A Message from the Rector: March 16, 2024
Dear Friends,

When I was a boy, my parents did not own their own home.  My dad had returned from serving in the RAF in the Second World War and things were tough in East Hull where I grew up.  My dad was a ‘blue-collar’ worker and my mum stayed at home to care for the family; I never had a bicycle, and I went to quite challenging working-class schools.  However, my mum and dad encouraged me to do my best and I ended up the first member of my large extended family to go to university.  How?  Because of music.  Quite simply, my music teachers inspired me.  My singing in a choir, my playing of recorders and my French horn brought me out of myself.  I discovered God, his church, community, and then, glorious traditional worship in the catholic tradition of the Church of England.  It was music that changed me and so I know to the core of my being how much of a difference music makes here at Saint Thomas.

By now you will have read the message from the Vestry concerning the parish budget deficit and the uncertain future of the Choir School.  We do not know what that future looks like yet, so we must hold our nerve and use these coming months to work together to find a solution.  However, I want to acknowledge how difficult it must have been for many to read the Vestry’s letter. For myself, I have found this a deeply emotional time. The Choir School has been changing lives for 104 years, the liturgical leadership the choristers provide is extraordinary, and anyone who has ever sat in the pews or watched online has benefited from this ministry. At the same time, the Vestry is following one of our strategic goals to be transparent and honest in its communications. It is early days, my friends, and we will have time for meetings and updates over the coming months as our work progresses.

For its first 100 years, the parish did not have a school; for its second 100 years, it has had a very small boarding school where the choristers make up the whole student body.  It may very well be that, in our next 100 years, we will have a very different kind of school or no school. While we lament the possibility of this loss, we must also celebrate all that our Choir School has achieved and all those children’s lives transformed, and who in turn have changed ours.

This Sunday, we enter into Passiontide.  The crosses and images in the church will be veiled.  We are moving towards Holy Week and Easter, but we have to celebrate Good Friday before we can celebrate Easter Day. The Christian tradition is unlike any other in that it is only through death that we find new life.  Resurrection is not resuscitation – it is what went before made glorious, but new. Our commitment to the Anglican choral tradition may very well have its ‘Good Friday’ moment, but we know how the story ends!  Resurrection comes.  

We may have to make our music a little differently, but the Vestry is committed to doing so with the same level of excellence as we enjoy now.  So that there can be no doubt, the repertoire will not change at the 11am Eucharist and at Choral Evensong; we still want to have a Choir of Men and Boys, and we also want to have a separate Girls’ Choir, building on the energy and success of our annual Girl Chorister Course.  Though the financial model of funding the current Choir School through deficit spending is not sustainable, Saint Thomas still has great gifts to share, and we will find a way to make Saint Thomas a uniquely powerful witness to the Glory of God in its third century, just as it has through its first two. 

I was talking with the Rector Emeritus the other day about all of this, and we have shared many emails.  He reminded me that concern over sustainability of the parish finances stretches not only back to the tenth rector, Dr. Morris, but probably all the way back to 1939 when Charles Steele, the founder of the Choir School who used his own resources to pay for the school for its first 25 years, died.  After our conversation, Fr. Mead sent me a very encouraging email that contained this lovely line “Surely there are ways to maintain that choral foundation/tradition that involve “reminting” what is there now. Other great Anglican choral foundations have seen such necessity become a genuine mother of invention and renewal – sustainably.”  I am so grateful to Fr. Mead for his continuing support, wisdom, and encouragement as we make hard decisions about our future ministry.

Financial sustainability was the first goal of our strategic plan of 2019.  The other goals (visibility, congregational development, belonging and trust, and operations and infrastructure) have all been achieved or are progressing well, in spite of the pandemic.  We have thousands who worship with us on-line; we are growing our congregation and exploring new programs especially for children and families, young adults, seniors, and social outreach; we are building a beloved community and are more transparent with our governance and finance; we have re-envisioned departments and staff positions, and are exploring our physical plant.
Our strategic goals are designed toGrow the Saint Thomas CommunityIncrease connectedness and satisfactionSustain musical excellence and vitalityReduce the excess draws from invested funds
My vision for the future of Saint Thomas is simple: to continue to make our mission statement a living reality.  I want to worship, love, and serve Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Anglican Tradition and our unique Choral Heritage. Worship comes first, for it is only by opening ourselves to God’s grace, and by offering him praise and adoration that we can learn to say ‘sorry’ for our sins and learn how to love one another.  Once we have learned how to love one another, we are able to serve Jesus in many different ways. If we make our finances sustainable, we will be able to deepen all of this.

I think people come to Saint Thomas in-person and on-line for all kinds of reasons.  They come for the glorious building that offers worship to God in its stone and glass; in its woodwork, metalwork, and textiles.  They come for the prayerful and dignified liturgy enhanced by exquisite music.  They come for Gospel preaching that challenges them to find Christ in their own lives, in the world around them, and to take his Good News to others.  They come to be formed in the ways of the Gospel. They come to pray and to be still and to be nurtured. They come to belong to something bigger than themselves – a beautiful community that is inclusive, loving, and outward-facing.  To that last point, we are currently exploring what it means to be a Beloved Community in a digital age and how we can also reach out to others.  Dr. Sam Wells helped us reflect on this in his talk and discussion group last Saturday, and I commend it to you on-line if you have not yet watched it. 

As we explore doing things differently, my hope is that we will become a more resourceful parish, using our resources to make the greatest impact.  At the moment, continuing the long history of a deficit budget and overdrawing from our endowment means that we cannot be as impactful as we could be.  Ironically, by doing things differently, we will release even more resources to help us touch many more lives and, hopefully, make us more Christ-like in all that we do and say.
Fr. Mead joins me in assuring you of our daily prayers for you all.


Your Priest and Pastor
Carl (Turner)