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Presbyterian worship authority Dr. Arlo Duba is remembered with fondness and deep respect

Duba died June 27 in Gunnison, Colorado, at age 93

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Dr. Arlo Duba

LOUISVILLE — Friends and family of Dr. Arlo Duba gathered both in person at Gunnison (Colorado) Congregational Church and online Monday to remember one of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s foremost authorities on worship.

Duba, whose long teaching and administrative tenure included Westminster Choir College, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, died in Gunnison on June 27 at age 93.

“He was warm, compassionate, and deeply passionate about the Church’s worship, the foundation of baptism in the Christian life and community formation, and frequent celebration of Eucharist,” said the Rev. Dr. Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012). “I will miss him. I give thanks to God for Arlo’s life, ministry, witness among us and his friendship. Rest in peace, dear Arlo. Your baptism is now complete.”

“Arlo was a treasured colleague and collaborator in the ongoing reform of Presbyterian worship,” said the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology & Worship. “His insights on the eucharistic liturgy were particularly influential in the development of the 2018 ‘Book of Common Worship’ and will resound in the church for generations to come.”

“God brought a wonderful, angelic person into my life at the Princeton University Bookstore,” recalled Janet McEwen, who got to know Duba while working at the bookstore and later applied for a job at Princeton Theological Seminary. There to interview her and the other candidates for the position was Duba himself, by then the seminary’s admissions director. “Guess who got the job,” McEwen said with a wide smile. “I became like a child to the family.”

The Rev. Lauren J. McFeaters, associate pastor at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, reported “so many gasps” when she announced Duba’s death. “Arlo was loved and treasured, and he loved and treasured us back,” McFeaters said during a recorded message. “He is a sheep in God’s fold and a man of God’s redeeming. We are with you in heart and spirit, and we give thanks for Arlo.”

Duba was born in 1929 in Platte, a Czech community in rural South Dakota. He met his wife-to-be, Doreen, at the University of Dubuque where they were both studying. They were married in 1954.

He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1955. After completing his Ph.D. at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1960, he took a position at Westminster Choir College as Chaplain and Associate Professor of Religion.

In 1968, he did post-doctoral research at the Liturgical Institute of Paris. In 1969, he was appointed director of Daily Chapel Worship and taught worship and liturgical studies in Princeton Theological Seminary.

In 1982 he was called to be the Professor of Worship at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, where he was also the dean.

Duba was active in the North American Academy of Liturgy, Societas Liturgica, and the Association for Reformed & Liturgical Worship. His works continue to guide and renew the practice of worship and give voice to scripture in congregational singing.

Duba is survived by his wife of 69 years, Doreen E. Duba; his children, Paul (Karen) Duba, Bruce (Susan) Duba, John (Carrie) Duba, and Anne (Steven) Duba-Maack; and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Alvera Duba, and his siblings, Ralph Duba and Eldora Duba Beeman.

‘If you sing, “He arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign,” it starts to shape your experience of the world. You could see that in Arlo.’ — The Rev. Ian Wrisley

“His extraordinary impact on Presbyterian worship over the last 50 years cannot be overstated,” said the Rev. Dr. Fred Anderson, the retired senior pastor at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. “I don’t think I ever heard a cross or mean word come out of his mouth. He was no pushover, but he sought to be Christlike with all he met.”

Paul Duba said his father “was adept at the art of the possible. He manifested things out of thin air. He would stand before a problem and find a way not around the problem, but through it.”

As minister of the Chapel at Princeton Seminary during the 1960s, Duba “was up close and personal with the reality of the Vietnam War, the realities of the civil rights movement and Stonewall,” Paul Duba said. “We must say he left this place better than he found it.”

“If you sing, ‘He arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign,’ it starts to shape your experience of the world. You could see that in Arlo,” said the Rev. Ian Wrisley, the pastor of Gunnison Congregational Church.

Late in Duba’s life, Wrisley would share communion and a brief liturgy with him. “He didn’t want to read the people part. He wanted to read the pastoral part,” Wrisley said. “Those words and hymns grounded him in this world — not some other place, not some other reality.”

The sacraments of baptism and communion, Wrisley reminded those gathered after pouring water from a pitcher, “are physical acts we do that communicate divine grace.”

“We don’t come to this table for ourselves,” Wrisley said. “We come for the world, a world that builds crosses as we bear crosses. It’s a foretaste of the messianic age.”

Duba “wrote a few things about his funeral, which is a delightful thing to do — to stare into the abyss and turn around with a paper and pen and say, ‘This is what matters to me,’” Wrisley said.

Then, with Anderson serving as online celebrant and Wrisley working behind the table, those remembering Duba celebrated the Eucharist, remembering the words of St. Augustine: “Behold who you are, become what you receive.”

Memorial contributions may be made toward the Arlo Duba Fund at Princeton Theological Seminary at or PO Box 821, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton, NJ 08542.

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