Paul E. Detterman

Rev. Dr. Paul Detterman is an author, composer, and conference speaker who is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of River Forest, Illinois, and a blogger at reformedworship.org. He is a former associate for worship on the national staff of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Articles by this author:

  • This article is the third in a series introducing “Worshiping the Triune God,” a working document published after the inaugural meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in June 2010. (For parts 1 and 2, see RW 100 and 101.)

  • This article is the second in a series introducing “Worshiping the Triune God,” a working document published following the inaugural meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in June 2010 (see Part 1 in RW 100).

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    To help you smile as you read the words of “Worshiping the Triune God,” Reformed Worship has planned a series of articles that provide a framework for studying this new resource. We hope to entice you and your worship leadership team to become personally invested in the ongoing global conversation this document has begun, and to discover how your local Lord’s Day celebration intersects, informs, and impacts the worship, witness, and mission of brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe.

  • Christ’s ascension is a pretty big deal. Saint Luke includes detailed accounts of Jesus’ instruction, blessing, and supernatural departure in both the ending of his “first book” (Luke 24:44-53) and the beginning of his “second book” (Acts 1:1-11). And those in the Reformed tradition stress the importance of Christ’s ascension as a witness and guarantee of our own resurrection as well as a call to evangelism, justice, and compassion (see, for example, Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 46-52).

  • The Day of Pentecost is a festival that could easily develop an inferiority complex if its liturgical value were measured by Protestant celebration.

    Pentecost, like its first cousins Epiphany and Ascension, passes unnoticed in many congregations. It doesn’t possess the intrinsic “awe” factor of Christmas or the “wow” of Easter. But Pentecost is an amazing holy day. It marks the end of a whole season of resurrection celebration and the beginning (or re-energizing) of Spirit-led, day-to-day, rubber-meets-the-road ministry.

  • Dateline Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1936. An upscale Presbyterian congregation in the Shadyside neighborhood, seeking a new way to promote world mission, births the notion of a Worldwide Communion Sunday, to be celebrated on the first Sunday of October. A plaque in the chancel floor of Shadyside Presbyterian marks the spot to this day. Within four years of its inception, the Department of Evangelism of the old Federal Council of Churches had heard about the idea. Sixty years later, a casual Google search of “World Communion Sunday” threatens “about 23,700” hits.

  • A celebration of World Communion Sunday need not be odd or uncomfortable for people with a limited experience of languages and cultures other than their own (see p. 3). Any time we plan worship, we need to ask, What is the authentic “language” (ethos, perspective, culture) of the congregation? In what forms can the gospel be heard most clearly, and in what language(s) can the congregation glorify God most freely?

  • What’s the best way to present the doctrine of the atonement at a conference for worship planners and leaders? One way would be to suggest Scripture texts and songs that focus on this teaching of Scripture. But Donald Hustad, Carl Stam, and Paul Detterman—all from Louisville, Kentucky—collaborated in a more challenging approach: preparing and walking participants through a worship service celebrating Christ’s atoning work for the sins of the world.

  • Q: What do you get when you are asked to take part in an event for which you are remarkably unprepared?

    A: Butterflies in your stomach.

    Q: What do you get when you realize that the majority of participants in that event are as unprepared as you?

    A: The false assurance of safety in numbers.

    Q: What do you get when the leadership of that same event begins to realize what’s going on?

    A: Frustrated and disheartened leadership.

Blogs by this author:

  • The array of worship services during the Holy Week is meant to be, as described by some Millennials, an “embodied practice of faith—a liturgy that shapes our stance toward heaven more than our intellect about heaven.”

  • Choral music itself will never be a thing of the past, but impoverished are the congregations who are forcing their people to experience singing in secular settings.

    How important are church choirs? How vital are they to a healthy ministry? Why have them at all?

  • Death is a very real word and a very real reality. For followers of the One who defeated death, it is the next logical step in our eternal trust walk with triune God.

  • There is never “one right way” to lead the followers of Jesus in worship. Worship is a three-dimensional activity and needs to be viewed from all sides

  • Wonder

    It has been famously said (a polite way of saying that “it” has been attributed so many people we don’t know who originally said it) that “The world does not lack for wonders, only for a sense of wonder.” Those words danced through my mind last week as I walked out of an evening gathering in downtown Chicago and saw the light from the streetlamps catching thousands of falling snowflakes, turning each one into its own brief moment of shimmering beauty.

  • When we arrived in our current pastoral call, one of the pleasant surprises my wife and I discovered was a Manse where we could host large groups of people, with a living room that could accommodate our two grand pianos without breaking a sweat. We suspected this might lead to some joyful experiences, and last Thursday night we had our suspicions confirmed!

  • A tag line from a decades-old infomercial still makes me chuckle: [announcer voice] “This ____ can be yours. Do not be fooled by more expensive imitations!” There is something so deliciously ironic (and just plain wrong) about that phrase. The first time I heard it I said, “What???” Then I heard it again and again and again—promoting some piece of indispensable Americana plastica that could be “. . . yours for the low, low price of . . .”

  • I remember the first time I used my great aunt’s recipe for ginger snap cookies. I was meticulously following her handwritten notes, certain that everything was the way it was supposed to be. You can imagine my utter disappointment when the first tray of soppy, run-together cookie dough came out of the oven. Apparently Aunt Mabel had been painstakingly accurate when it came to cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and sugar, but had forgotten to mention flour. A more seasoned baker would have caught the oversight immediately (my wife did!) and added the flour in.

  • It’s a question everyone must ask. How do we see our life and our calling? When we find ourselves thinking about the things that fill our days, what images come to mind?

  • My wife and I had an interesting experience at this year’s Calvin Worship Symposium. It happened Thursday night at the Covenant Fine Arts Center. The auditorium was beautifully prepped for worship with themed hangings and well-designed lighting on and around the stage. The worship team was first rate. And the service began with an inspired playing of a Bach prelude—that very few of us actually heard because virtually no one was paying attention.