Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

//Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Across the globe, Lutherans gathered to observe the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and many great celebrations happened right here in Virginia! From Pastors transforming into Martin Luther to musical celebrations, there were many ways that congregations in the Virginia Synod reflected upon our heritage, history, and the affirmation of our central theological convictions.

Fredericksburg Area Congregations

On Sunday, October 29th, worshipers in Fredericksburg enjoyed a combined worship service to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The service was held at Dodd Auditorium on the campus of the University of Mary Mary Washington. The event was sponsored by The House: Episcopal Lutheran Campus Ministry and organized by Christ Lutheran Church in Fredericksburg, Resurrection Lutheran Church in Fredericksburg, and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Stafford. The service included featured guest speaker Father Don Rooney and a combined choir from all three churches including Christ Lutheran Church’s Bell Choir.

Charlottesville Area Congregations

A musical celebration on Reformation Sunday was held at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Charlottesville, with a combined choir from St. Mark, Peace Lutheran Church in Charlottesville, Grace and Glory in Palmyra, and Immanuel Lutheran Church of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). Thanks to the generosity of those in attendance, the congregations were able to send $477 to Lutheran Disaster Response. St. Mark also enjoyed the return of the Marty Party in October. Martin Luther visited the Children’s Moment, and the Sunday School made a paper chain with 500 links in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation!


Trinity Lutheran Church in Stephens City

Trinity Lutheran Church in Stephens City celebrated Reformation Sunday with a special service of Lutheran Hymns and biblical lessons. A German potluck luncheon followed with fun and games and lots of Luther references. There was a Luther Hymn Tree, the choir loft was decorated, and every member received a hand cut Luther Rose “snowflake” for their Chrismon/Christmas tree.

Bethel Lutheran Church in Winchester

During the month of October, Bethel Lutheran Church in Winchester offered various opportunities to celebrate and honour the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
Over the weekend of October 7-8, the congregation had a special Reformation Celebration weekend. On Saturday, October 7 Bethel held an “Oktoberfest” in our Bethel Park and raised $1000 for Hurricane relief. We had bratwurst, bounce houses and beer! The following day, Sunday, October 8, newly elected Bishop, Bob Humphrey, preached his first sermon in a congregation as Bishop. Interestingly, Bishop Mauney preached his final sermon in a congregation as Bishop at Bethel in August. So, we felt particular “special” to have this bookend experience. We concluded the weekend with a piano recital by Shenandoah piano performance doctoral student, and former Bethel organist, Richard Jeric. The recital was entitled, “A Reformation Recital: German Masterworks”.
On Reformation Sunday, Bethel celebrated during Reformation Festival Worship with Confirmation, where our students shared their “faith statements”. Pastor Dave Young then tied these together, using quotes by Luther, to our Reformation teaching of the “priesthood of all believers”. We concluded the day by hosting a congregational potluck and presentation by parishioners who travelled to Germany on a Reformation 500 trip earlier this year.

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Winchester

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Winchester, has commemorated Reformation for the last year. Trees were planted in the spring, Luther hymns were sung, concerts rang out, and Luther’s writings were studied. The congregation commemorated the 500th of the Reformation with a beautiful beaded Luther rose ornament, children received Playmobil Luther, all received various books throughout the year and 54 participants went to the Reformation Day Festival Worship at the National Cathedral.


Peninsula Conference of the Virginia Synod

On Sunday, October 29th, the congregations and choirs of the Peninsula Conference gathered to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with a festival choral worship service. The conference joined together to mark the beginning of our next five hundred years of witness with anniversary liturgy from the LWF Global Commemoration of the Reformation in Windhoek, Namibia last May and with hymns, anthems and instruments reflecting the joy of the church. The combined voices from all the congregations present filled the sanctuary with a joyful noise, reflecting the faith we came together to observe. The choral anthem, a combination of 9th-century chant (Of the Father’s Love Begotten) and a South African freedom song (Thula Sizwe) was a true example of the vastness of our liturgical traditions begun so long ago and renewed with the teachings of the Reformation.

The congregations of the Peninsula Conference include: Apostles Lutheran Church in Gloucester, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hampton, Living Water Lutheran Church in Kilmarnock, Our Saviour’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Norge, Reformation Lutheran Church in Newport News, St. Mark Lutheran Church in Yorktown, St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Hampton, St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Williamsburg, and Trinity Lutheran Church in Newport News.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hampton

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hampton is located on Mercury Blvd, the busiest street in town. The congregation posted a Reformation Door outside the church with rotating phrases that speak to the spirit of how the past 500 years can help guide St. Paul’s in the future.

