Key definition: spirituality can be understood as relational awareness (Rebecca Nye)

Christian spirituality

Spirituality lies at the centre of the Christian expression of faith, with an awareness that there is more to life than material possessions and worldly success. Jesus said: ‘Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?’ (Matthew 6:25). When Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment, interestingly he doesn’t pick one from the list of the 10 Commandments. Rather, he expresses something more fundamental, and more spiritual. He gives two commandments which are drawn from the Jewish scriptures: to love God, and love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).

To express Christian spirituality is to live in a state of loving awareness of God, the world around you and (crucially) with yourself.


Since 1944 schools have been required by law to provide for the spiritual development of pupils. The SIAMS evaluation schedule sets out the expectation for Church schools to meet the ‘spiritual needs of all learners’ (Strand 2), with a clear requirement for staff to have a shared understanding of what is meant by spirituality and spiritual growth. Does your school have a shared understanding of spirituality?


The concept of spirituality is notoriously difficult to tie down. Historically, many have believed it to be inextricably linked to religion, but we need to be aware that spirituality can be found in every aspect of our school lives.

According to Sally Burns and Georgeanne Lamont the spiritual transcends the ordinary and encompasses an awareness of the meaning and purpose of life:

Spirituality is a source of creativity open to us all. It brings that quality of aliveness which sparks inquiry, ideas, observations, insights, empathy, artistic expression, earnest endeavor and playfulness. It opens us to life and to each other. Spirituality is a thread which runs through our life, bringing hope, compassion, thankfulness, courage, peace and a sense of purpose and meaning to everyday, while reaching beyond the immediate world of the visible and tangible. It drives us to seek and stay true to values not ruled by material success[1].

For John Hull[2], spirituality is about transcendence; the ability to reach beyond the material realm and glimpse a deeper reality. Hull maintains that the term spiritual can be rightly applied to anything which ‘lifts human beings above and beyond the biological’.

David Hay conceives spirituality as a universal human trait which transcends both language and religion. Although it may be expressed through religious faith by some, it is not the property of religion and could be signified ‘in secular or even anti-religious language’[3]. Rebecca Nye defines children’s spirituality as ‘relational consciousness’ or relational awareness: an expression of their ‘emerging awareness of themselves in relation to others, the world and God’[4].

So what is spirituality?

Spirituality can therefore be defined as relational consciousness: awareness of my relationship with myself, others, the world and beyond (God?).

Recommended further reading


[1] Burns, S. and Lamont, G. (1995) Values and Visions, London: Hodder and Stoughton.

[2] Spirituality, Religion, Faith: Mapping the Territory by John M Hull

[3] Hay, D. and Nye, R. (2006) The spirit of the child, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

[4] Education inspection framework