From gatherings of many hundreds of people for worship in lofty cathedrals to a home service attended by just a husband and wife, such was the diversity of Reformation commemorations throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Some congregations, parishes and schools took part in large ecumenical services and events with their Catholic brothers and sisters, and Christians of many denominations, in an unprecedented show of unity. Others partnered with other Lutheran churches to stage zone worship and activities.
National commemoration events were held in Adelaide and Wellington, while churches from many rural and regional centres also were involved. Whether the scale was grand or humble, the intention was the same – to recognise the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Lutheran (and Protestant) church. In some cases, there was reflection on, and repentance for, the hurts and division of the past, as well as thanking God for his grace, love and mercy as we as his people look to the future.
As space does not allow us to include coverage of every Reformation anniversary event held around the LCA/NZ, here are just some of the many highlights from this once–in–a–lifetime commemoration.
At St Johns Lutheran Church Perth, in Western Australia, the congregation’s 500th anniversary events included an Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation service on 31 October. The evening began with coffee and cake, followed by an evening where Luther’s mottos ‘Word Alone’, ‘Grace Alone’, ‘Faith Alone’ and ‘Christ Alone’ were celebrated. The church also hosted a Martin Luther Exhibition and, like many congregations, a screening of the Luther movie last month.
There was a weekend of commemorative activities in Western Victoria. At a Friday night wine-and-finger-food evening at Tabor, former LCA President Rev Dr Michael Semmler entertained with a presentation on Martin Luther through the eyes of his wife Kate. On Saturday Betty and Colin Huf led history tours beginning at South Hamilton Cemetery where German settlement began and the first church was built in the region. A concert on Saturday evening at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Hamilton, featured orchestral works from the Reformation period and Ken’s Stott’s choral cantata The Day is Ended, with a choir of 80–plus voices. A congregation of more than 540 gathered for a Sunday Celebration Service at St Michael’s Tarrington, with Dr Semmler as guest preacher, and music led by a mass choir, handbells, band, pipe organ and brass accompaniment. Lunch followed the service, as did music by Tarrington Brass Band, history displays and tours of Tarrington Lutheran School.
The Eastern Metro Zone of Victoria’s Reformation 500 service at Luther College, Croydon, brought together people from more than 11 congregations and four school communities. The service, which drew about 750 worshippers on 29 October, featured several choirs, liturgical dancing and the world premiere of a specially commissioned cantata by Geelong area member Kym Dillon. The service, which highlighted the talents of students from the local Good Shepherd Primary School, was followed by morning tea and a hip-hop performance. Several zone pastors led the worship, with Victorian District Bishop Lester Priebbenow preaching.
At Port Macquarie, in New South Wales, members of St Peters Lutheran Church participated in and helped to organise a combined churches service to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 31 October. Held in St Agnes’ Catholic Church, it brought together the Anglican Parish of Port Macquarie, the Port Macquarie Uniting Church and Ross Chambers from Port Macquarie Charles Sturt University School of Theology. The service was attended by around 350 people and featured guest speakers Uniting Church of Australia’s Rev Professor James Haire, Australian Jesuit priest and historian Father Peter L’Estrange, and Port Macquarie parish pastor Rev Dr Gordon Watson.
Inclement weather and lack of power was not enough to deter more than 100 people from attending Cowell Lutheran Church on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula on 29 October. The service commemorated 500 years of Reformation and celebrated 50 years of the LCA, 50 years of Cleve Lutheran Parish and the 50th anniversary to the day of the laying of the foundation stone of Cowell Lutheran Church. Visitors came from around South Australia to join parish members and fellow Christians of Cowell. Parish Pastor Keith McNicol led the service, which was followed by presentations on the history of the Reformation, Lutheranism coming to Australia, the formation of the LCA, Cleve Lutheran Parish and Cowell Lutheran Church. The day also included the cutting of a celebration cake, a meal, fellowship and a memorabilia display.
A congregation of more than 450 people gathered in the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul (Anglican) in the New Zealand capital on 29 October for a Bach Cantata Vespers for Reformation. Radio New Zealand recorded the service for broadcast and podcast. Reformation commemoration worship has been held in five of the seven Catholic cathedrals in New Zealand this year. Other events have included concerts, lectures and history presentations, fellowship events including Longest Lutheran Lunches, conversation with Roman Catholics and other Christians, as well as the signing of a joint statement (see Inside Story).
At Mackay, in northern Queensland, the congregation’s Reformation weekend began with a confirmation service for six young candidates on 28 October. A Reformation Service on 29 October featured a banner illustrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. An animated film depicting Luther’s life was shown for the congregation’s children and a copy of the 95 Theses was displayed on the front door of the church. After the service, the congregation assembled to consecrate a 500th anniversary plaque, as a constant reminder of our faith, freedom and focus on the future, wherever God is leading us. This was followed by a Longest Lutheran Lunch and the screening of photographs of a Reformation service at Wittenberg.
On 29 October, 320 people attended a combined service at St Peter’s Lutheran Church Reid, in suburban Canberra, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Lutherans from Belconnen, Reid, Tuggeranong, Woden and the Canberra Finnish Church in the Australian Capital Territory, and Cooma and Queanbeyan, New South Wales, joined in worship and praise to acknowledge this once-in-a-lifetime event. Pastor Noel Due from South Australia was the guest preacher, while the Covenant Players from Sydney presented a drama called The Forsaken, about Martin Luther. After the service, 240 people met for lunch at a Canberra club.
At Lakeside College Pakenham, a satellite suburb of Melbourne to the south-east, a staff member built a large, medieval–style door. During the all–school chapel worship, student leaders and staff had the opportunity to nail either ‘a prayer’ or ‘an intention for change in the world’ to the door. Later, at recess time, all students had the opportunity to do this, and this was embraced by junior school students. The door and the things nailed to it are now on display in the foyer of the college.
The Darling Downs in Queensland may have played host to the LCA/NZ’s smallest Reformation service. Broadacre farmers Rodney and Beverley Patch live a long way from any of the church or community Reformation events being held on 31 October. So they held their own. Adopting their morning practice of having a table devotion together, Rodney and Beverley followed the Reformation Day liturgy which they found on the Worship Planning Page on the LCA website. They also read together Bishop’s John Henderson’s sermon that he had prepared for the day. As a congregation of two, it’s likely that Rodney and Beverley can claim the title for holding the smallest Reformation service. But as we know, ‘where two or three are gathered together’, the Lord is there too.
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