This Sunday, October 29, at the usual time of 11am at Trinity Church, there will be a united service in which the congregations of Trinity and the United Church of Bute will join together to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation.
A community choir, made up of the two congregations’ choirs and a number of friends, will offer a programme of music which will deeply enrich this celebration.
There will be a workshop at Trinity on Saturday 28, if you’d like to be part of the music-making, and all are welcome.
It was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg. They were meant to be theological points to spark an academic discussion at the University, but their effect spiralled into the re-making of the Western Church and Western culture that we call the Reformation.
Every human cultural expression is ambivalent and complicated, but as we move into the third millennium of Christian faith, it’s marvellous that we can look back over the legacy of the Reformation and see more than just division and conflict and hatred, undeniable and disgraceful as these have sometimes been. We can see also an understanding of faith and human nature that has profoundly influenced not only Christian thinking but the way in which modern European culture have developed.
And the ecumenical climate has changed profoundly, too. We’re not astonished that a towering figure of contemporary Christian faith such as Pope Francis can preach like this to the Lutherans of the Church of Sweden: “The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God we can do nothing… In effect, the question of a just relationship with God is the decisive question for our lives. As we know, Luther encountered that propitious God in the Good News of Jesus, incarnate, dead and risen. With the concept ‘by grace alone’, he reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response. The doctrine of justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God.”
It’s in this spirit, on this wonderfully ecumenical island of Bute, that the two Church of Scotland congregations celebrate an event which was utterly formative for us, but which also immeasurably enriched the whole Christian tradition.