Remembering Horace T. Allen (1933-2019)

My friend Horace Allen died on February 5. Horace was an important ecumenical Christian scholar of worship and liturgy.

The Reverend Doctor Horace Thaddeus Allen. Jr. received his B.A. from Princeton University, his M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary.

Ordained by the United Presbyterian Church in the USA he served a number of churches in both the US and the UK. For several years he served his denomination as the Director of Worship and Music. Later he was Professor of Worship at Boston University School of Theology from 1978 to 2003, at which time he retired and was named Professor Emeritus. He was also a guest lecturer on worship at Andover Newton Theological School for many years.

Horace delivered the prestigious Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale Divinity School (I was present) in 1986 on the subject of: “Preaching in a Christian Context-Scripture and Sacrament”

One of his most salient positions was as Warden of the Iona Community in Scotland. He was friends with Iona’s founder George Macleod, who I recall sent him a “good luck” telegram when Horace delivered the Beecher Lectures.

He was the author of A Handbook for The Lectionary, Geneva Press, 1980. Horace was very committed to helping local congregations better understand the rich liturgical traditions of the ecumenical church from across the centuries. He didn’t drive, but was always ready to take a train to offer his services.

I first met Horace on a van trip a number of clergy took from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston to the first Mercersburg Society meeting in Pennsylvania in 1984. Among the riders were Horace, Professor Gabriel Fackre, hymn-writer Ruth Duck, and Pastors Jim Crawford, Joseph Bassett, Jim Chase and Charlie Ford. Later Horace became one of the first Presidents of the Mercersburg Society and continued to be active in it.

Horace came several times to lecture and preach at the congregation where I served in Pittsfield, MA. He was a creative, engaging and effective preacher. The flock always asked him to come back.

Horace was long a member of The Consultation on Common Texts, “an ecumenical consultation of liturgical scholars and denominational representatives from the United States and Canada who produce liturgical texts and curate a three-year lectionary in common use by Christian churches worldwide.”

Everyone who uses the Revised Common Lectionary or uses liturgies from the Consultation on Common Texts owes a debt to Horace.

Horace used to tell his students that one of the keys to good liturgy was to “say what you do, and do what you say!” For example, he said when the celebrant says “This is the joyful feast of the people of God” in a solemn voice and wearing a black robe, a youngster might wonder “I would hate to see one of your sad feasts!” And when the celebrant asks “Do we not all drink of the same cup?” one might truly answer “No, we drink out of these little shot glasses.”

When the Inclusive Language Lectionary substituted “Sovereign” for “Lord” Horace opined that “I have seen the Sovereign!” (in John 20:18) “reminded him of the parable of the lost coin.”

Horace was a wonderful character, with a witty anecdote for every occasion. He was always great company. He was a kind and gentle man with a great capacity for friendships. I give thanks to God for him. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

A Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 2:00 PM in the Marsh Chapel at Boston University, 735 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Relatives and friends are kindly invited.

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