By Bren Dubay
In Koinonia’s old museum — we had to demolish the building, but are hoping to rebuild it someday — one wall featured a brief history of the Mvskoke (Muscogee/Creek) tribes: the Native People who once lived in what we now call Sumter County. On another wall was the recent history of the African American struggle in our area. Koinonia history told through the use of a timeline and newspaper articles occupied a third wall.
Koinonia has tried. From the beginning in 1942, everyone has been welcome here no matter race, creed or no creed. Black and white sat at meals together even when it was against the law. Koinonia paid black, brown and white farmhands the same. There was a time when we were able to pay them higher than the going rate received from other farms in the area. That got us into trouble.
Today, just like in the past, the core group here follows Acts 2 — And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Because we live this way, there is more to share with others. We can hire a few people full-time and can hire seasonally. Of course, we wish more people would join us in this life, but we are glad our vocation affords us the ability to welcome and share what we have with others who have chosen to live another way.
Koinonia has always tried to live in such a way that it is clear we believe that Black lives matter. No lives matter if Black lives, Indigenous lives, Brown lives do not matter. We are not perfect. Sadly, where there are white people — even well intentioned and ever striving, caring white people — there is not perfection. White privilege is a disease. We must always listen and we must always be willing to learn so we can do better. Humility is paramount.
Clarence Jordan, our co-founder, hoped that people’s hearts could be changed. He fretted that changing laws without changing hearts would not lead us very far. When laws regarding segregation did change in the 1954 Supreme Court Brown vs the Board of Education ruling, violence was heaped upon Koinonia as it was heaped upon so many other places and people.
Laws have been changed for a long while now. But have hearts been changed? Is what we see happening in the U.S. for these past several weeks a massive heart change? If so, will it be a permanent heart change? I hope so. I pray so. Did George Floyd’s senseless and brutal death break our hearts? Permanently? Is there no going back? I hope not. I pray not.
Know that the Koinonia commitment to live day in and day out treating all as brothers and sisters called to care for one another will not fade. Koinonia is a small place, but with all the resources we have, we will continue to work for justice and to live in a just way. We will pray and march. We will listen and learn. We will advocate for our neighbors in the halls of power, in the streets, in the churches, and in our chapel. We will raise a mighty racket. We will act in such a way that when we proclaim we are brothers and sisters no one need roll her eyes — because it is indeed a true statement and not a trite one.
All are welcome here.