Tom Kimmel’s music, poetry and stories invite his listeners toward a sweet introspection, making for a curious depth of feeling that often surprises them.
Raised in the Episcopal Church in the heart of the Deep South, Tom fell in love with his mother’s hymns along with her Elvis and Nat King Cole records. Stirred as a child by his family’s love for Christ, he has incorporated in his own devotional practice the yoga and meditation of Eastern traditions.
“One of my strongest feelings,” Tom says, “is that there must be room within all healthy spiritual systems for dialogue and divergent points of view. My own religious practice is alive for me because it’s fluid and open to an ongoing reformation. That’s what enables me to heal as a spirit-centered human being and to evolve as an artist. It’s what enables me to share what’s essential to me, and also to participate responsibly in my family and community.”
Having first sung in public as a boy in the church choir, Tom now finds himself coming full circle, performing frequently as a guest artist in church services and community concerts around the country. A soulful writer and singer, Tom also speaks eloquently of love and awareness, relationship, and devotion, often from a humorous perspective.
While dozens of his songs have been recorded over the years by artists from Johnny Cash to Joe Cocker, his own albums and live performances have increasingly elicited expressions of appreciation for hearts touched and lives changed.
When I was 25 years old I attended my sister’s graduation from junior high, which was held in a church. As I entered the church I noticed a large banner hung high on the wall in the foyer. It read, GOD IS LOVE. At the time my spiritual perspective was cloudy. I recognized the value of personal growth and healing, but the church framework I’d grown up in felt limited and narrow, too small and close-minded to hold all that I felt and saw and questioned. Although I realized later that I’d thrown out the baby with the bathwater, at the time I just didn’t want to think much about religion. It was confusing, and much that was taught and done in the name of religion was simply painful to me.
When I saw that banner, however, something clicked for me. Something felt right. God is Love. That much, at least, felt right. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Many years later, I could say that the understanding that God is love is central to my experience of Spirit and my perspective on spirituality. If a spiritual teaching affirms otherwise — whether it be connected with a modern Christian denomination or another faith — then I assume that teaching is off the mark.
I recently heard an NPR interview with a well-known theologian and educator, and I was inspired by his eloquent assertion that tolerance, though it points us in the right direction, is not enough. Declaring that one is tolerant, he says, implies that he or she will tolerate another’s beliefs, practice, or point of view, but that the other’s faith or spiritual practice is inherently inferior. This, the reverend declared, is un-Christian and unhelpful, and I agree.
I am a Christian. I grew up in the Episcopal Church, and I am still happy to be a member. There are many things I appreciate about the Church. It is a church that blesses diversity, supports the rights of women, sponsors interfaith worship, opposes capital punishment.
I am also a long time student of Siddha Yoga Meditation, which teaches that the nature of God is awareness, and the expression of that awareness, the actual sensation of it, is love. And Siddha Yoga teaches that service is the highest form of devotion.
I have been inspired and influenced by Buddhist teachers, Christian ministers and theologians, rabbis, therapists and counselors, teachers of earth wisdom, shamanic ritual and the wisdom of native peoples; by children and inmates and high school teachers and artists and poets and musicians… by family and friends who understand that we are all truly One in God, that we are all worthy of love, and more than that, that we are loving by nature.
I believe that perhaps the greatest blessing is the awareness of our blessings. But I also believe that with that awareness comes a very real responsibility to participate in our own healing the very best way we can and to be of true service to others — our partners, our children, our families, our communities, our neighbors, our world.