Thomas H. Troeger
J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication
Thomas H. Troeger is the J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication at Yale Divinity School. As such, his primary task is to teach homiletics, or the art of preaching.
He compares learning to preach with learning a musical instrument: "When you're learning an instrument you keep practicing scales and arpeggios and exercises, and the first time you do a big sonata it's kind of mechanical. But that's all right. You can kind of put the parts together and then eventually you really get into the spirit of it."
An apt image for someone who not only teaches homiletics but is also an accomplished professional musician-a good enough flutist, in fact, to be invited to play at Aspen for a dozen summers in a row. Troeger is also a student of hymnody and a poet whose work appears in the hymnals of many denominations.
Colleagues say he has developed an "unorthodox pedagogy" that helps students avoid fixed and predictable ways of encountering the biblical texts, connect their preaching to "lived experience," and develop capacities to engage the imaginations of people in the pews.
"I talk about what I call imaginative theology," Troeger explains, "by which I mean the ability to draw on the symbols and stories and rituals and parables of the faith tradition and of the symbols and stories that live in human beings from their contemporary culture and draw those together."
He wants students to be able to plumb the depths of what he refers to as the "landscape of the heart -- that deep place out of which people live and act and believe."
"So I've developed many ways of helping students use their imaginations so they are more disciplined about it, but also it makes the preaching much more lively and I think engages both the tradition and contemporary times and their people much better. That's really at the heart of a lot of what I do."
It is Troeger's hope that his teaching will help preachers cope with some of the big challenges facing the pulpit ministry in the 21 st century, among them: preaching in an age of electronic media; "God speech" at a time when the feminine is increasingly a part of religious language; preaching in ways that reach across cultures as churches and congregations grow more culturally diverse; preaching that is strong but also respectful of other faith traditions; encountering the megachurch phenomenon; the role religion plays in questions of medical ethics.
From June 1991 through June 2005, Troeger was the Ralph E. and Norma E. Peck Professor of Preaching and Communications at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. While at Iliff he established and directed the school's Doctor of Ministry program in homiletics, and served a three-year term as dean of academic affairs.
Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1970 and in the Episcopal Church in 1999, he is dually aligned with both traditions. (Troeger believes he is one of only about five persons with Presbyterian/Episcopal credentials.) He ministered for seven years as a pastor (1970-1977) and then taught homiletics for 14 years at Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall, where he earned his B.D., before moving to Iliff in 1991. Troeger holds an undergraduate degree from Yale.
After ordination as a priest, he became one of the associate clergy of St. John's Episcopal Cathedral in Denver.
Troeger is the author of more than a dozen books in the fields of preaching and worship and a frequent contributor to journals. His books include Imagining a Sermon (Abingdon) Borrowed Light: Hymn Texts, Prayers, And Poems (Oxford University Press), Ten Strategies for Preaching in a Multi-Media Culture (Abingdon), Preaching while the Church Is under Reconstruction (Abingdon), New Proclamation (Augsburg Fortress), Above The Moon Earth Rises: Hymn Texts, Anthems And Poems For A New Creation (Oxford University Press) and his most recent work Preaching and Worship (Chalice Press). Many contemporary composers set his poetic works as anthems for SABT choirs.
For three years he hosted the Season of Worship broadcast for Cokesbury. He has led conferences and lectureships in worship and preaching throughout North America and in Holland, Australia, and Japan.
Dickinson College and Virginia Theological Seminary have awarded him honorary doctorates for his work in homiletics, liturgy and hymnody, and a Founders Day Medal by Baker University for distinguished service in theological education.
When Troeger is not teaching or playing the flute or writing poetry, he might be found dabbling in some of his other interests, including cooking, hiking, and cross-country and downhill skiing.