Reformation Day or Not?


This past Sunday evening I attended a fabulous Reformation Day Service in Pella, Iowa.  What I appreciated about it, outside of the fact that it was a reason to gather the local CRC churches together, was that while it focused on the themes of the Reformation it did not use the service as an opportunity to idolize our theology.  I have been in Reformation services which felt like a big pat on the back, that we got our theology right as compared to all those other folk.  The other challenge for Reformation Day services is acknowledging the work of Martin Luther, John Calvin and many others without worshiping them, or creating a history lesson rather than a worship service.  I think some churches have stopped celebrating Reformation Day because it is hard to get this balance right or maybe because we are so ecumenically conscious we are afraid to celebrate what sets us apart.  I have mixed feelings about the day myself which is why I’m curious; did your church celebrate Reformation Day outside of a passing reference?  Is Reformation Day a thing of the past that doesn’t relate to those who haven’t grown up in the “Dutch church”?   Is it something that we should re-energize or let fade away?  If we stop celebrating this defining moment of the Reformation do we risk losing our historical roots which help ground us theologically?  What do you think?

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Hello Joyce,  I think we should entertain the idea that the reformation is not over. Churches need to understand that constant evaluation is part of God's plan

Thanks, Joyce.  Just fyi and by way of response, I'll mention that now for three years an ad hoc committee in Holland Michigan has been sponsoring celebrations.  This year our committee included CRC, RCA, PCUSA, and ELCA pastors.  We held a vesper type service with an attendance of nearly 200 (not nearly enough for a town with 50 CRCs RCAs!, but we were pleased after several years with no such services at all).

We share your sentiments about not wanting to be exclusive and triumphalistic. We want to build on the best of our heritage and seek to find themes that will speak out of the past to the present challenges we face.  For example, two years ago our panel discussion just four days prior to the general elections was on "Reformational Principles for Politics." 

Carry on with your celebratory efforts!

Our congregation has a long history of celebrating Reformation Day. A member of our church is a conductor of a community brass ensemble, so Reformation Sunday has become one of two Sundays of the year where we are blessed to sing with organ, brass, and timpani together. (Here is a link to our closing hymn from that morning: ) In the past, these services erred more on the side of history lessons, but this year our Reformation Sunday worship served as a reminder that God is the same both yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We took a standard worship format and used the five "solas" of the reformation (solo christo, sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, soli deo gloria) as the structure for the service. There was very little explicitly mentioned of the reformation itself, but connections were made to these principles through scripture and song. I found Jerry Dykstra's article in The Banner last month inspiring in many ways, but his words on the Reformed faith and its impact on the future, I thought, were very compelling. He said, "One of the beautiful things about the Reformed faith is that it is not simply about reforming the past—it is about preparing the future. Today, all across the world, including in North America, there is a new interest in Reformed theology. People are discovering and rediscovering both the power and the comfort that flows from understanding that our God reigns over all creation." This is true even in my 75-year-old congregation where people are coming now from many different walks and religious backgrounds (Pentecostal, Mormon, nonchurched, etc.) and they have the strongest desire to soak in everything that makes the Reformed faith so concrete. They're not seeking fluff because they realize that fluff cannot provide balm for the difficulties and complexities of life. They are seeking God's sovereignty and the truth found in his Word, the riches of his grace through his Son, and desire to give him all the glory. We will continue to mark Reformation Sunday in our congregation, perhaps not so much as a history lesson, but just as a reminder of the principles of faith on which the church was built, how God has preserved his Church to carry out the work in ushering his kingdom, and that we as part of this Church are called to doing that work in our community and beyond.