Celebration of Reformation to be held Oct. 29 at MSU

Five hundred years ago, on Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a German professor of theology, composer, priest and monk, wanted to reform the Catholic Church. He nailed what came to be known as the Ninety-five Theses of 1517 on a church door in Wittenburg, Germany and, in the process, sparked the Protestant Reformation.

At 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29, people in Minot will gather at Minot State University’s Ann Nicole Nelson Hall to celebrate the reformation with art and song. Admission is free.

“I think it’s going to be a joyous experience,” said Mark Schnabel, choir director at Christ Lutheran Church and one of the organizers of the event. “… Chills up and down spines, I hope.”

Schnabel and Kari Files, a deacon at Bethany Lutheran Church in Minot as well as an organ instructor at Minot State University, said the celebration in Minot is free and open to people of all religions and creeds but any free will offerings given will be donated to Lutheran Disaster Relief to help victims of recent hurricanes and wildfires in the United States. Lutheran Disaster Relief has waived all administrative costs. Sponsors of the celebration include Thrivent Financial, Bethany Lutheran Foundation, and Christ Lutheran Foundation and MSU.

They said the event will include music and art from the period as well as music and art inspired by the Lutheran Reformation, interspersed with writings and prayers of Martin Luther. Hymns, including “Amazing Grace,” “Let the Whole Creation Cry,” “Built on a Rock,” and Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” will be sung. A combination of singers from area churches will form a combined choir to present a new anthem entitled “Here I Stand.”

Church organists, including Files, Selmer Moen, Rita Sundahl, Lucas Brown, Jon Rumney and Bonnie Rennich, will also perform. MSU music professor Eric Furuseth will portray Martin Luther and Jim Olson will serve as the narrator for the event.

Schnabel and Files said Luther didn’t set out to leave the Catholic Church in the beginning, only to reform practices he disagreed with, such as the selling of indulgences for forgiveness of sins. He believed that man was saved by the grace of God alone.

Schnabel and Files said Luther “brought the good news of grace” to the people of Europe and eventually sparked the reformation movement in Christianity that spread throughout the world. Because believers don’t have to worry about their own salvation, they are free to focus their attention on helping others.

Luther, who was excommunicated by the Catholic Church, eventually married a former nun and had a family. Lutheran churches identify with his teachings. The reformation corresponded with the Renaissance, a period of rebirth and creativity in Europe. The invention of the printing press meant that his writings were distributed directly to the people. The Bible was translated into the common vernacular, allowing Christians to read the word of God for themselves.

Celebrations of the Reformation will be held all over the country this month.