleton and Ashley Mathew, who wanted to take resource sharing to the next level by creating a network of free community refrigerators across Greensboro. They were inspired by similar projects in other cities across the United States. Public fridges function like community food pantries, but with the perishable items and 24/7 unmonitored access.
The Freedom Fridge at Prince of Peace is the pilot in Greensboro. Our neighborhood of Warnersville sits in a food desert, one of 17 identified areas in our city with a combination of high levels of poverty and low access to food. The fridge organizers approached us because we host the Urban Teaching Farm, a working urban farm that provides fresh food and service-learning opportunities. They saw us as partners in the fight against food insecurity in our community.
When we said yes, a new kin-dom dream was born into the world. Two young women from A&T led the way. Community members showed up on our campus and built the wooden structure that houses the fridge and pantry. A neighbor who is an art teacher—a young woman who grew up right across the street from our building—came and painted a beautiful mural on the structure. Local farmers and gardeners came and stocked the fridge with their fresh produce. A health organization added free safer sex kits. Neighbors and congregation members brought what they had to contribute to the shelves. And every day since, people have come to give and to receive.
Voices lifted. Gifts shared. Neighbors taking care of each other. And all it took from us was an extension cord.
“This challenges the charity model in general, which I think is very important because anyone can be someone who gives or who receives,” says Alyzza May, an organizer with GSO Mutual Aid. “We’re all teachers and we’re all learners. You’re not going to get a tax write-off for this. There’s no ‘good job’ for doing this. It’s the idea that we all have things that we can offer.”
Not power over another, but power together. So it is in God’s kin-dom. May it be so among us.
The Freedom Fridge sits outdoors at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 1100 Curtis St, Greensboro, NC. Follow the story on Instagram @gso_mutual_aid and @gsocommunityfridge. For more information, email Pastor Matt or Greensboro Mutual Aid.
Prince of Peace, Greensboro, is one of over 190 congregations in the North Carolina Synod. Your Mission Support giving directly contributes to the ministries happening there—in the congregation and the community