Thanks Be to God for Jim Turley
January 26, 2022
My long-time friend and colleague Jim Turley has passed on to his next form of life. For Jim, the journey couldn’t have been very long – he seemed always to have at least one foot in heaven already.
The ancient Celts had an understanding of what they called “the thin places,” those times and locales where the distance between heaven and earth is barely distinguishable. Where the everyday occurrence comes into contact with the sacred. Where we glimpse the face of God. Jim Turley gave me many experiences of these thin places: through his keen mind that always remembered the names of each of my family members; his compassion that sincerely wanted to know how each was doing, as he recalled individual struggles I had previously mentioned to him; his reminder to me that he was praying for them regularly, by name; and his ability for straightforward, honest truth-telling that clearly was formed from great wisdom and understanding.
But it was in his prayers that those thin places were particularly revealed. When Jim prayed, for the world, for our church, for me and for those people and things that he knew to be special to me, it felt that God was standing next to us with a hand on my shoulder. Maybe Jim was so good at praying because he did it so very much and with all the confidence in heaven and earth that God was listening. The prayers of Jim Turley have affected me deeply.
Jim joined the board of TMF in the spring of 1988, which coincided with my joining the staff of the Foundation. He quickly became a respected leader of our board and later joined our staff.
Jim was deeply involved in three pivotal moments in the life of TMF. The first was our discovery and naming of our core ideology – our core values and our core purpose. Jim was part of a small, select group tasked with bringing a statement forward to the larger group. I hope you recognize TMF’s purpose of “Empowering the church in the achievement of its God-appointed missions” as being true to who we are as an organization, along with our values of servanthood, competence, and integrity. I promise you that they are core to the being of our Jim Turley.
The second pivotal event was Jim’s contribution as a member of our staff to the creation and implementation of what is now our TMF Leadership Ministry. This was our first venture outside of offering purely financially related services, and this ministry, now serving pastors across the nation, continues to use the peer learning model and the priorities, initiatives, and excellence that Jim and Wayne Day put into place in those early days of 2004.
Jim’s third major contribution was to TMF’s priority of helping congregations discern and live into their “God-appointed missions rather than self-appointed preferences.” The desired outcome was that each congregation would regularly and thoroughly be asking themselves the question of “What is God asking of us now, and how shall we go about accomplishing it?” This resulted in our Area Representative strategic discernment and purpose work with congregations that Jim was instrumental in launching.
The point of highlighting these life-changing and organization-changing ministries that Jim played a central role in creating is not simply to speak of these initiatives. The significance is that these were and are opportunities for TMF to enable long-term, adaptive change with those whom we serve; to experience our own thin places where God can be found in relationships with our community. For matters such as these, you need a Jim Turley to lead you. Thanks be to God that he was there for us.
The poet Sharlande Sledge wrote of the thin places in this way:
The door between the world
and the next is cracked open for a moment
and the light is not all on the other side.
God-shaped space. Holy.
Thanks be to Jim Turley for opening that door to heaven for us . . .