Our ember conversation — belonging and togetherness
In our little Ember-sphere, we’ve had some super helpful [I think they’re helpful] conversations around the idea of belonging. We are all working toward the goals of the organization, which are narrow and specific, but we are also becoming good friends in the process. So, our topic of conversation revolves around the question, what does it look like to have a narrow focus as an organization while making room for relational connection and life together? You’re welcome to join our process and conversation:
A letter to the Ember community — a few thoughts on how we belong and together… together.
Phil here. We had a conversation at our last ember gathering during which I spent a little time defining the community that has gathered around the Ember prayer room. Here’s a bit of what we talked through, along with a little more detailed perspective and a way forward for us.
The Ember community has become, not only a smattering of individuals connected to us through other church communities (which is super duper awesome for real… Ember HAS TO BE THIS and I want to continue to be a place that is available for this kind of person, as we host a prayer room for a region), but we’ve also attracted individuals looking for a place to belong, those who don’t have another community to call home. And for those who feel like they are this kind of person, I want to acknowledge you. I want to do so by communicating the following (“out loud”). Ember is a place to which you may belong. Ember as an organization is something that I am personally committed to and I’m not going anywhere. And, there are others connected to this work that feel the same way.
Now, that being said. I’m not slapping a sign on the door that says “Ember Church” or “Ember Community”. Doing so would be incredibly unhelpful for what we are building and seeking to build. So, please hear me when I say, the identity of Ember as an organization does not change. We are committed to one thing —we develop meaningful content amidst regular rhythms of prayer. We aren’t organizing or strategically implementing in any other direction.
We’re not changing our rhythms together. We’re not going to start meeting weekly on Sunday mornings (for example). We’re going to continue to do what we do —weekly rhythms of prayer, monthly ember gatherings, and the development of meaningful content (podcasts discussions, written thoughts and video/audio content) that inspire people to deeper places in God.
But something I’ve already noticed (and this is why I bring up this concept of belonging), is that our structured rhythms are already seasoned with coffee dates, birthday parties, cookouts, spontaneous prayer gatherings, impromptu movie nights, etc. These are not Ember organized activities that you’ll see on an email or flyer. These are simply things people do together when they value and enjoy one another.
So, what does that mean moving forward?
For some within the Ember sphere, nothing changes. Individuals can continue to relate to us as they like (and again, THIS IS SO VITAL TO WHO WE ARE!) — a personal prayer room, a group of likeminded people seeking Jesus together during a corporate prayer time, a resource for meaningful online content inspiring deeper connection with God. This piece doesn’t change. And we will continue to extend this invitation for anyone to relate to Ember (the organization) in this way.
But for others, I just want you to know, this group of friends can be your home. Ember as an organization will continue it’s commitment to be good at one thing —we develop meaningful content amidst regular rhythms of prayer. But, and I’m simply articulating something that is already happening naturally, meaningful friendships and relationships are developing around this work. All I’m proposing is that we continue following Jesus together as friends and allow him to bring us together more often, allow ourselves to be needed by one another, and allow Jesus to express himself in our midst.
Why not call it a church? That’s basically what you’re doing right? No, there is a big difference in what I’m after. When you call something a church in Western Christendom, it brings with it the idea that the church organization will organize events in which everyone can participate. The responsibility to “create belonging” lands on the organization. Ember isn’t that. What I’m saying is that for anyone that desires to belong, I’m expressing the invitation. And it’s up to each of us to make the most of that invitation.
What does that mean practically? It means being intentional. It means taking personal ownership in connecting with those who orbit around the Ember prayer room or the monthly Ember gathering. It could mean getting someone’s number, offering to babysit someone’s kids, inviting people over for a Friday night movie or dinner, or possibly considering proximity to people in your next living scenario. You know, stuff friends do 😉
My personal commitment is to be a resource for us as we continue to ask the question, what does it look like to build a community of friends through values instead of events? If this sounds super wacky crazy, I’m happy to talk through it with you. If you’d just like to be pointed in a direction, be on the lookout for some written content [philrice.blog] that coincides with the theme of togetherness.
I’m excited about all the Lord is doing within and through this group of people. We are building something important in Ember. I think the Lord is delighted in our work and ministry to him and the greater body of Christ in our region. And I’m so grateful for you all walking this path with me. Here’s to the next phase of life among this gathered people. Any thoughts or questions, always feel free to reach out.
PS. Oh yeah, and if you resonate with some of these thoughts, consider joining the conversation more regularly!
I send out a super helpful [I think it’s helpful] short email with  highlights of content over the last month [or so], my 5-things email — meaningful content for the religiously disillusioned [or spiritually tired] seeking to practically and authentically follow Jesus in real life.