Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Priest to Celebrate 25 Years in Service; Davette Turk Was the First Female Episcopal Priest in the State

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Priest to Celebrate 25 Years in Service; Davette Turk Was the First Female Episcopal Priest in the State

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

By her own and others' accounts, the Rev. Davette Turk has always had a thing for ruffling feathers.

"I believe in shaking things up," said Turk, 75, of Jacksonville. "Jesus shook a lot of people up, and I believe in shaking people up for the sake of love."

Today is the 25th anniversary of one major way in which Turk did just that: Becoming a priest in the Jacksonville-based Episcopal Diocese of Florida. That made her the state's first female Episcopal priest, a fact that didn't sit well with many.

"There was a lot of controversy," said her husband, the Rev. Richard Turk, also an Episcopal priest. "There was one priest who said [Davette] would be ordained over his dead body."

Turk's been eliciting such responses during a career in ministry that spans some five decades. That includes about 20 years as a Catholic nun - a job that ended so she could marry Richard, a one-time Catholic priest.

She's been organizing interfaith events since before interfaith was cool. In the 1980s and '90s, she was a champion of interracial healing in Northeast Florida, and she was the co-founder of Reconcile Jacksonville.

Now more than 30 of the diocese's 120 priests are women.

Turk was part of a generation that paved the way for women's ordination in the Episcopal Church and remains a model for clergy involved in that and movements like race relations, said the Very Rev. Kate Moorehead, dean of the St. John's Episcopal Cathedral downtown.

"It takes a certain kind of courage, and she never became bruised or victimized or angry," Moorehead said.

Hundreds, including three bishops, are expected to celebrate Turk's ordination anniversary in a ceremony at 7 p.m. today at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville. The Times-Union interviewed Turk on Monday about the event and her career.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU ABOUT THIS ANNIVERSARY?

What makes me happy is to be able to bring together all the people I have served in the city. The person who's going to preach is Bishop [Edward] Robinson. He's a bishop with the Church of God in Christ. We have worked together on race relations for over 20 years. …

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