With the thunderous chords of “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” Don Saliers concluded his last lecture as a professor today. Even those who don’t recognize his name have felt his impact through our liturgies. Don is one of the ringleaders of the renewal in Protestant liturgics following on the heels of Vatican II–the renewal that gave us most of the hymnals and worship books currently in use in the mainline denominations. His thought and that of his colleagues determined the majority of the changes in the ’79 BCP and the ’82 hymnal as well as the Lutheran LBW and, of course, his own Methodist ’89 hymnal.
As much as I grouse about some of the changes, theologies, and ideologies embodied in these recent books and liturgies, I–and we–owe him and his companions a deep debt of gratitude for their commitment to drawing on the best of the tradition for proclaiming the Gospel to today’s world.
Did I mention that he is a Benedictine oblate as well? I credit much of his success to this grounding, giving him a deep connection to the rhythm of communities at prayer inaccessible through academic study alone.
The old order is passing away; what is to come–has yet to be seen. Don is retiring, and his comrades with him. Too few are following in their footsteps. The next generation of liturgical scholars is small. We are now beginning to face and will soon feel the consequences of the loss of these wellsprings of wisdom who combine deep learning with great souls.