Our New Home | A Tour of Eden Invitation's New Online Platform
Back in 2022 at our Rooted & Free Retreat, one thing we resonated with across our discernment small groups was a need for a layered community in Eden Invitation– a space to both welcome seekers and committed community members. In the summer of 2023, our staff and a team of volunteers began to build an online platform that could house this unique, layered community. Now in 2024, this new online platform is a home for hundreds of striving LGBTQ+ disciples across the world!
But how does this all work?
Well friends, come to this little “Open House” –a look into our Online Community!
First, let’s review the “architecture.”
Anna, our President and Co-Founder, and a team of community volunteers built this platform to have levels. The timeless wisdom of the Church teaches us that there is a gradual progression of belief as one grows in discipleship. There isn’t a strict, one-time “you’re in or you’re not,” but rather an ongoing conversation that can move to deeper levels as that relationship progresses. That's why our online community platform is built to house individuals at different levels of belief. Each community member discerns on an annual basis where they want to commit for the following year. At this time, there are two main areas for these members in our online community– the Porch and the Hearth.
Let’s start our walk-through!
The Porch–those who have connected with Eden Invitation and respect our Statement of Belief, but aren’t at a place where they can commit to it can choose to be with us here! They are still in our community at this part of their journey. The Porch is a space for all of our members to get to know each other through various topical threads. We have threads dedicated to discussing the books we’re reading, the music we like, the scholarly articles we’re discovering, the video games we’re playing, and more. Part of the Porch is called “The Front Yard.” As one of our volunteer moderators, Miranda shares “I love how this new ‘room’ helps facilitate grassroots events run by community members… I recently used the video channel there to have a video game night with a few friends!” Other events hosted there so far include an Open Mic night and a Shakespearean play reading. Here on the Porch, we grow in friendship through our common hobbies and interests, but there is always the invitation to come further into the community.
Right between the Porch and the Hearth spaces is the “Threshold”– think of it like a foyer area. In this layer, both new participants and current members have space to grow in a more intentional community– share prayer requests and glory stories, and gather for our online programs like Book Club. This space has allowed Andrew, our New Engagement Coordinator, and his volunteer team to better connect people seeking deeper community. “New Participants used to have to wait weeks before having contact with the online community, outside of their Book Club email chain,” Andrew shares. “Now with the Threshold space, our newest friends can still have the security of their small group, while also exploring the wider community, all with less wait time!” After this time of deepening understanding of Eden Invitation’s values and the Church’s teachings, these Threshold members are invited to consider joining the Hearth.
The Hearth is the layer of our online community for those striving disciples with LGBTQ+ experiences who are committed to Eden Invitation’s Statement of Belief. Here we have spaces for demographic sub-groups: groups for men and women, unique LGBTQ+ experiences (i.e. gender discordance, varying degrees of same-sex desires), states of life (i.e. sacramental marriage, lay celibacy, religious life/discernment), and our international members. This is also where our Hearth Groups meet up! We have video call “rooms” that our regional groups can use for their monthly gatherings. Each Hearth Group, whether local or regional, also has a chat group here. As David, our Community Coordinator explains, “This is the heart of our online community– a place where people can connect with others striving to walk the same road… This new platform has been especially useful because I can connect people into small potential in-person Hearth Groups (“Nooks”) more easily.”
The last little stop we’ll make in our “house tour” is the Kitchen. This is where all of our trained volunteers can meet! It also has space for staff to post updated materials and training announcements, answer questions and offer encouragement. But there’s one more door here in this metaphorical house– it leads to where all the hardware and tools are kept to keep this house in shape…
In the Garage, our staff and team of volunteer moderators can continue problem-solving anything that comes up on our online platform. “As mods, we answer questions the community has and update the platform as we grow!” Miranda shares, “We also monitor the conversations to keep a spirit of mutual belonging and respect throughout the online community.” With hundreds of people online, you’d think it would be easy to get lost in the crowd. Our team built the platform and trained our volunteers to prevent that as much as possible. As another mod, Catherine* shares, “Being a mod has allowed me to see the big picture overview of our community and the behind-the-scenes of what all our staff and volunteers do. They all have such attention for the needs of the community and that is evidenced by that feeling of community getting expressed even through the internet.”
We’ve been all moved into our new online platform for barely 2 months and it already feels like a home. It has all the spaces we need to receive the whole person, build and encourage systems of mutual support, and empower our community for creative discipleship through our programs and grassroots events. We look forward to growing the Eden Invitation community through this platform, and we’re so grateful for all of the support that made this new home possible!