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The 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017 is an opportunity for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to bear witness to the hope and joy we have through Jesus Christ. In the years leading up to 2017, all ELCA members were encouraged to plan and participate in activities that prepare for this milestone anniversary. These activities allow us to give thanks for the gospel’s power to free, renew and unite all creation in Christ. At the same time, it provides an opportunity to emphasize the continuing work of reconciliation in the Christian church with our ecumenical partners.

The primary purpose of this grant program is to encourage and support initiatives by congregations, synods and other institutional expressions of the ELCA that observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation message, including particularly the life of faith as a “living, daring confidence in God’s grace” that finds expression in liberated service to others. Local, regional and national activities that promote a wider understanding of and participation in this Reformation witness are eligible for funds made available through a generous grant to the ELCA from Thrivent Financial.

The ELCA Reformation Anniversary Grant Program, drawn from the Thrivent Financial Foundation Reformation Anniversary Grant, awarded 19 grants to assist with 500th anniversary observances. Support has gone to those who seek to promote a wider understanding of the Reformation message and its significance for faith and life in the 21st century.

Grant recipients include 11 ELCA congregations and eight ELCA synods. Projects include a variety of musical events, efforts to pursue and build upon ecumenical relations, social media and story-telling initiatives as well as varying approaches to engaging Luther’s teachings on service and vocation through community engagement, and much more.

The Central States Synod will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by planting and dedicating 500 trees throughout Kansas and Missouri. It is our prayer that these trees will be witnesses to our hope in Christ in the spirit of the quotation attributed to Martin Luther: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Trees are a potent and readily recognizable symbol of the grace, growth and hope that are revealed to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. His parable in Luke 13:6-9 gives us a picture of active grace that nourishes growth, while Revelation 22:2 envisions the healing of the nation’s coming from the leaves of the tree of life. The tree of the cross stands at the center of our theology.

Trees are particularly resonant and critical in the 21st century as the world faces a serious ecological crisis that can be traced, at least partially, to deforestation. Integral to the process that converts carbon dioxide into clean water and eventually oxygen, trees give us life. Without them, we would have no future. Nor would we have our past: Trees give us paper, a critical ingredient in our Lutheran story centered in the pages of Scripture, rich with theological education, and fueled by the invention of movable type.

These and other inspirational and thought-provoking connections will be integrated into an educational brochure, which will accompany each tree planted. They will also be reflected in liturgical resources for the blessing of the trees upon their planting and expanded with additional resources provided by flash drive.

The New England Synod will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by bringing Lutherans and Roman Catholics together in a variety of ways. This project will begin with joint study on various documents, including “Laudato Si,” the Second Vatican Council’s “Decree on Ecumenism,” the “Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification,” “From Conflict to Communion” and “Declaration on the Way.” These joint studies between Lutherans and Roman Catholics in the New England Synod will result in the development service projects, liturgy, arts and academic projects These joint studies and resulting projects will take place between June 2016 and October 2017. Partners in these projects include:

  • the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston
  • the seven dioceses of Province 1 of the Episcopal Church through the provincial ecumenical officer
  • New England Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogue
  • the Institute for Christian Unity
  • Unite Boston

The Western North Dakota Synod has chosen to focus its 500th anniversary commemoration of the Reformation around a project called “Luther as Teacher of Faith” in a yearlong initiative focused on equipping the laity. The synod will sponsor and run several lay-leader training sessions throughout the year and create a workshop for parents and grandparents to be held in four to six locations.

Lay-leader training includes:

  • “Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker,” led by Dr. Andrew Root of Luther Seminary on April 23, 2016
  • “Preaching through the Lutheran Lens,” led by Dr. David Lose of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia on Nov. 5, 2016
  • “Freedom in Christ as Call to Service”
  • “Worship as an Act of Reformation”

The parents and grandparents workshop will focus on helping families engage Martin Luther’s teaching that the family table is the first place of faith formation. The teaching center of these events will incorporate Lutheran theology, the history of Luther as a teacher and promoter of faith formation at home, a toolbox of resources that can easily be implemented in conversation and practices at home, and structured sessions that could be replicated in congregations to facilitate inter-generational faith conversations.

