On Sunday, October 29, 2017, First Church celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In 1517, The German monk and theologian Martin Luther published his Ninety-five Theses, a critique of the Catholic Church, which is generally considered to be the beginning of this movement that has resulted in thousands of different Protestant churches and denominations around the world.
Rev. David Vásquez-Levy, a Lutheran pastor and President of Pacific School of Religion was First Church’s special guest preacher for the morning’s 10 am service. Special music will round out the morning, including an instrumental ensemble and organ performance.
The church also celebrated Beer & Hymns on that Sunday afternoon.
First Church members will also be providing some written reflections on what the Reformation means to them. In his piece “What the Reformation Means to Me,” Dr. Mark Peterson says,
“When I was growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, in the 1960s and ’70s, the Reformation felt very alive to me—it shaped my world in discernible ways. My family lived in Chicago Heights, in a new housing development, among a swarming hive of baby-boom children. Some of our neighbors, the O’Neill and the Leoni families, Irish and Italian kids, headed off every morning to the east, toward St. Kieran’s Catholic school. e Protestant kids walked north to the neighborhood public school, replicating patterns that our parents’ generation had experienced in the city of Chicago, before the suburban exodus. So Christendom’s sharp divide between Catholics and Protestants lived on among us.”
In her reflection, Alice Clark notes other momentous changes in culture that followed the Reformation. “Protestant nations, with their newly modern merchant classes flexing their freedom from absolute domination by kings, worked to create empires under new kinds of financial and trade arrangements, supported by the latest military methods, which came to be known as the ‘Imperialism of Free Trade.’ This kind of ‘free trade’ financed the European colonization and exploitation of vast populations, along with the enslavement and transport of millions to the ‘New World.’”
Reuben Shank suggests that the Reformation was neither progressive nor conservative. “This ‘back to the roots’ was not strictly conservative, since it involved much pruning of excessive and entrenched growth whose establishment had become sources of suffering, disconnected from the fertile soil of the Scriptures and preventing new life to arise from the original roots. Neither was it progressive since it didn’t see itself as the newly evolved form, ever shedding old ways to better, more advanced ways of living. This third way, neither conservative nor progressive, was perhaps most true for the more radical wings of the reformations, to which the UCC owes a part of its DNA—church communities that did not seek to establish themselves anew as dominating social institutions.”
As a former Lutheran, the Reformation is deeply personal for Melissa Moss. “Whenever I hear ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God,’ I remember attending worship with my family. I think of my grandfather because, of course, ‘Mighty Fortress’ was played at his funeral....Every year I visit my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware for at least a month or more, and while there I reconnect with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. It’s a second church home for me. As I planned my trip for this fall, I made sure I would be there for Reformation Sunday.”