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500 years of Reformation brings together some 800 people in Willmar

Photo by Rand Middleton The Rev. Steve Verhelst, center, leads a service at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar Sunday to mark 500 years of Reformation. A number of pastors from area churches also participated in leading the service, which drew a crowd of more than 800 people from the area.

A bold act 500 years ago by a German monk named Martin Luther that split the Roman Catholic Church and gave birth to Protestant religions was commemorated Sunday afternoon in an ecumenical service at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar The service, designed to focus on unity, drew a crowd of more than 800 from the area coming together to celebrate their likenesses rather than their differences.

Father Steve Verhelst of the Church of St. Mary and Jesus Our Living Water Area Faith Community, said even though the Reformation was an event between Catholics and Lutherans, the invitation to "lift our voices together" was open to all Christian faith traditions.

While the Rev Verhelst spearheaded the event, it was organized along with Lutheran pastors from a number of churches in Willmar, including, Calvary, Bethel and Vinje. 

Verhelst said the Protestant Reformation — spurred by Martin Luther nailing on the door of a church on Oct. 31, 1517, his 95 Theses that questioned practices of the Catholic Church — was a significant and historical event that had an impact on the whole world and continues to impact churches and individuals today. 

"We need to celebrate that," said Verhelst.