A group of more than 20 Korean Christian Reformed Church pastors and their spouses had a chance in early October to visit a series of sites in Europe connected to the Reformation, whose 500th anniversary will be celebrated at the end of this month in services and events in North America, Europe and elsewhere.
In Germany, participants in the group, sponsored by Resonate Global Mission, learned of how Martin Luther and other Reformers such as John Calvin published documents and issued statements in 1517 and the years following that called for reformation in the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the formation of many Protestant denominations, including the Lutheran Church and the CRC.
The tour underscored for the Korean pastors, some of whom were born thousands of miles away in a significantly different culture, how the strands of their faith intricately tie them together with others from around the world who today embrace the same core Reformed beliefs.
“The Reformation 500th Anniversary tour helped me gain many more insights in how the Reformation changed the world of Christianity and revolutionized our lives today,” said Rev. John Kim, pastor of Lord’s Church in Tracy, Calif.
“Our tour guides in the Netherlands, Germany, and the Czech Republic did a fantastic job bringing us into the cities, churches, and cultures of the Reformation in Europe,” said Kim.
One of the tour guides was James DeJong, former president of Calvin Theological Seminary. He led the group on walking tours of historic sites in Amsterdam, Delft, and the Hague and gave lectures on how the Reformation unfolded in the Netherlands.
“I wanted to give them the high points of the Dutch Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries,” he said. “I talked about what is the Reformation and whether we are even done with facing some of those same issues and questions today.”
Having worked often in various settings with Korean pastors over the years, said DeJong, he has long been aware of their “high regard for the Reformed faith and the Christian Reformed Church.”
As a result, the group of pastors and their wives were interested in hearing him tell the story about the Belgic Confession, which was authored by Guido de Brès, who was born in what is now Belgium, studied under Calvin in Geneva, spent time in refugee churches in London and Germany, and wrote the confession while serving as a Calvinist preacher in the Low Countries (mostly the Netherlands and Belgium) before he was killed for his faith at the age of 45.
DeJong also lectured on the origin of the Heidelberg Catechism, written mainly by Zacharius Ursinus, who also studied under Calvin and worked among Dutch refugees in Geneva. The catechism, said DeJong, “became the second major statement of the Reformed faith in the Netherlands, and the most important one to this day.”
He also spoke about the successful Dutch revolt of 1567-1578 in which the northern, mostly Protestant provinces fought and won independence from the Roman Catholic ruler of Spain.
“The group seemed well-pleased by what I offered to them, and they asked good questions. But it was clear,” said DeJong, “that the high point for them was being with each other.”
Participants on the trip came from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Japan, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Austin, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, said Charles Kim, diversity leader for Resonate Global Mission, who led the trip along with Moses Chung, Resonate’s director of capacity building and innovation.
On the trip, everyone toured together in the Netherlands. The group then traveled to Berlin/Wittenberg, visiting Luther sites such as the Castle Church, where Luther nailed his 95 theses spelling out his concerns about Roman Catholicism to the front doors on October 31, 1517.
They also visited Lutherhaus, where Luther lived for most of his adult life and which is now a writer’s museum; Melanchthonhaus, the Renaissance-style home in Wittenberg where Reformer Philipp Melanchthon lived and worked until his death; and the Town Church, where Luther served as a minister.
Afterward, said Kim, the group split into two different tours: one group went on to Geneva/Paris, visiting Calvin-related sites, while the second group remained in Berlin for a few extra days, visiting Mary Buteyn and David Kromminga, who serve as Resonate missionaries there.
“We worshiped at the church Mary and David are serving and heard about their ministry with refugees in Germany,” said Kim.
Another full day was spent visiting the Holocaust Memorial and the Topography of Terror museum in Germany to learn more about World War II.
“From there, the group went on to the Czech Republic, particularly visiting Prague and Tabor and learning about Jan Hus and the Bohemian Reformation that took place 100 years before the 16th-century Reformation,” said Kim.
The goal for this trip, said Kim, was to “revisit history, both reflecting about the time, people, and role of the church during that era and how it affects us today.”
Secondly, he added, the trip was organized for making connections and networking as the group of leaders traveled together.
“While traveling, lives are shared, especially when everyone is in the same bus traveling from one city to the next.”
Also, as they traveled from place to place, the participants had opportunities to pray for the cities, nations, and regions they visited.
“On the hills of Prague overlooking the city, we prayed over the city as we were guided by a Korean missionary working with Czech churches. Less than .05 percent of the people are Christians in that country.”
And in Germany, said Kim, “it was wonderful to pray for Mary and David on the streets of Berlin, interceding for their vision and ministry with refugees flocking in from the Arab world.”
A special service commemorating the Reformation will take place at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29 at LaGrave Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids. Titled “Sing to the Lord a New Song,” this service will include participation by ministers and leaders from both Protestant and Catholic traditions.
For a list of other services and events, visit: Reformation calendar.