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26 May 2010
by Angus M Robinson, Past President, Rotary E-Club One

According to the ‘New King James’ and ‘Authorised Version’ bibles of the Christian faith, the words, ‘contribution, fellowship, sharing and communion’ are words translated from the Greek word ‘koinonia’.

Koinonia is also translated as ‘communication’ and ‘communicate’ in other passages. The English words ‘fellowship’ and ‘communion’ express the relationship of the parties involved while the English words ‘contribution, sharing, communication and communicate’ express the action that is involved in the relationship.
In 1911 Rotary Founder Paul Harris, when commenting on the ‘fellowship’ relationship, said: “Life in Rotary should consist of a rational mixture of business with civic activities and good fellowship”.

Some years later (in 1939), he spoke about fellowship in the context of ‘friendliness’ which he claimed, “is the motive power of Rotary”.
Harris said, “Friendliness is more powerful and smooth running than any Diesel engine ever built. Friendliness is a virtue in its own right; it begets others as well. Neighbourliness, kindliness, tolerance, and usefulness are children of friendliness; they attack enemies of the social order, not only banishing care, worry, envy, greed, suspicion, fear, and anger, but also stimulating hope and courage. They are the solvents of labour problems and, given a chance would be solvents of international problems as well.”

And during the height of World War II, Paul Harris linked ‘fellowship’ with the concept of ‘service’ stating that, “Rotary’s most glamorous purpose is to foster international understanding and good will, and during our many years of experimentation we have accumulated considerable knowledge on that baffling subject. We have actually succeeded in creating a world‑wide fellowship of business and professional people united in the ideal of service. Our membership includes representatives of more than 50 countries and devotees of practically all of the major religious faiths and most of the political ideologies. We have been able to accomplish this by adhering strictly to the one matter in hand and avoiding all others.”

Over the ensuing years, Rotarians (now some 1.2 million across the world) through the agendas of their weekly meetings, have embodied these two concepts as essential ingredients. How often are we used to hearing the Club President say? “Let’s take a break from our proceedings to enjoy some fellowship”.
For many Rotarians, this commitment to regular weekly attendance to combine fellowship and service has led to a passion for achieving a 100% attendance record.
Translating all of this to the new e-club operating environment presents some interesting challenges and parallels.

Central to the success of the e-club operating mode, it is fair to say in summary that the facility serves a much needed meeting place for committed Rotarians to be connected, informed and inspired, using only those information and communication technologies (ICTs) that best enable them to deliver ‘Service Above Self’ in an environment that is different from the weekly ‘face to face’ meeting.

It is this difference that often causes Rotarians unfamiliar with being connected online to ask how fellowship can be achieved if there is no ‘face to face’ contact? That is like asking a sight impaired person how effective ‘one to one’ communication can be achieved where there is no visual contact, or like asking a daughter whether the daily phone call with her mother counts as ‘keeping in touch’.

As it happens, whereas online members do not connect weekly ‘face to face’, they are regularly connecting and conversing more often than not daily by email! Supplemented by regular webinars and interaction by ‘blogging’ in the clubhouse, regular and vigorous intra-personal communication is very much alive and well.
Based on my own personal experience over the past seven years as a member of Rotary E-Club One (a club now with 56 members residing in nine countries straddling the geographic provenances of North America, UK/Europe/Asia, Africa and Australia), I have got to know my fellow Rotarians with whom I communicate electronically on a daily basis far better than with those I met reasonably regularly when I was previously a member of a traditional Rotary club.

And a fascinating consequence of this new form of fellowship is that when I have had the opportunity to have met ‘face to face’ my fellow correspondents in person at a Rotary International Convention (the location of our club’s Annual Dinner), I have found them to be exactly as I have known them through the electronic relationship – good and worthy friends through and through. This has also been the experience of others in Rotary E-Club One.

Of course our Annual Dinner is a very special feature of our collective experience as participants of the RI Convention. But our club also organizes the manning (in collaboration with our very good friends of the Rotary E-Club of Latino America and the Rotary E-Club of London Centenary) of a shared exhibition booth within the RI ‘House of Friendship’. Apart from the comradeship shared with other e-club Rotarians, we all have the chance to share fellowship with so many other RI Convention attendees from all around the world. And quite a few of those Rotarians who drop in to say “hello” are regular users of our club web site, a valued facility which provides them with an information-rich make-up experience.

Many of our members are frequent travellers (hence their reason for becoming Rotary e-club members) and invariably they make-up at a wide range of traditional clubs within their own home countries or overseas. Moreover, in Rotary E-Club One, some of our longer-standing members (myself included) have made special side trips or arranged stopovers to meet up with fellow club members en route whilst engaged in overseas business trips.

In regard to make-ups, for my own part, since joining Rotary E-Club One, whenever I have been in Australia’s national capital on business, I have been a very regular visitor to the Rotary Club of Canberra East. As a result of this very special relationship, I have had the pleasure to get to know many fine and motivated Rotarians in another (and in this case, traditional) Rotary club – this has resulted in both our clubs co-funding a number of International Service projects, including one in Afghanistan (a project in which the Rotary Club of Canberra East played a key hands-on role), and another in Cambodia (contributing to our current Rotary E-Club One President’s major project of the year).

Therefore, there should be no doubt that Rotarians help provide service through fellowship. Moreover, Rotary International now promotes the notion that social networking is one of the many ways Rotarians are connecting online

In its simplest form, the Rotary e-club experience is indeed a home-grown and outstanding example of how social networking can be applied for a wide range of service activity.

In my opinion, it should always be remembered that the quality of fellowship can be judged by how people act together rather than just the process of meeting together. In this context, people connecting and acting together online are indeed embracing fellowship, and as Paul Harris put it, ‘united in the ideal of service’.

In the final analysis, all of the Rotary e-club activities of ‘contributing, sharing, and communicating’ are embodied in the relationship of fellowship – truly koinonia at work.

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