Call of the XIII Rector

Before the start of the 11am Festal Eucharist on May 18, 2014, the wardens, on behalf of a unanimous vestry, announced the call of the Rev'd Canon Carl Francis Turner as XIII Rector of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. He and his wife, Alison, will settle in at Saint Thomas early this fall.

The Rev'd Canon Carl Francis Turner, B.A., M.Th.

Born in Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire in 1960, Canon Turner was educated in local state schools in an area of significant deprivation near the docks of Hull at a time of economic decline including the, so-called, Cod-War which ended Hull’s dominance as one of the largest fishing ports in Europe. His love of music was encouraged by inspirational music teachers in his secondary school and his local church, singing in several choirs, and playing the French Horn. Canon Turner had been encouraged to think about studying Chemistry and to work for BP where his father was employed, but at age 17, he decided to tell his parish priest that he felt called to be a priest. He gained a place at St. Chad’s College, at the University of Durham to read Theology and then, encouraged by Archbishop Michael Ramsey who had become his mentor in Durham, spent two years at All Saints Cathedral, Milwaukee with a link to Nashotah House. Michael Ramsey visited Carl several times and continued to encourage him until the Archbishop’s death in 1988.

Carl was a seminarian at St. Stephen’s House, Oxford, which has strong links with Nashotah House where Fr. Mead is one of the Trustees. He was ordained in 1985 in the Diocese of Chelmsford which covers most of Essex and five East London Boroughs. He served two curacies in Leigh-on-Sea and Brentwood and then became Rector of the Parish of the Divine Compassion, a large parish of high deprivation in Plaistow and Canning Town in the East End of London. This was the parish that saw the restoration of the Franciscan Life in the Church of England in 1894 and there are still a number of Franciscans actively working in the parish. All his parishes have been Anglo-Catholic in tradition with a strong love of music and liturgy as well as commitment to the communities which they serve. Carl’s post-graduate study was at Oxford University where he was awarded Master of Theology.

Carl met his wife, Alison while he was a curate, and they married in 1990. Alison is a teacher and a priest and is currently Headmistress of Exeter Junior School, one of the leading independent prep schools in the South West of England. Carl and Alison have three adopted children who are now young adults; Katie, their youngest, just celebrated her 18th birthday. Rachel, their eldest, has a learning disability and is about to move into her own accommodation; Antony is an apprentice Chef and left home three years ago. Katie is studying health and social care and aspires to be a nurse or to work in the caring professions; she hopes to join Carl and Alison in New York after the completion of her studies.

Canon Turner was appointed Precentor of Exeter Cathedral in 2001 and is currently Head of the Department of Liturgy and Music. He is responsible for all the Cathedral’s worship and music and works closely with the Cathedral Choir School. In addition, he is a long-standing member of the Diocesan Council for Worship and Ministry. Exeter Cathedral is the most beautiful decorated Gothic Church in Northern Europe.

Working closely with the Director of Music and the Headmaster means that Canon Turner brings an experience and working knowledge of a church that has a choir school. This will be invaluable as he understands the special position of Saint Thomas Church and Choir School in the Anglican Communion. Exeter Cathedral choir sings daily and twice on Sundays; the choir produces regular CD’s, takes part in broadcasts by the BBC, and tours extensively (including a major tour to the USA in 2006). The Cathedral also has an exemplary Music Outreach Project. Specifically, the choir sings twice a term in different Churches in the Diocese, and musicians visit up to ten state schools several times each term to encourage singing. Participants from all these state schools join the choristers for a joint concert in the Cathedral. Carl is a founding Board member of the Devon Music Hub which is responsible for the delivery of music in all Devon schools, and the Cathedral is leading a new Singing Strategy for schools. He is also project managing a £1M restoration of the historic organ with its 1665 John Loosemore case which is of National significance. He has been an active member of the Cathedral’s Fabric Advisory Committee since his arrival at the Cathedral.

Canon Turner had a long period as Acting Dean during which time the Occupy Movement camped on the North side of the Cathedral as they did at St Paul’s and two other Cathedrals in the UK. This was one of the most testing times for him, with daily media interest, social unrest, and the need to keep the Cathedral, its supporters and the people of Devon united. He was so successful in his management of the Cathedral that the final eviction of the protesters and anti-social elements four months later took place without incident.

