500 Years of Reformation: Continuing The Lutheran Legacy

500th Anniversary of the Reformation Logo

The year 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, dated from Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses protesting the sale of indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on Oct. 31, 1517. Scholars still debate exactly what happened, but I’m persuaded by the argument that Luther himself didn’t see his action as a big deal. Posting university announcements on the doors of churches was standard practice, and Luther was a university professor as well as a preacher. Despite the dramatic pictures of a resolute Luther, it is likely the actual posting was done by a student or servant, and it certainly would have been done with wax rather than a hammer and nails. 

This simple action had world-changing consequences. In the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Luther stood up to the two most powerful people in the world: the pope and the emperor. Within a few decades, the ideal of a unified religious and political society was shattered. It’s no wonder, then, that Luther was consistently ranked in the top five on lists of the most influential people of the millennium (1000 A.D.-2000 A.D.). 

Anniversaries are not only about the past but also about the future. Reformation is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process of reforming, rethinking, and restructuring to keep moving forward. This is true not only for churches but for colleges and universities as well. 

– The Rev. Dr. Kathryn Kleinhans, Mike and Marge McCoy Family Distinguished Chair in Lutheran Heritage and Mission


7:45-9:35 a.m. — Classes will meet as usual. No afternoon classes will be held until after 3:30 p.m.

11:30 a.m. — Spirited Expression, a Reformation celebration, will take place in the Wartburg Chapel with overflow in McCaskey Lyceum, where the celebration will be streamed live at www.wartburg.edu/knightvision.

12:45-3:15 p.m. — Campus-wide Table Talks (which include a box lunch), with small, assigned conversation groups of students, staff, and faculty. The groups will have guided discussion and honest conversation about the college’s mission of faith and learning and the future of Spiritual Life and Campus Ministry. No classes, lessons, practices, or college-sponsored meetings will be held during this time, and all offices and departments that are able to close will to enable students, staff, and faculty to participate. 


Dec. 11, 10:30 a.m., Wartburg Chapel
Wartburg Medal awarded to Rev. Larry Trachte and Lois Trachte at December Commencement

Jan. 17, 2017
Jan. 31, 2017
Feb. 7, 2017
Feb. 21, 2017
German Film Festival, 7:15 p.m., Whitehouse Business Center 116
With its focus on individual responsibility to a personal ethical code and destinies shaped by the courage to uphold essential human values, the 2017 German Film Series is presented in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s reformation. We welcome you to join us in the celebration of these contemporary German-language films, which will be screened with English subtitles and complemented by student-led discussions. Click here for details.

Friday, Feb. 10, 2017
Friday, March 17, 2017
Friday, April 7, 2017
Bach’s Lunch Organ Series, noon, Wartburg Chapel
Bach’s Lunch is a lecture-recital series featuring organ music of history’s greatest composers. These free lectures begin at noon in the Wartburg Chapel Commons with recitals following in the Wartburg Chapel sanctuary. You are invited to bring your lunch or preorder a box lunch to eat at the lecture. To order a box lunch, please call Marcia Haugen at 319-352-8300 by the Wednesday prior to the recital.

Feb. 18, 2017
“Why Martin Luther and the Reformation Matter 500 Years Later”
James W. Lynes Jr. Memorial Lecture in History 
Whitehouse Business Center Room 214
Kleinhans, the Mike and Marge McCoy Family Distinguished Chair in Lutheran Heritage and Mission at Wartburg College, is a fifth-generation Lutheran pastor whose scholarly work focuses on the contemporary relevance of the Lutheran theological tradition. 

March 14, 2017, 11:30 a.m., Wartburg Chapel
Graven Award Ceremony presented to a person “whose life is nurtured and guided by a strong sense of Christian calling and who is making a significant contribution to community, church and society.” Diane Levy Jacobson, professor emerita of Old Testament at Luther Seminary and retired director of the Book of Faith Initiative for the ELCA, was the recipient.

April 26-May 8, 2017
Germany: In the Footsteps of Martin Luther Celebrating 500 Years of the Reformation
VIP alumni tour lead by Rev. Larry Trachte and hosted by Darrel and Christy Colson.

April 29-May 23, 2017
Wartburg Choir tours internationally with concert stops at important Reformation sites in Germany as well as Scotland and Ireland. Click here for the itinerary.

May Term Course Abroad, 2017
Reformation Then and Now

The Rev. Kathryn Kleinhans travels with Wartburg students to Germany and to learn about the history of the Reformation and its implications in our world currently.

June 7-21, 2017 with optional extension to Bavaria, June 21-24
Reformation Alumni Tour
Join the Rev. Dr. Kit Kleinhans, the Mike and Marge McCoy Family Distinguished Chair of Lutheran Heritage and Mission at Wartburg College, as she leads this tour “following in the footsteps of Martin Luther in Germany” during the 500th anniversary of Luther’s bold action. Click here for more information. 

