Praising God: The Trinity in Christian Worship

By Ruth C. Duck and Patricia Wilson-Kastner
WJKP. 1999. 207 pp. Pb. $22. ISBN 0-664-25777-1

Reviewed by Gene Huff
San Francisco


"The Trinity are a grammar problem," according to an answer once noted on a theology exam. The authors of this remarkably useful book suggest it has too often also been a worship problem and they assume the task of showing how we can more adequately speak to and about the Trinitarian God in worship.

In a graceful yet persistent manner they affirm the Trinity as central to Christian worship while insisting that the language used in worship to speak about the Trinity should be gender-inclusive. As they successfully prove both aspects of their case, the result is an invaluable resource for liturgists, pastors, seminarians and all who think seriously about Christian worship.

This fine work is the result of collaboration by Ruth C. Duck, well known for her talented work in contemporary liturgy, who teaches worship at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, and Patricia Wilson-Kastner, an Episcopal priest, writer and educator who died suddenly in 1998, just as her writing had been completed. Together they have given us solid historical and theological scholarship joined with a fresh and lively pursuit of contemporary language that provides the fullest expression of who God is for our lives and how our worship of God may be truly meaningful.

This book presents an excellent refresher course in Trinitarian theology, both its history throughout the church’s life and related themes which confront the contemporary faith community. The writers fear that the doctrine of the Trinity is generally peripheral to everyday Christian life and worship. While Trinitarian beliefs are often said to be important, still churches present only a partial picture of the triune God in their worship. These teachers of worship believe that when the traditional language of Father, Son and Spirit is used to the exclusion of other metaphors, opportunities may be missed for encouraging the growth of Trinitarian faith.

While the book acknowledges those who argue against changing the words of liturgy, it reminds us that change is intrinsic to life and the absence of change in liturgy can be as dangerous for the Christian life as the loss of stability or the absence of moorings. The case for gender- inclusive language in fully Trinitarian worship is thoughtfully presented. Seeing problems in the exclusive use of male language for God the authors observe that many women and men are discovering today that including feminine as well as masculine images for God in worship helps them comprehend God’s life and justice with new depth and clarity.

In exploring Trinitarian language the authors acknowledge that the word God is itself a bit of a problem in that one is often unsure whether it refers to the whole Trinity or to the first person. They believe this among other considerations should draw liturgists to the use of the many names for each of the persons which the Bible and the church’s tradition have provided. A helpful listing of possible language for the Trinity is provided. Inclusive Trinitarian language appears in many pages of liturgical resources, including doxologies, prayers of confession and thanksgiving, and liturgies for baptism and the Eucharist. Themes treated in helpful essays include how the Trinity may relate to the planning of Sunday worship, to preaching, and to the language of hymns.

Here is a valuable book presenting a strong case for more serious attention to the traditional claims of Trinitarian theology within the liberating framework of fully inclusive language in worship.