Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thomas Turton

Bishop Thomas Turton (February 5, 1780 - January 7, 1864) was born in the town of Hatfield, in South Yorkshire, the son of Thomas and Ann Turton.

He graduated from St. Catherine's College (part of the University of Cambridge) in 1805, and treturned there to teach, eventually serving as Professor of Mathematics (1822-1826) and of Divinity (1827-1842). In 1834 he published a pamphlet opposing the admission of non-Anglicans for univerity degrees.  During his teaching career, he also served in various clerical capacities following his ordination in the Church of England in 1813, which led to his inclusion in The Extraordinary Black Book (1832) by John Wade, a catalog of corruption and abuse in church and state. After leaving St. Catherine's, he became Dean of Westminster Abbey for three years, and in 1845 he was made Bishop of Ely.

He was also a composer of some church music, and two hymn tunes (including today's) were included in Hymns Ancient and Modern.

O thou, in all thy might so far,
In all thy love so near,
Betond the range of sun and star,
And yet beside us here.

What heart can comprehend thy Name,
Or searching, find thee out,
Who art within, a quick'ning Flame,
A Presence 'round about.

Yet though we know thee but in part,
We ask not, God, for more,
Enough for us to know thou art,
To love thee, and adore.

Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1876; alt.
Thomas Turton, 1860

This tune was named for Saint Etheldreda, the patron saint of the Diocese of Ely, while Turton's other tune in Hymns Ancient and Modern was called ELY.

Turton was in poor health during much of his term as Bishop and died in 1864, leaving much of his estate to charity.  He was buried next to his friend Dr. Thomas Musgrave, Archbishop of York.

This text, by Frederick Lucian Hosmer, written while he was pastor of the Unitarian congregation in Quincy, Illinois, is described in Hymn Lore (1932) by Calvin Laufer as suggestive of Psalm 139.

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