In 1942, a Baptist preacher name Clarence Jordan, set out to establish the Kingdom of God in Sumter County, Georgia. Along with his wife, Florence, his children, and a few friends, Clarence bought some property, called it Koinonia Farm, and sought to create an intentional Christian community. (The Greek word for community is koinonia). The people of Koinonia would live together, work together, and try as best they could to live in the way Jesus taught. And, oh yeah. The community was interracial. During Jim Crow’s reign in the deep South.
As I have read some of Jordan’s work on the Sermon on the Mount this summer, I’ve begun to understand just how radical Jesus’ teachings were, just how seriously the faith life is meant to be taken, and just how deeply the world—and believers—might be transformed by living the God-life. Reading Jordan’s commentaries on the Gospels alongside histories of Koinonia Farm, it’s becoming clear just how seriously Jordan took Jesus’ teachings. Bible study wasn’t something he did one day a week then forgot about the rest of the time. He LIVED it…until the day he died working on a sermon in his writing hut at Koinonia in 1968.
Since the first time I heard “Cotton Patch Gospel” and learned that Clarence Jordan was a fellow Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate, I have loved all things Clarence and all things Koinonia. A Southern Baptist preacher living in Christian community with African Americans in southwest Georgia at the height of Jim Crow? Clarence Jordan is a Christian saint if ever there was one.
A couple of summers ago, several of us took a trip down to Sumter County to see Koinonia. While there, we watched the documentary, Briars in the Cotton Patch, that details the civil rights history of Jordan and Koinonia. Then we toured the facility and learned about the community’s new emphases on renewable farming and its continued commitment to living in Christian community.
I recently learned about a big celebration they’ll be having at Koinonia Farm September 28-29, 2012. 2012 will mark the 70th anniversary of Koinonia Farm and the 100th anniversaries of Clarence and Florence’s births. To celebrate, they’re throwing a BIG party!
…Which sparked an idea. Why don’t we attend the celebration? Several UCC folks will be there, including Joyce Hollyday, one of our excellent historians. Tom Key also will be there doing “Cotton Patch Gospel.” Jimmy and Rosalind Carter are honorary chairs for the event. Y’all, it’s going to be great!
When I thought about attending the celebration in September 2012, that thought sparked another one—why not focus on Jordan, Koinonia Farm, and koinonia (Christian community) all year long?
…Which led me to a church theme for this year (September 2011 – September 2012): A Year of Koinonia.
The Year of Koinonia will (or could) involve:
–reading through Clarence Jordan’s writings
–reading daily devotions from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
–talking together about how we might practice Christian community
–reading a history of Koinonia Farm
–taking a trip (or trips) to Koinonia Farm
–watching “Briars in the Cotton Patch”
–watching/performing “Cotton Patch Gospel”
–planting a community garden
–engaging in some sort of social action in the spirit of Clarence Jordan
–participating in Habitat for Humanity (Millard Fuller’s life was transformed by a visit to Koinonia)
–hosting guest speakers (Kirk Lyman-Barner; Joyce Hollyday)
–ATTENDING THE KOINONIA CELEBRATION Sept. 28-29, 2012! (Check out all the info at http://www.koinoniapartners.org (Look for the June 2011 newsletter.)
Here’s the latest blurb from Koinonia Farm:
2012 Celebration Plans Shaping Up
We are pleased to share with you that President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter are serving as Honorary Chairs for the 2012 Clarence Jordan Symposium!
Plans for this and other special activities in 2012 continue to take shape. We’ll kick off with the Clarence Jordan Symposium on September 28-29, 2012. This weekend will be packed with thought provoking discussion, presentations and entertainment. We open the Symposium Friday evening with Tom Key and his production of the “Cotton Patch Gospel.” Saturday we hear from our list of speakers how they have been formed and shaped by Clarence and his legacy, with a variety of topics for the attendees to choose from.
For four weeks following the Symposium, we’ll have a variety of projects at Koinonia Farm and in the surrounding community. Please come, share your talents as part of a work-study team. If you, your church, or other group would like to take a leadership role in one of these week long projects, please contact us.
On October 26 and 27, 2012, we will host the Koinonia Family Reunion. Come reconnect with old friends and get re-aquainted with what Koinonia is doing today. It should be a fun time with folks from all eras at Koinonia coming together for fun, fellowship and renewal. We expect to have some music and a lot of volleyball games, much like we’ve enjoyed through the years with so many people. Perhaps you’ve been a long-time friend but have never been to the farm. Well, come on down! You’re welcome, too.
Registration opens in late August or early September this year for all events. Unfortunately, attendance will be limited by the constraints of the venues, so watch and sign up as soon as registration opens.