Luther College Chips

Luther hosts a variety of events for Reformation anniversary

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation will continue to be commemorated throughout the fall.

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation will continue to be commemorated throughout the fall.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation will continue to be commemorated throughout the fall.

Martel DenHartog, Staff Writer

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Luther College is hosting a series of events this year to commemorate  the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Committee for the Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Robert Christman has been working since 2015 to create the year-long event series.

Christman emphasized the importance of referring to the events as a commemoration rather than a celebration.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t some celebratory aspects to it,” Christman said. “But we want to think about it in terms that are not confessionally or denominationally charged.”

One of the goals of the committee is to give a balanced and historical view of Martin Luther.

“We want to give credit for the positive aspects of his thought but also not sweep under the rug those aspects which are not very laudable,” Christman said.

Christman highlighted the importance of student attendance at the Reformation Commemoration events.

“To gain a better sense of Luther College’s ethos and mission, it’s good to know about this component of our heritage,” Christman said. “The world in which we live in today is easier to understand if you understand the Reformation.”

In order to maintain a broad scope, the committee split up the commemoration into three distinct components. The first component is the impact of the Reformation on spirituality and the role of the church. As part of the Commemoration series, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, an ordained Lutheran pastor and the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colo., spoke last spring about how the church is still inspired by the Reformation to ask challenging questions and change with the times.

The second component addresses how the Reformation changed Western society and politics throughout history. On Saturday, Oct. 7, Katherine Shaner (’98) will explore Martin Luther’s interpretation of slavery in the New Testament at Luther’s 2017 Phi Beta Kappa Humanities Symposium at 9:30 a.m. in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL).

The third component focuses on the impact the Reformation had on art and culture. As a part of that component, Jeffery Chips Smith from the University of Texas at Austin gave a lecture on “Martin Luther and the Reformation’s Artistic Challenges.” In his lecture, Smith provided several examples of paintings and sculpture that showcased Martin Luther’s views of the Lutheran and Catholic church through art.

“For Martin Luther, art doesn’t serve devotional purposes, but stimulates the memory,” Smith said.

During the lecture, Smith illustrated through pieces of artwork how Martin Luther gained popularity and appealed to the peasant class of his time. Smith also spoke about the impact the Reformation had on contemporary art.

Patrick Finnegan (’18) said the lecture helped him think about the Reformation in a new light.

“It shows how much the Reformation affected a lot of different things that people don’t typically think about,” Finnegan said.

Member of the Committee for the Commemoration Alex Aakre (’19) also attended Smith’s lecture. According to Aakre, the variety of events makes the commemoration significant at Luther College.

Upcoming events include a Reformation Festival Eucharist and Hymn Sing on Oct. 29 in the CFL. Every Lutheran church in Decorah will congregate in the CFL to worship and commemorate at 4:00 p.m. The Reformation Symposium Day on Oct. 31 will start at 9:00 a.m. in the CFL with a keynote speech by Dr. Brad Gregory from the University of Notre Dame, along with several other lectures and musical performances throughout the day. It will be followed by the Reformation Commemoration Concert.

On Nov. 11, Peace Dining will host a St. Martin’s Day Festival Dinner serving a roast goose and featuring theatrical performances. Finally, the St. Thomas Boys Choir from Leipzig, Germany will perform on Nov. 18. 

“No matter what your appetite for learning is, there are so many outlets available for community members and students,” Aakre said.

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