Reformation 500 celebrations

The churches of Dongara/Port Dennison came together for a special one day event in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. More than 200 people arrived at the Irwin Recreation Centre in Port Denison on Sunday October 29 for the R500 festivities.

On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther publicly declared his protest about certain actions of the church officials of the day. R500 allowed people an insight into some of the characteristics of the society of that era. Many people came in medieval-style costume to add to the atmosphere and fun.

From 9.30am, a display of stories and character studies of key players in the Reformation was available in the Function Room. Wendy Small, from the R500 planning team and a member of Dongara Uniting Church, said these people were nobles, church leaders, and princes who held the strings of social and political power in the towns and villages in Germany. While some supported Luther, many were opposed to his ideas. Quiz and puzzles and colouring sheets relating to the information were available for keen ‘detectives’.

At the same time, medieval re-enactment group Twin River Guard (TRG) from Geraldton had replica weapons, armour and costumes typical of the late medieval period for visitors to view and discover how these were used in everyday life and in combat. Einar, from Twin River Guard was dressed for the day in a suit of full armour. He said the weight and type of metal used was equivalent to that which a knight of his build would have worn. At 15kg it added a challenge to movement and stamina of the wearer, and Einar and his team told us, “Combat action would necessarily be brief and intense, as combatants could not sustain fast and furious action for any extended time.”

Visitors to the event were startled at 10.20am by a penetrating shouted command from Einar, as the TRG armed guards directed everyone into the function room for the commemorative service.  The Geraldton Brass Quartet played music for the hymns, with a thrilling trumpet fanfare in each item.  The singing was enthusiastic with a really powerful rendition of the hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, which Martin Luther himself wrote, being included in the service.

Martin Luther alias, John Muller, nailed a document containing Luther’s 95 Theses to a very solid jarrah door – a bit of local Aussie improvisation! People from the different church congregations and various local towns lit a collection of floating tea light candles, signifying the spirit of unity and co-operation Christians now desire to live out.

Pastor Doug Higgins from the Dongara Christian Centre (AOG) spoke most effectively about the core message of Luther’s declaration.

“It is about the great love of God for all creation, and affirming what God has done for God’s world through the life and death of Jesus,” he said. “Scientific exploration and historical examination of documents has demonstrated that the Bible is factual in much of its content. It contains significant truth about how we can live together in peace, with understanding. It can be relied on as an effective guide for life.”

As ‘Martin Luther’ concluded the service with a blessing and grace for the lunchtime meal, he was seized by several burly guards from the Twin River Guard, and carried off into safe captivity. Rev David Mitchell earlier had described how in 1520 the soldiers of Prince Frederick captured Luther and took him to a place of safety, “to escape from his impending arrest by the Pope’s troops, which would have resulted in Luther’s death.” This story was covered in one of the information panels displayed in the function centre.

Lunch had been cooking away all morning – spit roast lamb served with gravy, sauerkraut, and coleslaw. The cooks had been tending the spits since five o’clock that morning. It was fascinating to see this in operation, and even better to enjoy the meal in the fresh air on the veranda of the Rec Centre. Delectable chocolate cherry cakes, black forest style, and German apple cake were provided for dessert.

“The challenge of baking 200 chocolate cupcakes was quite an experience,” Helen Muller and Erica Payne said, “but very rewarding!”

Following lunch, Twin River Guard demonstrated armed combat, using a variety of swords, daggers, pikes, a pole axe, and shields. The chainmail and armoured suiting proved their worth. Einar described how the arrows shot from a longbow or crossbow had significant power over a long distance.

“Some of these arrows had enough momentum to pierce not only armour plate, but penetrate through flesh and saddle into the body of the horse of a mounted fighter,” he said.

The final event of the day was a ‘beheading’ of a ‘traitor’ who had been arrested in the crowd. Ripples of concern moved through the watchers as the sentence was carried out. However, the ‘victim’ was later seen walking and chatting among the crowd once more…

Children attending had lots of fun interacting with the old-time games and toys which Bob Cail brought along. His generosity in sharing these unique toys with the kids is very much appreciated.

All round it was a wonder-filled day, with something for all ages to engage with. Thanks to all the willing volunteers who helped in the planning, and who got busy on the day with hands-on, to make sure everyone had a great time.

Top image: ‘Martin Luther’ is seized.

Jill Clements

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