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Resources for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

Keeping congregations ‘creative and open to what God is doing in the world’

 by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – With Reformation Sunday approaching Oct. 29, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is providing a wide range of resources for churches commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

They include a Commemorate Reformation Sunday website, Theological Conversations series on Reformation topics and a video providing a 500-year perspective on the Reformation.

We want Presbyterians to engage with the best of the Reformation,” says Charles A. Wiley III, coordinator of Theology and Worship in the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA).

According to Wiley, the Reformation matters today because it insists that God in Christ, by the power of the Spirit,

  • loves us without condition,
  • comes to us in Word and Sacrament,
  • is not confined by any church structure,
  • and calls us to love God with our lives, regardless of work or station in life.

“The Reformation confirmed that every Christian life belongs to God and is to be lived out in Christian vocation,” says Wiley, “which makes a huge difference in how we live.”

Resources on the Commemorate Reformation Sunday website provide helpful suggestions for worship and living in ways that reflect the cultural values of being a Reformed people.

“Two things we don’t talk a lot about when discussing the Reformation are creativity and openness,” says Michelle J. Bartell, coordinator of Theological Education and Seminary Relations for the PC(USA). “But these are vitally important, to stay creative and open to God personally, but also to what God is doing in the world.”

Bartel believes the Reformation is about “looking forward,” not back. She’s been excited to see the wide range of voices writing for the monthly Theological Conversations Series which Theology, Formation & Evangelism ministries, launched in 2015.

“We intentionally wanted to have theological conversations this year, that Martin Luther himself started 500 years ago,” says Bartel. “The diverse voices we’ve been listening to is truly reflective of how open we are, to being reformed by God.”

Topics discussed in Theological Conversations this year are: “Seeking a Correctable Conscience,” “500 years and Counting,” “A Legacy of Faithful Dissent,” “Three Fulcrums for Reform,” “Words Matter,” “The First 500 Years” and “Theology and Bravery.”

Each paper, which includes a reading along with a set of questions to invite conversation, can be downloaded here.

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation was precipitated by Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses about the church and its need to reform, on the doors of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on Oct. 31, 1517.

To understand why the Reformation happened, who its leaders were, how it changed the world and still affects us today, watch this Presbyterian Foundation video: “The Reformation: A 500 Year Perspective.”

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