September 25, 2009

The Koinonia Story in a Nutshell

Thanks to Church of the Servant King in Eugene, Oregon Koinonia Farm Director Bren Dubay and Ekklesia Project Director Brent Laytham met during Pentecost 2008. Bren was visiting the folks in Eugene to learn how another community shares life together. Brent was there as a guest speaker celebrating the birth of the church with Church of the Servant King. Inspired by Brent’s teaching, Bren promised she’d attend the 2008 Gathering. This led to her coming back in 2009 and co-presenting a workshop, “Doing Business for the Kingdom or the Empire,” with Chi-Ming Chien of Dayspring Technologies.

Many of those involved in the Ekklesia Project know of Koinonia Farm and Clarence Jordan. Clarence, his wife Florence and their friends Mabel and Martin England founded Koinonia (Greek for loving community) in 1942. Inspired by the Book of Acts, they wanted to live in an intentional Christian community and live out their deeply held beliefs drawn from Jesus’ teachings: peacemaking, radical sharing, and brother/ sisterhood among all people.

In the 1950s and 60s, Koinonia was fiercely challenged for these beliefs—reviled by many for its racial integration, pacifist actions, and supposed Communism. Koinonians and their children endured threats, beatings, bullets, a boycott, exile from some of the local churches and other sabotage. The community survived through prayer, a sense of humor, nonviolent resistance, and by starting a mail-order pecan business. The boycott ended in the 60s, but the pecan business remains the community’s main source of income to this day.

In the 1990s Koinonia moved away from its original vision and saw the loss of the intentional community. This loss led to times equally as challenging as those of the 1950s and 60s — some would say more challenging. But in 2005, Koinonia returned to its origins and the intentional community is thriving once more.

Koinonia is a haven of down-to-earth theology. Founding member Clarence Jordan was a farmer, Greek scholar, writer and preacher. From his writing shack in the pecan orchards, he penned translations of the New Testament from the Greek into the rural South Georgia vernacular, calling them the Cotton Patch Version. His books and lively sermons are still beloved and well-known today—and his version of Matthew has been reborn onstage as the Cotton Patch Gospel Musical.

Living out their faith, Koinonians have done many kinds of work and service over the years, responding to the needs of the times. They’ve farmed for their livelihood, exchanged friendship with neighbors (in the early days, mostly sharecroppers and tenant farmers), and welcomed guests from all over the world. Habitat for Humanity was born there, beginning in 1968 as Koinonia Partnership Housing, a project to help neighbors buy decent, simple homes, built with volunteer labor, with no interest charges. Current works include affordable home repair, events for youth and elders, organic gardening and ecology, educational offerings and as always, welcoming people to visit, intern, learn, and walk with them on the journey. Call or write if you’d like to schedule a visit, apply for an internship or find out more —, 1324 GA Hwy 49 S, Americus, GA 31719, 229 938-0391.

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