November 7, 2017

Polish Youth Bring the Reformation to Life in Five Cities

Victor Hulbert, Trans-European Division News

An old-fashioned door. 95 theses. Nails hammered into wood. This is not a picture from 500 years ago but is rather how young Seventh-day Adventist members in Poland are publicly sharing the Reformation message today. October 31, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

If you had visited Krakow’s historic main square last week, you might have been surprised by a group of young Adventists wheeling an old-fashioned door into the center of the square. Once set up, ‘Luther,' complete with black wig, beret and monk’s robe, begins preaching while nailing his 95 theses to the door. Each thesis page was handcrafted.

“This is how we told the story to be noticed and heard,” said Michal Rakowski, a 26-year old PR manager and lay activist.

“How can we show Luther’s legacy to the general public and in the most accessible way we can find?” Rakowski asked. They sought something that would be viewed as relevant in a country where 92 percent of the population identify themselves as Catholic, and where Adventists number only 5,700 in a population of over 38 million.

After much discussion, they decided on a re-enactment in five of the biggest cities in Poland. In Krakow, it was particularly significant as their witness coincided with the International Book Fair.

The highly respected book fair attracted 70,000 visitors this year. The attention-grabbing Luther re-enactment attracted 10,000 visitors to the Adventist booth, making it a very popular destination.

Specifically, for “Reformation 500,” The Adventist Church in Poland prepared additional resources, including 20,000 copies of a Signs of the Times magazine issue dedicated to the Reformation, and information on the “Lineage” and “Reformation Journey” video series.

“Thousands of people came to visit us, usually at first paying attention to our original design and the actor playing Luther, and then getting to know Adventism, very often for the first time!” said Rakowski.

Young adults in Krakow organized a scholar’s conference. Professor Zbigniew Pasek, one of the most highly-regarded Polish specialists in religious studies and Protestantism, was the keynote speaker.

“Luther was a real human, not without flaws,” Pasek said. “We don’t need to treat him as a saint.” Also giving presentations were a Lutheran priest, a philosopher, and an Adventist pastor. Five hundred years later, the audience recognized that the Reformation is still relevant, particularly the daily reformation of our hearts.

“The Reformation is vital when it comes to the way we talk about the most important message under the sun,” said Rakowski. That is why the entire team worked so hard on the variety of projects that brought the Reformation to life and made it relevant for today.

The hard work paid off. “It was worth it when it comes to new friendships we made at the book fair, local media covering the Luther conference, and the fact there were no free chairs left at the event,” said Rakowski. “People stayed to listen to the whole discussion. It is something we’ve never experienced before.”