500 Years Ago, on the 31st October 1517…

…a Catholic German Monk named Martin Luther nailed a notice to his local church door in the town of Wittenburg. His notice included his 95 Theses – points of dispute he held with the Catholic church about corruption and exploitation which he perceived in his day. Thanks to the invention of the printing press, Luther’s supporters had a way to get his message out quickly and the shy, scholarly Monk soon became famous for his controversial views.

Luther realised that the Catholic church over the centuries and especially in his day had added a lot to the simple message of Jesus and his first followers. To be accepted by God required trust in Jesus – and nothing else, no penance, no church taxes, no special insight from the Pope. God was merciful and through Jesus forgiveness was a free gift. Luther said that only the Bible should show us what it means to follow Jesus and so he translated the Bible from Latin into German for all to read and decided to ignore Catholic teaching which imposed unnecessary rules. For example, despite being a Monk, Luther decided to get married to Katharina, a nun (whom he had helped smuggle out of a convent in a barrel!) because he saw no restrictions on this way of life in the Bible.

Luther’s ideas spawned the Reformation and with it a wave of new “protesting” churches which disagreed with the Pope and some Catholic doctrine. These ideas were very influential in Britain, including to Archbishop Thomas Cramner who advised Henry VIII, which is why the CofE is quite protestant in character and so, for example, allows its priests to marry (thankfully for me!).

So, if you’re stuck for an idea for what to wear trick or treating this Halloween – why not dress up as the humble Monk Martin Luther? Instead of knocking on people’s doors, you could post a notice instead, and you never know what might happen next!

Dave Maclure