Geraldine (Jeri) Abbott speaks briefly at devotions about Florence Jordan and Koinonia, March 2006

We arrived in ’76 and spent eight years here. We had two daughters; they took care of the goats. My youngest daughter misses Koinonia. My son had a house in Koinonia village, and my grandson still lives there. From 2001 onwards, I took on the Koinonia archives, and I work there when I’m in town. I enjoy that work.

When we came to Koinonia, it was very open. There was only one commitment that you made at the time: that you believed in Jesus as Lord. Once Koinonia got to having a handbook and all, it was too structured for my husband, so when that happened we left. But regardless, there is a spirit here: the spirit of Clarence and Florence, or of others. We worshipped together as a church, and there’s a great spirit in that.

About Florence

Florence [Jordan] was a very fine woman. She didn’t ever say “I’ve got to leave,” like so many others; she stayed on at Koinonia until she died. She had all of the history within her. So in a meeting, somebody would suggest something and she’d say, “We tried that and it didn’t work.”

She was a wonderful hostess. She’d sit in the corner of the dining hall and invite all the guests over for coffee. She liked to talk with the parents of the younger people because, as she said, she was “just a regular lady,” and would calm their fears.

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Con Browne’s talks in late February 2006, as recorded by Ann Karp

One day after lunch, Con shared a childhood experience that influenced his future pacifism. “One day as a boy I was out playing with other kids, and we decided we would play war. So everybody started loading up their wagons with stones and sticks and other weapons. I decided to make mine into a tank. I went into the house and told my mother, ‘We’re playing war, and I’m going to make my wagon into a tank.’ She looked at me and said [pause], ‘Well… if that’s what you’re going to do, you’d better do it.’ So I went out to the tool shed and sawed the handles off a few of my dad’s shovels, so I could use them as guns.

“In a few minutes, my mother came out. She was carrying some white sheets and red fabric. She covered my wagon, like a Conestoga wagon, and with the fabric made a big red cross. ‘Now you are an ambulance,’ she said, and suggested I not saw off the handles of any more of my dad’s tools [laughter]. I ran back out to the kids and pulled my medical wagon in, and within a few minutes everybody wanted to have an ambulance! How quickly we can change from seeking to destroy lives to seeking to save them. And it took only one ambulance to do it.”

Mostly, though, Con shared what life was like for him and his family while they lived at Koinonia from 1949-1963. A pacifist, he found Koinonia a wonderful place to raise children, even though by night they were threatened with bullets and threatening phone calls, and by day harassed as they went to the all-white public schools. But at home they could run free, take dips in the pond, listen to Clarence tell spell-binding stories, and be themselves in a very loving and faithful community. Con also shared many stories of what it was like to farm, work and live here, of historical incidents and interesting visitors, and of the reason behind Koinonia. In his own words, rearranged by topic:

On the formation of Koinonia

“We were a group of people trying to live the spirit of the early church. The four commitments that people joining Koinonia would make were:

  1. To hold Jesus in a special place in your life and heart
  2. To accept all people as your brother or your sister
  3. To share everything equally, according to need, not greed
  4. To value nonviolence as a way of life, not just a technique. All of us were conscientious objectors or more.

“We built all the houses ourselves, as best we could, but we were dumb about house-building. The mansion house burned after catching fire because the chick brooders were leaking kerosene… We had to schedule our showers at the beginning, because at first, there was only one bathroom. 18 of us shared that bathroom!

“We decided that any adult member of the community had the right to discipline a child right away [so you didn’t have to wait for the child’s parent].

“We did pay taxes. We felt that churches ought to be taxed like anybody for their property.”

On Clarence

“Clarence’s brother George, who was proud of him in retrospect, and was a lawyer and a Unitarian, said something about committing Clarence to a mental hospital [when Clarence started preparing to open Koinonia]. You see, Clarence was something of a bother to the family. They loved him dearly, but they didn’t like the trouble he brought. They felt he was out of bounds. So the family gathered and they talked for hours. They decided to commit him. But Clarence’s sister Cornelia said, “The first one of you who files that form, I’ll do the same to you too.” So they never did.

