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Westminster Abbey hosts service marking Reformation anniversary

Westminster Abbey hosts service marking Reformation anniversary

Photo: Andrew Dunsmore/Westminster Abbey

01 November 2017

An ecumenical service described as “A Service to Mark the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses and the Start of the Reformation” was held in Westminster Abbey, London, on 31 October.

Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran churches, and the Anglican Communion were formally involved with the service; representatives of the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Reformed Churches were present as witnesses.

Organised by the Lutheran Council of Great Britain, in collaboration with the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, the service was both an act of celebration but also of penitent remembrance. Songs and chorales associated with Martin Luther and the German Reformation echoed through the abbey. At the same time, the need for the universal church, the Body of Christ, to be always semper reformanda (‘always to be reformed’) was emphasised at several points in the service.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby preached. He acknowledged that the Reformation resulted in a painful side to history, as well as a gift from God. In his sermon he emphasised that the Gospel is always life, love and transformation, even though its expression may be different in different times and periods of history. Yet, he said, it always speaks into the contemporary situation. Those who are bearers of the Gospel themselves need to be transformed, he reflected, and our journeying together on the path of Christian unity is a witness that by God’s grace the cosmos has truly changed.

Towards the conclusion of the service Welby formally acknowledged to Dr Martin Junge of the Lutheran World Federation and Bishop Brian Farrell of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity the Anglican Communion’s affirmation at its Anglican Consultative Council 16th meeting of the substance of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon at Reformation 500th anniversary service

‘A decisive moment for all churches’ (Lutheran World Federation news release 31 October 2017)