For Lutheran churches, Halloween is about much more than costumes and candy. This year in particular carries a special significance.
On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther penned his 95 theses, a series of grievances and critiques of the Catholic Church. Luther’s act sparked a schism in the church that resulted in not only the formation of the Lutheran church but other denominations as well.
Now, on the 500th anniversary of Luther’s legendary and significant act, churches around the world are celebrating. This includes those in Juneau, such as Christ Lutheran Church near Auke Bay.
“The impact that Martin Luther had on history,” Christ Lutheran Pastor Steven Wall said, “nobody can deny that.”
The Reformation is always a significant day for Lutheran churches, but they’re ramping things up a little more this year. Two of Juneau’s Lutheran churches, Shepherd of the Valley and Resurrection Lutheran Church, are combining forces for a picnic.
The picnic will be German-themed in honor of Luther, who was a German professor of theology, composer, priest and monk. The picnic will feature bratwurst and pretzels, and will take place at noon Sunday at Shepherd of the Valley. All are welcome, and attendees are invited to bring a side or a dessert to share.
Christ Lutheran will also be dishing out Germanic food. Christ Lutheran’s usual Sunday worship service starts at 10 a.m., followed by a German-themed potluck at 11 a.m. Once again, everyone is welcome at this event. Wall said the service will be similar to a usual service, but more of a “festival service,” with a couple extra hymns.
That’s also the approach at Resurrection Lutheran, located on 10th Street near the Douglas Bridge. Lucy Merrell, the music director there, said there will be an extra emphasis on music Sunday. The choir will be performing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which Luther wrote.
“We’re trying to put as much Martin Luther in there as we can,” Merrell said.
Shepherd of the Valley’s services will go on as scheduled, with a service at 9:30 a.m., followed by Faith Formation classes at 10:30 and a 30-minute worship service at 11:30 a.m.
Faith Lutheran Church, located at 2500 Sunset Drive, will have its usual services, with worship at 10 a.m.
The Reformation touched on numerous theological and social issues at the time, including the rise of nationalism, declining faith in the Pope and new ideas in the Renaissance that challenged the way people thought. Luther became an influential figure not only because of his theses but because of the way he spread his ideas using the printing press, which Johannes Gutenberg had just invented.
Luther was ahead of his time in that regard (“one of the first bloggers,” Merrell joked) but also in the way people understood and addressed salvation and forgiveness, Wall said.
“I think it’s important, the how Martin Luther got the church as a whole to focus on the grace of God rather than trying to earn salvation through works,” Wall said, “and that was the great impact he had on the church and that he still has.”
Sunday Lutheran services
Christ Lutheran Church
Where: 10300 Glacier Highway
Service: 10 a.m.
German-themed potluck: 11 a.m.
Faith Lutheran Church
Where: 2500 Sunset Drive
Service: 10 a.m.
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Where: 740 W. 10th Street
Service: 9:30 a.m.
Picnic: Noon at Shepherd of the Valley
Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church
Where: 4212 Mendenhall Loop Road
Service: 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Picnic: Noon, along with Resurrection Lutheran.