“Most people really loved Clarence. He and I were like brothers, with little to no jealousy. We were very different theologically, however. I was into process theology, where you learn as you go from your experiences, and he was more radical, into the social gospel. My dad studied with Rauschenbush, who taught about using the social gospel with the poverty issue.

“People think that Koinonia Farm was all Clarence, but there were a lot of skilled farmers here. Clarence raised chickens. Howard did row crops and irrigation, pigs and animal husbandry. We sold honey. And we were good! We were good at farming and ran a successful business. We shared flocks of chickens, graded and marketed eggs until 1960. We had between 1,000-4,000 chickens in four chicken houses. We took between 125-150 cases of eggs to market each week. We had cattle, and the bulls were gentle—it would scare the mothers, but the children would walk right under the bulls and they wouldn’t be harmed. That dairy bull was mean, though—900 pounds of hamburger and other cuts when we finally slaughtered him. And Clarence also started the grape vineyards. When he died there were two jugs of scuppernong wine under his desk.

“Clarence was probably on the road 25% of the time. People would follow him around the farm, sometimes he couldn’t get much peace. Then they would leave right before it was their time to join the community. As much as possible, Koinonia tried to return people’s property when they left.”

When asked to describe a typical day

“We’d do 5:30 am Bible study. At 6 am, we sent our trucks out to the labor pools. The going rate was $1 or $1.50 a day, but we paid about $4 a day, which annoyed the other farmers. At 10 am we’d have water and a snack. At noon Willie Pugh would drive the tractor out with lunch. We did lunch potluck-style: the woman from each family sent a dish. Then we worked until 4, when there was a gathering for everyone. We’d do different things: Quaker meeting, songs, worship. Then at 8 pm we’d have a business meeting. In the early days, everybody came to this. Nobody wanted to chair those meetings! Sometimes they weren’t very effective meetings. Visitors participated, but they had no precedent to understand and wouldn’t have to live with the consequences of the decisions. We had 8-10,000 visitors yearly. In addition, we had novices, provisional members, and full members. Eventually, visitors didn’t come to these meetings anymore.

“For fun we had game nights, picnics, and went looking for Indian artifacts along Muckaluchee Creek. Billy Wittkamper and Johnny Eustis especially were into collecting: one had four bulletin boards full of arrowheads, plus ax heads.”

When asked about the Koinonians’ search for a local home church

“After we were kicked out of Rehoboth Baptist Church for bringing P. L. Joseph, an Indian man, to the services, we tried several other churches. The Disciples of Christ feared that we’d bring blacks with us, and their building was also wooden, so they feared they’d be burned. The Presbyterian Church people wanted to get to know us better first, although we thought that it’s hard to get to know somebody if you can’t go to church with them. The Catholic church was wooden too, so again they feared they’d be burned down if Koinonians attended. And we tried three or four more before going to the Episcopal Church. “They won’t even know you’re there,” someone said. We went for about one year. They had a great priest, Paul Rich (Ridge?), but the congregation was less enthusiastic and eventually the bishop interceded. He told us it might make trouble for Paul. All along, we went to black churches, but there it was different. We were treated differently because we were white. They sat us in the choir loft and passed a special basket for us. We didn’t really get to know the black culture.

“After we got back from church on Sundays, there were often two or three alcoholics stretched out on the tables in the dining room. Two were from wealthy Americus families. This was their place to recover, and sometimes they brought their friends.”

On the boycott, bullets, & bombing years

“The KKK burned a house on the pasture by the creek. People cut fences and let our cows and pigs out. For one summer, no night passed without shots being fired nearby. We figured out that the bullets that were fired from machine guns were GI ammunition, and that that shooting was happening on National Guard night. Apparently they gave the men ammo for target practice, and they figured that this would be a good place to practice. That kind of shooting stopped once word got to Washington, DC.

“Elizabeth Morgan, a Quaker, was the woman who was with Dorothy Day (who came here several times) during her hours of “night watch.” They were sitting in an old green Plymouth parked off the road. A bullet was fired through the radiator, flew through the engine, hit the instrument panel and dropped at Dorothy’s feet.

