Something New is Forming: Anam Cara Community

Anam Cara.

It’s a Celtic phrase that refers to this ancient idea of a “soul friend,” someone who knows your insides even better than your outsides.

I love it. The phrase itself might be Gaelic, but it’s found in all cultures across time and history. It’s an idea of deep knowing and deep understanding.

As this pandemic has forced us all into a new reality which, inherently, means that we can’t “go back” to the old way we were prior to March 2020, some new sparks have flown and new seeds have been sewn, encouraging us all to discover what community might mean, now.

The Lutheran Church I’m a pastor in (ELCA) is exploring some new ways of doing the spiritual life. I was approached in early 2021 with an idea: what would a “digital-first” community look like that explored spirituality, worshiped primarily through a digital interface, and grew community without geographical restrictions?

I told them I had no idea what that would look like, but that we do see glimpses of it all over the place now.

After six months of study, exploration, meditation, and a good bit of hesitation, the green light has been given to formally explore this kind of community. A shout-out to my partner in this exploratory time: Matt Hansen, a seminarian who comes from the digital marketing world, was imaginative, integral, and will continue to play a part in this work.

We don’t know a lot about what it will look like, act like, or turn out to be in its final form, but my co-curator Jason Chesnut (you may know him from the Ankos Films and the Slate Project) and I know this much:

-it will be both theologically and socially progressive

-it will have an eye toward the medium we’re working with (aka: we’re not just video taping a church service)

-it will be diverse in every way it can be

-it will be exploratory in nature, but grounded in the best parts of our tradition

-it will be a place where Anam Cara, soul friendship, is cultivated because physical proximity will not always be possible.

We’re calling it Anam Cara Community, and it’s just now being formed and birthed. There will be many touchstones: web presence, video, short podcast (cause there are too many long ones out there), blogging (most likely here), social media, scripture studies, worship gatherings, perhaps even an in-person retreat when it’s safe. Our goal is to create opportunities and resources not only for folx curious about spirituality, but also for pastors who need ideas and inspiration. In this way, this community will be unique, formed by both professional church people, non-church people, and people who fall somewhere in-between.

But it will take time, patience, and discernment for it all to come together. New things take time. You’re invited to be a part of the walk an the Way.

All of the above touchstones will begin trickling out, with more fully-formed offerings coming in early 2022. Our goal is to have our initial digital-first worship gathering at the start of Lent of that year.

I’m reminded, Beloved, that the Apostle Paul and much of the early church were in community together largely through letters and shared stories. That was the “digital-first” medium of their day.

Which makes me think this is not only possible, but probably needed for this next phase of our communal life.

More soon. #anamcara