Help Light the Way: The Luminary Scholarship Effort
Paying Tribute to the Rev. Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey
Earlier this year, Wesley mourned the loss of a dear friend, professor, pastor and prolific writer in the Rev. Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey.
Dr. Stookey died Oct. 16 at Asbury United Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Md., after a long illness with Lewy Body Dementia. He was 79.
His impact was not only on generations of Wesley students, but throughout the daily sacramental life of The United Methodist Church.
In a United Methodist News Service story, Dr. Stookey was credited with being influential in helping “change how United Methodists and other Protestants worship.”
Stookey was among the four most influential liturgical scholars of The United Methodist Church, said the Rev. Brian K. Milford, president and publisher of the United Methodist Publishing House.
In United Methodist churches across the country, Dr. Stookey's influence on the practice of the sacraments, especially baptism, is experienced continually. Meanwhile, in the academic realm, his works are regularly read by students in seminaries everywhere, having written the definitive work on public prayer, “Let the Whole Church Say Amen!”
But for many of us, Dr. Stookey remains a warmly remembered Wesley professor who profoundly changed our thinking of liturgy. From 1973 to 2007, he was Wesley’s Hugh Latimer Elderdice Professor of Preaching and Worship. In addition to Wesley, Dr. Stookey also taught at theological schools in Korea and New Zealand.
Some of his former students are professors at Wesley today. Rev. Dr. Lucy Lind Hogan, who earned her Doctor of Ministry under Stookey, succeeded him as Wesley’s Elderice Professor. “He recognized the importance of traditional liturgy, and he wanted students and pastors to remember their tradition, their heritage and the importance of sacramental liturgy in growing and shaping disciples of Christ,” she said.
Ever the pastor, while a Wesley faculty member, Stookey regularly drove to surrounding states on the weekend to speak in churches, many of them small, said former student Rev. Mark Stamm. Now a professor of Christian worship at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Stamm says, “Stookey never forgot his vocation to the local church.”
“He always believed that he had an important teaching mission. I’ve tried to remember that in my own work, and he definitely was an example to me.”
The Rev. Charles Parker, senior pastor of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., had Stookey as an adviser for his doctoral work, and says he still has a influence on his ministry. “He was a man who brought enormous cheerfulness to how we craft worship and a very, very high sense of how that reflects on the honor we want to give God,” Parker said.
The Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor, a former student and United Church of Christ pastor, regards Stookey “like a father.” The friendship began when, after only two weeks of class, Apgar-Taylor learned that his aunt had died suddenly.
The professor generously offered to lend his student a car to get back for the funeral. Apgar-Taylor found another way home, but he knew he had found a mentor.
“He taught me to love the ritual and history of the church in a way I didn’t understand or love before,” Apgar-Taylor said.
Many at Wesley smiled when Dr. Sondra Wheeler, Martha Ashby Carr Professor of Christian Ethics at Wesley, noted in a Facebook post on Dr. Stookey’s passing, “It makes me glad to think he will be all settled in Heaven in time for the start of the new liturgical year.”
We invite you to join with fellow Wesley graduates and friends in remembering our great teacher, pastor and friend by making your gift to The Rev. Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey Tribute.
*Content and quotes in this story were taken from the October 20, 2016 United Methodist News Story,“Remembering professor who shaped worship” by Heather Hahn and Sam Hodges.