A few of us are learning what “fellowship” means and are putting it into practice. It started a month ago when my wife told me a few people in our community wanted to go in with us in buying shares in a cow. I said, “Thats what ‘fellowship’ means. It means to have half shares in a cow”.
[image from mooworld.org]
This is what Kiwi Viv Grigg told me years ago at a Fuller Seminary class. He also suggested the word “fee” comes from the same word in old English. I did some research on the roots of the word and found out that the English word “fellowship” comes from the Nordic word “fēlagi”. Interestingly, that was pretty much the language spoken up here in Orkney during that time.
This 2000 year old village in Orkney (Broch of Gurness, about 20 minutes from my house) shows how close everyone lived together. Livestock gave meat, milk and heat for the homes in winter – organic heating and organic smell. Families would often share these animals among themselves by becoming ‘fellows’ with each other.
[Middle English felau, from Old English fēolaga, from Old Norse fēlagi, business partner, fellow, from fēlag, partnership : fē, property, money + lag, a laying down.] Answers
Word History for “Fellow”
“A jolly good fellow might or might not be the ideal business associate, but the ancestor of our word fellow definitely referred to a business partner. Fellow was borrowed into English from Old Norse fēlagi, meaning “a partner or shareholder of any kind.” Old Norse fēlagi is derived from fēlag, “partnership,” a compound made up of fē, “livestock, property, money,” and lag, “a laying in order” and “fellowship.” The notion of putting one’s property together lies behind the senses of fēlagi meaning “partner” and “consort.” In Old Icelandic fēlagi also had the general sense “fellow, mate, comrade,” which fellow has as well, indicating perhaps that most partnerships turned out all right for speakers of Old Icelandic.” Answers
This idea of re-imagining fellowship in economic terms came up later with the idea of chickens. Four families, including ours, are going together to buy some laying hens so we can all get fresh organic eggs. Thats fellowship for you. Maybe “partnership” carries the idea a little better.
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The topic came up again with a camper van. A number of us want the use of a camper van but none of us can afford it or feel justified in buying one for ourselves. Last weekend was a nasty storm which killed the Shiner’s caravan. They want to be part of a camper-sharing scheme also. The answer lies in FELLOWSHIP, a small group of us casting our lots together in a shared, economic and relational commitment.
Fellowship is the English translation for “Koinonia”, a word in the New Testament found 20 times in the New Testament, The first occurrence is Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. The fellowship was expressed financially as well as in other terms. People with extra land sold what they had and gave it to the apostles for distribution. The love feasts provided for those without much food or money, as well as being a relational and spiritual bonding event. The early church had a financial commitment to each other.
FELLOWSHIP. It might be an old and tired word for many of us, conjuring images of bad-food potlucks and cups of tea with boring people, but the word itself is a keeper and offers a way out of our individualist, consumerist christianities. Fellowship ALWAYS costs us something and it makes others richer. But giving that gift enriches ourselves and God’s community.
In the emerging church, there are many efforts to recover this idea of sharing in each others lives with a financial commitment. There are examples of common purses, common pools of money to borrow from, living arrangements which allow the idea of fellowship to be played out. Trusting each other and the God-given ability to get along with each other helps. I would be curious to know how is this idea working in your community.