This year, Wartburg College is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
The Reformation dates back to Oct. 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his “95 Theses” on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.
Over the past few months, the Reformation Committee, cochaired by Dr. Kathryn Kleinhans and the Rev. Dr. Ramona Bouzard developed a list of events to celebrate the work of Martin Luther and the many influential men and women who followed him.
“The time of the reformation and Martin Luther and his work was seminal. It was just so forming as far as the changes that were occurring in Western society. Up until that point in time, in terms of religion and spiritual life, people were not literate, so everything they understood from scripture was from someone telling them,” Bouzard said.
“Luther really was not breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church, he was trying to renew it, but then all of these things converged as part of it. His real focus was on educating and helping people think theologically and about God on their own,” she said.
Bouzard also acknowledged Luther’s impact on higher education, and therefore the Reformation’s importance to the education students receive at Wartburg and how it aligns with the College’s mission.
“His heritage became part of the heritage of Lutheran higher education because it was about educating people for doing their work in the world in a way that they brought their faith with them.”
Displayed on the front of the Vogel Library are two large banners designed specifically for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Josh Peterson, graphic designer for Marketing & Communication at Wartburg, developed a graphic theme for the Reformation.
“The need for a design/logo was brought to my attention by my boss Chris Knudson, the Interim Senior Director of Marketing & Communication. Chris tasked me with developing a look for the celebration, featuring Luther and the Wartburg Castle, and the phrase, ‘500 Years of Reformation: Continuing the Lutheran Legacy,'” Peterson said.
Peterson described the chosen design as strongly vertical, with a few hidden themes and messages in it.
“Most obvious is the abstract portrait of Luther, looking forward, based off Lucas Cranach’s painting (1582). Behind him is a tower of the Wartburg Castle, also with a split in tone. The left representing the past and the right representing the growth of knowledge and impact of his legacy,” Peterson added.
The goal for the organized celebration of the Reformation was to celebrate not just this growth and the changes and ideas, but that faith has changed and strengthened and become a part of people’s lives in a different way, Bouzzard said.
“As it is the 500 anniversary this year, we are also doing a program review for the Department of Spiritual Life and Campus Ministry. This is our way of saying how do we enter into this new time in a way that isn’t just responding into everyday stuff but also asking how we can better serve students in their faith expression, etc.” Bouzard said.
Bouzard said the last program review of the department was 10 years ago.
Bouzard said one of the things the committee did was look at some of the things already happening on campus that could be enhanced with talk of the Reformation, as opposed to putting together a whole slate of new activities.
“We kept thinking about how to engage students in this and it’s so hard to know because there’s so much on students’ schedules. We figured if we could infuse it into things students are already doing, and then they will be able to celebrate in a way that has integrity for who they are,” Bouzard added.
This year there will be a German film series with some emphasis as well as a concert by the chamber orchestra which will feature music from the time period of the Reformation.
There will also be a May term course with Kleinhans that will tour some places in Germany, as well as several other events throughout the year.
“We will also have a hymn festival tied into our Reformation celebration as a community on Oct. 31, which is the day the Reformation actually took place 500 years ago. We’re hoping that the college will basically shut down and give the Wartburg community to join together to hear Luther’s words and give us the chance to sing and celebrate. We’re also hoping to do this as a simulcast with a Lutheran church in Germany,” Bouzard said.
For a complete list of updated events visit www.wartburg.edu/reformation. Events will continue to be added and updated as changes occur throughout the year.