PLU 500th anniversary of the Reformation events

Free at Last?
Lutheran Perspectives on Racial Justice

In a political season marked by the demonization of ethnic, racial and religious minorities, the sixth annual Lutheran Studies Conference on Thursday, Sept. 29, will bring together scholars, musicians, students and college leaders who will share their expertise and their reflections on racial justice. It is an issue of particular importance for those who live in the Pacific Northwest, a region of the country marked by the often forgotten wounds of racial discrimination beginning in the early 1800s and persisting to this day.

Conference speakers and artists include:

  • Dr. Doug Oakman and Dr. David Deacon-Joyner: Ideas Matter: Justice as Equality, Freedom, and Community in a Post-Enlightenment World
  • PLU students Kim Bond, Meghan Gould and Theo Hofrenning: PLU Students Engage the Quest for Racial Justice
  • Dr. Emily Davidson: Marginalized Memories, Critical Conversations: The Literature Classroom as a Space for Imagining Racial Justice
  • Dr. Kevin O’Brien: It Doesn’t Matter If I Mean Well: What 21st Century White People Might Learn from Malcolm X and Martin Luther King
  • Dr. Samuel Torvend: The Art of Social Protest: Contemporary Visual Images That Provoke, Inspire, and Challenge
  • Ms. Angie Hambrick, Dr. Joanna Royce Davis and Ms. Laree Winer: Whose Story? Critical Race Theory and the (De)Construction of the PLU Narrative

Dr. John Nunes, the newly elected president of Concordia College in New York City and the first African-American to serve as president of a Lutheran college in the western hemisphere, will give the keynote address, When Grace Meets Race: One Lutheran’s View of Racial Justice.

The conference is free and open to the public. Go to the conference website for the complete schedule, presentation descriptions and speaker biographies.

 Marty’s Reformation Station

Be alert to the huge heads of Martin Luther appearing on campus. Then look for his entire body (in cardboard) with an invitation to the adventurous. And finally, get ready to download the app that will lead to the numerous, very cool Luther statues created by Spencer Ebbinga, associate professor of art and design. Successful discovery of all the sites throughout the month of October will win you cool prizes at the Concierge Desk.

Bach Concert

Jonathan Ryan will present an organ recital in Lagerquist Hall on Sunday, Oct. 9, at 3 p.m. The program will include selections from J.S. Bach’s Clavierübung III, sometimes referred to as The German Organ Mass, one of the many masterpieces by the most famous of Lutheran composers. From Bach’s title page: “The third Part of the Keyboard Practice, consists of various preludes on Martin Luther’s catechism and other hymns for the organ.” Ryan will also present a lecture/demonstration on the topic of “Clavierübung III” for the Tacoma Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. This will take place on Monday, Oct. 10. For place and time, go to

Vive la Réforme!

Inspired by the fervor of the French Revolution (without the guillotine), Lutheran Studies at PLU sponsors another blowout cocktail party in celebration of the Reformation (anticipating Oct. 31 a bit early). University House members and their friends are invited to gather at University House on Friday, Oct. 14, beginning at 5 p.m. (pray, you thirsty souls, for a short faculty meeting). Celebrity bartenders promise a new cocktail in honor of 500 years of Lutheran education and fabulous French appetizers. Then get ready for the prizes: from Luther bobble heads to attractive wine glasses to who knows what?

Knutson Lecture

The David and Marilyn Knutson Lecture (both PLU alumni, David a former member of the Religion Department) will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 26, in the evening, at Lagerquist Hall. Dr. Jennifer Harvey, professor of religion at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, will speak. Her title is From Ferguson to Charleston: Religious Faith, Righteous Feminists, and Holy Fire.

The Faculty Memo That Sparked a Revolution

October 31, 1517, marks the day on which Martin Luther sent a memo to his faculty colleagues at the University of Wittenberg. The “memo” included 95 theses for discussion and debate concerning the sale of spiritual favors in Germany, a sale approved by a pope who had emptied the Vatican Treasury for the sake of his personal and expensive pursuits. The Theses were published on the new and revolutionary communications breakthrough – the printing press – and went viral throughout Europe. The theses not only called into question the selling of what Luther argued should be free (God’s forgiveness), but also called into question the entire system that supported this “spiritual economy,” including its leader in Rome. Campus Ministry is planning a series of events on Monday, Oct. 31 to mark the 499th anniversary of the Reformation. Look for the schedule at the Campus Ministry webpages.

Lutheran Education on the Frontier

Look for the exhibit created by Scandinavian Cultural Center director, Elisabeth Ward, that brings to light the challenges of educating people on the American frontier, an exhibit that highlights the “frontier center” we call PLU. The exhibit will appear in winter 2017 in the Scandinavian Cultural Center.

Planting Trees of Life

Throughout the world, Lutheran colleges and churches are planting Luther Gardens with seeds or saplings from Wittenberg oaks or with native saplings. PLU is opting for the latter and in February 2017, close to the death date of Luther (Feb. 18), will begin a Luther Garden with a tree planting ceremony. The image of the tree of life appears in African, Jewish, Christian and Muslim artwork as well as in the spiritual ethos of western Washington native tribes who honor the yellow and red cedar. Did you know that PLU Professor of Music Greg Youtz composed an opera in 1991 entitled Songs from the Cedar House, a work that focuses on the 19th century land “deals,” from a Native American perspective and highlights the significance of the cedar tree in Coast Salish Indian life?

Re-Formation Jazz Concert

The University Jazz Ensemble and University Chorale will perform Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts on Wednesday, March 15, in the evening. Following the concert, Dr. Doug Oakman, professor of religion (and a fine cellist) will offer reflections on Ellington’s remarkable work. PLU Jazz Professor, David Deacon-Joyner, writes: “From 1965 until his death in 1974, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington reformed both his worldview and his music. With his advancing age, failing health, and the death in 1967 of his beloved co-composer Billy Strayhorn, Ellington came to realize the impermanence of earthly things and rekindled the deep faith instilled in him by his mother. He called the first of his three Sacred Concerts “the most important thing I’ve ever done.” Repurposing earlier pieces from his career and adding new music of praise and testimony, Ellington proclaims the magnificence of God, the call for equality and love for our neighbor, and bridges the gap between the language of entertainment and religious expression. Ellington has often been compared to visual artists, with his orchestra being his sonic palette. In this concert, the University Chorale and Jazz Ensemble couple selections from the Sacred Concerts with the illuminations of the Saint John’s Bible.”

Von Bora Beer

Martin Luther, former monk, was married in June 1525 to former nun, Katharina von Bora. He thus became the first married priest and she the first clergy spouse in more than 500 years. Katharina von Bora became an expert beer maker and sold her product in order to keep the Luther family and the Lutheran reform movement afloat (her husband gave away a good portion of his income to the homeless poor of Wittenberg). Patty Krise is leading the effort to bring a von Bora-inspired beer to PLU. Keep your eyes and taste buds tuned for the announcement.

Hitler’s Pink Victims

Samuel Torvend, Professor of Religion, will give his farewell lecture as University Chair in Lutheran Studies (an endowed chair with term limits) on Wednesday, April 19, in the evening. He will speak on Hitler’s Pink Victims: Robert Oelbermann and The Persecution of Homosexuals in Nazi Germany.