I first encountered Clarence Jordan and The Cotton Patch Gospels when I was teenager, because of my crazy Aunt Betty, a good Methodist laywoman who lived in South Florida who came to visit us every summer. She would read excerpts from my Aunt Myrtle’s front porch with a vivid southern accent. I learned to read the Gospels with fresh eyes when I heard about the baby born in Gainesville who grew up in Valdosta (nothing good could come from there).
I read Jordan’s biography when I was eighteen and a college freshmen, and read articles about him in Sojourners Magazine in my sophomore year when they did a tenth anniversary of his death issue. His life and ministry at Koinonia Farms was a challenge to a child of relative privilege from a racially charged part of the world (South Alabama). I became a student of the civil rights movement and attempted to practice a life of racial reconciliation…not always the easiest thing to do . Over thirty years later, I am still learning to live in harmony with all of God’s children, and have developed some life-long friendships with persons of many races and colors. I can say that Clarence Jordan helped me make that step.
It has now been over 40 years since his death, and there have been many changes in the world. The transformation of the community in and around Koinonia Farms would probably be a surprise to him, having lived through some of the darkest periods in our history. Seeing an African American president in the White House would probably be beyond his expectations. But the reality that we have so far to go in race relations, and extending love and concern for folks different than us would still haunt him.
Take some time to today to learn about Clarence Jordan and reflect on his life. He was one of those saints that could be a briar under your skin.
The December 1979 issue (vol. 8, no. 12) of Sojourners magazine was devoted to the Cotton Patch, Clarence Jordan, and Koinonia Partners. Below are some of the articles:
– Theology in Overalls: The Imprint of Clarence Jordan, by G. McLeod Bryan
– A Scandalous Life of Faith, by Joyce Hollyday
– Where There’s So Much Smoke: Thirty-Caliber Violence at Koinonia, by Will D. Campbell
– Remembrances of Clarence by various persons
– The Dream That Has Endured: Clarence Jordan and Koinonia, by Joyce Hollyday
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