Friendship is at the heart of Quakerism and for many Quakers they see each other as friends of the soul.
The concept of Soul Friends began in early British and Irish Christianity. St. Brigid, a sixth century saint of Ireland wrote, “A person without a soul friend is like a body without a head.” The Irish word ‘anamchara’ or the Welsh word ‘periglour’ both mean Soul Friend a particular way of befriending that intentionally honours and nurtures the life of the soul.
The Celtic Christian practice discovered that walking a path of faith is well nigh impossible without a true friend and companion. In the 15th chapter of the Gospel according to John, Jesus tells the disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” He has just commanded them to love one another as he has loved them.
Following this the Celtic Church encouraged this relationship formed in Christ. In the early church in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man, the practice of soul friendship was a practice of mutual encouragement, of confession and of penance.
Each person was called to tell the truth in love. A Soul Friend was a person who will allow you to tell the whole truth of yourself, and to encourage you to seek healing and restoration. A Soul Friend also has the fine gift of being able to share in joy, a gift that our highly competitive culture does not call forth.
Friends embrace Soul Friendship is a way of kindness, of mercy, of mutual vulnerability. A Soul Friendship is marked by a kind of deeply respectful intimacy and familiarity that our society has all but forgotten.
For Friends, this is a creative and subversive force. A Soul Friend will be a hearth where we may sit in silence and be warmed. A Soul Friend will be a place of belonging and rest. And a Soul Friend will help to kindle the divine fire within the soul.
We cannot hold a torch to light another friend’s path without brightening our own.