Williamsburg Area Congregations

Three Williamsburg Lutheran churches celebrated their joint heritage in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of The Reformation. King of Glory (LCMS), Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, and St. Stephen Lutheran churches held a series of events. The weekend began with delivering their donations to FISH. All three churches regularly support FISH through volunteers and donations. FISH provides food clothing and small housewares to residents of James City County and Williamsburg who are in need. Since 1975, this all-volunteer organization has served the community. FISH cooperates with social service agencies, United Way, Avalon and churches to help with more than 4,000 requests for food each year.
The celebration continued on Saturday with members of all three Lutheran churches coming together to make cards for our military service members and to pack 15,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger. Rise Against Hunger seeks to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable people. The day ended with prayer and hymn singing.

Portsmouth Area Congregations

First Lutheran Church in Portsmouth along with the three congregations in Portsmouth, Holy Communion Lutheran Church, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, and Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) celebrated the 500th Anniversary together with hymns, a skit and dinner. The celebration was held at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, October 21st.


Richmond Conference of the Virginia Synod

On All Saints Day, approximately 260 members of Lutheran congregations in the Richmond Conference and local Roman Catholic congregations came together to mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation at Epiphany Lutheran in Richmond. The service was based upon the joint Lutheran World Federation (LWF) – Roman Catholic event with Pope Francis in Sweden last year. Youth groups met prior to the service for fun, fellowship, and of course, food. During the service, representative families and individuals signifying different segments of our faith communities read the “five ecumenical imperatives” for Roman Catholics and Lutherans and lit a candle. These imperatives were agreed to in “From Conflict and Communion,” a joint document of the Vatican and Lutheran World Federation.

First English Evangelical Lutheran Church in Richmond

First English in Richmond celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on two Sundays. On October 22, the congregation held a joint service with their neighbors at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, highlighting both the Lutheran and the Calvinist poles of the Protestant Reformation. They celebrated Holy Communion together, but in the “Presbyterian in the pews” manner.
On Reformation Sunday itself, the congregation celebrated a festive service in their own church with the Schubert Mass in G in place of the usual ELW liturgy. A string quartet composed of Richmond Symphony musicians and augmented choir with guest soloists enriched the worship experience, which was followed by our traditional Reformation Pot Luck Dinner in the Fellowship Hall.

St. Philip’s Lutheran Church in Roanoke

St. Philip’s primary Reformation gathering was “Come Together 2.017” on Friday, October 27. The event was about faith, fun, and fellowship. The congregation had opportunities for learning: about Katie Luther, about Reformation history, about Lutherans globally today. They had fun also: singing songs, Five Solas pumpkin ring toss, and a Diet of Worms game. Folks could also gather for Table Talks and make lavender sachets to ward off the plague. All in all, it was a fun evening with some really good learning too!
During Pastor Kelly Bayer- Derrick’s sermon on Reformation Sunday, the congregation was invited to use social media as our 21st century Wittenberg Castle Church door. They posted thoughts on: How would you describe God? What would you say about God’s grace? Etc.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynchburg

Holy Trinity Lutheran and Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Lynchburg marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a joint Vespers service, including Liturgy of Thanksgiving, Repentance, Common Witness and Commitment, on Reformation Day, October 31, at Holy Trinity. The Reverend Msgr. J. Kenneth Rush, Jr., and Linda Contreras from Holy Cross participated in the service.


Tidewater Conference of the Virginia Synod

Tidewater Conference observed the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a joint worship service on October 29 at First Lutheran Church in Norfolk. Members of all the congregations participated in the service as worship leaders, communion assistants and in the choir. It was a festive, joyous occasion!

Grace Lutheran Church in Chesapeake

Grace Lutheran Church in Chesapeake commemorated the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation by highlighting how the Holy Spirit is still moving and reforming!
The congregation’s morning worship services included a variety of special music—an anthem by the combined Grace Choir, an anthem by the Bell Choir, and a trumpet to accompany the sending hymn “A Mighty Fortress”.

On Saturday, October 28th, Grace held a Multicultural Potluck before showing Rick Steve’s new documentary on Martin Luther & the Reformation. Attendees enjoyed a variety of dishes (not just Swedish & German)—all of which are part of the Lutheran Story. That night and again on Reformation Sunday, there was also a Reformation Photo Booth, at which participants were encouraged to finish the sentence “I’m Lutheran and…” with something about themselves that we might automatically associate with “Lutheran Culture.” The Lutheran Church has a rich story—both historically and presently—which is more diverse than we sometimes think to highlight…and the Holy Spirit is moving through it all!


Thank you to the many congregations who shared their photos and stories of how they shared the Reformation in their congregation and in their communities! Check out the hashtag #VA500 on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for more photos and stories shared from Virginia Synod congregations!

By | 2017-11-08T13:59:46+00:00 October 31st, 2017|News|Comments Off on Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

About the Author:

Emily Pilat is the Director of Communications for the Virginia Synod. She is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington where she earned her BA in in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and a minor in Digital Studies. If you have an announcement, upcoming event, or news story idea you would like to share, get in touch with Emily via email [email protected] or by phone (540) 389-1000