“During the boycott, our egg market dropped to just 12 cases per week (from 125-150), and we had to send the rest to Clarence’s brother who had a Piggly Wiggly. Only some of the black families and stores would still buy our eggs. The A&P was the only big store that sold to us even through the boycott. But most wouldn’t, so our four chicken barns were soon empty buildings, and we wondered what to do with them. When I was taking eggs to a family, I found that they had a pecan plant to sell. They showed us how to run it and sold it to us, and we put it in an empty chicken barn and began cracking and sorting our own nuts. This was good because nobody nearby would help us with our pecans. We got boycotted out of the farming business. But a peace group from Cincinnati suggested we sell our peanuts and other goods through mail order, because the Post Office is a federal office, under federal protection.

“Clarence developed a fruitcake recipe, and we prepared some hams to sell. We got them all good and moldy so that they would cure. People sometimes call us up to complain that the ham was moldy and they’d thrown it away—they didn’t know about curing hams, and that inside there was the most delicious meat!

“And I was no longer an egg marketer, but a package shipper. Once I was taking mail order packages to the Railway Express office, and a man asked me what I was doing. I told him, and he took off my glasses. He had brass knuckles, and he beat me up. The guy inside the office took me to the doctor’s, and Paul Rich, the rector of the Episcopalian Church, picked me up and took me home afterwards. The sheriff arrested me for knocking my own head on the curb to attract publicity!

“When the store in town was bombed for trading with Koinonia, it rattled the county courthouse and blew out windows in the Windsor Hotel and other buildings nearby. That store was right in the center of town.

On population change at Koinonia

“During the 1960s, when Koinonia got down to the Wittkampers, Jordans and Brownes, one family had to go. We couldn’t support all three. It was decided that we [the Brownes] had the best chance of making it in the outside world, so we went.

“Then in the early 70s, the Koinonia population peaked! They were able to support many more people because the farming was OK, they had some good farmers, and the pecan industry was growing.”

Other comments

“I met Peace Pilgrim twice, although I don’t remember much of what she said, and a guy traveling in a bus he’d painted with the world and some hands clasped around it. We had a lot of travelers through here.

“The black school had only about two kids during the harvest season, but as many as 80 at other times of the year. All the parents pulled their kids out to work during the busy seasons. There were no busses. The only requirement to become a teacher in one of those schools was that you had to be able to write your name. But many of those teachers were very good.”

Recorded/transcribed by Ann Karp

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Koinonia Memories From Ms. Georgia Solomon

as told to Ann Karp

I met Ms. Georgia Solomon one rainy day when I was working in the Koinonia welcome center and gift store. The phone wasn’t ringing, and nobody was coming by—I was bored! Then Georgia walked in, took a seat in one of the chairs and, almost unbidden, began telling me about her life. She blew me away—I certainly wasn’t bored anymore. I tried to remember all that I could, and later wrote it down. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of conversing with Georgia several times more. She is a warm-hearted woman with a strong faith, and when we talk about the past, I get the feeling that she is trying to express to me the spirit of love that she felt in the eyes, words, and deeds of the Koinonians she knew in those days, and the necessity of continuing to act in that spirit.

For many, many years, Georgia has been our neighbor and, at times, has worked at Koinonia. Sometimes she still likes to come help cook lunch and share the noon meal. “It gives me something to do to get out of the house, and I wanted to eat some more healthy food,” she told me. Georgia still lives just a ten-minute walk away, in a house built by the Koinonia Housing Ministry in the early 1970s.


I was born in 1942, just like Koinonia. But we couldn’t go to Koinonia. Black people were threatened by mean white people who said, ‘You can’t go around there.’ One man got to the point where he said, ‘I don’t care, they need a worker and I can do it so I’m going to apply.’ [And he was OK.]

