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Reformation Lessons and Carols

Pastor creates a Reformation Sunday worship service that both teaches and preaches

by Donna Frischknecht Jackson | Presbyterians Today 

On Reformation Sunday, observed the last Sunday in October, Presbyterians are reminded of their Reformed heritage, hearing once again how in 1517 Martin Luther nailed to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany, his Ninety-five Theses. These theses, outlining what needed to change in the church, are credited to sparking a reformation that would change the religious landscape forever.

Reformation Service PT

It’s not too early to start thinking about worship services for Reformation Sunday, which is Oct. 30 this year.  Photo by Daniel Szczesniak

Some pastors might use this Sunday, which is Oct. 30 this year, to reenact Luther’s bold move, while others might choose to open worship with Luther’s majestic “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Still others will weave in the Reformation mantra “reformed and always reforming” into the sermon, prayers or benediction.

Last fall, though, the Rev. Carol Holbrook Prickett took the celebration of Reformation Sunday a step further. The pastor of Crescent Springs Presbyterian Church in Crescent Springs, Kentucky, created a service to educate today’s “reformers” — those Presbyterians in the pew — of the legacy of following a God who is always creating something new.

Prickett, who admits to “really loving our Presbyterian confessions, as they give us the voices of our ancestors as they wrestled with faith in their time and place,” used the model of a Christmas Lessons and Carols service, highlighting the confessions throughout and peppering them with background stories, hymns and prayers.

Prickett said she wrote “A Legacy of Faith: Reformation Lessons and Carols” to take people on “a journey through our own Reformed heritage, hoping that learning more about our past can give us strength for the future.”

“I think the confessions are an incredible gift to a church that is still wrestling today,” she said. “So often we feel like we’re the first generation to face upheaval and crisis, when we’re really only the latest.” The Reformation Lessons and Carols wasn’t just for Prickett’s congregation. The confession-enamored pastor has shared — and continues to share — it with colleagues, who have come back with thankful hearts, telling Prickett, “It was a really helpful teaching tool that even seasoned elders learned something new about our confessions.”

Close up of Reformation Wall. Reformation service, PT.

The Rev. Carol Holbrook Prickett of Crescent Springs Presbyterian Church in Crescent Springs, Kentucky, created a service to educate today’s “reformers” — those Presbyterians in the pew — of the legacy of following a God who is always creating something new. Photo by Abdul Sami Haqqani

“What brought me joy, though, was how many colleagues also said that it was fun,” Prickett said, noting that not many would use that adjective when learning about the Reformation. She added that some pastors dressed up in costume, while others tapped a cast of readers to add a variety of voices to the service.

“I loved seeing the many ways that congregations brought these old statements of faith to life,” said Prickett. “After all, as the Westminster Confession tells us, we are supposed to glorify God — and enjoy God forever!”

Download the Service
“Legacy of Faith: Reformation Lessons and Carols” is available to congregations wishing to do something different this Reformation Sunday. This resource is covered under a creative commons attribution-noncommercial license, meaning it can be shared or adapted in any format that is not charging for it. Any use of the service should be attributed to the Rev. Carol Holbrook Prickett, either verbally or in writing, and indicate whether or not you adapted it. Go here.

Donna Frischknecht Jackson is editor of Presbyterians Today. If you have an idea to share, email her at Donna.Jackson@pcusa.org.


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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