Before the pandemic began, the people of St. Andrew’s in St. Johnsbury provided a free monthly dinner for the community. This fall, as they considered how to resume their feeding ministry, congregational leaders took the opportunity to rethink how best to match their own gifts and resources to the needs of their neighbors.
“The congregation had changed during the pandemic,” the Rev. Canon Susan Ohlidal, St. Andrew’s priest-in-charge and diocesan canon for mission vitality, says. “There were fewer folks, less capacity to offer a meal. I had seen community fridges online and thought this could be a solid match of ministry capacity with our neighbors’ needs.”
St. Andrew’s Deacon Jonathan Ross and youth helper Chris Hockridge constructed the shed, which sits next to the church, using a donated refrigerator and lumber. Staff members from Catamount Arts painted the fridge with eye-catching colors. An “Open” flag was also added to the shed to make sure it was visible to pedestrians and drivers passing by.
St. Johnsbury’s Kitchen Counter Cafe contributes grab-n-go meals twice a week through the Vermont Everyone Eats! program, and congregation members contribute fresh produce, including eggs from their own hens, and dairy products from a creamery where one member works. “It is a group effort, and we are starting to have other neighbors share food as well as take what they need,” Ross says.
“The fridge is a central hub for sharing to take place,” Ohlidal says. “The church could no longer offer a set meal, but we could facilitate sharing food in a wider circle of neighbors. It is mutual aid. It is ministry. The church is focusing on what we can do, in new ways, and that means a lot to our neighbors.”
Image: The Rev. Jonathan Ross and vestry member Jeff Kay load the community fridge at St. Andrew’s.