Reformation Anniversary Celebration Ideas

500 Years of Evangelical Reformation 1517-2017

When Martin Luther posted his “Ninety-five Theses” on the church door in Wittenberg in 1517, no one expected the breadth of evangelical reforms in Christian teaching and practice that followed. In every dimension of Christian faith a renewed trust in God’s forgiving mercy replaced a reliance on teachings and practices that, like the sale of indulgences, were vulnerable to abuse and corruption.

Preaching a few years later, Luther said, “I opposed indulgences … but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. I did nothing; the Word did everything.” When he began to propose reforms in worship, he wrote similar words. “This is the sum of the matter: let everything be done so that the Word may have free course.”

Reformation Anniversary
Reformation Anniversary

Nearly 500 years later, the results of this evangelical confidence in God’s forgiving and liberating Word are evident today in Christian communities of all types. In the years leading to 2017 ELCA members, congregations and synods will observe the anniversary of this evangelical reformation in a variety of ways with numerous partners.

For more, please visit elca500.org, The Evangelical Lutheran Church In America’s Observance of the Reformation’s 500th Anniversary

The site lifts up ELCA Reformation observances, facilitates connections and shares Reformation-rooted resources from ELCA partners, networks and expressions.

There you will find a calendar of events, news, resources, and social media.

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The following are some ideas that Christ, Belvidere is contemplating for their celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Please contact Pr. Twila Schock with any questions.

Is your congregation planning anything for the Reformation Celebration? If so, please share with karin@nisynod.org.

Reformation Anniversary Celebration Project Description

“The bad news is that there is no play book,” says Dr. David Lose, president of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.  “But, the good news is also that there’s no play book.”

Dr. Lose is reflecting on ministry in a time of institutional decline in the mainline denominations.  As ELCA congregations of the ELCA move forward in this time, they set out on a journey without a clear road map.

Yet, as congregations of the Reformation, they are not without resources.  It is how the resources of our heritage are used which will determine how we, as a church, can sustain this movement called Reformation.

We, at Christ Lutheran Church, wish to engage the resources of our heritage in ways which help us to move faithfully and boldly as people of Christ in a world tossed about by social, economic, scientific and political change.

We have identified the following gifts of our heritage which we both hope to engage in learning and experience and to equip us with tools for on-going growth and reform in ministry:


Reforming Worship

a day-long event which explores being faithful to the Lutheran liturgical tradition while adapting to changes in the institutional church (musical genres, technology, worshiping demographic, etc).  This event would conclude with the traditional “Deutsche Messe” recast by our liturgy and music team in contemporary musical genres.

Goals:  Attendees would leave this event with ‘hands on’ worship resources to implement in their ministry contexts.

Audience: Clergy; Ministers of music in all denominations; Choir and congregational members; Youth ministers.

Budget:  $1500 for honoraria, meals, resources


Women in Reform

An event which both explores the “subversive, yet faithful, reform” of the Protestant princesses of the Reformation and considers what such reform would call us to in this time.

Goals:  Takeaways from this event would be assistance in doing local community asset mapping as well as first steps in a strategy for women to engage and serve in new and creative ways in their contexts for ministry or vocation.

Audience and partners:  Congregational and synodical womens’ organizations; Womanspace, a local Roman Catholic retreat center; the Rockford women clergy ministerium

Budget:  $1800 for honoraria, travel expenses, meals, resources


Lutheran identity and contemporary issues

A day-long ministry event in which an expert in Lutheran heritage and scripture would help participants explore how our unique Lutheran identity equips us to faithfully engage concerns such as the following:

  • Transgender issues
  • Climate change
  • Social media
  • Gun violence
  • Racism
  • Changes in outreach to youth

Goals:  Attendees would leave this event with resources they could use in their ministry for healthy, faithful dialogue on current, and occasionally, divisive issues.

Audience:  Open to the general public; Protestant church educators and rostered leaders would find this especially useful

Budget:  $5000 would cover honoraria for resource persons, publicity, travel expenses and meals


“Reforming spirituality in a world that is ‘spiritual but not religious’”

A retreat which gathers both Roman Catholic and Lutheran resource persons who will exchange best practices in spirituality and prayer.  This is an experiential, rather than didactic, event.

Goals:  Participants will be equipped with new tools and possibilities to deepen their spiritual lives and resources which will help them share these in their contexts.

Audience:  Any person of faith; this event will especially be geared toward college and university age students who may have left organized religion.

Budget:  $2000 will cover honoraria, meals, all program resources


Telling the family story

This is a two-fold event which would acquaint participants with the historic event of the Reformation.  One component will include a spiritual pilgrimage to the Luther sites and companion churches in Germany.  The other component, for those unable to participate in such travel, includes a “virtual pilgrimage” prepared by those who participated in the actual journey.

Goals:  To help participants grow in their understanding of their Reformation heritage in context and translate this heritage into ministry today.

Audience:  Any Protestant who wishes to learn “the family story” and grow in their capacity to share it.

Budget:  Self-funded