A former member of the General Synod of the Church of England, Carl was asked by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to act as Chaplain to the Synod and to be responsible for its spirituality and worship. He was a member of the Liturgical Commission for five years and worked for the National Church including convening the Liturgical Commission/Fresh Expressions Group at Lambeth. This involved working with the Education Division on School worship and spirituality, assisting with the production of new Eucharistic Prayers for use with children, and encouraging liturgical formation for lay and ordained. He is currently a Director of the Association of English Cathedrals and is chairman of a group that is researching the impact Cathedrals have on children and young people.

A former regular contributor to Roots Magazine, Carl also participates in conferences and retreats and works with Deaneries and other groups in the area of worship and spirituality. He has a particular interest in children’s spirituality and has helped the Cathedral and parishes in the formation of children’s prayer lives including preparation for First Holy Communion. He joined Archbishop Rowan Williams in contributing to a book on ‘Fresh Expressions’ and the Catholic tradition of the Church of England. Carl hopes to find more time to write in the future, especially in the area of spirituality. He is an engaging preacher and is passionate about making connections between the liturgy and the world in which we live. Carl believes strongly that the teaching ministry of the church is crucial to its mission.

Carl has many outside interests including travel, painting, architecture, and singing. He is an accomplished cook, and he and Alison are well known for their hospitality and opening their home to others. Both Carl and Alison are passionate about engaging with children and the arts and about finding ways for children, particularly from areas of deprivation, to work with and hear professional artists. They have a Cairn Terrier, Bertie, who is loved by the choristers. Bertie is the first dog to be given a security pass (complete with picture) for the Cathedral. He will, of course, be accompanying Alison and Carl to New York. Carl is a Fellow of Woodard Schools, a Chaplain to the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus, and a Priest Associate of the Holy House of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Carl writes:

“I feel immensely honoured to be called as the XIII Rector of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. Fr Mead’s ministry has consolidated the work of previous Rectors and, through his exemplary and dedicated service, the Church and its Choir School are in extraordinary good health. I feel humbled to follow a distinguished line of Rectors and am passionate about deepening our shared faith, prayer and spirituality so that it transforms our daily lives. Michael Ramsey once said that the road from Calvary to Easter can only be understood by transfigured lives; the liturgical and musical life of Saint Thomas gives us a unique opportunity together to enter into the mystery and model our lives more and more on Jesus Christ, the Son of God who calls each one of us by name. Leaving the beautiful Cathedral Close of Exeter will be wrenching, but I am relishing the prospect of being a parish priest again and looking forward to working with the clergy and staff to care for all its parishioners. Alison and I so much look forward to making our home amongst you, and we will continue to pray for you as you celebrate both the ministry of your current Rector and the centennial of your magnificent and inspiring Gothic Church."

Press release by Exeter Cathedral (May 18, 2014)

Cathedral Canon moves to new parish in New York

Rev'd Canon Carl Turner has been appointed as Rector of St Thomas’ Church, Fifth Avenue, New York.

St Thomas’ in Manhattan has a long history of outstanding choral music; its men and boys choir is conducted by John Scott, the former organist and director of music of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Canon Turner, 54 said it was a “wrench” to leave Exeter Cathedral but a great honour to be asked to lead St Thomas’ Church, as its 13th Rector in 190 years.

He said:

“After thirteen happy and fulfilling years at Exeter it is now the right time for my wife and me to move to a new challenge. St Thomas, Fifth Avenue, New York is a wonderful parish with world-class music and the only church affiliated choir school in North America; much of what I have learned as a Precentor in an English Cathedral will stand me in good stead. At the same time, we will feel sad leaving many friends and some wonderful colleagues. Although I shall miss Cathedral life and Exeter Cathedral Close in particular, I shall relish the chance to be a parish priest again and shall always remember with fondness the Diocese of Exeter and our beautiful county of Devon where we have shared together the good news of Jesus Christ.”

He was appointed Precentor of Exeter Cathedral in 2001 and is Head of the Department of Liturgy and Music. He is responsible for all the Cathedral’s worship and music and works closely with the Cathedral Choir School. He is married to Alison, who is the head of Exeter Junior School, and they have three adopted children.

The Dean of Exeter Cathedral, Very Rev'd Jonathan Draper, said: “We are delighted for Carl with this appointment, his musical and liturgical skills will be able to flourish. We thank him for all he has given to Exeter Cathedral over more than a decade; his departure will leave a gap and we need to think about how we replace him. We wish him, Alison and his family all the very best as they make this move.”