My mother said to my sister, ‘Don’t you go up there to Koinonia, they [the mean white people] will kill you.’ My sister said, ‘They’re not going to catch me to kill me,’ and she went in on the back road. And she’d come back and tell us how nice it was there. Oh, we wanted to go! Well, we did go sometimes, to get pecans. Clarence would give us pecans. Such a sweet man, he was sweet. It was a pleasure just to look at him, because he looked at you different than other people did.

Debra Mosley and Jan [Jordan--two Koinonia community members] found me and my kids alone [in a state of need]. They slept in the bed with me to keep me company. ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ they asked. I said, ‘I was trying to do on my own.’ I was ashamed to show what I had. I had no food, no diapers… ‘You’ve got three babies and one in the belly, you can’t do on your own!’ they said. And they brought diapers, slips, dresses, sweaters… And I stayed right there in that house.

They [Koinonia] asked me, ‘Do you want a house built?’ I said, ‘Are you crazy? I have six children.’ But they built me a house.

[I worked twenty years in the Koinonia kitchen and with the pecans.] They didn’t work you like a slave. They treated you like an equal.

Me and two other people, we still pray for Koinonia. That Koinonia will reach out and help people, help neighbors. But the work is slow! Clarence—I would call him Brother Clarence—he was here a long time. His work was hard, and slow. You have to walk and not stop, you have to run and not faint. And his work spoke for him.

All of my seven children are still living, all grown. Worrying about your children doesn’t ever end, but I made it through my trials and tribulations, and now I’m striving for eternal life. I know my work will speak for me.

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Documentary

Briars in the Cottonpatch: The Story of Koinonia Farm tells the nearly forgotten story of a courageous group of blacks and whites who withstood bullets, bombs and boycotts in the years leading up to the tumultuous Civil Rights era. Narrated by former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young, this one-hour television documentary examines the remarkable personalities and events of Koinonia Farm.

Founded on principles of non-violence and sharing, Koinonia’s significance and impact is global: in 1976, Koinonia became the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity International, which has now completed over 100,000 affordable homes for families in need. The community has also inspired and changed the lives of thousands of people who have visited, learned of, or lived at Koinonia. Its members were, and still are, followers of Jesus who live out their faith in their daily lives.

This powerful story of Christian persecution, racial injustice and uncommon courage has received an Emmy award and a CINE Golden Eagle Award. It aired on most PBS affiliates nationwide during Black History Month February 2005, and has enjoyed repeated showings on many stations.

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View Briars in the Cottonpatch website

News: Briars receives CINE Golden Eagle Award

NEWS

“Briars” wins EMMY!

Curtis Bryant accepting EMMY on behalf of Michael Booth.

Atlanta, GA – June 18, 2005 – It was announced tonight at the Southeast Regional EMMY awards gala that Michael Booth, writer and co-producer of “Briars in the Cotton Patch”, won the EMMY in the writing category. “We are so proud of Michael. I always knew he wrote a brilliant script and now this proves it!,” says Faith Fuller, Director and Executive Producer of “Briars.”

Curtis Bryant, “Briars’” music composer, graciously accepted the award in Michael’s place since Michael had to be in North Carolina for his sister’s wedding. Curtis was also up for an EMMY (his seventh nomination!), but a Turner South sports production captured the win in the music composition category. “Just being nominated for an EMMY is a huge accomplishment and we are so proud of both Curtis and Michael,” says Fuller. “I think Curtis and Michael represent the incredible talent we had working on this show and it’s nice to see them get recognized.”

For a complete list of the Southeast EMMY nominees and winners, go to www.ntasoutheast.tv.

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Clarence Jordan

Clarence Jordan

Clarence Jordan was a strange phenomenon in the history of North American Christianity. Hewn from the massive Baptist denomination, known primarily for its conformity to culture, Clarence stressed the anti-cultural, the Christ-transcending and the Christ-transforming, aspects of the gospel. He was an authentic product of the Bible Belt, of the rural, agrarian heartland, of the people’s church (he got his college degree in agriculture, graduating in the same class as Senator Herman Talmadge at the University of Georgia). Clarence pursued this tradition to its very end, ending at the top with a Ph.D. in the Greek New Testament from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. -G. McLeod Bryan (more)

