Before I enrolled at Antioch, I had developed a growing interest in intentional community. I was specifically inspired by the new monastic movement [as described by Jonathon Wilson Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne], which promotes a life of community, solidarity with the poor, non-violence and peacemaking, care of the earth, contemplative practice, and radical sharing of economic resources. I stumbled across several different communities that held these values, including Koinonia Farm in Georgia [www.koinoniapartners.org]. It worked out that I could spend a seasonal internship with them for my co-op this Fall.
Koinonia Farm was founded in 1942 by two couples who came with a focus on education, sisterhood and brotherhood of all people, and living a shared life. They spoke out about racial equality and served as a place that provided community and equal pay for people of color. Economic boycotts from the locals and violent attacks from the KKK led Koinonia to start a pecan mail-order business to support itself. It continues to grow pecans and make a variety of pecan products in its bakery.
Koinonia developed an emphasis on providing affordable housing through non-interest loans in the 1960’s and 70’s, giving birth to today’s Habitat for Humanity. Now Koinonia focuses on being a ‘demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God’ through hospitality, organic farming, and shared life. Koinonia has nearly 500 acres of land for beef and dairy cows, pigs, and chickens to roam, 92 acres of pecan orchards, several acres of blueberries and grape vineyards, as well as a vegetable garden and fruit orchards. Koinonia provides healthy, organic, food for the community and for our own community use. Visitors can come and enjoy the land and farm, participate in a variety of workshops, or join us in our work in the bakery or garden. Koinonia also facilitates a ‘formational discipleship intern program’ for those who want to participate in the communal life and work here more long term. That’s what I’m doing.
As an intern, I contribute to a variety of tasks needed on the farm. A typical work day begins around 8:00 with chapel, several hours of work until lunch, work after lunch, and study sessions with the director. The director tries to assign us work tasks that correspond with our interests as well as the community’s needs. So, I have been working in the garden and on the farm, making meals, and helping in the bakery for most of my work time here. Other jobs include hospitality work, maintenance, shipping and sales, and construction. Everyone here works during the same hours of the day, cycling through different jobs, and keeping the place going.
Another part of the internship is study. Together we read books, passages, watch films and then discuss them throughout the week. General themes include the gospels, non-violence and peacemaking, loving others, building community, care for the earth, and ethical economics.
Spirituality is an important element to Koinonia. All communities approach spirituality differently. I would say that Koinonia addresses the spiritual element through ritual and time for quiet. Every morning we have chapel and sing hymns and a member shares about a passage of the Bible. Prayer bells are rung three times throughout the day, indicating a time to stop and pray or meditate or be still. We pray at each meal and someone shares a devotional. We also have gathered worship on Sunday evenings and we share communion. Although it is a Christian community, members and visitors of Koinonia represent a wide range of beliefs and religions.
I have to admit, adjusting to life at Koinonia was difficult. I am so accustomed to my (somewhat) independence, that being thrust into an environment of interdependence with people I was just getting to know was uncomfortable at times. Sometimes discomfort is the best way to learn things, though. I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about community and cooperative work, here. I am discovering that success is more about who you are on the inside and less about how you perform. I am learning that cooperation is often more valuable than individual skill. I am learning that community is messy and difficult, but it can produce love, goodness, and strength beyond what one person can create.
I don’t know if I will want to live in an intentional community after college. However, what I am learning about living in community—making collective decisions, working for a common goal, listening and sharing honestly with others, and finding joy in simplicity and work—are applicable wherever I go in life. I appreciate what I have learned about living differently in a society that pushes the mainstream, and I appreciate the applicable skills I have learned here like gardening, cooking for large groups of people, hosting guests, making bakery products, and preserving food. I hope to come back and visit many times after I leave.