The Sierra Pacific Synod plans to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation through many events as well as using multimedia, social networking and storytelling to help show how the themes of the Reformation continue to shape our life and faith. Events include:

  • A weekly Martin Luther reading curriculum, with Professor Kirsi Stjerna, using the newly released “Annotated Luther” (led by Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary)
  • A major worship service in the Bay Area (lead by St. James Lutheran Church, San Leandro, Calif.)
  • Monthly justice projects throughout the synod – including a pre-Synod Assembly gathering in 2017 (lead by the Welcome Ministry in partnerships with congregations throughout the synod, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, SF Cares and Grace Lutheran in San Francisco)
  • Local artistic and cultural events (led by Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and St. Matthews in San Francisco)
  • Several pilgrimage trips to Germany and Italy (led by Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and others around the synod)
  • An interactive website, storytelling opportunities, a social media campaign and live-stream opportunities (led by the Welcome Ministry in partnership with Grace Lutheran in San Francisco)

The Eastern North Dakota and Western Minnesota synods will host an event at which priests from the Crookston, Minn., and Fargo, N.D., dioceses gather with the pastors from the Eastern North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota synods. The event for the day will be at Saints Anne and Joachim Church in Fargo. Between the beginning and ending of the day in worship, key note addresses will be delivered Dr. Larry Rasmussen representing the ELCA, and Mark Rohlena, director of the Office of Domestic Social Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. There will also be a panel discussion providing area pastors and priests opportunity for conversation and questions.

 

Oregon Synod

Each of the 13 Oregon clusters will be sent out with a Reformation Kit containing Reformation resources and activities. These kits, including personalized journals, will go from congregation to congregation around our clusters – across the miles and mountains that separate many Oregon faith communities. Each congregation will be invited into intentional study and conversation about our shared heritage. As each congregation completes its study, it will be encouraged to choose a delegation to accompany the Reformation Kit to the next congregation, where they will share in worship, communion and ministries. Photographs, journal entries and gifts from congregation to congregation will create or strengthen bonds between cluster congregations, leading to a joyful gathering at our 2017 Synod Assembly.

“Reforming and Serving: a lecture series for dialog and action” will be offered in the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod in 2017. The series will include five presentations:

  • The Tragedy and Necessity of the Reformation” – a Roman Catholic scholar will address the necessity of the Reformation and a Lutheran scholar will address the topic of tragedy.
  • “Lutherans and Social Ministry” – with presentations and a Social Ministry Fair, this will be an opportunity to learn about the history of social ministry in the Lutheran tradition and how today’s services continue to serve a world in need.
  • “Lutherans in North America” – this program will provide a background in Lutheran identity and movement, helping us reflect on the current trends and mission needs in our synod and across the ELCA.
  • “Lutherans and Global Mission” – the presentation will provide a historical foundation and move into the present and future regarding needs and approaches to missiology. Dr. Raphael Malpica-Padilla, missionaries and ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission participants will be our guests.
  • “Women of the Reformation” – this presentation will engage participants in learning about the role of women during the Reformation period, as well as the ways in which women have continued to be change agents in the Lutheran church.

The programs will include presenters from local organizations and the ELCA churchwide organization who will provide a historical perspective and move toward a time of dialog to inspire active response as a reforming movement in our own day. The specific topics represent a strong emphasis in the Lutheran tradition and areas of concern for the world in the 21st century. Ecumenism, global mission, Lutheran identity, and the role of women in leadership are all ways in which we live out the freedom we have in Christ and empower us to serve our neighbor.

This project will recognize eight young artists of color in the greater Baltimore region who also identify as people of faith. As the whitest denomination in the United States, it is important that we lift up voices and perspectives that frequently go unheard in our congregations and organizations. These young artists will be commissioned to each create a work of art, whether visual or performance, that represents their perspective on life as a 21st century follower of Jesus and the importance of reformation in both the church and the world. An accompanying artist’s statement will reflect their understanding of how art is an integral part of the reformation of these systems and the ways that their particular work of art can serve the surrounding community. These works will be displayed at The Incredible Little Art Gallery in Baltimore. At the opening of the show, they will be auctioned off with the proceeds supporting both the gallery and The Revolution Within, a holistic wellness program that focuses on mental health and personal transformation for those who have experienced trauma, through The Center for Grace-Full Living at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church. The Revolution Within offers a variety of courses for participants, including arts-based programming

The spirit of the Lord is alive and well in the members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, located in the heart of the historic city of Charleston, S.C. Throughout 2016, St. Matthew’s is celebrating its 175th year. “Mother Emanuel” African Methodist Episcopal Church is only a block away across the park. In June 2015 that congregation’s pastor and eight members were killed by a white supremacist during a Bible study.

