LaGrave CRC celebrates Reformation


Members of both Protestant and Catholic traditions attended the service, hosted by LaGrave. Photo courtesy OHS Database.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Dr. Pearl Shangkuan’s last name as ‘Shengquan,’ and stated that the Grand Rapids Symphony performed instead of the Calvin College Alumni Choir. Chimes apologizes for these mistakes.

In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, LaGrave Christian Reformed Church (CRC) paid homage to the Christian church’s diverse history with an ecumenical service. Ecumenical worship can take place any time more than one worship tradition is combined; however, this type of service commonly refers to the combination of both Catholic and Protestant traditions.

While ecumenical services are commonly celebrated at times such as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity or World Communion Sunday, the anniversary is a unique opportunity for such a service. Unifying services have been an unofficial aim for both the Protestant and Catholic church for centuries; but, with the Protestant International Missionary Conference of 1910 and Vatican II in 1965, they became official goals of each tradition. LaGrave presented this variety in their service composed of Scripture, prayer and song, with a heavy focus on the Psalms.

Reflecting LaGrave’s longtime commitment to quality music, vocals were provided by the Calvin College Alumni College, directed by Pearl Shangkuan, and LaGrave’s house horn section and organist.

The service featured songs and elements of worship traditional to both Catholics and Protestants. Protestant practices were represented by many of the hymns selected, including Martin Luther’s setting of Psalm 46, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” and “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus.” The Catholic tradition was shown through the singing of Mary’s Magnificat, a song of praise sung by Mary and taken from the gospel of Luke. According to the program notes, this “‘Song of Mary’ was a song of protest against the cruelty of Roman occupation, as well as faith and trust in God’s plan for victory over the forces of evil.” Mary’s Magnificat was followed by  the Nicene Creed later in the service, a long-time unifying document between the two groups.

To preserve authenticity, the service not only featured traditionally Catholic and Protestant practices, but members of each tradition in the Grand Rapids area as well. Some of the churches and organizations represented included the Basilica of Saint Adalbert, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and the CRC in North America.

LaGrave’s service also nodded to the many cultures that make up the global Christian church. Multiple different languages were represented, including Spanish, German, Korean and Latin. The Korean piece, a setting of Psalm 42, was performed by Calvin graduate and Calvin Seminary student Chan Gyu Jang. The service as a whole was sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, indicating the college’s support of such unifying worship.

Allowing the service to be both a worshipful and educational experience, LaGrave included notes on the significance and historical background of each piece in the program. The service featured selections from the Genevan Psalter, a collection of the 150 Psalms set to music by John Calvin. The opening congregant song, a setting of Psalm 42, came from this song book. “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” was originally taken from a ninth century manuscript.

The service finished with what the program notes called “possibly the best known psalm text and tune sung around the world today,” the sixteenth century hymn, “All People That on Earth Do Dwell.” This piece is not only familiar in Reformed circles, as this psalm and tune were used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the first televised British crowning ceremony.

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is an event being celebrated in churches across Grand Rapids and the world. Students can continue to recognize this event and its significance at the Catholic Information Center’s “50 Years of Catholic Lutheran Dialogue” on Nov.14. If students are looking for more events with an ecumenical flair, Social Justice Choir is presenting an interfaith concert at Trinity United Methodist Church on Nov.19.