 

Watch the 7 minute tribute to Clarence Jordan:
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This video and others can be ordered online
 
 
We are lucky to have the legacy of such a man. For those of us who are hesitant to embrace Christ’s suffering, we have an example. Fore those of us who struggle as part of a young community of Christ to see our place in history, we have encouragement. His vision has endured. -Joyce Hollyday (more)
 

Clarence Jordan audio files
(.mp3 format):



 
 

 

Order Clarence Jordan books and tapes online:

 

 

Read more about Clarence Jordan and the History of Koinonia Farm

Letter Written to Clarence Jordan from Martin Luther King, Jr. (When Koinonia’s insurance had been cancelled due to the increasing violence directed at Koinonia. Read more about this in the history section).

Bo Johnson and Clarence Jordan  in the cotton patch

 

 
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Oral History

Oral Histories of Koinonia

Every so often, we’re blessed with a visit from a neighbor or long-time friend. We try to take notes whenever they share their memories, and likewise share them with you! There’s a lot of “living history” in our midst, which we hope will inform and inspire the Koinonia of today.

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History of Koinonia Partners (1942 to present) Timeline

Nov 1942


Clarence & Florence Jordan and Martin & Mabel England move to a farm in Sumter County, Georgia and determine to be guided by the following principles:

  1. All humankind are related under God’s parenthood.
  2. Love is the alternative to violence (pacifism).
  3. Share all possessions.

Note, special dates are bold; click on any images to view closeup.

Late 1940s
  • Interracial Bible studies for neighbors.
Summer 1943

  • The Tree House is the First building completed on Koinonia grounds, it was occupied until 1990.
Late 1940s-1953


 

  • Bible study – mainly for children.
  • Housing and friendship offered to alcoholics and draftees.
1950
  • Jordan family and other Koinonian’s excommunicated from Rehobath Southern Baptist Church for views on racial equality. 14 Adult residents.
1950-1953
  • Successful farm endeavor. 
  • Beginning of active resistance by the outside local community to Koinonia.
  • First written pledge to the three principles and one another in community.
  • Increasing numbers of residents and volunteers.
1953
  • Beginning of youth clubs. Will & Margaret Wittkamper arrive.
1954
  • School desegregation suit, increased hostility.
  • Drought brings lower yields and first irrigation system.
1955
  • Plot purchased on Route 19S, and a produce stand is built.
  • Interracial summer camp held.
May 1956


  • Clarence signs as alumnus sponsor of two black college students.
June 1956
  • Health Department closes summer camp.
  • Boycott of Koinonia products by local business community begins – continues until the mid-1960s.
July 1956
  • Produce stand is attacked.
Nov 1956
  • Shots fired into Koinonia homes from highway.
  • Row crop farming suspended.
Jan 14, 1957
  • Produce stand bombed and destroyed.
  • Clarence writes to Pres. Eisenhower.
  • Many leave to move north for safety, especially children.
Feb 1957
  • Klu Klux Klan holds a rally and drives to Koinonia to threaten more violence unless farm is sold.
  • Clarence Jordan receives letter of support from Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mar 1957
  • Grand Jury investigation held.
Apr 1957
  • Mail-order business begins with the slogan “Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia.”
  • On Easter Eve, while Dorothy Day and another member of the community did sentry duty at the entrance gate, their parked station wagon was peppered with shot from a shotgun. Fortunately no one was injured.
May 1957
  • Business of local merchant who sold to Koinonia bombed.
  • White citizens ask Clarence to leave the county.
1958
  • 5 to 8 people remain.
  • Clarence records a tape telling the Koinonia story.
1960
  • Wittkampers sue to have children admitted into Americus High School.
1962
  • Plot on Route 19S sold.
1963
  • Only 4 adults remain on the farm.
  • Clarence begins translating the New Testament directly from Greek into contemporary southern dialect.
1964
  • Civil Rights Act
Mid 1960s


  • Volunteers help keep Koinonia going.
1965-1967
  • Clarence travels on lecture tour.
  • Jordans propose relocation and redirection; they offer 1,100 acres of farmland to friends.
1968


