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253-year-old Bible to be read on 500th Reformation anniversary Tuesday

Staff report

SALISBURY — Tuesday marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on Oct. 31, 1517.

For centuries, the sound of his hammer on that nail has been considered the flashpoint of the Protestant Reformation. Numerous celebrations of the historic event have been held in Rowan County recently and will continue through Sunday.

But only one celebration has been scheduled here for the actual evening, 500 years to the day, that the reformer set his theological revolution in motion. That celebration will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Omwake-Dearborn Chapel on the campus of Catawba College.

The Rev. Dr. Ken Clapp, chaplain of the college, and Pastor Ed Harper, dean of the Rowan Conference of the N.C. Lutheran Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, will officiate at the joint United Church of Christ and ELCA communion service.

In Luther’s day, the Wittenberg Castle housed the city’s university. “Thus, what better place than a college campus to celebrate that structure’s most notable event, 500 years ago,” said Kevin D. Sloop, one of the organizers of Tuesday evening’s service.

“And the architecture of Catawba’s chapel will provide a realistic backdrop, as those who gather there to worship on the 31st read an English language copy of Luther’s 95 Theses on the large oaken doors, as they enter in.”

Sloop says a large 253-year-old German Lutheran Bible will be carried during the processional and recessional hymns, as well as read from during the First Lesson. This Bible, which measures 11 by 16 inches, is 5 inches thick and weighs 14 pounds, was first owned by 18th-century German Rowan settler George Savitz, a prosperous plantation owner who lived in the southern part of the county.

The public is welcome to attend the informal service, which will commemorate not only the renewal of the Christian Church but also the renewal of society itself, organizers said.

Because red is the designated color for the Reformation, those attending are encouraged to wear red clothing. Reformation Day is also Halloween. Because children may just be returning from trick-or-treating as the service begins, they are welcome to wear their costumes, organizers said.

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