By Bren Dubay
Interns arrived last weekend. The Gospel reading at Gathered Worship was from Luke — the Sermon on the Plain. It seemed a perfect reading for the start of a new internship term. I told the interns that they had come to a remarkable place. And Koinonia is. But it is not Utopia and I stressed that they would not see perfection — everyone loving enemies all the time, everyone doing good for, blessing, praying for enemies all the time, everyone doing unto others as we would have them do unto us all the time. In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus instructs that we do these things. We fail. Sometimes we fail spectacularly. But what I told the new interns and the rest gathered there is what they would see is a real effort, a sincere effort, a very intentional effort to live the Sermon on Plain and the Sermon on the Mount day in and day out
What do we do at Koinonia? We can easily answer that with a “I take care of the pecans,” “I cook,” “I correspond with prisoners,” “I manage guest reservations,” “I visit the sick,” “I clean,” “I make sure the vehicles have oil,” “I work with people who suffer from chronic pain,” “I grow vegetables, grapes, blueberries,” “I facilitate the Circle of Friends,” “I write,” “I keep the bakery going,” and on and on. But really, truly, a more accurate answer to the question would be, “We fall down, we get up, and we fall down again.”
Those of us here have either committed ourselves to a way of life or to coming every day to support those attempting to live this way of life. Those of us who have committed to the communal way of life take vows agreeing that we will be guided by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Sermon the Plain; we have committed ourselves to being family. We have committed ourselves to a particular place. We have committed to go to God together. We devote ourselves to spiritual development and good works. What’s more, these deep and specific commitments are for the long haul. In essence, we promise each other and ourselves that we will not run away—even when it gets rough. And rough it gets. And, oh, yes, we do tasks, chores, and work to support ourselves.
Interns, for a period of time, immerse themselves into the communal way of life we follow here. We hope they take what they learn and experience into whatever configuration of community they choose. We try to show them a set of guiding principles that are constructive, healthy, and sensible. A good life, a mature, wholehearted life, takes commitment.
In the Rule of Benedict, Benedict writes, “anticipate one another in honor; most patiently endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or character.” This is sound advice for interns, for members of Koinonia, or for anyone. Community is about bearing each other’s burdens, staying when things get hard, doing the chores you don’t like, and being family. For our community, above all, we try and fail and try again to live up to this Sermon on the Plain
One of the best ways to learn about community and to see the imperfect and beautiful ways it works out is by becoming an intern at Koinonia. We have room for more interns. There are three terms a year — spring, summer and fall. Give it some thought and then apply?
Koinonia Farm is looking for someone to partner with us on our farm! We need one or more individuals with the vision and capability to manage an ecologically, socially, and financially responsible farm enterprise on the land with which we have been entrusted. We are open to a variety of long-term arrangements including cash rentals, crop shares, partnership, and employment.
About Koinonia’s Land
The land we currently manage is about 500 acres with 170 acres in agricultural use, including pastures, orchards, and gardens. In 2005, we stopped using synthetic chemicals on our land except for the pecans. Then in 2012, we began the transition to biological management of our pecans and the orchards have now been chemical-free for over 6 years. In addition, we are looking to add a new pecan orchard. We also grow blueberries, grapes, and vegetables.
For years we also raised cattle, pigs, and chickens that we rotationally grazed through the pastures and orchards. We recently had to cut back on the size of our herd but would love to see another farmer expand the livestock. Our farm contains 4 wells, a barn, and 2 greenhouses. There is also a processing facility for pecans, a bakery, and cold, frozen, and dry storage.
About the Koinonia Farm Community
Koinonia Farm is a group of Christians called to live together in intentional community sharing a life of prayer, work, study, service and fellowship. We seek to embody peacemaking, sustainability, and radical sharing. While honoring people of all backgrounds and faiths, we strive to demonstrate the way of Jesus as an alternative to materialism, militarism and racism. There is a core group of people who live and work on the farm, supplemented by interns and guests who are here for a shorter time.
Our work is to feed the hungry both physically and spiritually. In order to do this, we offer hospitality and spiritual renewal, education, prayer and spiritual direction. Some of our programs include youth camps, elder activities, partnerships with local service organizations, peace and justice work. In our bakery and mail order business, we occasionally offer seasonal employment. This mail order business also focuses on Fair Trade products, and organic land stewardship. You can read more about our history and our present on our website.
Request for Proposals
This Request for Proposals is open to experienced farmers looking to start, expand, or take over management of a certified organic farming business.
We accept applications on a rolling basis and will prioritize those who are ready to begin farming in 2019.
If you are interested in learning more or have a vision for how you can work with Koinonia Farm, please fill out our interest form and someone will get back to you shortly.
If you have any questions, you can contact Koinonia Farm at email@example.com.
