From the Bishop’s Desk: What’s local on the 500th anniversary?

Group 236

Maybe you’ve heard. This year is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation! All over the world, Dr. Luther’s release of the 95 Theses is being observed, celebrated, commemorated (and mourned, I suppose) as a central event of world history and of Church life.

Here in our synod, we have been at work to use this anniversary as a way to share our faith, ponder our heritage and have a good time with our friends. Here’s what’s been planned so far. Your creative thought and participation are invited.

Listed first are events were committed to already. At the end is a pair of pleas for your involvement in things which are still being roughed out.


  • “Luther and the Shaping of the Catholic Tradition”

This scholarly conference will be held at Catholic University of America (CUA) May 30 – June 1. Sponsored by the CUA, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, our synod, and with major funding from the German embassy, the conference describes Luther’s influence on the whole Church. Lutheran presenters include Kenneth Appold from Princeton Seminary and Timothy Wengert. Roman Catholics include Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Registration is open – link under the Events tab.

  • “The Musical Heritage of the Reformation”

Scholarly, musical and worship events are planned to observe the Reformation anniversary.

This celebration of organ and choral music, planned to be part of the conference described above, will take place at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation at 7:30 on the evening of May 31. Paul Leavitt, the Reformation Church choir and others will perform, and the evening will include a brief ecumenical prayer service and a reception.  The whole community is invited to attend.

  • The National Lutheran Choir in Washington

On Sunday evening, October 22, at 7:00 p.m., the National Lutheran Choir will sing in the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate in Northeast D.C. Support for this event comes from our synod and from the Southeastern District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). The distinguished pan-Lutheran choir from the Twin Cities will include the world premiere of “The Holy Spirit Mass” by the contemporary Norwegian composer Kim Andre Arnesen. Admission will be free, but patrons for the event are still being encouraged to contribute financially.

  • Reformation Sunday at the National Cathedral

This traditional celebration of the Reformation will be held again this year on Reformation Sunday, October 29, at 4 p.m. at the National Cathedral on Wisconsin Avenue in D.C. Preaching will be the presiding bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton. The Roanoke College Choir will sing, and we will share Holy Communion. We expect a crowd. Planning that includes shared transportation would be greatly appreciated.

Still in the early planning stages is an event celebrating global Lutheranism and the diverse histories of our synod’s congregations and faith communities. And later in the fall, the synod hopes to sponsor a day of service in partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Now the pleas: First of all, we know that our congregations are also planning Reformation celebrations this fall. We want to network and publicize these events.* Share your plans and ideas with the synod by sending them to me, or better yet, to Karen Krueger, our synod communicator at

Then too, please be looking forward to an invitation from me and District President John R. Denninger from the Southeastern District of the LCMS to share a fall picnic with your LCMS neighbors. The Lutheran community in Washington shouldn’t be as divided as it is. President Denninger and I will be asking us all to make some phone calls and some plans that lead to a meal with that other church down the street. Watch for details.


And did you know that 2017 is the 100th anniversary of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area? LSS will be a partner in some of our events and will also be hosting some of its own.

There’s a lot going on. This is information about some of it. We’re blessed to be living in this year, and blessed to be reminded of how much our Lutheran heritage means to us, even with all its flaws.

The Rev. Richard H. Graham
Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

* Find the running list of area anniversary observances on the “Reformation 500” page under the Events tab.

The original version of this message was distributed to rostered ministers of the synod on 5/4/2017.