Fall 2017 Knight Reading Program
The Knight Reading for Fall 2017 is Martin Luther: A Very Short Introduction, by Scott Hendrix.  Life magazine ranked Martin Luther the third most influential person of the second millennium.  (In other words, Luther is not just for Lutherans!)  The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is a timely opportunity for new Wartburg students and the wider Wartburg community to learn more about this man whose life and work changed the course of history. All first year students read this text as a part of their Inquiry Studies 101 course.

Sept. 5, 2017
Opening Convocation, 10:15 a.m.
Levick Arena
Wartburg College will confer an Honorary Doctor of Divinity upon the Rev. Louise Johnson, president of Wartburg Theological Seminary.

Oct. 12, 2017, 11:30 a.m.
Gallery Talk and Dedication
Phillip and Diego Lasansky will discuss the work of Mauricio and Diego Lasansky and the college will dedicate Lasansky’s “Junker George” piece of Martin Luther. The Lasansky exhibit is in the Waldemar A. Schmidt Art Gallery Sept. 6-Oct. 22.

Saturday, Oct. 14, 8 p.m.
The Wartburg Community Symphony presents Mozart and Mendelssohn: A Reformation CelebrationFeaturing Natasha Korsakova, violinist
Celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, Reformation, and Dr. Jacob Tews’ world premeire of his Reformation overture.

Sunday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.
Documentary Premiere: The Wartburg Choir in Germany: Celebrating 500 Years of Reformation
McCaskey Lyceum
A public viewing of highlights from the 2017 Wartburg Choir concert tour of Lutheran heritage sites. The documentary can now be viewed online here.

Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017
500th Anniversary of the Reformation Celebration

The class schedule for Oct. 31 is shortened to provide space for a Spirited Expression: A Reformation Celebration in the Wartburg Chapel at 11:30 a.m., immediately followed by campus-wide Table Talks (12:45-3:30 p.m.). The Table Talks will include students, faculty, and staff who will share lunch and conversation centered on questions about the College’s ongoing mission, including the future of Spiritual Life and Campus Ministry. Offices will be closed, and no meetings, lessons, or practices will be scheduled between 11:15 a.m. and 4 p.m., to enable wide participation in these events. Spirited Expression will offer the opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the college’s Lutheran heritage, which provides the framework for our mission of leadership, service, faith, and learning. The Table Talks will provide the opportunity to discuss and learn the ways in which learning, leadership, and service are transformed by engagement in questions of faith, meaning, and purpose.

Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, 4:45 p.m.
The Kleinfeld Lecture in German History, Culture, and Politics: 
The Rev. Miriam Gross, pastor of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Paul’s in New York City, will speak on “A Means of Hope and Grace: Living Lutheran Identity in the Public Square.” The event begins at 9:45 a.m. in McCaskey Lyceum.

Week of Nov. 17, 2017
St. Elizabeth Week of Service
St. Elizabeth Week is devoted to community activism and service and is celebrated the week of Nov. 17 (the anniversary of her death) in conjunction with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week.  Service-related activities are planned throughout the week by the St. Elizabeth’s Committee, which involves student representatives from Habitat for Humanity, Manna, Campus Ministry, Students for Peace and Justice, Student Senate, and the Volunteer Action Center. Click here for more information. 

Dec. 1-3, 2017
Christmas with Wartburg: From Heaven Above
This year’s theme is taken from one of Martin Luther’s most beloved Christmas hymns, From Heaven Above. For over 65 years, Christmas with Wartburg has been a traditional celebration that provides a fitting opportunity for Wartburg, as a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth in word and song. Click here for more information. 


Together By Grace: Introducing the Lutherans

Dr. Kathryn Kleinhans, Dr. Walter (Chip) Bouzard, and Dr. Karen Black contributed chapters for the new text, “Together by Grace: Introducing the Lutherans.”  This volume takes us on a journey across this broad landscape of faith and time. Newcomers will find intriguing entry points, and lifelong Lutherans will discover new dimensions. Whether it’s a passion for a grace-filled theology, worship and music that lift spirits, or a deep concern for wholeness and justice, Lutherans are engaged in the world, alongside other Christians and those of various faiths.

Junker Jorg 1521

Junker Jörg 1521

Iowa City-based artist Diego Lasansky has gifted more than 40 original intaglio prints of Martin Luther to Wartburg College in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. 

Two prints will be kept by the college: one displayed on campus, the other at the president’s residence at Greenwood. President Darrel Colson has gifted the rest, along with a copy of Lasansky’s book cataloging his work from 2012 to 2015, to 40 Lutheran colleges, seminaries, and organizations around the world. 


Wartburg College is named after the Wartburg Castle, a fortress built in 1067 overlooking Eisenach, Germany. During the stormy days of the 16th-century Reformation, the castle provided a refuge for Martin Luther, whose theology led to the formation of the Lutheran church.