Hispanic Caucus Commemorates 500 Years of Reformation in the Places Where it Began

by Carmen Rosario

The “Concilio Presbiteriano Hispano/Latino, Sinodo del Noreste” (The Hispanic Caucus) sponsored a study trip to Germany, Switzerland, and France tracing the path of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. A group of 19 people, members of 9 churches within the Synod of the Northeast and representing 5 presbyteries, engaged in this adventure from October 27 to November 9, 2017. In preparation for the tour, those traveling participated in 3 classes that I taught about the history of the Reformation during the month of June 2017. On October 22, 2017 we had a Worship Service at Fort George Presbyterian Church of all the Hispanic churches in the New York and New Jersey area, at which the traveling group was commissioned by the Rev. Luis Espinosa. The purpose of the trip was not a mere tourist adventure, but a learning experience and a way to be in touch with our roots as Reformed people.

Our first stop was in Berlin, where we visited the city and learned about the Second World War and the Cold War.

The next stop was the anticipated visit to Wittenberg: it was here that Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church. We visited the Luther Halle Museum, where Luther lived first as a monk and later with his wife and children. We also visited the Melanchthon House and learned about the life and work of this important protagonist of the Reformation period. We were blessed by being able to join in the festivities on October 31 (Reformation Day) and joined in a worship service (in German) at St. Marien Church. (Some of us were even able to see Chancellor Angela Merkel.)

Our tour continued to the beautiful city of Erfurt. The highlight was the visit to the monastery where Luther became a monk in 1505. We also had the opportunity to have supper in “Luther Keller,” and enjoyed a traditional meal of Luther’s times. We visited Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, where Luther lived for a period under the protection of Friedrich the Wise. It was here that Luther finished the translation of the New Testament.

Our trip continued to Strasbourg in France where John Calvin wrote the second edition of the Institutes. We visited the cathedral of Strasbourg and the Church of Saint Thomas.

On our way to Switzerland we made a stop in the city of Constance (Germany). Here we visited the place where John Huss was burnt at the stake. We had a moment of prayer in this place and we visited the cathedral where some of the trials took place.

Another important stop was the city of Zurich in Switzerland where we learned about Zwingli and the Anabaptists. We visited the Heferei, where Zwingli lived.

We had the blessing of a beautiful day in Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps. It was a beautiful experience.

Our last stop was the city of Geneva, where Calvin and Farrell ministered. Here we visited The Museum of the Reformation. This was an important visit and we were given very good information. We visited the impressive Monument of the Reformation.

In Geneva, we visited the offices of the World Council of Churches where we had arranged for a guided visit and lecture. We had a guided tour of the Ecumenical Centre led by MS Anne-Emmanuelle Tankam-Tene, WCC archivist. We had a lecture on "the Economic and Social thought of John Calvin,” led by known writer and former member of the WCC working group on greed, Prof. Edward Dommen. The Rev. Roswitha Golder provided translation from English to Spanish for some members of our group who do not speak English.

This trip was a real blessing for those who participated. It was a great time of fellowship. For 12 days, this group of 19 participants, plus the tour guide and driver, gathered in a devotional time to start each day.

Those who participated in this trip feel motivated and enthusiastic about knowing more about our history as reformed Christians. They are also motivated to repeat this kind of experience soon. We’ll begin planning another trip with an emphasis on the Reformation in England, Scotland, and Spain.

The Rev. Carmen M. Rosario is the Moderator of the Synod of the Northeast's Hispanic Caucus.