CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,
Jan. 12, 2008 – Dr. Robert Hamblinᾰprofessor of English, director of the Center for Faulkner Studies, scholar and poet at Southeast Missouri State University, has a new interest: portraying legendary Baptist preacher Clarence Jordan.
Jordan (pronounced Jurden), who died in 1969, and his wife Florence founded Koinonia Farm, a communal, biracial fellowship, near Americus, Georgia, in 1942. The group was subjected to years of violence and threats from the Ku Klux Klan, but the farm survives today as both a working farm and a religious center promoting peace, social justice, inclusiveness, and non-violence.
Jordan is also well known as the author of the Cotton Patch Gospels, a translation of the New Testament into the Southern vernacular that Jordan, a native Georgian, spoke and heard
Now recognized as one of the leading practitioners of the “social gospel,” Jordan heavily influenced Millard and Linda Fuller, the founders of Habitat for Humanity, as well as President Jimmy Carter.
Hamblin wrote the script for his presentation, entitled “Preacher in Overalls: The Story of Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farm,” based on Jordan’s books and audio tapes of his sermons and lectures.
Regarding his presentation, Hamblin says: “Because of my teaching style, my students sometimes ask if I’ve ever been a preacher. As Clarence, I get to be a preacher without having to write my own sermons.”
Over the past two years, Hamblin has presented his impersonation of Jordan to numerous churches, schools, and civic groups. The program includes both the history of Koinonia Farm and excerpts from Jordan’s sermons and books. In portraying Jordan, Hamblin wears overalls and speaks in a south Georgia dialect.
Hamblin credits his attendance at a series of Missouri Chautauqua performances for stirring his interest in developing the Jordan program.
“My entire family enjoyed Chautauqua immensely, and I thought it would be fun to portray a historical character in that fashion,” he said. “And I’ve been a huge admirer of Clarence Jordan for a long time.”
Thus far, Hamblin has not been able to establish any direct link between Jordan and Faulkner, but he points out they have some mutual concerns.
“They both were greatly troubled by racism and social injustice,” Hamblin says, continuing, “I find it very interesting that Koinonia Farm was founded in the same year that Faulkner published Go Down, Moses. One can easily imagine Ike McCaslin as a member of the Koinonia community.”
A video recording of a recent presentation of Hamblin as Jordan can be found athttp://wmserver.cstl.semo.edu/rhamblin/preaching_in_overalls.wmv. (If link does not open, please copy and paste the URL directly into your browser.)
Organizations interested in scheduling a performance may contact Hamblin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (573) 651-2628.