Born on April 13, 1933, I was brought up in Redondo Beach, California, although I was something of a bi-coastal kid. My mother’s family was from the East Coast, and so I spent a lot of time in Scarsdale, New York, as well as Montclair, New Jersey. Particularly influential in my school days were Chadwick Seaside School in Rolling Hills, California, and Inglewood Christian School, also in the Los Angeles area. Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair, New Jersey, and the Congregational Church in Redondo Beach, California, were the churches that shaped my earliest years.
In 1952 I went off to Centre College of Kentucky, where I was introduced to philosophy and the history of art. It was at Centre College that I learned to study the classics. This included the Latin classics, to be sure, but also the Christian classics.
Princeton Theological Seminary granted me a bachelor of divinity in 1958. There I studied Bible under Otto Piper and Bruce Metzger, and absorbed the genteel piety of John A. Mackay.
On September 30, 1959, Donegal Presbytery ordained me to the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church in Atglen, Pennsylvania. There I spent the happiest five years of my life, preaching my way through one book of the Bible after another, trying to lead my people in prayer, and assuring them of the wisdom of God. After five years I began to sense another call. I wanted to study the history of Christian worship. My first church had given me a passion for the subject.
In October of 1964 I left for the University of Tübingen in Germany. I would spend the next seven years pursuing my research, studying at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Paris, the Institute Catholique of Paris, and the University of Basel. I completed my doctor in theology (D. théol.) at the University of Neuchâtel in French speaking Switzerland under the great Jean-Jacques von Allmen. My thesis, The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship, was defended in June of 1971 and I returned home to look for a church
Faith Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, Indiana, a new church development that was going down the drain, called me to revive their seemingly hopeless little church. It was a tough job, but in the providence of God this struggling congregation began to experience new life. Faith Church was made up mostly of married students and staff at Purdue University. I found myself involved with baby boomer spirituality whether I liked it or not. At the church I emphasized expository preaching, the life of prayer, and the ministries of mercy. In thirteen years Faith Church moved from meeting in a quonset hut to a simple white clapboard New England-style church. In 1979 we built a new church and a few years later a Christian Education building. It became more and more clear that the struggling little mission church had become a mature congregation.
Up to this point my service to Christ had been as a bachelor minister, but in 1982 Mary McCaw agreed to become my helpmeet in Christian service and in time God blessed us with two children, Hannah and Isaac.
In 1985 President James I. McCord tapped me to become a member of the Center of Theological Inquiry, a think tank in Princeton, New Jersey. There I began a very different ministry. I devoted my energies to theological research and writing. This ministry has produced a large number of publications, the most important of which are listed here. The worship wars of the nineties came and went. I was in the middle of it, sometimes sympathetic with one side, sometimes with the other.
From 1998 to 2003 I taught a number of courses on the history of Christian worship at Princeton Theological Seminary. That was a very satisfying experience. Then in January 2004 I accepted the John H. Leith chair of Reformed Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary. My job at Erskine is to help develop the Institute for Reformed Worship, a project to which I am devoted down to the present.