A Special Tribute
Reverend Milton E. Detterline, 1929 - 2010
Pastor, Mentor & Friend
Portrait by Ilse An Munzinger
While the Church has had many influential leaders and Pastors during it's long history, none have been more influential than the Reverend Milton E. Detterline. Reverend Detterline came to the Church in 1972 as a temporary supply Pastor and much to the congregation's delight, ended up staying for 38 years until his passing in 2010.
Milton Detterline studied at Drew, graduating in 1954 with a Bachelor of Divinity and three years later received his Masters in Divinity. After his graduation in 1954, Milton was Ordained and made Pastor of Christ Evangelical Congregational Church in Pottsville, Pa. where he served for 3 years and then to St. Johns EC in Allentown, serving there for 4 years. By this time, Reverend Detterline’s 3 sons, Jim, Jon and Peter were born and also by this time, he was realizing a desire to change his affiliation to the United Church of Christ. He made this change in 1961and shortly thereafter attended a UCC conference where he was given a particularly warm welcome by Reverend Paul Slinghoff who took him under his wing.
Reverend Detterline’s first assignment with the United Church of Christ was St. Johns in Tamaqua. Through his 8 years there, the congregation saw an increase in membership from less than 800 to more than 1000 people. While in Tamaqua, as through most of his career, Reverend Detterline did a lot of writing including a book about the town titled “Tamaqua Tales” that sold out 2 printings. Additionally while living there, in 1968 he was awarded the 5th annual “Tamaqua Citizen of the Year” recognition.
Around this same time in another part of the State, one of our former Parishioners and President of Ursinus College, Dr. Donald L. Helfferich asked Reverend Slinghoff of the UCC Penn Southeast Conference for the names of three men who might replace the former Vice President at the College. Reverend Detterline was one of the names given and was then designated as School Chaplain, Alumni Director and Public Relations Officer, all under the title of “Special Assistant to the President”.
A few years later, the congregation of St. Peter UCC of Knauertown was in need of someone to replace the former Pastor Reverend Adams. After a long succession of Guest Speakers and Preachers, Dr. Helfferich persuaded his assistant to fill in as a guest speaker/Preacher until a suitable replacement could be found. On October 22, 1972, Reverend Detterline preached his First Sermon at St. Peter Temple. Records indicate that Reverend Detterline served for the next 3 weeks.
Prior commitments kept Reverend Detterline away for December but he returned again in January 1973. A short while later the consistory offered Reverend Detterline a permanent, but not full-time, position as Pastor of the congregation but he declined reasoning that it would not be fair to the congregation considering how busy he was with his regular job. He did agree however to continue serving through the end of April in order to cover the Lenten & Easter season.
Reverend Detterline took leave of his service for a few months in late 1973 and early 1974 to present a message on behalf of Ursinus college to other congregations in the area, and again in the summer of 1974 for a soul searching trip to the western states returning in October of that year to serve the congregation of St. Peter UCC.
Since he was not classified as a full-time Minister, Rev. Detterline supplemented his income as a writer and also worked in public relations for St. Peters Village. In 1981 Reverend Detterline was asked to serve St. Matthew’s congregation which he did concurrently with St. Peter for 15 years until 1996. This offered him the opportunity to serve as a full time Minister.
Over his 38 years of service at St. Peter UCC, Reverend Detterline’s leadership helped the congregation to achieve much for the congregants and for the community. Here is a list of just a few of his accomplishments:
Meals on Wheels (Local Chapter)
The Warwick-Coventry Ministerium was Co founded by Reverend Detterline.
Alcoholics Anonymous held its first area meeting at the Church in 1980 and Adult Children of Alcoholics soon after that, both groups still going strong.
HHASP, Helping Hands at St. Peter came into being
Perhaps the largest, most notable accomplishment of the congregation under Reverend Detterline’s leadership was the construction of the social hall in 1997, an idea that was conceived even before his term with us began.
Until that time, the congregation had to make due with the school house located across Rt. 23 from the Church presenting challenges with large Church gatherings and for holding the annual Church Bazaar. Rev. Detterline's tireless drive and fund raising efforts finally resulted in the ground breaking ceremony which occurred in early 1997. The hall was then proudly dedicated and named "Milton E. Detterline Hall" on September 30, 2001 by Louise Chapman, Consistory President at the time.
When Reverend Detterline was asked what his favorite moment was at St. Peter UCC, he looked upward for a moment mumbling something about so many moments, then quickly looked straight ahead and said, “No doubt, the naming of the Hall in my honor.” No other Pastor at St. Peter has been granted such an honor, but then, at 38 years, no other pastor had served the congregation for such a long term.
The 38 years that were shared with Pastor Detterline and congregation were not always easy. It is perhaps, through difficult times that Reverend Detterline was able to teach us, by his example, some of the best lessons delivered under his instruction. Lessons in peace and perseverance, tolerance and forgiveness, and most of all lessons in love.
In terms of conveying the feelings the congregation has for Reverend Detterline's legacy, of all the titles the congregation has for him, the most prominent would have to be Preacher, Teacher, Counselor, Mentor, Brother in Christ but the greatest title is “Friend”.
Following in his Father's footsteps, Rev. Detterline's son, Peter Detterline, is the current Pastor of St. Peter UCC.