Remembering Professor Emeritus Louis Weil

Provided by Church Divinity School of the Pacific

The Rev. Dr. Louis Weil, Episcopal priest and preeminent liturgical theologian, died March 9 in Oakland, CA, after several months of failing health and a brief illness. He was 86 years old. Weil is perhaps best known for his influential role in shaping the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

He was born in Houston, TX and earned degrees from Southern Methodist University, Harvard University, The General Theological Seminary, and Institut Catholique de Paris. 

Ordained to the diaconate in 1961 and the priesthood in 1962, Weil served in numerous pastoral and teaching appointments in Puerto Rico and France during the 1960s. He then taught liturgics and church music at Nashotah House from 1971 until 1988 before serving as Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at CDSP until his retirement in 2009. 

“Given his extroverted nature and his great knowledge of liturgy, music, history and more, Louis was born to teach,” said Dr. Donn Morgan (DD ‘16), Weil’s friend and colleague of many years and president and dean of CDSP from 1995 to 2010. “The people who over and over again would come back and express their gratitude for Louis were the students he related so well with in the classroom.”

One of those students is the Rev. Shannon Kelly ‘99, director for the Department of Faith Formation and officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministries for The Episcopal Church.

“Encapsulating Louis is so hard,” said Kelly. “He was a passionate teacher of creating beautiful liturgy as the true work of the people. I still quote him twenty-five years after setting foot in his classroom. In my time at CDSP, I absorbed his wisdom, passion, and curiosity in courses, in the chapel, and in the refectory as I shared meals and dessert with him and ‘Mother.’ She was an essential figure in his life and a regular presence in our community.”

Weil was the author of dozens of books and journal articles, including Liturgical Sense: The Logic of the Rite. This 2013 retrospective served as the first in a series of worship volumes that Church Publishing Incorporated inaugurated in Weil’s honor.

“After serving on the subcommittee on Christian initiation in the revision process leading to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, Louis advocated passionately for the principles underlying the book,” said the Rev. Ruth Meyers, PhD, who succeeded Weil as Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics. “His wisdom, his pastoral insight, his humor, and his generous hospitality were legendary.”

A memorial service for Weil will be held on Friday, April 1, 11:00 am at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way in Berkeley, CA, where he was a longtime member.  

If you have a favorite memory of Professor Weil, you may wish to add it to the growing collection on this Facebook post.