‘Blessings from above’ mark Reformation Day in Germany
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD – the German federation of Protestant churches) marked Reformation Day on 31 October with a soaring, whimsical approach to spreading Martin Luther’s message that the grace of God is available to all.
Across the country, schools, student organizations and church groups organized “flashmobs” that launched “blessings from above” — paper airplanes with inspirational messages. Most flew their gliders from windows or other high vantage points simultaneously at 15:17 (3:17 pm) in recognition of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation on 31 October, 1517.
At Humboldt University in Berlin, a flock of white paper airplanes glided from a high window and landed at the feet of students in the courtyard below. Each carried a message inside — “Wishing you good travel through the new semester” — or a verse from the Bible: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
“Many students in Berlin are not very conscious of their religious heritage and I think it’s a good idea to remind them,” said Julian Titze of the Evangelical Student Community (ESC) in Berlin, who took part in the flashmob.
Reformation Day is a holiday in some German states, though not in Berlin. “It is a very important historical date, but its messages are also very important today,” said Pastor Christoph Roemhild of the EKD in an interview before the event. “Reformation Day reminds us that we are not self-made men. A lot of people don’t feel blessed. They strive for recognition to make themselves bigger. But we want to tell them God already recognizes them.”
The date is also seen as an opportunity to maintain a commitment to keeping the Reformed churches in touch with the modern world. “The work of renewal did not finish in the 16th century,” the Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, said in a statement. “We do not simply belong to a tradition. As Reformed, we believe the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is a movement that continues to be renewed — always reforming.”
For the EKD, activities like the Reformation Day flashmobs are a way to keep the message fresh and communicate with a younger audience. “We have to develop new ways to reach people … to surprise people that the church is different from what they would expect,” said Holger Dannenmann, a pastor for ESC, in an interview in Humboldt’s 18th century courtyard.
Dorothee Lütz, studying for a master’s degree in philosophy, hurried to class at the end of her lunch break with a crumpled paper airplane in hand. “I saw it on the ground,” she explained. “It says, ‘Jesus loves you,’ and I thought that’s nice. It’s nice to be reminded of that.”