Ruth Duck has been teaching at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois since 1989. Her writings about Christian worship include Finding Words for Worship (1995) and Praising God: The Trinity in Christian Worship (with Patricia Wilson-Kastner, 1999). Her books of worship resources include Touch Holiness (with Maren Tirabassi), revised edition. 2012). She wrote Worship for the Whole People of God (2013) for seminary classes and local churches that seek to renew their worship. Duck also writes hymns, which appear in hymnals in varied countries and denominations. In 2013 she was named a Fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada in recognition of her contributions to congregational song. Duck, an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ USA, served churches in Wisconsin and Massachusetts. She received the Doctor of Theology degree from Boston University School of Theology in 1989. Born in Washington, D.C., she currently lives in Illinois.
Ruth is one of our keynote speakers and will lead an elective stream on “Writing Liturgies and Lyrics”.
We interviewed Ruth about worship:
1. In your own ongoing Christian experience, how is public worship transformative for you?
In the church where I have been a member for around 25 years, I am particularly helped by our pastor. She is able to correlate the scriptures of the day (generally related to the lectionary) with what is happening in the world. The honest naming is helpful as we live in the world, and she is able to speak in a way that is not partisan though very expressive of biblical values.
2. As leaders of Christian worship, what key elements of preparation and delivery make worship potentially transformative for others?
Those who lead worship should be grounded in a life of prayer and spiritual growth. Also, the various leaders need to be in communication with one another so that the service is coherent. This involves giving love and care to the planning but also being open to the Spirit at work in the moment.
3. Can Christian worship practices realistically seek to transcend cultural, racial, language, gendered, political and social difference?
Some aspects of worship tend to transcend culture, in the sense that most churches baptize, celebrate communion, read scripture, and preach the good news, as well as providing rituals for marriage and of death. However, the way we do all these things and more varies from church to church. It is possible to develop particular worshiping communities that bring together people who differ in culture, race, language, and many other ways. A spirit of love and working together on making worship will help, but only if we are able to address prejudice, judgment, privilege and colonialism in their varied forms.
4. Is there such a thing as an artistic sensibility so far as worship preparation and delivery is concerned? If so, what is its relation to God?
Every aspect of worship has an artistic dimension—how we move (or don’t move), the shape and symbols of our worship places, the use of words in preaching and liturgy, the rhythm and flow of a service, congregational song, and many other dimensions. Just as some sense a calling to the ministry of the pulpit or the ministry of music. Laity also have gifts and callings within the church and in the world. Their gifts and skills are part of effective worship.