It would essentially be impossible to visit Covenant College without experiencing the importance the college places on the Reformed tradition, permeating through the school’s identity and informing the ideas and opinions of its faculty and students alike. From the stained glass windows in the chapel, to the college’s website, to the Christian Mind lectures every freshman listens to, Covenant’s dedication to this lineage is tangible.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. As the official college of the P.C.A. (Presbyterian Church in America), Covenant College will be also be celebrating the quincentennial of the Protestant Reformation throughout the academic year along with other churches across the nation.
The P.C.A.’s dedication to the Reformed tradition is evident in its mission, which can be found on its website. This statement says: “The P.C.A. has made a firm commitment on the doctrinal standards which had been significant in Presbyterianism since 1645... These doctrinal standards express the distinctives of the Calvinistic or Reformed tradition.”
To celebrate, remember, and consider the event, Covenant will be hosting various festivities (in the form of lectures) throughout the year. The college’s website has even reserved a section of its page, titled “Reformation 500,” for the explanation and scheduling of these events. On the website (next to a blue highlighted box containing Martin Luther’s famous declaration at the Diet of Worms), the school promises it will “offer exceptional opportunities to examine this historic event.”
The main avenue for these educational and practical considerations of the Reformation will be a series of chapels given by six influential reformed theologians throughout the year. This list of speakers includes Reformed Theological Seminary Professor Michael Allen (who spoke Wednesday, October 18), Third Millennium Ministries President Richard Pratt, Reverend and author Carl Ellis, Reverend David Strain, author Timothy George, and Chattanooga Christian School History Department head Gary Lindley.
Each of these speakers have published or taught heavily within the tradition Covenant holds dear.
In an article on the relationship between Covenant and Reformed theology, Pratt wrote: “We are to teach the gospel of Christ to all nations so that people may be transformed spiritually, but this spiritual renewal is for the sake of extending the lordship of Christ to every facet of culture around the world.”
Pratt’s words speak to the practical and applicable nature of Reformed theology, which is regarded as an imperative of Christian doctrine within the P.C.A. and Christian circles as a whole. Sentiments such as the ones expressed here by Pratt are common within Covenant’s community.
These lectures will take place throughout both this and next semester. Many of the events will be held at the usual 11 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday or Friday; however, some of the events will occupy a special Tuesday slot (a full schedule can be found at the website: covenant.edu/reformation500/).
Throughout these endeavors, the school and the speakers have already been explaining why this matters to the campus community.
Michael Allen said, “We live in a day and an age where the past is in many ways moved far away out of sight….” He continued later on, saying: “We hope that you and I too will be able to run the race set before us by learning of those who have gone ahead… by imitating their faith….”
Covenant also opened a new faculty chapel series this semester titled “Reformed for What?” Dr. Green eloquently stated at the introduction of this new chapel series: “We at Covenant love our Reformed heritage and stand firm in its historic witness to Christian Orthodoxy.” He continued by defining the series as a “consideration of the social, intellectual and cultural implications of the Reformed tradition.”
The series began with Dr. Cliff Foreman, an English professor at Covenant, explaining how reformed theology gave him a helpful framework from which to view art. In that talk, Foreman said the following about the Reformation: “What I got out of Reformed theology was a respect for creation and the importance of creation… that our life here should be a celebration of the glory and the beauty of God.”
Dr. Carol Yue, a psychology professor at Covenant, continued the series on October 9. In her lecture she explained how the Reformed tradition found links even to psychology. In her talk, Dr. Yue called for students to remember their bodies and minds are both made in the image of God.
Furthermore, various chapels throughout the year outside of both the Reformation 500 series and the faculty lecture series will deliver insights on the Reformation. Covenant College President Dr. Derek Halvorson set the tone for this on his chapel talk on September 4. The talk was titled “Out with the Old, in with the New.”
In his chapel talk, Halvorson said, “We ought to be willing to consider resources that come from places that are outside of our immediate comfort zone. One thing… about the Reformers is that they read widely.”
The chapel department hosted a Reformation hymn sing on October 25, when the campus community came together in the chapel to join in singing the congregational songs which signify the importance of Reformation doctrine and theology.
Through its guest speakers at Reformation events, Reformation hymn sing, and new faculty lecture series, Covenant College has attempted and will continue to attempt to show community how the school’s motto bears importance in all aspects of life. The relevance of this five hundred year-old event, in the eyes of this institution, has tremendous social, cultural, intellectual and practical application to every individual in their various contexts.
The next event in the series will be lectures given by Richard Pratt on October 30 and 31.
The faculty chapel series can be live streamed at the Covenant College Streaming channel on YouTube. The Reformation 500 lectures can also be live streamed there.
The audio for these talks will be available on Covenant’s website under the Chapel Audio section (http://www.covenant.edu/students/chapel/audio).