Claire Turner

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I am a full-time stipendiary priest and vicar of St Chad’s Church in Rubery.  I am passionate about parish ministry and love the ‘fuzzy edges’ that come with being part of a church that is for everyone, even if many choose never to come.  In a previous life I worked in the arts – both in community arts organisations and latterly, as Curator of Education and Interpretation at Ikon Gallery, a contemporary art space in the centre of Birmingham.  I am still engaged in creative projects and look to nurture such partnerships within my ministry.  

PhD Studies


Curatorial Practice as a Model to Support the Development of Hermeneutical Competence amongst Christian Congregations


Prof. Dr Dirk-Martin Grube, Revd Prof. Stephen Burns, Prof. Dr Marcel Barnard

Research Topic

My research explores how borrowing from the curatorial context of the art gallery might better enable church-goers to connect personal, lived experience to a Christian interpretative framework as expressed in a service of Holy Communion.

Far from simply arranging art objects in order to transmit ideas or knowledge, the role of the curator and her team in the contemporary gallery can be described as one of interpretation – she is actively engaged in the construction of knowledge about and in response to, art.  Curators rarely assume that they or the artist hold ‘the’ meaning of the artwork but through their own practice, skills and interpretative resources, seek to reveal the internal coherence or truth within the art on display.  In turn, theologians such as Hans Kung and Paul Tillich turn to the art gallery as a point of inspiration and as a site for reflection.  Others affirm that within contemporary society, art acts as a substitute for religion.  More recently, those such as Jonny Baker and Mark Pierson, key figures within the Alternative Worship movement, have sought to appropriate the curatorial task observed within the art gallery by describing the role of the worship leader as ‘curator’. 

Bringing the context of the church and gallery together, my previous MA research suggested that the interpretative nature of the art gallery gives it the potential to serve as a model for the church.  In particular, the interpretative tools found within art galleries such as exhibition guides, tours and participatory projects provide a useful foil for exploring what it might mean to help congregations more fully to understand the deep liturgical structure of a Eucharistic service.   Such tools facilitate and enable extended encounters with art objects that encourage audiences to pause, think and reflect on how themes inherent within the artwork connect with their own lived experience.  These encounters subsequently become places where, to borrow from David Tracy’s description of mutually critical exchange, meaning becomes ‘meaningful’ and old self transitions into new self.   Whilst the worship environment does not always actualize such exchange, the curatorial and interpretative role of the gallery has the potential to teach the church how it might start to do so, thereby developing the ‘natural hermeneutical competence’ (the ability to make sense of what is happening) of the worshipper.

Research Activity

Research Interests         

Hermeneutics, Curatorial Practice, Gallery Education, Liturgy, Practical Theology


‘Roger Hoirns: Untitled (a retrospective pathway)’, Event Review. Arts and Christianity, vol 87 Autumn 2016.

Soul Boats’, Exhibition Review. Arts and Christianity, vol 85, Spring 2016.

‘Square World – The Symbolic Value of Geoffrey Clarke’s Abstraction’, Feature Article. Arts and Christianity, vol 81, Spring 2015.

‘Hosea: More than a Metaphor?’ Essay. The Expository Times, Issue 121 (12), 2010.

Artists and Schools, Book. Birmingham: Ikon Gallery, 2008 – ISBN 310 987563 1.