Mary Andrews College was asked early this year to do something to mark the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to a Wittenberg church door in 1517. The outcome of this request was the Life with the Luthers event held on 23 and 25 September and attended by around 800 people. Rev. Jill Williams tells us about the day...
Three MAC lecturers – Rev. Marge Mills, Rev. Jill Williams and Ms Karen Ray – spearheaded the planning committee for this event. From the beginning, we aimed to capture what students most appreciate in their studies at our college: an event that spoke to people personally and engagingly, and that was full of accessible information. We also wanted the focus of the event to be on women.
Before the event, all training rooms and communal spaces in the college were transformed to portray scenes of 16th century Germany: peasant women struggling under the church’s teachings; Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door; a printer with his printing press; nuns in their nunnery, reading Luther’s works; Luther before the Diet of Worms; peasant women liberated by the teachings of the Bible in their own language; and an older Martin and Katie Luther in their family home. A gigantic timeline, with a multitude of pictures, was set up in one area to show the progress of the Reformation and the key Reformers and their wives.
For the event, student volunteers enthusiastically set up scenes the day before, with many props. Costumes were tried on, scripts were learnt and facts absorbed, so each student could become their character on the day. The planning committee could see all their preparation coming to life before their eyes.
The only question that remained was, ‘Would people come?’
At 9.30am on Saturday, 23 September, small groups of students, in costume, were praying for the hours ahead, that God would bring people along to engage with these great events of the Reformation and that through this, he would be honoured.
By 10am a crowd had gathered outside the lifts on the first floor of St Andrew’s House, and the college doors were opened. For the next six hours, over 200 people passed through the doors and experienced these Reformation scenes coming to life. Many lingered at the end of the ‘tour’ to look through projects that students had written and to learn from other resources, either in print or displayed on computer monitors.
So, what would the second day of the event, Monday, 25 September, bring? By 10am, 75 people were already gathered in the college entrance, waiting for the doors to open. And people just kept coming all day!
Over the two days, it was estimated that around 800 people engaged in this event. There were even greater crowds on Monday than on Saturday. Perhaps word had spread that this was an event not to be missed. The truths of the Reformation – of God’s grace alone, faith in Christ alone, found in the Scriptures alone and to the glory of God alone – were heard in a fresh way by so many.
The students who were involved were excited that they could be part of it. Around 45 students acted as characters to bring each scene to life, many of whom also helped to set up and pack up this extensive re-creation of Reformation times.
The planning committee rejoiced in the way God had graciously responded to many prayers. We also rejoiced in the commitment and dedication of the Mary Andrews College students. Many of these students had been part of a Reformation Study tour, led by Rev. Marge Mills in 2016, or had studied the Reformation in lectures. Others saw an opportunity to put into practice what they were learning in creative arts ministry courses. It was a great testimony to Mary Andrews College that so many of its staff and students worked together to put on such a creative and engaging event.
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