The two-pronged project prayerfully considers that tragedy and seeks to build a pastoral community of understanding while uniting in Christ with neighboring congregations in the creation of a multi-cultural ministerium, aimed toward future collaboration and support. The second part of the project is welcoming the community to a program that will highlight the significant contributions of Martin Luther and Phillip Melanchthon by featuring the new book, “Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer” by Scott Hendrix. There will be a meet-the-author event and discussion to foster better understanding of Lutheran theology and its impact on Christianity.

St. Paul Lutheran Church will create a mosaic mural that explores Luther’s understanding of vocation for the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, the city’s youngest and most diverse. The process will engage the broken and beautiful parts of the church and community: youth working with elders, Latinos with Anglos, blacks with whites, gays and straight, believers and seekers, able bodied and those with challenges. The mural will be on the side of the 1905 building that faces a major street and will be integrated into a peace garden.

Participants will study Luther’s “On the Freedom of a Christian” in the context of wrestling with what Christ means when he says he will draw all people to himself. Many of the congregation’s members and neighbors are undocumented and do the hardest work in our society, often at low pay and with no security. Yet they are creating a new way to be community, one that values belovedness, beauty and justice.

St. Paul’s co-pastor, the Rev. Luisa Cabello Hansel, is also an artist. She will train 12 “art pollinators” who will then work with 40 members and neighbors. The mural will be dedicated on Oct. 31, 2017, St. Paul’s 130th anniversary and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Previous performances of ecumenical events at Grace Lutheran Church impart the flavor of this year’s concert.

Grace Lutheran Church will host an ecumenical event and concert on April 12, 2017. The event will use music to celebrate the reconciliation and renewal that are taking place across many mainline denominations – particularly between Roman Catholics and Lutherans – in the 500th year after Martin Luther began urging church-wide reforms in 1517. It will include speakers from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and music faculty from Penn State. Musicians will include a professional brass group, a hand-bell choir, and a large ecumenical choir comprised of the region’s interdenominational Christian community.

Called “Faith Proclaimed through Song: 500 Years of Reformation, Renewal, and Reconciliation,” the event will offer educational sessions, pre-concert music and a concert. Topics will include “What Makes Lutheran Music Lutheran,” “Bach Chorales,” “Singing the Psalms,” and “Many Expressions of Faith, One Liturgy.” A brass ensemble will perform pre-concert chorales following a fellowship supper. The concert will feature musical aspects from five mainline denominations that have affected our collective liturgical worship, such as the Mass, chorales, singing of the Psalms, Wesleyan and Moravian hymns, and the musical pairing of “The Magnificat” and “Nunc Dimittis.” It will also include modern influences of Taize music and African-American spirituals.

View the flyer for this event here. And, the schedule for the event here.

 

Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Church has served New York City since 1843. It has recently had connection with a young emerging worshiping community of the Presbyterian Church (USA) called Not So Churchy. These two congregations have both found renewed freedom and life in their embrace of their LGBTQ pastors and members. Trinity Lower East Side and Not So Churchy have recently been in discussion about how they can work more cooperatively in serving their communities.

With a Reformation anniversary grant, both congregations will partner to grow in the understanding of the freedom in Christ in which they live, and to immediately respond to that freedom by serving their neighbors – specifically three LGBTQ homeless shelters in the city. Approximately 40 percent of all homeless youth in New York City are LGBTQ, and they become homeless most often due to the religious conservatism of their home life. We hope to be an antidote to this reality, serving as Christ does and as a visible reminder of the inward grace that has been bestowed upon all of us.

St. Stephen Lutheran Church will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by presenting two events in 2017.

A Reformation Hymn Festival will bring together choir members and congregational members from Williamsburg-area congregations for a weekend with Lutheran composer/conductor David Cherwien and hymn text writer Susan Palo Cherwien. It will involve congregations of churches in full communion with the ELCA as well as the two local Roman Catholic congregations. Faculty and students at the College of William and Mary will also be involved in the festival. This weekend of learning and rehearsing will culminate in the hymn festival presented for the Historic Triangle Community – Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown at St. Bede Roman Catholic Church. It will be free and open to the public.

In the fall, St. Stephen will bring in a Reformation historian to help the congregation understand the Reformation and what it means for us today in our ecumenical diversity. These presentations will be interactive, with periods for questions and conversation. The three-day theologian-in-residence program will be also be free and open to the public.

