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John D. Witvliet

Bob Webber: Memory & Hope

The following tribute was presented via videotape to Bob at the Wheaton College Theology Conference banquet this past April. The conference theme, "Ancient Faith for the Church's Future," was one of the central motifs in Robert Webber's writings. Webber died the following week.

April 10, 2007

Dear Robert,

Two of life's best gifts are memory and hope. This is true in psalmody and Eucharistic praying, but also in personal and professional friendship. It is a great honor to practice both of these gifts with respect to your life and work, especially here at Wheaton College.

When I think of your written and published works, I remember, with deep gratitude, opening up Worship is a Verb at about age 18 and feeling an Emmaus-like burning of the heart over its conviction about our risen Lord and its catholic vision for worship. Some years later, I remember receiving seven boxes of files which became the last volumes of A Complete Library of Christian Worship, and sensing the breadth of the landscape which you explored—the whole Bible, all of systematic theology, 2,000 years of church history, every one of the church's various ministries, in 100 or more denominations (all, it seemed, in a single summer). Later, I remember arriving at a hotel in Carol Stream on Monday, to learn that we would be starting and finishing our outline of the Renew songbook in four days. I remember how you said then (and many times since), "I love a project."

As I think about all of your published work, I am struck by some particular charisms which you have shared so freely with us.

First, you have introduced so many of us to the early church as a period of unique theological insight, spiritual vitality, and prophetic correction. You did so in a way that energized practicing pastors and lay Christians. It was said of Princeton's Peter Brown, "he rescued the past from the tyranny of stereotypes." That is also true for you, especially when it comes to worship. ...

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