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 Seminarys 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
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
vigils 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 Lords Supper.
Arlo D. Duba
We had incredible support from President McCord and Dean Adams, Duba
remembers. Even though he didnt 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
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