Union to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

Publication Date

Union has planned a number of events to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a 16th-century revolt that separated the Christians of western Europe into Catholics and Protestants.

An exhibit, lectures, musical performances and a symposium will honor the movement started by Martin Luther, a German monk and priest.

“Reformation, Restoration and Romeyn: Faith and the Founding of Union College” will be on display in the Lally Reading Room in Schaffer Library through Dec. 15.

An opening reception featuring an introduction by President Stephen C. Ainlay is Thursday, Oct. 5, from 12:50 to 1:50 p.m.

There will also be a performance of Reformation music on the pedal harpsichord by Stefan Kiessling, a visiting organist from Johann Sebastian Bach’s church in Leipzig, Germany.

Drawing upon selected rare books and objects from Special Collections, the exhibit describes the role the Reformation played in the founding of the College.

Curated by India Spartz, head of Special Collections and Archives, “Reformation, Restoration and Romeyn” features four recently restored Bibles from Union College’s collections -- a Luther Bible (1738), a New Testament (1653), an early Latin Vulgate or Koberger Bible (1428) and most notably, the family Bible of Dirck Romeyn, a Dutch Reformed minister and principal founder of the College. Written in the Dutch vernacular, the Bible is an example of the Reformation’s goal of making the gospels accessible to ordinary citizens.

Spartz notes that Romeyn was “known as the ‘rebel parson’ for his support of independence from Great Britian during the American Revolution. Romeyn arrived in Schenectady in 1784 to serve as minister of the Dutch Reformed Church.”

An ardent proponent of education, Romeyn also sought to create a Dutch Reformed college in Schenectady, but when he learned that the Board of Regents would not grant a charter to a college that was under exclusive control of the Church, Romeyn and his associates agreed that the College would be a non-denominational institution. Union was founded in 1795.

The College’s Protestant roots are reflected in its name, which represents a “union” of faiths. Primarily, at the time of the College’s founding, these were Presbyterian, Episcopal and Dutch Reformed.

Kiessling returns to Union for the fourth time for a series of recitals and lectures. He will spend nearly two weeks in the Capital Region, with seven appearances, all but one on campus or within walking distance.

The series has been in the works for almost two years. Receptions follow the organ recitals. For additional information, contact Dianne McMullen, professor of music (mcmulled@union.edu).

The events are free and open to the public:

Sunday, Oct.1 (3 p.m.)
Organ works by Reger, Mendelssohn, and Elgar
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany

Tuesday, Oct. 3 (1-1:45 p.m.)
Lecture: Johann Sebastian Bach and Leipzig
Karp Hall 105

Thursday, Oct. 5 (1-1:50 p.m.)
Pedal harpsichord work by Gronau based on “Ein feste Burg”
Schaffer Library (in connection with the opening of the Library Exhibit)

Friday, Oct. 6 (10:30 - 11:35 a.m.)
Lecture: Some Composers Inspired by Luther
Memorial Chapel

Friday, October 6 (7 p.m.)
Organ works by Reger, Mendelssohn and Elgar
Zion Lutheran Church, Schenectady

Saturday, Oct. 7 (10 a.m.- noon)
Organ masterclass
Zion Lutheran Church, Schenectady

Monday, Oct. 9 (7 p.m)
All Bach Program on the Organ
Memorial Chapel

On Thursday, Nov. 2 at 5 p.m., Brad Gregory of the University of Notre Dame will deliver the annual Wold Lecture on Religion and Conflict in the Nott Memorial. His lecture is titled “Whether We Like it or Not: Why the Reformation Matters after 500 Years.” It is free and open to the public.

In addition, “Religion, Social Conflict and Social Cohesion,” a symposium organized by Lewis Davis, professor of economics, is scheduled for Nov. 3 and 4 in Karp Hall 105. The keynote speaker, Andrew Rotman of Smith College, will discuss “Social Cohesion and the Struggles of Modernity: Lessons from an Indian Bazaar,” Nov. 4 at 11:15 a.m.