What is the "Spiritual Pillar" at TMI?

Spirituality can be a very difficult term to define. For some, spirituality means almost the same as "organized religion": It refers to the collection of beliefs, values, practices, and rituals we use to connect with God. For others, spirituality means precisely the opposite: It refers to our feelings of being attached to God or Spiritual Reality, without defining that feeling with practices, rituals, or beliefs.

In Christian Scriptures such as that quoted above, the word "spirit" is used to refer to that part of a person that is spiritually aware and responsive. Just as the "body" is physically aware and responsive to the physical environment, and the "soul" is internally aware and responsive to our inner desires, so also our "spirit" is that part of us that can connect to, and communicate with, spiritual reality.

Thus, at TMI, spirituality refers to our human receptivity to God's presence, and our yearning to be connected at a deep level with the Meaning, Purpose, and Source of our existence. Spirituality is like an appetite, or a hunger, to be fed by "spiritual food", just as our physical appetite is fed by physical food. Spirituality is also like a muscle: The more it is worked, the stronger it gets. Thus, spirituality is not just something static in humans. It is something that can be fed, and strengthened, and grow over time.

Because of this, our "Spiritual Pillar" at TMI focuses on practical ways to feed, and strengthen, the spirits of our students. The three main ways that we put our spirituality into practice are our Daily Chapel Program, the Academic Study of Religion, and our Community Service program.
"May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1Thessalonians 5.23

List of 4 items.

  • The Daily Chapel Program

    Almost every day, around 10:00 o'clock in the morning, you can find the entire TMI community- students, staff, and teachers- gathered in our spacious All Saints Chapel for daily morning prayer, or monthly Eucharist. Daily Chapel at TMI includes all the things you might expect from an Episcopal worship service: An invitation to pray, a song or psalm, a Scripture passage, a short message, prayers of the people, a blessing, and a dismissal.

    This daily pattern of prayer has been shown, over thousands of years, and in millions of lives, to be an effective way of nourishing our spirit, and "tuning in" to the Spirit of God. The messages in our chapel come from our chaplain, our students, and our faculty. Each person brings their own unique voice and gifts to share with the TMI community to challenge and strengthen one another.

    Once a month, we break this rhythm of daily prayer to join one another around the Lord's Table for Holy Eucharist (which is known to some as Communion, or The Lord's Supper, or the Mass). In this worship service, we remember Christ crucified and risen, as we partake in a meal of bread and wine which shares Christ's spiritual presence with the community.

    As an Episcopal School, our Daily Chapel and Eucharist services are distinctively Christian. After all, our mission statement declares that we are an excellent educational community with "values based on the teachings of Jesus Christ". Thus, we read Christian Scripture and meditate together on the meaning of core Christian ideas such as Love, Justice, Incarnation, Atonement, and the Trinity. Yet we do this in a way that welcomes others to meditate with us, and share their perspectives with us.

    We do not strive to "convert" or "proselytize" those who join us in chapel. Rather, we follow the example of Jesus who welcomed all people, who broke bread with all who came to him, and who challenged everyone to a deeper spiritual life that manifests itself in acts of love, justice, and compassion. Whether Christian or non-Christian, religious or secular, we are all on a journey together, striving to feed our spiritual hunger for peace and purpose and meaning. These values are what are at the core of our daily chapel experience.
  • The Academic Study of Religion

    If daily chapel is about cultivating a "spirituality of the heart", our academic study of religion is about cultivating a "spirituality of the head". This is, of course, an over-simplification. But there are aspects of spirituality that cannot be effectively dealt with in a short message in chapel to 500 students. There are many topics in spirituality that are better dealt with in a small class that is dedicated to discussing and interacting with the great themes of the Christian Tradition, Western Philosophy, and the great World Religions.

    Indeed, understanding religion is absolutely essential in a multi-cultural information age, when one's neighbors or business partners might be Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Secular, or from any number of Christian traditions. With over 90% of the world's population practicing some type of religion, and over 80% of Americans belonging to some form of Christianity, the academic study of religion cannot be overlooked if one wants to understand why culture functions the way that it does.
    Thus, at TMI, we equip our students for their own spiritual search for meaning, and for religious literacy in the larger world, by offering a selection of religious studies classes.

    For Middle School, we offer our 6th graders "Introduction to the Christian Story", which supplies basic literacy in the Christian Scriptures and the major characters and events of the Biblical narrative. Our 7th graders take "Introduction to World Religions" which provides a broad overview of the major spiritual traditions of the world.

