It has long been an accepted tenet of the Christian faith that to be called into communion with Jesus Christ is to be called into communion, or relationship, with other Christians. Yet, according to Steve Aisthorpe in his book, The Invisible Church: Learning from the experience of Churchless Christians, there is an increasing number of Christians who, profess faith in Jesus but, for one reason or another, have turned their back on traditional church.
It is easy to critique this current situation in a very negative way but Aisthorpe cites many examples of people who have, far from might be expected, found themselves closer in that communion to Christ than they had when church attenders. Some have found the fellowship they required in house groups and other diverse ways such as the internet: listening to a sermon online or on the TV e.g. One person described themselves as a long distance parisioner of the world wide web. Here they could find Anam Cara, a soul friend, according to the Celtic tradition, one they could develop a relationship of spiritual nurture with even if at a distance.
And yet Brian Draper laments the fact that people seem to depend more on the distance of internet relationships to find their soul friends.
Life is busy…but there is far more to life beneath the surface than our ‘status updates’ , as we all know, and while not everyone we meet will be destined to be a soul friend, nevertheless, we can find soulful ways to connect more fully with anyone…we encounter…in everyday life.
Soul friend, anam cara, according to John O’ Donohue, in the original Gaelic meaning of this phrase, is ‘someone to whom you could make confession, and with whom you could share the hidden intimacies and secrets of your lives’.
In the bible we may find anam cara relationships e.g. between David and Jonathon or the beloved disciple leaning on Jesus breast. And, I guess that, ultimaltely, this is the relationship which we all desire. That which Donahue describes as God, our anam cara, our soul friend who we can confess to and who sticks to us, closer than a brother and at the deepest and most sacred point of our being, this relationship is possible. Is it no wonder then that God’s desire is that we not only know this relationship with him, but also share it with one another.
That friends, is the church, the Body of Christ. However we perceive it or practice It, visible or invisible. It is our relationship with God, in Christ, our soul friend, and with one another. Anam cara!
At Peace with God & with one another
Great peace have they who love your law;
Nothing offends them.
Lord, do I love your way?
Is it great peace that I experience?
Or just medium sized peace?
Am I easily offended? Easily tripped up? Easily stumbled?
Give me the peace that never returns evil for evil.
Peace and comfort can be found nowhere except in simple obedience to you.
 Steve Aisthorpe, The Invisible Church: Learning from the Experience of Churchless Christians, (Edinburgh: St. Andrew Press, 2016)
 Aisthorpe, The Invisible Church, 43-44
 Brian Draper, Soulfulness: Deepening the Mindful Life, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016), 113-114
 John O’ Donahue, in The Invisible Church: Learning from the Experience of Churchless Christians, (Edinburgh: St. Andrew Press, 2016), 114