Niagara Lutheran churches continue the celebration of the Lutheran Reformation's 500th anniversary

When we talk about the Lutheran Reformation we begin with Martin Luther's posting of his 95 Theses on the subject of Indulgences.  This took place on All Saints Eve, October 31, 1517.  Luther had become concerned with the aggresive fund-raising campaign that was going on near Wittenberg, Germany.  John Tetzel was selling indulgences by giving people the impression that they were purchasing forgiveness of their sins or, at least, a reduction in their time in Purgatory.

So, Luther questioned the Scriptural basis for the Indulgence program and criticized it publicly.  But, at this point, Luther hadn't offered anything unique.  He was still defending the Roman Catholic Church and its integrity.

About five months later, though, Luther was invited to speak at a meeting of his Augustinian order in Heidelberg, Germany.  Here he presented the teaching that he would become well known for.  He identified the then-popular system of preaching as "the theology of glory" and contrasted that with what he found in Scripture: "the theology of the cross." 

Our Refomation Readers book club will read four books a year that capture the essence of Lutheran theology. The next book is On Being a Thelogian of the Cross: Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518, by Gerhard Forde, which will be reviewed on June 11, 2018 at 7:00 PM, at St. John Lutheran Church, 6950 Ward Road, North Tonawanda.

Previous events leading up to the 500th anniversary celebration:

St. Mark kicked off the series with a hymn festival on November 13, 2016. This singing event featured Paul Soulek, organist and composer at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Seward, Nebraska.

Holy Ghost¬†was the venue for a¬†stop on¬†the Concordia University Chicago‚Äôs Wind Symphony ‚ÄúReformation Tour‚ÄĚ on Tuesday, March 7 at 7:30 PM.

Holy Ghost also hosted the Lutheran Master Works Vesper on Sunday, April 23 at 2:00 PM. The service included music by Bach and Telemann, conducted by Robert Duerr, a North Tonawanda native, minister, organist and founder of the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra.

St. John participated in ‚ÄúPlanting Gospel Seeds While Serving Human Needs.‚ÄĚ This program was developed by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod to help congregations identify the most critical, unmet and under-served needs in their community.¬† Congregations will use this information to plan ministries that build closer relationships with their neighbors and help them become vital, growing churches. The program was facilitated by Rev. Carlos Hernandez, Director, Church and Community Engagement at the LCMS in St. Louis, Missouri.

Grace presented the movie ‚ÄúLuther,‚ÄĚ a 2003 biopic about the life of Martin Luther, the 16th-century priest who led the Christian Reformation. The film stars Joseph Fiennes and Peter Ustinov in his last film role before his death.

Immanuel hosted a symposium on Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30, with local clergy speaking on various aspects of the Reformation.

The series was highlighted by a speaker event and banquet on October 21 at St. Matthew. Speakers included Dr. Cameron MacKenzie, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne Indiana, Dr. Mark Schuler, Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, Rev. Dr. John Nunes, Concordia College, Bronxville, New York, Dr. Daniel Zager, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York and Rev. Andrew J. Abraham, formerly of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tonawanda, New York. The medieval themed banquet featured renaissance style performances by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The series was promoted via a multi-media campaign in the Niagara region, including outdoor advertising and direct mail as well as a web site. For more information please call or email David Werth at 731-7183 or