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by Barbara A. Chaapel

PTS alums who graduated in the decade of the 1970s will remember Arlo D. Duba as the person who almost single-handedly began the Princeton Seminary Paschal Vigil. While Duba, who was from 1969 to 1982 both the Seminary’s director of admissions and director of the chapel, had help from students and faculty in planning and leading the historic Easter service, the vision for the vigil was his.

In 1968, Duba was studying at the Advanced Institute in Liturgical Studies at the Sorbonne while on sabbatical from his position at Westminster Choir College. He became interested in the worship and liturgies of the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jewish synagogue. He visited liturgical communities in Taizé, France, and Bossey, Switzerland, and participated in a Russian Orthodox Easter Vigil.

“I began scheming about how I could introduce the fantastic service dramatizing the Paschal cycle that flourished in the medieval church to the contemporary Protestant church,” Duba laughs, “and then Dr. McCord arrived in Paris to offer me a position at the Seminary!

“There seemed no better place to try the vigil than a theological seminary.”

The Princeton vigil had its start in a class Duba taught with his speech department colleague G. Robert Jacks — Arts in the Service of the Church. “We tried to stimulate our students’ creativity,” Duba explains. “We encouraged them to design banners, choose music, use symbols, and find ways to dramatize the story of faith. Christian worship is incarnational; it should use the flesh and blood of earthly life.”

Students began to try out some of these ideas in daily chapel services, and then in 1973 planned their first vigil.

"We modeled our vigil on the re-enactment of the story of salvation dramatized in the early church at Easter,” Duba says. “It was a huge success, one of the most memorable events of my ministry.” More than sixty students took part in the vigil’s planning and leadership, as did members of the faculty and staff.

A several-hour service culminating at midnight of Easter morning, the vigil began and ended in Miller Chapel. Throughout the service, participants read the story of faith from the Old and New Testaments, sang hymns, walked from place to place on the campus to symbolize the journey of salvation, celebrated the sacrament of baptism, and finally re-entered the chapel for an Easter sermon and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

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Arlo D. Duba

“We had incredible support from President McCord and Dean Adams,” Duba remembers. “Even though he didn’t always agree with everything in the vigil, McCord always saved the date so that he could preach the central sermon. That was the pattern in the early church — the bishop always preached the vigil sermon.”

Duba is also grateful for the support of faculty colleagues Karlfried Froehlich and Kathleen McVey, who also served on the chapel council. From the Lutheran and Roman Catholic traditions respectively, each “gave historical and biblical background to our worship experiences,” he says. The council, responsible for overseeing daily chapel services, was also a seed bed for student worship leadership. Jana Childers, now associate professor of homiletics at San Francisco Theological Seminary, chaired the council during her student days.

In addition to the vigil, Duba made some very practical contributions to the chapel during his tenure, including a dimmer switch to provide more dramatic use of lighting, a new sound system, and a liturgical resource room in the basement for students to use when planning services.

Duba left PTS in 1982, after his tenth Paschal Vigil, to become dean of Dubuque Theological Seminary. If there is one contribution by which he wants to be remembered, it is for championing the effective practice of Reformed worship. “Princeton has always been strong in teaching the theology and the history of worship and preaching,” he says. “But worship is more than preaching, and good theology must issue in good practice.”dot.gif (37 bytes)

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