Inspired by the description of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles, Clarence & Florence Jordan and Martin & Mabel England move to Sumter County in Georgia to form a religious community who would farm for their livelihood, build relationships with neighbors and provide those interested an opportunity to serve a period of apprenticeship in developing community life on the teachings of Jesus. They were guided by the following principles:
- All possessions held in common; commitment to simplicity.
- Nonviolence as alternative to violence (pacifism).
- All are brothers and sisters and are all equal under the parentage of a loving God.
- Bible studies with members and neighbors of all races in attendance.
- The Tree House is the first “new” building completed on Koinonia Farm grounds; it was occupied until 1990.
- Martin & Mabel England and their children leave the community to return to missionary service overseas.
- With the growing number of visitors, the community recognizes hospitality as a central mission and ministry.
- Vacation Bible School for both those children living at the farm and those from the surrounding area.
- Friendship and temporary housing offered to those in need; Koinonia sees an increase in the number of alcoholics and draftees coming to stay for awhile. The community also welcomes neighbors who need a temporary place to stay.
- Con & Ora Browne join the community and bring their four children.
- Membership reaches 14 adults.
- Jordan and Browne families along with other Koinonian’s excommunicated from Rehoboth Southern Baptist Church for their views on pacifism and racial equality.
- Farming endeavors become more and more successful. Koinonia introduces chicken business to South Georgia and Clarence invents a more efficient piece of machinery to harvest peanuts.
- Beginning of active resistance by the outside local community to Koinonia.
- First written pledge adopted by members — commitment to God, to each other, to living communally and to God’s people.
- The number of members continues to increase and hospitality continues to grow with more guests and temporary residents.
- Beginning of youth clubs.
- Will & Margaret Wittkamper arrive in hopes of joining the community. Their four sons are added to the ever-growing number of children at the farm.
- The Supreme Court rules on Brown vs the Board of Education and orders school desegregation; hostility toward Koinonia Farm immediately increases.
- Drought brings lower yields and first irrigation system.
- Plot of land purchased on Route 19 S and a produce stand is built.
- Summer camp held for children of all races.
- Clarence invited to be alumnus sponsor of two African American students seeking admission into the University of Georgia System.
- Health Department bars this year’s summer camp from taking place.
- Local businesses begin boycott of Koinonia Farm — boycott continues until the mid-1960s. No one sells to or buys from the farm.
- Produce stand is attacked then rebuilt.
- Shots fired into Koinonia homes from the highway.
- Due to the boycott, row crop farming suspended.
Jan 14, 1957
- Produce stand bombed and destroyed.
- Clarence writes to President Eisenhower and asks for help.
- The community has grown to sixty men, women and children, but many begin to leave, especially for the safety of the children.
- 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.
- Grand Jury investigates Koinonia Farm.
- Mail-order business begins with the slogan “Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia.”
- On Easter Eve, while Dorothy Day and a member of the community do sentry duty at the entrance gate, their parked station wagon is peppered with shot from a shotgun. Fortunately no one was injured.
- Local business that disregards the boycott and sells supplies to Koinonia is bombed.
- Members of the Chamber of Commerce meet with Clarence and other Koinonians and ask them to move away.
- 5 to 8 members remain.
- Clarence makes a recording telling the Koinonia Farm story.
- Students from Koinonia Farm become the first whites in the history of the United States to be refused admittance to a local public school; representing the community, the Wittkampers sue to have children admitted into Americus High School.
- Plot on Route 19 S where produce stand once stood is sold.
- Jordans, Brownes and Wittkampers meet to discuss how to go forward. They decide Brownes will leave because the farm can no longer support three families. Membership drops to 4.
- Clarence continues translating the New Testament directly from Greek into contemporary southern dialect.
- Millard & Linda Fuller visit the community for the first time.
- Civil Rights Act
- Guests keep coming and Koinonia continues offering hospitality.
- Clarence lecture tours continue.
- Clarence considers leaving the community; he talks to Reba Place Fellowship about taking over, but he decides to press on.
- Millard & Linda Fuller and their children move to the farm.
- Clarence shares his vision for Partnership Farming, Businesses and Housing. He and Millard work to flesh out the details and bring others in to help with the planning.
- Koinonia Partners incorporated to carry out the Partnership Movement.
- Fund for Humanity established to receive donations and no interest loans to help with the work of the Partnership Movement. The fund still exists to help with the work Koinonia Farm is involved in today.
Oct 29, 1969
- Volunteers pour in to help with the booming Koinonia Partnership Housing Movement.
- Membership in the community increases dramatically.
- Industries started in handcrafts, sewing and pottery.
- Clarence’s Cotton Patch translations are published.
- Civil Rights workers use Koinonia Farm as a place to meet and to rest. It becomes known as a place of spiritual renewal.
- First house completed with mortgage signed by Bo & Emma Johnson.
- Farming begins again.
- Koinonia Partnership Housing is looking for alternative building materials and builds several houses with ferro cement as an experiment.
- Cotton Patch Evidence by Dallas Lee published.
- Koinonia Child Development Center (KCDC) started.
- Lawsuit brought against the County Board of Education for refusing to hire a Koinonia resident.
