Tom Troeger

Tom TroegerTom Troeger, who led a profoundly satisfying life serving others, died on April 3, 2022 after two-year battle with cancer. As a widely recognized hymn writer, preacher, homiletics professor, theologian, poet, musician, columnist and author, he kept a lively connection between the life of the imagination and the life of faith.

As a boy, he was both a strong student and an active churchgoer who wondered if he could be both a curious intellectual and a devout Christian. Then a new minister, Richard Weld, arrived at his Presbyterian church, bringing a remarkable combination of wit, erudition and dynamism as a preacher. “He showed me I could be both,” said Tom.

After graduating from Yale and Colgate Rochester Divinity School, he served the Presbyterian Church in New Hartford, N.Y., earning a reputation as an engaging preacher and writer. Colgate Rochester offered him a teaching position that he held for 14 years before moving to Iliff School of Theology in Denver for another 14, where he also served as Dean. He concluded his teaching career at Yale Divinity School/Institute of Sacred Music for ten years.

An imaginative preacher as well as an accomplished flutist, Tom was a major bridge builder between the worlds of preaching and church music. He was regarded as one of the world’s most prolific hymn writers, producing more than 400 hymn texts and poems, many of which are now in the current hymnals of most denominations. He was a pioneer in stretching traditional hymn themes to include environmental issues, genetics and the big bang theory. “I’m not a scientist, but I love science,” said Tom, who was the son of an inventor father and a poetry-loving mother.

He published 24 books, including four books of poetry, and many have been translated into Japanese, Korean, Spanish and German. Initially ordained in the Presbyterian Church, he was also ordained in the Episcopal Church, making him one of the first in the country to be dually aligned with both traditions.

“Tom was one of our very best,” says Mike Orlansky. “He and I sat together in the flute section of the Yale Concert Band and had some engaging talks while traveling to and from concerts. He was well-read and knowledgeable about many subjects, including music, literature, films, history, the media and baseball (not surprisingly, as he hailed from Cooperstown, NY) and had a serious and contemplative side, punctuated with lighter and whimsical touches. He was a careful listener, a perceptive observer, and a kind and gracious person who treated everyone with respect. It was a pleasure to be his friend and bandmate.”