TMI Encourages Giving One’s All
By: Brad Rowland
From July 24-31, nearly 200 delegates and a dedicated, experienced staff gathered for the 2023 Southern Territorial Music Institute (TMI). The eight-day, intensive music and arts camp is held in a similar window on the calendar each year, but, for the first time, the 2023 installment took place at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY. The theme for the week was “All in All,” with a focus on Ephesians 4 and 5.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Delegates and staff arrived Sunday evening, July 24, and things kicked off Monday morning with a full slate of auditions, followed by a “Welcome to TMI” program and the first meetings of both major and choral classes. Each full day at TMI featured “Morning Manna,” a devotional gathering led by Majors Zach and Shelley Bell focused on biblical study and worship, as well as a nightly time of vespers and sealed orders.
“Majors Zach and Shelley Bell were outstanding in the ministry each morning,” said Nick Simmons-Smith, territorial music and creative arts education secretary. “They provided solid biblical teaching coupled with a simple, easy-to-grasp analogy and a life application.”
While most mornings featured a shorter devotional followed by small group discussions, Thursday’s Morning Manna gathering was extended and included a time of commitment and a challenge from Major Zach Bell.
“For some of us, we’re putting on a show,” Major Bell said. “Can I just encourage you to stop? Stop. Put off the old self. Allow Christ to come in and to renew your mind and put on the new. Put on the new… God is here. He wants to meet you where you are. We want to acknowledge who He is. We want to acknowledge who we are. And we want to reconcile that. Let’s respond. Let’s put off the old and put on the new.”
Each day’s schedule incorporated two major class periods, a choral/leadership period, and an elective period, as well as an evening program. Major classes included four bands, five worship teams, eight creative arts groups, and a piano major track, while the institute also featured four choruses and four leadership tracks.
The band and choral ensembles performed at a mid-week “preview concert” on Thursday, July 27 and during a two-part final concert on Sunday, July 31, with both gatherings taking place in Hughes Auditorium. Each group illustrated tremendous artistry and reflected the dedication and hard work from delegates throughout the week.
“The concerts showed once again how far the delegates progressed during the week,” said Simmons-Smith. “The concerts are also useful as barometers for how far TMI has grown over the years.”
Creative arts ensembles took part in the mid-week preview concert but also concluded the week with a final production on Saturday, July 30. The gathering was deeply moving and inspirational, serving as both a night at the theater for delegates and also as a tremendous time in worship. The overarching focus of the production was Midrash, a traditional rabbinic practice of exploring scripture. This included two variations of each scripture passage, with a “white fire piece” illuminating and exploring truth and aspects within the story and a “black fire piece” focusing and remaining as true to the Word as possible.
“The Creative Arts production was a highlight with each group presenting dance and drama pieces based on the Living Word of God,” Simmons-Smith said. “The audience experienced a whole gamut of emotions from laughter, empathy, and introspection. It was a brave program to produce, and it proved to be immensely successful.”
Other evening programs included a recital from special guest Mark Ridenour, an evening replicating the popular “Masked Singer” television show, and a delegate solo recital. Ridenour, a dedicated Salvationist and co-principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, wowed observers with his performance, and, at the delegate recital, young people showcased their skill and dedication through brass, drama, dance, vocal, and worship team performances.
Throughout the week, delegates and staff were also privileged to take in the atmosphere at Asbury University just months after a revival outpouring that garnered international attention. With a warm campus setting and extensive facilities to accommodate TMI’s myriad programming, the university delivered an impactful experience for many.
“It was a unique experience to be at Asbury University, very new for us. But there are excellent facilities and a relationship with the university that goes back a long way,” Simmons-Smith said. “To be in Hughes Auditorium, the scene of the revival and outpouring earlier this year, was also wonderful. The acoustics and history of that venue made it an inspiring place to worship and present music.”
As with any Salvation Army event, the overarching focus built toward Sunday’s conclusion on July 31, both through the two-part concert and crucially through Sunday morning worship. Major Zach Bell gave the message at the Sunday morning service, and Commissioners Kelly and Donna Igleheart, territorial leaders, were present in ministry alongside delegates and staff in both meetings.
“Father… We want more of you. Father, if I’m honest, I need more of you,” Commissioner Igleheart said during Sunday worship. “We’ve come to Asbury. We’ve come to TMI this week. For most of us, that’s been our prayer even on the way. We need more of you, God. Lord, I thank you that you have met us here. That your spirit has been obvious in every class, in every bed, at every meal, in every laugh, in every relationship that’s been formed, every sweet reunion that’s come. You have been in, and through, everything. As we continue to worship, we invite you even closer, and we know that when we come close to you, you come close to us. We ask that you have your way and that your will be done.”
Commissioner Kelly Igleheart also delivered an inspiring challenge to all gathered near the conclusion of the final concert, reminding delegates and staff to use their talents in praise and devotion to the Lord after returning home.
“It’s time to go back home and go to work,” said Commissioner Igleheart. “It’s time to take what you’ve learned all summer and apply it. To get back involved in the band or chorus or the arts group at the corps. Or make a new one. Ask your corps officer to make you a local officer and let’s go straight to work.”