Valpo’s Reformation Sunday service will look a little different this year. The normally full week of events at the Chapel has been reduced to one limited-attendance 10 a.m. service. To accommodate social distancing, 100 people maximum can attend and are asked to pre register online.
The reformation service on Sunday, Oct. 25 will be delivered by Deaconess Kristin Lewis. This will be one of her final sermons before her time as Interim Campus Minister comes to an end and a permanent ELCA pastor is selected.
In addition to the limited attendance, singing will be limited to four members of the Kantorei choir. The choir has been divided into small groups and function on a rotating schedule to cooperate with restrictions limiting groups to a maximum of four singers and prohibiting wind instruments to be played. The Resurrection Ringers Handbell Choir will also perform.
Dr. Sunghee Kim, Assistant Professor of Music, will be leading the music for the service. Each song has been carefully selected to reflect the themes of the reformation, even those played solely on the organ, to increase meaning when song is absent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I chose ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’ which is one of the most famous reformation hymns written by Martin Luther. So for singers from Kantorei the chapel choir, they sing this hymn, then will be the hymn of the day. Since we don't have many spots for songs, I particularly chose organ pieces for the prelude and postlude…” Kim said. “Sometimes we also sing ‘Amazing Grace’ of course that’s much more contemporary than ‘A Mighty Fortress’ and the tune is much more American but we sing God's grace in our current context. So we bring those big two themes together at one place on reformation Sunday. So I tried to include the main theme: God’s words and His grace on His people.”
Those who cannot attend the service in person can tune in on Youtube livestream at Valpo Chapel or listen at WVUR 95.1 FM.
Reverend James A. Wetzstein, more commonly known as Pastor Jim, hopes that these alternate ways of participating in the service will be a welcome opportunity to those who may not feel comfortable coming to church.
“I see it as a huge, huge advantage going forward, because it makes what we're doing in the chapel more available… If a student who's brand new to Valpo, or a member of the faculty who's brand new to Valpo can come and see what's going on without actually taking the risk of walking in the building and feeling awkward about it. I think that that's a really fantastic opportunity,” Pastor Jim said.
Beyond its history within the Lutheran denomination, the reformation holds deep meaning in the university’s values. As Pastor Jim explains, the search for education is to help each individual student find their vocation, the work they were called by God to do, whether that vocation is religiously based or not.
“The big idea that Luther has is, people have real vocations from God, even if they're not so-called religious like monks or nuns or priests and that any human who lives out their vocation, in service to their neighbor is in fact doing God's work,” Pastor Jim said.
In the time of COVID-19, a condensed semester, and high stress levels, remembering and celebrating the reformation allows time to step back and recognize God’s presence.
“I think that two big messages are front and center. The first is, God has your back. Like, you are beloved, and cherished and valued and honored, even on the worst days. And then the second is that our primary calling as neighbors to one another is to look out for each other,” Pastor Jim said. “And boy, if there was ever a time when the need to sort of not only pay attention to my own needs, for safety and wellness, but also the needs of my neighbor. This is way, way up there. You know, the science tells us we’re not wearing masks to keep ourselves safe, we’re wearing masks to keep our neighbors safe. That’s vocation.”