A short interview with the Rev Dr Jeff Truscott

The Rev Dr Truscott is presently serving as a lecturer at Trinity Theological College (TTC) Singapore. He teaches worship and liturgy as well church architecture. Prior to 2018, the Lutheran minister was serving as TTC’s chaplain. Dr Truscott completed his doctoral studies in liturgical theology at the University of Notre Dame. Some of his published works includes The Reform of Baptism and Confirmation in American Lutheranism, Worship: A Practical GuideThe Sacraments: A Practical Guide and more recently Twelve Whys of Worship. The books can be purchased from the admin office at TTC. The following was a short interview conducted with him.

1) Dr Truscott, you have been a lecturer in liturgical studies for a couple of years. What made you choose this area of specialisation?

I became interested in the liturgy because of my work as a church musician.  During my university studies, I learned to play the pipe organ and assisted my teacher by playing the organ at the local Lutheran Church where the liturgy was done very well.   When I was pastoring churches, I decided to go on for further study, and a liturgical studies programme seemed like a natural choice.

My interest also has to do with my perception that Sunday worship – “the Liturgy” as we Lutherans call it – is at the heart of the church’s mission and identity.  Some people will say that evangelism, teaching, or social ministry are central to the life of the church. Indeed, these are all important aspects of church life. But we must consider the liturgy as THE central action of the church because it is here that we encounter the Lord Jesus himself who gives us new life through his word, in both its proclaimed and sacramental forms (scripture reading/preaching, the Lord’s Supper).  In the liturgy we come to be and remain in Christ!

2) Within the span of your teaching vocation, you have written 4 books related to liturgical theology. It seems that a concern that you have for protestant churches stems from the neglect of the liturgy. What is the liturgy and why should churches take an interest in it? 

The liturgy is the church’s public worship wherein the church expresses its deepest faith in God through its various ritual actions. The liturgy is prayer and praise directed to God, but it is also God’s service directed to us. God in Jesus Christ comes to us in Word and Sacrament to show us our deepest needs and to share his mercy with us needy, broken sinners. Churches must take an interest in the Sunday liturgy precisely because the liturgy is so bound up with the presence of God. Specifically, we have to know how to get out of God’s way during the liturgy, especially by learning to use as few words as possible so that our words do not overwhelm God’s Word.

3) In most protestant churches, the emphasis seems to be on the sermon and the singing of songs. Why should the order of service matter? 

Singing is only ONE aspect of what happens on Sunday morning, and it is something directed from us TO God. But within the whole service there are actions wherein God comes to us, especially in preaching and the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism.  In my own tradition, we distinguish between sacrificial aspects of the service, where the directionality is from us to God, versus the sacramental, where the directionality is from God to us. It is important to note here that God’s self-revelation (in worship) is something entirely different from our response to it.  To confuse these two things would be to take us back to the pre-Reformation period where the church obliterated the grace of God by making the Lord’s Supper into OUR good work directed to God, as opposed to God’s gracious approach to us in the sacramental elements. I fear that current attempts to deify or sacramentalize singing are an unfortunate and misguided reversion to this confusion of the sacrificial and sacramental aspects of worship.

4) What advice would you give to someone interested in understanding Christian liturgy a bit better?

Read at least one book by each of the following authors:

  1. Paul F. Bradshaw
  2. Maxwell E. Johnson
  3. Gordon W. Lathrop
  4. Nathan Mitchell
  5. Don Saliers
  6. Frank C. Senn
  7. Bryan Spinks
  8. James F. White

 


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