The Rev. Neil Turton
In 2002, the Rev. Neil Turton was serving as rector in the parish of Frimley in England when he answered our calling. Although he remained a faithful Christian and was actively involved in the church as a young adult, the Rev. Turton did not feel a divine force pulling him to ordination until after he survived (uninjured) two horrendous car accidents. Instead, prior to taking up theological studies at Oxford, he spent some years getting to know God’s most mysterious creation, humankind, while working in a brewery and as a bank manager. This experience shaped his frequent and heartfelt admonition that we should “meet people where they are—not where we’d like them to be.”
Specifically, the Rev. Turton saw his mission as helping his parishioners “find their whole selves”—the shadow as well as the light within each of them. He considered it important for individuals to understand what we are “wrestling with” to reach an understanding and integration. His view was that “we proclaim the Gospel in a way which is challenging but affirming.” The challenge facing us as Christians “is to be the person God wants us to be.” Some found renewed faith and a stronger calling during Rev. Turton's tenure; one parishioner completed his year-long studies and became our verger.
The greatest challenge the Rev. Turton faced, he faced with us all—recovering from Hurricane Sandy. This devastating 2012 storm not only swept away one Episcopal chapel (St. Elisabeth’s) to our south, it left All Saints and several others water damaged and engulfed in sand and muck. With the storm’s destruction of the rectory, Neil and his wife, Wendy, like many of our parish family members lost many of their personal belongings and were left homeless. Finding a temporary home for worship, keeping up with the needs and the whereabouts of the church family, and maintaining ties with community leaders were daily challenges—particularly in the first several weeks before parish records could be found and full communications were restored. This experience, as the Rev. Turton pointed out, was not one for which anyone receives training in seminary. But, he would lead us fatihfully through our “time in exile” to our joyful homecoming 14 months later.