Koinonia is seeking one or more individuals with the vision and capability to manage an ecologically, socially, and financially responsible farm enterprise on the land with which we have been entrusted. We have thought through and are open to a variety of arrangements including cash rentals, crop shares, partnership, and employment. We are looking for a long-term partner.
This Request for Proposals is open to experienced farmers looking to start, expand, or take over management of a certified organic farming business.
We accept applications on a rolling basis. We will notify applicants when we have received their application, if we would like to arrange a meeting, and when we have made a formal decision regarding their acceptance. We will prioritize early applicants and those who are ready to begin farming in 2019
If you have any questions, contact Koinonia Farm at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in learning more or have a vision for how you can work with Koinonia Farm, please fill out our interest form and someone will get back to you shortly. (Interest form coming soon- please email email@example.com for more information).
By Bren Dubay
The crèche is put away now, but not the thoughts it sparked. Each year the crèche takes its place next to the entrance to the farm on Highway 49. It is a wooden cut out of Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and others at the manger and is wonderfully painted. I realize I don’t know who the artist is who did this work. I realize, too, I don’t know how long this piece of art has been a part of the community. I do know it has been more than fifteen years because the crèche was here when I arrived. Who built the crèche? We should know that.
People come and go at Koinonia. It has always been that way. We are a house of hospitality and would not want that to change. But what Koinonia needs most of all is a core of people living the communal life together for the long haul — serving God and God’s people at, through, and from this place called Koinonia Farm. We need members who pass on the stories and the history to other members coming to join them. A group of people who can tell us who built the crèche, who painted it, whose idea it was — the whole story.
Yes, we do have a core of communal members. And we clearly understand how needed it is for that same core to still be here in another decade supporting and mentoring those who have come after us. Now we just need to find those who are coming after us.
Living this way of life is counter-cultural in the West, but not completely foreign. It has been a part of Christianity both East and West from the beginning. Intentional Christian communities have played an important role throughout Christian history — they have founded hospitals, schools, worked for the poor, started progressive movements; they have prayed, lived quietly and humbly, sharing what they have, responding to the needs and challenges of the times, and have given or inspired the birth of so much that is good. Koinonia has been praying, living, and sharing for over 76 years now. And it continues to have much work to do. It is a big place with a large legacy and a deep calling to live up to the example of the earliest Christian church. Surely, there are a dozen people out there who are called to Koinonia. Do the following words from the Acts of the Apostles resonate? If they do, you may be called to Koinonia.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Here’s where the crèche comes in again: our dream is that one day very soon our membership will be large enough so that we can have a live nativity on the lawn on Christmas Eve for friends and neighbors to come and enjoy. Our prayer for 2019 is that God stirs hearts and draws people to join our community. And maybe by next Christmas, or the one after that, we can have a live nativity.
P.S. If you know anything about the history of Koinonia’s crèche or you resonated with those words from Acts 2:42-47 and want to explore a calling to Koinonia Farm, please let us know! Email Bren at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at Koinonia Farm at 229-924-0391. She’d love to hear from you.
By: Lora Browne
The impact has been life long — the lifestyle, all that I learned at Koinonia Farm. Rather than a reflection on all that, I will offer “From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her need” continues to guide me. Knowing Jesus was a radical has also been a guiding awareness and sometimes made it hard to reconcile what “Christianity” was in the rest of the world.
Memories from 1949-1963: Alma Jackson and Henry Pope working in the old tractor shed and laughing with Norman Long. Norman building feeders for the pigs and calves and letting me play in the skeleton of them.
There were those mornings standing in line to catch the bus to Thalean School, walking home in the afternoon rather than riding the bus back. I remember summers and all of us in a long line moving irrigation pipes at 5:00 a.m. Before sunrise I got to milk cows with Con Browne, and feed the kittens in the barn. I picked grapes, squash, peaches watermelon and hoed cotton and peanuts in the sun. I worked in the bottom garden and husked corn, and snapped beans under the oak tree by the big kitchen then canned those foods in the summertime.
I rang the bell for meals and meetings. I loved those Saturday night picnics on Picnic Hill in the summertime. Worship service was daily at 5:30 PM. Afterwards, we would take supper home from the main dining room, except Saturday nights when we all ate together (as we always did at noon).
Throwing hay bales onto the koby wagon, then offloading those bales into the hay barn. Gathering eggs, then cleaning, grading and packing them for market. I got my egg grading license at 10 years old, and was so proud of it. I sorted pecans, and packaged them was and I was part of making those first batches of “pecandy.” Yum!
Riding Danny the horse is a happy memory as is summer camp learning about Indians and passing the tests to become a member of the tribe. We put up a thirty-foot teepee. I remember playing volleyball and being shot at bullets flying overhead in the house we lived in (now Wittkamper house). We knew we didn’t talk about it at school. Then the court case where we were told that we were “contaminating the other children because of (our) religious beliefs” and couldn’t attend Americus High School. An ACLU lawyer defended us. We started school nine weeks late having no help to catch up.
