Tuesday, October 31, 2017, marked the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. This massive event in the history of the church was celebrated in grand scale at the Shelby Farms campus. Students were challenged to look back and contemplate not only why this event occurred, but how it impacts our faith today. Five hundred years after Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door, students had the opportunity to experience firsthand what it was like to live at that time, how people made a living, the recreations people enjoyed, and how all the new revolutionary ideas were able to spread initially around Europe and then the world at large.
The day began with Mark Brink, Bible Department Chair, giving a fascinating overview of the Reformation including what it meant to "re-form," changing something back to its true state. As he spoke of the historical events and characters, he wove stories of those who stood firm and some that even died as they strove to return the Church to its scriptural beginning. He expounded on why the five solas (Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria) were so significant as truths that had to be recovered. Mr. Brink's thought-provoking comments well prepared the students so that they better understood why the day was to be celebrated so grandly.
Then Dan Peterson, playing the part of Martin Luther, boldly nailed 95 Theses to a door and invoked the audience to think about their beliefs. What does it mean to be led by Scripture alone? To be saved by faith alone? Through grace alone? Why should we trust in Christ alone as our only Savior? How do we live our lives to the glory of God alone? The 16th century was brought to life with cameo appearances by Charles V (Barrett Luketic), Pope Leo X (Sam Kelly), and Johann Tetzel (Ben Burgess). Middle School students, in a short play written by Jack Webb, illustrated that salvation cannot be bought.
The rest of the day was a wild flurry of fun, activity, and community building. The senior class played hosts and hostesses to mixed groups of 1st - 1th1 grade students as they led them through six unforgettable rotations. David Butler, Fine Arts Department Chair, and his crew illustrated the invention of printing. This revolutionary phenomenon caused new ideas, thoughts, and doctrine to be made available to the public in ways that had never been seen before the sixteenth century. The ideas of Martin Luther spread far and wide and for the first time, ordinary people could read the Bible. All students were able to print a real picture and experience the delight of creativity.
The second rotation illustrated daily life in the sixteenth century. At that time, most of the population lived in small villages and made their living from farming. The petting zoo in The Grove was a tremendous hit and proved that hands-on experiential learning really is the way to go. Who could forget that people in the sixteenth century had gorgeous bunnies as pets when the most gorgeous fat-cheeked bunny was nestled in your arms? High school students were also able to experience the terror of a torture chamber where senior Stuart Glassell demonstrated an array of torture techniques. Part of this display were two sets of stocks which came in handy when people misbehaved. Nothing like a public humiliation to keep people in check!
A rowdy and fun rotation was the tournament at the far side of The Grove. We all knew that the senior boys had a large amount of energy, but they surpassed our expectations as they demonstrated battle techniques and waged a mini war. Dressed as knights, with helmets, swords, and other interesting weapons, this band of warriors led by Jordan Thompson demonstrated a tournament that kept their young audience enthralled. Willie Jenkins and Daniel Holmes took the excitement to the next level with their jousting demonstration. Hardly a wonder that neither of them could walk properly the next day, but what fun it was for boys and girls alike to get into the ring and try their hand at this age-old sport.
Ever wanted to know what it was like to be a princess or be knighted at a royal court? The AP European History class brought this to life in a royal court that offered dancing, music, and a most entertaining juggler. The king and queen and royal courtiers knighted many faithful students and admired their beautiful swords and shields that were made with the help of a group of dedicated moms. Little girls loved having their faces painted with beautiful jewels and flowers and they were also able to make a beautiful damsel hat. What a treat to have the intricacies of etiquette explained by Mr. Luketic and then the piece de resistance, it must be said, the seven 6th grade girls dancing around a maypole. They were spectacular thanks to Joy McDaniel who choreographed their dance.
A noise from outside the chapel forced people to look in that direction only to discover the funniest court jester (Robert Jones) from the Globe Theater. He pranced around and entertained the class and one could hardly believe that this was the same man who would be teaching junior English again the next day. Ryan Dixon, English Department Chair, introduced onlookers to Shakespeare and the Globe Theater. The crowd cheered after scenes from Hamlet and Julius Caesar and were treated to a royal wave from Elizabeth I (Allison Kelly).
Last, but not least, Paul VanderZwaag, Science Department Chair, offered a fascinating glimpse into the world of science at this time. With a clear Christian worldview, the Scientific Revolution came to life with a few explosions and the appearance of some very well-fed looking leeches.
What a day! One of the most heart-warming scenes at the end of all the activity, was the giant community picnic. Older and younger students came together in the true spirit of ubuntu (togetherness) and had a picnic lunch together. With smiles, laughter, and a little reluctance, the lower school students returned to their campus and the day was considered a great success.
Students, parents, and faculty were all enthralled with the comprehensiveness, detail, and of the Reformation event. Temple Horner, 4th grade teacher, commented, "The Reformation Celebration was amazing!! The Lower School learned so much from the activities that you provided for us throughout the day. Thank you for making history come alive in a way that was relatable to even our youngest students. We really do appreciate all the hard work that it took to pull off such an amazing experience!"
Check out this fun video by ECS's Amanda McCarty!
And here are lots of photos of this great day: