Five hundred years after Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the doors of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking the Reformation, members of the Valparaiso University community — students, alumni, professors — remembered the Reformation in the place where it all began.
In October 2017, church bodies from around the world commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Valparaiso University played a significant role in the momentous occasion, offering opportunities to reflect on the history and outcomes of this time period and to consider what the Reformation means for us today. During the remembrance, Matthew Becker, professor of theology, led more than 100 alumni and friends on a tour throughout Germany with stops at locations central to the Reformation movement.
Christopher Cock, professor of music and Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Lutheran Music, and the Chorale also toured throughout Germany, where they performed and sang with other prestigious choirs. The Chorale was the only international choir invited to perform at Castle Church in Wittenberg during the remembrance as they embodied Martin’s Luther’s words, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” In addition, President Mark Heckler was honored and humbled to serve as a reader during the October 31 service.
During their tours, the Chorale stopped in Reutlingen, where Valpo students, alumni, and friends gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University’s cooperation with Reutlingen through Study Abroad. The Chorale also performed at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, where those in attendance commemorated the longstanding relationship between the University, the church, and the Forum Thomanum, which celebrates the common musical tradition of the Lutheran Church, especially as expressed by Johann Sebastian Bach.
It was a beautiful way to culminate so many centuries of church history and the University’s Lutheran tradition. The Reformation commemoration only served to solidify Valpo as a place where tradition flourishes and faith and learning thrive.
View images and quotes from the trip below.
The tour celebrating the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation remains a highlight of my 96 years. My son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Lois Felten, also alumni, were my most welcome companions. Hearing the Chorale at the actual location and on the actual day 500 years after Luther began his inspired effort to reform the church was a thrilling event. The whole experience gave me just one more reason to be a proud Valpo alumna, class of 1942!
CONSTANCE BRETSCHER ’42
Being able to do tours that connect with our heritage is important both for the mission of the University, and also the education of our students and the further education of our alumni.
MATTHEW BECKER, THEOLOGY PROFESSOR
This trip brings history to life. To be in Germany and walk in Martin Luther’s footsteps, to stand in the places where he stood, and to experience some of the things he did really puts the Reformation in perspective.
MICHAEL VAN BEEK ’82
The Chorale has been regularly going on trips to Germany going back about 15 years. We built a network of professional contacts of really wonderful friends through places like the St. Thomas Church and the Castle Church, and that’s how we gained the invitation to make this particular trip for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
I could not have imagined that I would find myself sitting just a few feet away from where Martin Luther’s remains were in the Castle Church. And to stand and read his words 500 years later after the event that really changed the world. It was really an extraordinary thing to be there and especially to watch our students sing with such joy and concentration and expertise.
The best part of the trip is hearing the choir sing praises to God through music. This experience is a remembrance of the trip I took in 1962 with the Chapel Choir. We were in Germany almost four weeks and we sang in five cities.
ELISE HOERMANN ’66
To see the world of Luther as it is here in Germany, to be where he actually nailed the 95 Theses on the door, it was an amazing experience. And then add Bach on top of it, and I had to come!
LORRAINE DOROUGH ’78