When I walked in Rosa Parks Center, I was immediately greeted by KOINONIA members at the check-in counter. Their presence was warm and welcoming and helped ease the anxiety I had entering the space. After waiting in the lobby for the rest of my group to arrive, I decided to stroll around the main room (Rosa Parks A-C) and gauge the people in the space. As I walked through the doors, a wave of freshly prepared food wafted through the entrance. With my stomach now dancing in excitement, I awkwardly stood at the entrance deciding whether to get in line or continue observing the people in the space. After about 15 seconds of contemplation, I looked around at the KOINONIA members (half of which were looking back at me, anxious to see what brought me to their club). Then, an older member slowly approached me and introduced himself as David. He asked what brought me to KOINONIA. Still thinking about my awkward entrance, I hurried a reply “my friend told me about it, so I thought I should check it out.” Our conversation continued for another five minutes before he invited me to grab a plate of food and sit at his table. As I waited in line, I realized the mistake I made by not giving David an honest answer about my presence at KOINONIA. I was there to study their group and I had misinformed him. Despite how inappropriate it felt, I waited until the end of the meeting to inform him of my real reason for coming to KOINONIA that night.
After I ate with David at his table, the entire group sat in the middle of the room to hear the formal welcoming from a KOINONIA leader. He gave us some recent announcements about the group and some spiritual tips to keep our faith. Then, he invited people who were interested in taking “Course 101” (an intermediate class for new members/Christians) to join another instructor in the room across the hall (Rosa Parks F). Though I probably should have went to Course 101, David and others that sat at his table insisted I stay with them in the main room where the leader would lead the remaining group in a bible study.
He assigned us to get in groups and annotate John 9, a bible scripture, which talked about a blind man who was healed and able to see after Jesus rubbed mud in his eyes. After about 20 minutes of annotation and group discussion the group came back together, and the leader gave his interpretation of the verse. He believed the man was given the ability to see again because the man had restored faith in Jesus and persevered past other’s suggestion that Jesus did not exist.
At the end of the bible study discussion, we concluded the night in a prayer and some additional spiritual tips to keep our faith. After saying goodbye to all the KOINONIA members I met that night, I left the main room and headed back to Bart.
During my time at KOINONIA, I made a few notable observations surrounding the topic of masculinity. First of all, the genders were segregated. When we were eating, no tables were integrated with both males and females. Even when we came together as a group, the rows were nearly segregated in the same fashion. Secondly, the speakers for the main lecture, the bible study and Course 101 (all leadership roles in KOINONIA) were males. Lastly, although many people kindly introduced themselves to me that night, they were all males except two (one of which was a greeter at the check in counter).
Overall, the first night with KOINONIA was insightful, extremely welcoming and friendly. Nevertheless, throughout the night, I noticed small instances of unnecessary gender separation and male dominance. I am eager to see if this dynamic continues.