Luther theses

Six Ways to Mark Reformation Day in Your Church

As the anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses approaches, here are some ways you could point your church towards the Reformation.

The aisles of my local supermarket (not in Wales!) are currently crammed full of discounted Halloween tat. No surprise there. No doubt, back in January when the buyer had to order all his or her merchandise, it seemed a safe bet - but the dreaded C-word has put paid to all of that. The Facebook page for the estate I live on is trying hard to find alternative ways to celebrate – including virtual trick or treating (don’t ask!) and a pumpkin hunt.

In past years, our local church – like many others – has planned alternative events to Halloween, perhaps a light party or something like that. They’ve gone pretty well and have given us an opportunity to celebrate the goodness of Christ over the darkness of the evil kingdom. But this year, such opportunities are going to be as limited as the annual sugar-fest that Halloween has recently become.

Celebrating Reformation Day

So, here’s an alternative idea: this year think about celebrating Reformation Day instead. It’s never really been an idea that’s caught on in the UK but, given our Protestant history, but there’s no reason why not. To be honest, it’s not officially a thing in many places: a national holiday only in seven of Germany’s sixteen states, Slovenia and Chile (the latter both, curiously, mostly Catholic countries).

Yet the date is significant, looking back to Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses to the church notice board at Wittenberg, Germany (31 October 1517 to be precise).

In churches where I’ve pastored, I’ve always tried to gently lead people in this direction: it’s worth knowing something of our history; it’s definitely worth knowing something of our theology; it’s moving to hear of the cost of our hard-won insights into the true faith of the Bible.

Church Service Ideas

A full-on announcement of a Reformation Sunday (traditionally the final Sunday of October) might work in your church but it might also be a bit much: coming from nowhere and leaving people a bit mystified. Instead, maybe you could take advantage of the anniversary date (31 October) and do one or two of these things, gently and carefully pointing people towards the shoulders of giants upon whom we stand?

  • Roll out an old favourite; there’s no better time to sing Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God (I like the words in Praise!) or you could play it during your service. I’ve got some sheet music for a slightly paced up version of the tune that still works today. Get in touch with the office if you want a copy.
  • Alternatively, try incorporating some different music. We love Colin Buchanan’s Big words that end in ‘shun. Explain to the kids why you’re using it. Or what about Tim Chester and Bob Kauflin’s Reformation Song? If you’ve never sung one of these before, you could show a video of it as part of the service.
  • Could you pray for the work of colleges and seminaries who are seeking to teach a new generation the truths of the gospel?
  • Or pray for countries where the Reformation never really took hold or where it is still greatly needed. This may test your history and/or geography but can I suggest you could begin with Spain and Portugal?
  • Maybe read a question or two from a catechism as part of the service? If you don’t have one you know and like, try something from the New City Catechism.
  • Or tell the story of Luther - in abbreviated form, of course - to the church family? They would be encouraged to hear it - it’s pretty exciting! Maybe this video from Go Chatter (made with Playmobil) could be an engaging way to do so.

And who knows, next year, maybe you could even celebrate Reformation Sunday itself?

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