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Local churches ponder Reformation anniversary

By Staff | Nov 3, 2017

Submitted photos St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is shown decorated with red ribbons for Reformation Sunday.

Reformation Day reinforces Christianity’s mission of unity, a Shepherdstown minister said regarding the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary on Tuesday. Each year’s Reformation commemoration directs particular attention to the Lutheran-Catholic relationship, but this year’s commemoration poured new life onto an aged matter.

Rev. Karen Erskine-Valentine, pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Shepherdstown and St. James Lutheran Church in Uvilla, said that the Reformation should be observed rather than celebrated.

“Every year Lutherans observe the Reformation on the Sunday before All-Saints Day,” Erskine-Valentine said. “When we observe the Reformation, we don’t intend to let the dark parts of history mold who we are today.”

Erskine-Valentine said she hopes the connection between area churches will continue to increase following Reformation Day.

“I would like Shepherdstown’s churches to do more together,” Erskine-Valentine said. “The churches in Shepherdstown are like siblings … we should seek to hold hands.”

St. Agnes Catholic church in Shepherdstown.

Additionally, Erskine-Valentine said the Reformation is not just remembering a moment in history, but also about forgiveness among churches.

“I want all Christians to be at the same table,” Erskine-Valentine said. “But we’re not there yet.”

Erskine-Valentine also said open dialogue among churches helps to bring about healing.

“I wish there could be a way to balance the good and the pain of the church division,” she said.

Rev. Fr. Matthew Rowgh, pastor of St. Agnes Catholic Church in Shepherdstown, referred to Reformation Day as a time for Catholics and Protestants to learn from one another.

“Reforming is a necessary, continuous cycle,” Rowgh said. “It helps churches to be attentive to one another.”

Rowgh also added how the Reformation itself “wakes people up” and explains why Christians gather in separate buildings each Sunday. Rowgh continued by adding the various theologies among Christian denominations create different ways of understanding faith.

“Churches shouldn’t pretend to be on the same page,” Rowgh said referring to all Christian denominations. “Instead, churches should recognize the mystery in each other.”

When asked how the Catholic Church should acknowledge the anniversary of the Reformation, Rowgh said it should recognize the church is not perfect.

“I think it’s important for Roman Catholics to understand the significance of other denominations,” Rowgh said.

Today’s Christian denominations evolved outside the Catholic Church, and one German monk’s written theses nailed to a Wittenburg, Germany church door influenced this change. This German monk was Martin Luther.

The main reason for Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of a monastery on Oct. 31, 1517, was because he felt the Catholic Church needed to step away from selling indulgences to make money. Two of Luther’s theses, which stood apart from the Catholic church’s theology, were that God desired people to repent and that only faith could lead to salvation.

A service was also held Tuesday at Curtis Free Will Baptist Church in Harpers Ferry to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.