In Memoriam: Thomas H. Troeger

April 6, 2022

By Martin Jean

The Institute mourns the death of our dear friend and colleague, Thomas H. Troeger: preacher, hymn-writer, theologian and musician. Tom joined the Institute faculty in the fall of 2005 and remained a close partner to all of us for ten years before his retirement to Maine with his wife, Merle Marie Troeger.

Tom’s countless contributions to the life and work of the ISM serve as a model of service, teaching, scholarship, and creative work. In fact, in many ways, he embodied the very essence of what it means to be a member of this faculty. We often speak about the ISM being a crossroads for ministers and musicians, scholars and practitioners. Tom was all of these and so much more.

His poetry has been part of the canon of hymnody in religious communities for decades, translated into many languages and appearing in dozens of hynmals. “O Praise the Gracious Power,” “Let Wonder Be Reborn,” and “Praise the Source of Faith and Learning” are only a few that have become part of the communal memory of churches everywhere.

Tom’s scholarship speaks to many audiences. Works like So That All May Know: Preaching That Engages the Whole Congregation have become a staple for students of homiletics as well as seasoned preachers. Trouble at the Table: Gathering the Tribes for Worship, written with longtime collaborator Carol Doran, is a standard text in many church music curricula.  In Wonder Reborn: Creating Sermons on Hymns, Music, and Poetry he investigates the potential of music as a tool of theological expression, showing the breadth of his contribution.

We remember fondly his many lectures that combined poetry reading and theological reflection, as well as his superb flute playing. He was a favorite preacher in Marquand Chapel as well as a pivotal teacher of homiletics with his colleague, Prof. Lenora Tubbs Tisdale.

On a personal note, Tom and I spent many happy hours during his time here team-teaching the proseminar in the theology of church music. Our alums still speak of lessons they learned in this class. His graciousness, collegiality, and mentorship to me during his tenure here were life-giving as I found my legs in administration. I hold him up as an exemplar of intellectual curiosity, artistic commitment, and pastoral intelligence. I will miss him greatly.

Please join us all in giving thanks for the life and work of Thomas H. Troeger, whose legacy will live on for generations.