Court case with ACLU lawyer about “contaminating the other children because of (our) religious beliefs”. Into Americus High School 9 weeks late, and having to catch up without help. Knowing that Koinonia was a place of much love and support always. And that people within Koinonia acted from their understanding of the New Testament and spoke out for justice and Jesus dedicated to peaceful means of interaction.
I clearly remember the fellowship, the welcoming of people who passed through, whether they were civil rights activists, church people from all over the world, or religious groups (“Children of Light”); Dorothy Day, Bill Kunsler, Charles Sherrod, the Freedom Singers, and many, many more. I remember the day Clarence and Con took Jan and me to the Black Church in Albany because Martin Luther King was speaking there. What a shocking and glorious experience!!
Bible study was at 5:30 a.m. with Clarence and the college students who came during the summer. I remember the arrival of the Wittkampers, the Atkinsons, Nelsons, Johnsons, Eustaces, Campbells, Veldheusens, Mandels, Baers, Dorrells and the beautiful Butler wedding in Wedding Valley.
Fifty-gallon drums of white clover honey came from Forest River, wooden toys and blocks from Rifton Playthings and folks from Evanston folk came to help. And I remember how heart broken I was to leave with my parents in 1963.
KOINONIA FARM. I am very fortunate to have grown up there. It gave me love, and taught me tolerance and justice, as well as set an example for people all over the world. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
A Few Thoughts from Bren
If you heard about, read about or visited Koinonia Farm between 1999 and 2009, you likely know who David and Ellie Castle are and the positive impact they have had on this community. A group of us happily traveled to Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania recently to celebrate Ellie’s 90th birthday. She is as energetic, quick-witted, and inspiring as she has always been. Ten years ago, when we celebrated her 80th birthday, David was still alive and it was hard to imagine Koinonia without them. Later that same year David passed (he is buried on Picnic Hill here) and in 2009, Ellie moved away to be near their children. We miss them.
In agriculture, a demonstration plot is a way to teach or experiment with new farming methods. The Jordans and the Englands used the phrase when describing Koinonia as “a demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God” and “an experiment in Christian living.” It is clear that a demonstration plot must have other demonstration plots from which to learn. David and Ellie were and continue to be just that for us..
From Ellie’s party, we drove to Farmington, Pennsylvania to spend a few days at New Meadow Run Bruderhof Community. Koinonia and the Bruderhof have a history together that began in the 1940s. When Bruderhof members came from Paraguay (via Germany then England; learn their story at www.bruderhof.org) to explore moving to the United States, Koinonia served as a place of welcome and support. When Koinonia suffered persecution in the 50s and 60s, the Bruderhof offered help and refuge. Several of the families fleeing the violence heaped on Koinonia became members of the Bruderhof.
For a period of time — almost twenty years — our communities lost touch, but in 2011 we were reunited. Come to Koinonia today and you will likely see Bruderhof in our midst pitching in to help do whatever is needed. The “doing” for one another is meaningful, but it is the “being” with one another that brings us ever closer together. The relationships deepen through our visits, conversations, questions, cards, letters and we are being shaped and transformed by our mutual encouragement of one another. The Bruderhof is a demonstration plot for Koinonia.
Today so many of us don’t remain in a place and with a people long enough for them to take deep root in us. We all need demonstration plots. My hope for us all is that we find them, spend time with them and allow who they are — and maybe sometimes what they say and do —- to prep our hearts. We all need those who preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.
But you, brothers of mine, hold on till the Lord’s movement gets going. Look how the farmer awaits the precious harvest of his land, staying by it until it receives both spring and summer rains. You, too, hold on and prep your hearts, because the Lord’s movement is right here. — The Cotton Patch Gospel, James 5
The Castles and the Bruderhof are our spring and summer rains.
President Carter graciously wrote a letter to be read at the opening of the 2018 Clarence Jordan Symposium:
Rosalynn and I have long admired Clarence and Florence Jordan and the work of Koinonia Farm.
Clarence spoke with an unwavering prophetic voice. He was not one to mince words; the man could turn a phrase. He firmly rejected materialism, militarism, and racism as obstacles to authentic faith, yet he never took part in the public demonstrations of the Civil Rights era. He believed we could all affect greater change in this world through living an authentic Christian life. Koinonia was evidence of that life and still is today.
At Koinonia Farm in 1942, a group of Christians came together for the express purpose of exemplifying the teachings of Jesus. Now, 75 years later, a group of Christians continue to carry on what is perhaps Clarence Jordan’s most enduring legacy, his ongoing invitation to participate in the love and life of Christ.
Welcome to The Clarence Jordan Symposium and this 2018 celebration. Join us as we wish Koinonia Farm a happy 75th birthday. We hope you are grateful for this time to reflect once more on the Jordan’s call to fully live out our part of the gospel story.