  • Millard Fuller contacts Clarence. Millard & Linda Fuller come in July. Change of direction decided. Partnership Housing begins.
1969
  • Incorporated as Koinonia Partners.
  • Fund for Humanity established for building houses. The fund still exists, and its concept was later adopted by Habitat For Humanity
  • Farming begins again.
Oct 29, 1969
  • Clarence Jordan dies from cardiac arrest at age 57.
1970s
  • A new era marked by large increase in volunteers and resident partners.
  • House construction booms.
  • Industries started in handcrafts, sewing and pottery.
  • Clarence’s Cotton Patch translations are published.
1970
  • First house completed with mortgage signed by Bo & Emma Johnson.
1971-1974

  • Ferro cement building construction begins as an alternative model of houses built by the Koinonia Fund for Humanity.
1971
  • Cotton Patch Evidence published.
  • Koinonia Child Development Center (KCDC) started.
  • Suit brought against the County Board of Education for refusing to hire a Koinonia resident.
1972

 

  • Structured volunteer program begins.
  • Board of Directors says Koinonia “…is a means by which disciples of Christ can be faithful to his teachings…”
  • Larger pecan crops expands industry.
1975
  • Demonstration at Ft. Benning against Vietnam War when President Ford
    visited.
1976
1979
 

1980s


  • Peace activism through participation by community members in vigils in Georgia and in Washington, DC. Partners and volunteers imprisoned for civil disobedience at demonstrations.
1980
  • Covenant and lifestyle guidelines developed.
1981
  • First witness at the Pantex plant in Amarillo, TX against nuclear weapons. Koinonia Partner, Steve Clemens, spends time in prison.
1982


  • “Plutonium Path” Caravan witness goes from Savannah River Plant to Pantex and Rocky Flats.
1983
  • witness at Robbins Air Force Base against nuclear weapons.
1984
  • Montezuma Nuclear Train Blockade.
  • Peace Pentecost witness against arms race and Apartheid in Wash., SC.
  • Public vigils begin (with model of an electric chair) against executions
    at Sumter County Courthouse on days of executions.
1987
  • Language program begins with Asian students.
June 17, 1987
  • Florence Jordan dies – the last of the original four founders.
June 23, 1989

  • Bo & Emma Johnson complete house payments – community celebrates with a mortgage burning.
1989
  • 5 more mortgages paid off. New KCDC building begins construction.
Sept 1991
  • New KCDC building is dedicated. Programs for pre-school ages are expanded, and eventually to be recognized as some of the best in the state.
April 24, 1992
  • Koinonia celebrated first 50 years with a reunion!
1992
  • The Board of Directors makes a major decision to discontinue the income-sharing community and transition Koinonia to a non-profit Christian community development organization.
  • A number of long-time African American employees and homeowners assume leadership and management roles in Koinonia.
1993
  • Organizational transition: Gave up the Common Purse, Partners became employees, a new Mission Statement.
1994
  • Prison and Jail Project started.
1999
  • Indebtedness led to sale of some farm land. 575 acres continued.
  • Cotton Patch Gospel Musical played to large audiences in Atlanta and Americus
2000
  • Koinonia Child Development Center closed due to lack of enrollment as similar programs now exist in Americus. Plans begin for Outreach Center.
  • Book Club started to enhance social justice education.
2001
2002
  • 60th Anniversary. Theme: “Embracing the Past; Enriching the Future”
2003
Present

Presently Koinonia works for self-reliance and dignity for low-income neighborhoods by strengthening the family and empowering the community. Koinonia is also the meeting ground for people of many different backgrounds who come together to work and study issues of social justice and faith. Our programs include:

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Articles

The following is a collection of articles and stories that give the history of this pioneering community and the man who inspired its vision.

Chapters:


Throughout the history pages, be sure to click on any images to see a closeup, or you can see all the photos here

 

For additional history, please be sure to read “Cotton Patch Evidence The Story of Clarence Jordan and the Koinonia Farm Experiment” as well as other books. or listen to tapes and view videos available from our online store or by calling toll free 1-877-738-1741.


