Part history, part audience participation, an ecumenical hymn fest at Hope College on Sunday, Oct. 1, will open a month-long series of public events scheduled in commemoration of the forthcoming 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The kick-off, “Hymnody: The Voice of Christian Unity,” will feature hymns old and new that are common to all Christian traditions, and will be held at 7 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the college’s Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.  The audience will be asked to join in by singing.  Choral experience or confidence in one’s singing voice is not necessary.

The hymn fest and the next four weekly events — three lectures and a worship service — are anticipating October 31, the date in 1517 on which Martin Luther initiated the Reformation by delivering his 95 theses criticizing aspects of church practice and doctrine to the Archbishop of Mainz.  On Monday, Oct. 31, itself, the Rev. Dr. Dennis N. Voskuil, president of Hope College, will give an address as part of the college’s Presidential Colloquium on the Reformation in the Modern World.

The local commemoration, hosted in a variety of community locations, has been organized by a planning committee comprised of members from the Christian Reformed, Reformed Church, Lutheran and Roman Catholic traditions, and is meant for all in the community.  Admission to each event is free.

During the opening on Sunday, Oct. 1, organist Peter Kurdziel, who is music director of the Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids, will lead the gathered assembly in song from the console of the Concert Hall’s 54-rank Casavant organ.  Narrator Robert J. Batastini, who is a Fellow and former president of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, will introduce each hymn with a brief description of its origin and will also provide singing instructions (alteration between men and women, left and right, singing in parts, etc.).

The evening will begin with four hymns from the 16th century, one each of Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican and Roman Catholic origin, all of which are found in virtually every hymnal in use today in Christian churches of all traditions.  The hymnody will next explore the work of modern hymn writers whose work appears in a resource group of five major denominational hymnals published in the past 10 years.

Three Reformation-themed addresses will follow during the next three Sundays, each at 7 p.m. at Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church.  On October 8, Eduardo Echeverria will present “Is the Catholic Counter-Reformation Over?” On October 15, Mark Noll will present “The Reformation as Blessing and Bane.”  On October 22, Joyce Ann Zimmerman will present “Being and Doing as One Body: Perspectives on Catholic and Reformed Worship.”

A community-wide worship service will be held on Sunday, Oct. 29, at 5 p.m. at Christ Memorial Church.  Preaching will be by John Witvliet, and adult singers for a massed choir are being recruited from all Christian churches in the greater Holland area.

The address by Voskuil on Monday, Oct. 31, titled “’Here I Stand’: A Conversation with Martin Luther,” will be presented at 4:30 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall at Hope.  Voskuil is a former president and faculty member of Western Theological Seminary, and was also a member of the Hope religion faculty for several years before joining the seminary.

In addition to the events in October, Western Theological Seminary will feature the theme “Reformation at 501: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives” through its Osterhaven Lectureship in Theology on March 12 and 13.

More information about the activities is available online.           

The commemorative events in October and this coming March follow presentations at Hope College this past spring that included a Reformation-themed concert by the Grand Rapids Symphony and three public lectures through the Presidential Colloquium lecture series addressing the history and impact of the Reformation.