- Because of the success of the Partnership Housing Movement, a structured volunteer program put in place.
- Board of Directors says Koinonia “…is a means by which disciples of Christ can be faithful to his teachings…”
- Larger pecan crops expand industry.
- Demonstration at Ft. Benning against Vietnam War when President Ford visited.
- The community decides not to take the Koinonia Partnership Housing Movement worldwide, but supports Linda & Millard Fuller doing so. The community helps them move into Americus and begin Habitat for Humanity.
- Koinonia members commission 3 of its families to go forth to establish another community. It becomes known as Jubilee Partners and is located in Comer, Georgia.
- Peace activism through participation by community members in vigils in Georgia and in Washington, DC. Partners and volunteers imprisoned for civil disobedience at demonstrations.
- As Habitat for Humanity grows, Koinonia phases out its Partnership Housing Movement. Many Koinonia members and guests help with Habitat builds.
- Covenant and lifestyle guidelines developed.
- First witness at the Pantex plant in Amarillo, TX against nuclear weapons. Koinonia Partner, Steve Clemens, spends time in prison.
- Cotton Patch Gospel musical written by Tom Key, based on Clarence’s Bible translations.
- Auto repair shop burned.
- Koinonia Partners adopt a Peace Resolution
- “Plutonium Path” Caravan witness goes from Savannah River Plant to Pantex and Rocky Flats.
- Witness at Robbins Air Force Base against nuclear weapons.
- Montezuma Nuclear Train blockade.
- Peace Pentecost witness against arms race and apartheid in Washington, DC.
- Public vigils begin (with model of an electric chair) against executions at Sumter County Courthouse on days of executions.
- Language program begins with Asian students.
June 17, 1987
- Florence Jordan dies – the last of the original four founders.
- Bo & Emma Johnson complete house payments – community celebrates with a mortgage burning.
- 5 more mortgages paid off. New KCDC building begins construction.
- New KCDC building is dedicated. Programs for pre-school ages are expanded, and eventually are recognized as some of the best in the state.
April 24, 1992
- Koinonia celebrated first 50 years with a reunion!
- 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.
- Additional leadership and management roles filled by long-time employees and homeowners; first Executive Director hired.
- Organizational transition: common purse dissolved, communal members become employees and a new mission statement is written.
- Prison and Jail Project started.
Mid to late 1990s
- All Koinonia Partners (communal members) have left.
- Indebtedness discovered and third Executive Director removed from position.
- More than half the land sold to help retire the debt.
- Friends rally and donate funds to help Koinonia go forward.
- Cotton Patch Gospel Musical plays to large audiences in Atlanta and Americus. It has had a successful run on Broadway in New York City.
- Koinonia Child Development Center closed due to lack of enrollment as similar programs now exist in Americus. Plans begin for Outreach Center.
- Strong peace emphasis triggered by international terror and a Koinonia Press Release is published in several national publications.
- Meetings with other Abrahamic religions.
- Koinonia Community Outreach Center (KCOC) opens.
- Educational classes on social justice issues activated.
- New definition of Partners (members): An 8 item Covenant accepted.
- 60th Anniversary. Theme: “Embracing the Past; Enriching the Future”
- Premiere of Briars in the Cotton Patch: The Story of Koinonia Farm. It will go on to be nominated for and win several Emmy Awards.
- New Executive Director Bren Dubay begins facilitating meetings with staff and resident volunteers to determine a way forward for Koinonia.
- Staff, resident volunteers and board of directors finalize decision for Koinonia’s return to its original communal vision. Staff and resident volunteer designation dissolved and all given opportunity to join the community.
- Work begins to determine a process to membership for those interested in joining in the future.
- The internship program is resurrected and Koinonia welcomes three interns to the summer of 2005 term.
- First annual Covenant Worship Service.
- New mission statement, vision statement and covenants affirmed.
- Koinonia Farm celebrates its 70th Anniversary and Clarence & Florence Jordan’s 100th birthdays.
- The 2012 Celebration is a month long and opens with the first Clarence Jordan Symposium followed by a Blitz Build at the farm and ends with a Koinonia Family Reunion.
- An update is added to the Special Features in the Emmy Award winning documentary Briars in the Cotton Patch.
- Koinonia commits to an experiment to grow its pecans without pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
The community’s mission is to live an intentional, common life together modeled after the description of the Early Church in the Acts of the Apostles serving God and God’s people. Our three main ministries are hospitality, an internship program and demonstrating sustainable farming practices. Our focus is Feeding the Hungry both physically and spiritually. Koinonia Farm is a place of prayer and dialogue. It continues to be a meeting ground for people of many different backgrounds coming together to work and study about issues of faith, community, social justice and more.
Though our three main ministries very much tie us to place, we do conventional outreach as well. Some of our outreach is weekly, some monthly, some short term and some long term. We take the lead on some outreach, but we also assist other organizations with outreach. This is another way we build relationships within the wider community.
By not being programmatic we have the freedom to respond to the needs and challenges of the times the best we can with the people and resources we have. Each of our members, too, serve in a variety of ways off the farm according to her/his interests. Read about what is writing our timeline today — click here.
Koinonia Farm is a place of spiritual renewal. We invite you to come and see. Click here to learn about ways to visit.