About halfway through the party, I found myself talking to one of the elders who wasn't so thrilled with Halloween alternatives.
"You know," I said, "there is actually another holiday you can celebrate on October 31."
And from that year on, we have celebrated Reformation Day in our churches wherever we went.
This year, the 500th anniversary of Luther's 95 Theses--the official event of Reformation Day--nearly the whole world knows about the holiday. If you're ever wanted to do something for Reformation Day, but never got around to it, this is your year. If you've never heard about it before, and think it might be cool to celebrate, this is your year.
So what can you do with just 5 weeks to go? Here are some things we've done:
1. Encourage costumes--I've never had too many people come in costume, but there are always a dozen or so who really get into the spirit, and kids love to wear their dress-up things to church.
2. Tell the story--You can use a combined Sabbath School time, or a part of the worship service to tell Martin Luther's story. If you go online for research, check the urls for your sources--look for a reputable organization, and be aware of bias. Don't be alarmed if Luther and other reformers turn out less than perfect. The amazing part of the story is what God can do.
3. Offer indulgences--I have handed out crossword puzzles for the adults and teens, and coloring pages for kids to do in the service. Completed pages (I don't check the answers) get an "indulgence"--a cookie in the lobby after the service. Whether or not you're offering a reward, refreshments always make an occasion more special.
4. Add some drama--You don't have to do a full length drama to make the history come alive. I am including a handful of short scripts that can be learned (and costumed) in a few weeks. You will be impressed how a few simple costumes and props can catch the imagination and deepen the meaning of your presentation.
5. Take a picture--If you can get a hold of a few cloaks (no too hard to find around Halloween) and 16th century hats for men an women, you can have a photo nook in the lobby. Spray paint a drop cloth to look like a stone wall, and let people pose in their "costume" to commemorate the event. If you can, add a door, and hang a replica of the 95 Theses on it. (If you don't have the wearables, let them hold some props, like the Theses and a hammer.) Take members' photos with their own phones, or designate a photographer, and make the pictures available to them on the church website.
6. Remember your neighbors--This last is a tip, not an activity. Reformation Day can be a wonderful time to invite your community in to the church, but for that you need to plan a service that is sensitive to other people's backgrounds. The Reformation was good for Catholics and Protestants both, in the long run, and can be celebrated as such. Remember what we're really celebrating is not our divisions, but the rediscovering of the Scriptures, and the grace of God.
Dramas--When I first went looking for Reformation Day content online, I didn't find much for free. I am guessing there will be more out there now, because of the 500th anniversary. Below are links to some short scripts I've written myself.
I offer them for free, of course, because I want everyone to be able to do Reformation Day if you want to. I only ask that my name stay attached to the documents, whether electronic or in print, and if you used a printed program, include me as the author (so others know where to look for material). Feel free to share with others, as long as my name stays on it.
LUTHER MONOLOGUE (3 minutes, 1 person)
KATARINA LUTHER STORYTELLING (10 minutes, 2 people)
LUTHER'S CONVERSION SKIT (6 minutes, 2 people)
LUTHER POSTS THE 95 THESES DRAMA (8 minutes, 4 people)
Costumes-- Although the season is a good one for finding costumes in stores, if you want to make your own, I highly recommend this web site, which will show you how to make many garments without needing a printed pattern:
Dawn Pages Costumes
When I make my monk costumes, I use a Bible robe pattern, and then make a hood and cowl (which I found on a popular pattern for a cloak. Remember Luther is an Augustinian monk, so would wear a black robe.
I make knee pants for men by shortening dress pants from thrift stores and adding a casing for a drawstring to the bottom. Look for other ways to use existing garments to save time.
Crosswords/Coloring Pages--There are web sites one can use for free to make a word search puzzle or crossword puzzle using your own clues and answers. For crosswords, I recommend a word bank of answers to choose from. Likewise, I searched online for free coloring pages featuring old churches and castles, and people in Renaissance clothing.
I wish you all a wonderful 500th Reformation Day! And remember, although this big round number will only come once in our lifetimes, Reformation Day happens every October 31. So if you don't get to have the perfect event this year, you can always plan for the next one!