Friday, January 28, 2011

Dr. Lester Ruth: Good Bye, Asbury. Hello, Duke.

I just learned (yesterday) that the Rev'd. Dr. Lester Ruth, who has served as the Lily May Jarvis Professor of Christian Worship at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky since 2000, will be leaving Asbury in order to teach at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina.
Asbury is losing a great asset, and Duke is gaining a great asset!

To give you a little info on Dr. Ruth, the following is listed on the Asbury faculty page:


•History of Christian Worship (particularly Early Methodism)
•Creativity with the Sacraments
•Contemporary Worship

He received a B.B.A. from Stephen F. Austin State University, 1981; a M.Div. from Asbury Seminary, 1985; a Th.M. from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, 1988; and a M.A (1994) and a Ph.D. (1996) from the University of Notre Dame.  (Where he studied under James White!)

Prior to teaching at Asbury Seminary, Dr. Ruth was assistant professor of Liturgical Studies at Yale University Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music. He has been an adjunct at Tyndale Theological Seminary (Toronto), Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (Chicago) and the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (Jacksonville, Fla.). He is a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

Dr. Ruth is a member of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He was ordained as a deacon in 1984 and as an elder in 1987. He has served three appointments.

His book, A Little Heaven Below: Worship at Early Methodist Quarterly Meetings (Nashville: Kingswood Books, 2000) was awarded the Jesse Lee Prize by the United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History. He has also received three teaching awards at Asbury Seminary , two for use of media and one for extended learning. He was on the advisory board for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship liturgical renewal grants program from 1999 to 2004. He was also a John Wesley Fellow, funded by A Foundation for Theological Education during graduate school.

Dr. Ruth is currently editing a multi-volume set of worship case studies from church history as well as continuing research into the theology of contemporary worship music. Dr. Ruth and his wife, Carmen have two daughters

Now, what the faculty page does not say, but the part that is most significant for me, is that Lester was my Faculty Mentor while I pursued my doctoral work at Asbury, and he was absolutely fantastic! 

It is a long story, but when I arrived at Asbury, I was planning to study in the area of Leadership.  That was not what I wanted to do, but it seemed to be the thing to do.  You see, I wanted to study Worship/Liturgy, and I wanted to study at Asbury.  However, the "Preaching and Worship" concentration presented in the catalog appeared to really be preaching and, oh yeah . . . maybe a class on preaching in the context of worship.  -  That was not what I wanted.

However, during my first week there, I over heard a fellow D.Min. student talking about forging a concentration in Worship!  I went to Dr. Ruth and talked with him, and that is exactly what we did!  I transfered one class in from Northern Baptist on Sacraments and Sacred Actions (It was a part of Robert Webber's D. Min. program, there.  -  I won't, at this time, go into why I chose not to go there.) and did an independent study on Wesleyan Worship, and we made it happen.  (Additionally, with Dr. Michael Pasquarello's excellent Trinitarian Preaching class and his "tag-team" teaching with Lester, it was like having a major in Worship and a minor in Preaching.)

Lester was invaluable in my independent study and my dissertation work.  I learned so much from him.

Additionally, Lester served as the faculty advisor for the Asbury chapter of The Order of Saint Luke and has been a good friend to the Order.

I am sad to hear that he is leaving Asbury, because I know he brought a needed understanding of liturgy/worship to a seminary that stands in a conservatively Methodist and Holiness tradition.  That is to say, he helped to bring the Wesleyan balance to the school in a time when it is so hard to find a full, balanced Wesleyanism out there.  (Most often those who are conservative toward Wesley in terms of evangelical faith and holiness are miles away from him in terms of liturgy/worship and sacraments.  On the other hand, those who share Wesley's liturgical/sacramental convictions often want nothing to do with his evangelical and holiness emphasis.)

Asbury's loss is Duke's gain.  Congratulations to Lester and to Duke!

May God's richest blessings be upon Dr. Ruth, Asbury and Duke.


Eric + said...

Good thing I decided not to go to Asbury...

Eric + said...

So let me get this straight. You went from pastoring in a church that is conservative in its evangelical/holiness faith but not Wesleyan in its sacramental/liturgical worship to pastoring in the UMC, which from my experience is less evangelical/holiness and no more sacramental/liturgical!


Seriously, I do hope all is working out well for you!

Anonymous said...

Professor Don Boyd, who taught worship prior to Lester Ruth, also taught from a very sacramental/liturgical/Wesleyan viewpoint. I was at ATS 1991-1995. I can say that Boyd suprised a lot of students who had no idea that Asbury would be so open to that! He and Professor Mercer had a huge impact on chapels in those days!

Scott Spencer

Todd STepp said...

No comment :0)