Year of events marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of Calvin

By Stephen Brown
November 3, 2008

A year of events to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Protestant reformer Jean Calvin is being launched in Geneva, a cradle of the Protestant Reformation.

"I hope the legacies of Jean Calvin will be a source of renewal and inspiration as churches increase their commitment to Christian unity and justice for all God’s people and for the environment," said the Rev Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of the International Patronage Committee of the Calvin Year and president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

The Protestant reformer, often known in the anglophone world as John Calvin, was born on 10 July 1509 in Noyon, northern France, but he is known worldwide for his role in the Protestant Reformation in Geneva, a once independent city-state which became part of Switzerland in 1815.

The anniversary year is being inaugurated by WARC and the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches on 2 November at Geneva's Reformation Wall. The monument honours honours Calvin, Théodore de Bèze and other luminaries of the movement that gave birth to Protestantism.

"The best celebration that we can have to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Jean Calvin is in a renewed commitment to be God's agents of transformation," states WARC general secretary the Rev. Setri Nyomi, in an introduction to a new book, "The legacy of John Calvin".

WARC groups 75 million Reformed Christians in 107 countries that includes 214 Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches, with roots in the 16th-century Reformation led by Calvin, John Knox and others.

Protestant churches around the world are planning events to mark the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth that include congresses, symposia and exhibitions. A service at St Pierre Cathedral in Geneva on 31 May 2009, Pentecost Sunday, to mark the anniversary year will be broadcast direct by Eurovision in Europe and then shown in Africa, America and Asia.

The official anniversary ceremony will take place in Geneva on 10 July 2009, the 500th anniversary of the reformer's birth, to which key religious and political figures are being invited.

An official Web site for the celebrations,, presents in four languages a calendar of jubilee events worldwide, and information on Calvin's life and teaching.

A hymn to mark the year, "People of the Lord", has been composed by Greg Scheer of the Christian Reformed Church in the USA

Scheer, church music director in Grand Rapids and a teacher at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, won a competition to find new hymn for the anniversary, organized by the Calvin patronage committee.

A further competition looked for exceptional sermons for the Calvin Year. Here the Patronage Committee awarded prizes to Ben Daniel (San José, USA), Maurice Gardiol (Plan-les-Ouates, Switzerland) and Kathrin Oxen (Bützow, Germany).

The Calvin anniversary hymn, sermons and logo can be downloaded from:

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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