Lutheran Campus Ministry is partnering with the Lewis Place neighborhood to understand racial injustices and educational inequality in St Louis and how that relates to the Reformation. They will host two anti-racism trainings (one each semester) and a fall retreat centered around “Why We Love/Need the Neighbor to Know God,” using Luther’s Small Catechism and various other writings.

The center will be working on two projects, “Fiesta Luterana” and “Celebremos los 500 años.” These projects gather different Hispanic constituencies and gifts to celebrate incorporation into the Lutheran family and document contributions to the Hispanic Lutheran confessional heritage.

All Peoples Church will create a Kuumba Celebration, a focus on the arts to express faith and engage youth and young people in faith-based community organizing. It will address the most pressing issues of the community: poverty and violence.

This Kuumba Celebration has roots in the word “rumba,” which is Swahili for “creativity” and is the sixth principle of Kwanzaa. The rumba gathering is part training, part show-case, part revival. Just as the Reformation embraced the creativity of artists like Lucas Cranach, Matthias Grunewald and Johann Sebastian Bach, an always reforming church must seek the creativity in our midst. This three-day event will engage youth and young adults in skill sharing and performance using art as a means of both expression and organizing

All Peoples Church will partner with a leading faith-based community organizing group, Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, and a religious art group, The Alternative, to successfully provide a multi-day experience.

Christ Lutheran Church, along with regional community partners in ministry, will engage the resources of our Lutheran heritage to further on-going growth and reform in ministry. There will be a series of events to engage ELCA members and leaders, ecumenical partners and community members. Events include:

  • “Reforming Worship”: a day-long event that will explore being faithful to the Lutheran liturgical tradition while adapting to changes in the institutional church (musical genres, technology, worshiping demographic, etc.). This event would conclude with the traditional “Deutsche Messe” recast by our liturgy and music team in contemporary musical genres.
  • “Women in Reform”: an event that will explore the “subversive, yet faithful, reform” of the Protestant princesses of the Reformation and considers what that reform would call us to today.
  • “Lutheran Identity and Contemporary Issues”: a day-long ministry event in which an expert in Lutheran heritage and Scripture will help participants explore how our unique Lutheran identity equips us to faithfully engage concerns such as transgender issues, climate change, social media, gun violence, racism, and changes in outreach to youth.
  • “Reforming Spirituality in a World that is ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’”: a retreat that will gather both Roman Catholic and Lutheran resource people who will exchange best practices in spirituality and prayer. This is an experiential, rather than didactic, event.

St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church will collaborate on the production and performance of “Eternal, Victorious Light, A Jazz passion and Resurrection.” The performance will be at 5 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April, 9, 2017, at St. Peters Lutheran Church. The jazz passion is an hour-long work written for choir, vocal quartet, several soloists and a twelve-piece jazz ensemble. The Rev. David Abrahamson of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church wrote the libretto. Andy Tecson (a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hinsdale, Ill.), Bobby Schiff and Bobby Lewis composed the music.

Grant Update: In addition to the information below, you can read about the Jazz Passion world tour here.

Pastor Peter W. Marty, publisher of the Christian Century and senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Davenport, Iowa, has written about the Jazz Passion:

“The Passion performance was truly awesome. As I listened  (and watched – and there was a lot to watch) I kept thinking of the many beautiful layers and textures in the piece.”

In addition to the grant from the ELCA, an anonymous Lutheran donor has provided a grant of $4,500.

Finally, the creators of the Jazz Passion, Reverend David Abrahamson, Bobby Schiff, Bobby Lewis and Andy Tecson went to Jira Studios in Chicago in early January and did a video recording session.  We discussed the creation of the Jazz Passion, with topics including: expressing stories from the Bible in contemporary language that swings; how different portions of the Passion story evoke different music styles; and how jazz improvisation can help to bring the Good News to life. Look for this to be posted to YouTube by end of February.

The eighth annual performance of the Jazz Passion will take place in Chicago  at St. Luke Lutheran Church, 1500 W. Belmont, Chicago  on Sunday, April 2 at 4 p.m. This performance features 25 of Chicago’s best jazz musicians and singers in a visually spectacular setting.  Admission is free.

This ecumenical ministerium will collaborate on a project in the style of “Humans of New York” and “Story Corps” aimed at finding out and sharing where members of Pittsburgh see reformation happening around them and where they see a need for reformation. The answers will be shared via social media with professional photos and will also help the ministerium improve and build new ministries biased on community-expressed needs and hopes. This project will provide community education about Martin Luther and the Reformation through art and conversation.