   
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A Brief History

Koinonia Farms: An introductory history

Koinonia is an intentional Christian community founded by two couples, Clarence and Florence Jordan and Martin and Mabel England in 1942 as a “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God.” For them, this meant a community of believers sharing life and following the example of the first Christian communities as described in the Acts of the Apostles, even amidst the poverty and racism of the rural South.

Clarence Jordan held an undergraduate degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia and wanted to use his knowledge of scientific farming “to seek to conserve the soil, God’s holy earth” and to help the poor: most of Koinonia’s neighbors were black sharecroppers and tenant farmers. Jordan and England were ordained ministers and professors (Jordan held a doctorate in New Testament Greek) and part of their vision was to offer training to African American ministers living in the area. For the first few years or so of the Koinonia experiment, Jordan, in particular, was welcomed to preach and teach in local churches. Though the demands of farming in those early years did not allow time for formal training of others, he used these visits to both black and white churches to offer guidance. They envisioned an interracial community where blacks and whites could live and work together in a spirit of partnership.

Based on this radical call to discipleship, Koinonia’s very presence confronted racism, militarism and materialism with its commitment to:

1.      Treat all human beings with dignity and justice

2.      Choose love over violence.

3.      Share all possessions and live simply.

4.      Be stewards of the land and its natural resources.

Soon other families joined them, and visitors came to “serve a period of apprenticeship in developing community life on the teachings and principles of Jesus.” The community grew and friendships formed as the Koinonians, their visitors, and their neighbors farmed together, ate meals, attended Bible studies and held summer youth camps. From the beginning, the community emphasized equality and fellowship among all. When resources allowed the hiring of seasonal help, black and white workers were paid equally. When the community and its guests, neighbors and friends gathered for a meal, everyone was invited to sit at the table to regardless of color.

 

 

Koinonia’s Struggle during the Civil Rights Movement

These efforts to live the gospel were a break with the prevailing culture of the time and were fiercely challenged by many citizens of Sumter County, many of whom attempted to destroy the farm and scare off its residents. As a way to survive in hostile surroundings, Koinonians began shipping Georgia pecans and peanuts around the world by mail order. The business evolved to include treats made in the farm’s own bakery—the mail order (and online store) business which still generates a large part of the farm’s revenue today.

Through the 1950s and early 60s, Koinonia remained a witness to nonviolence and racial equality as its members withstood firebombs, bullets, KKK rallies, death threats, property damage, excommunication from churches, and economic boycotts. Koinonia and its members suffered greatly. But Koinonia survived.

Koinonia: Birthplace of Habitat for Humanity

As the threats of physical violence dwindled in the late 1960s, Koinonia was at a crossroads. Local violence had tapered off, and now only two families were living on the farm, including the Jordans. The Koinonians found themselves searching for a renewed focus, unsure whether Koinonia’s end had come, when Clarence received a brief note from Millard Fuller, asking “What do you have up your sleeve?”

Millard and Linda Fuller had spent a month at Koinonia several years earlier, shortly after the threat of a failed marriage caused the couple to recommit their lives to God and give away their wealth. Millard had been a millionaire businessman, and his enthusiasm seemed to inject a new spirit into the community. After a series of meetings with Millard and other friends of Koinonia, a new direction for Koinonia emerged.

Clarence Jordan and the others held a deep concern for their neighbors and noticed the poor quality of housing available to them. They initiated a project to help build decent, affordable homes. Changing its name from Koinonia Farm to Koinonia Partners, the community launched several innovative partnership programs, chief among them Koinonia Partnership Housing, which built affordable homes for low-income families living in shacks and dilapidated houses. Using volunteer labor and donations, Koinonia built 194 homes from 1969 to 1992, which families bought with 20-year, no-interest mortgages. Mortgage payments were placed in a revolving Fund for Humanity, which was then used to build more houses. With both rich and poor contributing capital to the Fund and building houses together, Clarence saw his vision of Partnership become a reality. Of the homes built, 62 houses sit on Koinonia’s land, forming two neighborhoods that surround the central community area; the remaining houses are located in the towns of Americus and Plains.