    For Upper School, our students have to take two semester long religion courses to graduate from TMI. These two courses can be chosen from any of the following five course offerings:
    • Old Testament: An in-depth overview of the Hebrew Scriptures.
    • New Testament: An in-depth overview of the Christian Scriptures.
    • Philosophy: An overview of the major thinkers and themes in the Western Philosophical tradition.
    • World Religions: A more in-depth look at several of the major non-Christian spiritual traditions.
    • The God Debate: A class that looks at the philosophical, cultural, and political issues raised by our current debate about God's existence and role in culture.
    As our academic program grows and develops, these course offerings will be adapted to student needs. Our goal is always to feed our spiritual hunger while strengthening our ability to analyze, critique and discuss issues of ultimate significance.
  • Community Service

    The third and final component of our Spirituality Pillar is our Community Service program. If Daily Chapel aims at the "heart", and Academic study of religion aims at the "head", then Community Service challenges us to get our "hands" dirty by putting our spirituality into practice in concrete acts of compassion and care for others. It is not enough to pray about helping others, nor to think about how to help others. We must do the hard work of helping others. And this is what Community Service is all about.

    TMI's mission statement goes on to say that our basis in the teachings of Jesus Christ has a purpose. That purpose is to "challenge motivated students to develop their full potential in service and leadership". In fact, "service and leadership" were the defining feature of Jesus' own ministry. Jesus' own words and actions constantly challenged his followers to become "servant leaders" who inspired others to imitate Christ by sacrificially giving their lives in acts of compassion and care for their fellow humans.

    Thus, we require every student at TMI to be involved in making a difference in their community by earning community service hours. Our students have a multitude of different types of service they can perform, and they participate in community service activities as diverse as:

    • Serving at Food Pantries and Homeless Ministries.
    • Donating food, goods, and toys for special occasions (such as Thanksgiving and Christmas).
    • Volunteering at Retirement homes, Animal Shelters, and local Parks.
    • Mentoring and tutoring with elementary students at local schools and ministries.
    • Raising funds in creative ways for charities as diverse as Morgan's Wonderland and Alzheimer's Awareness.
    • Taking "Servant Leader Adventures" to places like Belize and beyond.
    These are just a few ways we put spirituality into practice, but there are many, many more that could be added. Our Community Service is a "learning laboratory" that challenges our students to act on all the "spiritual theory" they have heard in chapel, and discussed in the classroom. This leads to students that are not only more spiritually engaged, but also more socially conscious.
  • The Hub of the Wheel

    So that, in a nutshell, is the Spiritual Pillar at TMI. It is a robust and multifaceted program that challenges our "heart", "head", and "hands" to grow spiritually. And while spiritual growth is different for different people, depending on their religious background, social development, and personal taste, there is one common denominator: Spiritual growth leads to an ever-deepening sense of meaning, purpose, and value in life. Spiritual growth contributes to a personal sense of mission, as one strives to live into one's core convictions about what matters in life. In short, spirituality answers the "why" question that is behind all the many and varied things we do.

    This is why Spirituality is the hub of the wheel that is TMI. Think about all the other activities that make up our life at TMI: Academics, Military, Athletics, Arts, Clubs, and Community Events. Imagine that all of these are spokes circling on an immense wheel. What connects them together? Spirituality. Spirituality is the "why" behind all the other activities on campus, because all of these other activities contribute to making a complete, well-rounded, mature person who is growing to maturity in the image of God.

    An Ancient Christian theologian named Irenaeus once said "The Glory of God is humanity fully alive". Fully alive refers to a full, flourishing human life that makes the most of all our capacities: Academic, Emotional, Social, Artistic, and Athletic. This fullness of life is why we exist, so that we may show forth the glory of God in all the unique gifts and talents God has blessed us with.

    It is by pondering and meditating on this great spiritual truth that we begin to understand WHY all these other areas of life are so important. And it is the Spiritual Pillar at TMI that is dedicated to this journey into an ever-deepening sense of meaning and purpose that animates everything else we do.

    And with this, we return to the prayer we started this essay with: "May your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless" as we nourish and strengthen our Spiritual Pillar at TMI.
The mission of TMI is to provide an excellent educational community, with values based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, challenging motivated students to develop their full potential in service and leadership.
TMI — The Episcopal School of Texas
20955 W. Tejas Trail
San Antonio TX 78257
(210) 698-7171