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A Treasured Friend

Robert E. Webber (1933--2007)

In April 2007, Robert E. Webber finished his eightmonthbattle with pancreatic cancer. There have beenand will be many tributes to him (see http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/aprilweb-only/118-12.0.html). Webber influenced countless worship leadersthrough his books and articles on worship renewal, histeaching in countless classes and seminars, and his expansiveand entrepreneurial vision in producing the amazingComplete Library of Christian Worship and in forming theRobert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (www.iwsfl.org). Some of his pithy book titles became bywords amongthose who were inspired by him to study the theologyand practice of worship: among them Evangelicals on theCanterbury Trail (1985), Worship Is a Verb (1992), and theentire Ancient-Future series. He continued to write until thevery end of his life.

But on this page I would like to pay a tribute in gratitudeand thanksgiving to God for Bob’s encouragement andunflagging support of Reformed Worship. I first met himat a conference when he spoke in such a compelling waythat we asked him to serve as an editorial consultant forReformed Worship; he served in that role from 1989 untilhis death. Along the way, he wrote for us several times. Butin addition to these articles and his other contributions asa consultant, one aspect of our collaboration behind thescenes speaks powerfully of Bob’s passion for renewingworship on the congregational level.

Bob knew that pastors and worship leaders would morelikely read and study about worship together once theyhad engaged in direct teaching, conversation, and dialoguewith him. So starting in 1995 he began holding two-day“Renew Your Worship!” workshops around the country forcongregational worship leaders, tirelessly devoting practicallyevery weekend and more during the academic year.Before he started barnstorming the country, he called meto brainstorm about collaboration: if we would providecopies of Reformed Worship and subscription information,he would help promote RW and send us the names of newsubscribers he signed up. We were delighted! And for thenext five years, starting in 1995 with RW 37 (see p. 48), welisted his workshops on the back page in the “conferences”section and he fed us names of potential new subscribers,targeting one area of the country at a time.

I was always amazed at his energy; he was away fromhome almost every weekend and led all these workshopswhile still teaching at Wheaton College. In 1999, herevamped the seminar, returning to some of the samesites, now in a one-day event entitled “Authentic Worshipin a Changing World.”

The last time I saw Bob was a year ago when he attendedthe twentieth anniversary celebration of Reformed Worship.He had just written a feature article entitled “What We’veLearned Along the Way: Reformed Worship Through TwentyYears of Liturgical Change” (RW 77, pp. 3-4; also availableonline at www.reformedworship.org). In that article, hewas typically gracious as well as challenging.

Bob Webber was a friend to all who work for worshiprenewal. Perhaps more than any other in the lasttwenty-five years, he wrote with knowledge and passionin ways that ignited interest in worship towards thoughtfulchange on the congregational as well as academiclevels, for those in liturgical as well as evangelical traditions,for those who honor the past as well as thosewho strike out in new directions. In short, he worked forall those motivated to build up the body of Jesus Christin the way we worship. Thanks be to God for the ministryof Robert Webber.