In addition to his work on the farm, Jordan spent hours writing in what became known as “Clarence’s Shack,” a small wooden building nestled in one of the farm’s pecan orchards. Among the works penned there were the Cotton Patch Version, his translations of the New Testament gospels from the original Greek into the Georgia vernacular. He prepared for his nationwide speaking engagements there. And, working on a sermon, it is where he died on October 29, 1969.

 

Clarence’s spirit continues: “Seed Sowing”

Although Clarence died in 1969, just before the first house was completed, his vision continued, as other community members carried on his legacy. The Fullers remained at the Farm, guiding the first 4 years of Koinonia’s partnership housing program before moving to Africa for 3 years to establish a similar program abroad. In 1976, they returned to Americus and founded Habitat for Humanity International, now a worldwide housing ministry with affiliates in every state and in more than 50 countries. Modeled after Koinonia’s original “partnership housing” program, Habitat builds houses with families in need, then sells the houses to the families at no profit and no interest. To date, Habitat for Humanity volunteers and homeowners have built more than 100,000 houses around the world.

The Koinonia spirit also led to the founding of other organizations such as Jubilee Partners in Comer, GA (a community that welcomes refugees from war-torn countries), New Hope House in Griffin, GA (assisting families with loved ones on death row, as well as advocating the abolition of the death penalty) and The Prison & Jail Project in Americus, GA (an antiracist, grassroots organization which monitors courtrooms, prisons and jails in southwest Georgia). Koinonia became known as a place of “seed sowing,” giving life to organizations in the making, but equally and perhaps more importantly to countless individuals renewed and transformed by time on the farm. This legacy continues today: in 2005, the Fullers left Habitat for Humanity and founded The Fuller Center for Housing, which also seeks to create affordable housing solutions for impoverished families worldwide. Their first meeting was held at the Koinonia Community Outreach Center.

Our Ministries, Yesterday and Today

Some of the causes and ministries Koinonia has been involved in over the last 60+ years include civil rights, prison ministry, racial reconciliation, peace activism, early childhood education, youth and teen outreach, affordable housing, language training, sustainable agriculture, economic development, home repair, elders programs, and more. Today, Koinonia remains committed to treating all human beings with dignity and justice, choosing love over violence, sharing according to need, not greed, and stewardship of the land.

In 1993, Koinonia abandoned its “common purse” and experimented with a more corporate, non-profit structure. It gained a board of directors and established staff and volunteer positions instead of resident partners. In 2004, we began a journey to return to our original roots while remaining relevant to the 21st century. We are now returning to the community-based model. Guided by our rich history and the vision of Clarence Jordan, we continue our mission to apply Jesus’ teachings on compassion, partnership, community, reconciliation, and stewardship of our resources to the social and economic realities we face today. (See our Ministries and Online Store pages to learn about our latest work, or join us as a visitor or intern!)

 

Chapters Next Page

Be sure to visit Koinonia Remembered On-line Book to read stories from the 50th anniversary of Koinonia.

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History Home

Koinonia has nearly 65 years’ worth of history—Clarence Jordan, the civil rights movement, local African American history, the birth of Habitat for Humanity and other organizations, involvement in many peace and justice movements, community living, agriculture, and much more! Learn more on our site by choosing from the options at left.

Just posted! Oral histories by Georgia Solomon, Con Browne, and Geraldine Abbott—Koinonia firsthand, in the words and voices of those who lived it.

Watch a movie or listen to Clarence Jordan online on our Clarence Jordan page , or on audio CDs available from our online store or by calling toll free 1-877-738-1741.

For more recent happenings, see our online archives of news & newsletters.

Want to curl up with Koinonia history offline? Dallas Lee’s excellent history of Koinonia, Cotton Patch Evidence: The Story of Clarence Jordan and the Koinonia Farm Experiment 1942-1970, as well as many more Koinonia-related books, videos and DVDs are available at our online bookstore.

Georgia Historical Society page

 

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