By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

In the past, an anniversary of the Reformation might have been characterized by animosity and discord between Catholics and Lutherans. 

This year in Edmonton, however, the 500th anniversary of the schism in the Roman Catholic Church is being commemorated by both in song.   

With One Voice: Hymns and Choral Works of the Reformation Era is a concert featuring Lutheran and Catholic musicians who will perform at St. Joseph’s Basilica on Sunday, June 11, at 2 p.m. Admission is by donation, with proceeds supporting the Canadian Lutheran World Relief and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

“I think the music of the Church is the Church’s music — it’s not Lutheran, it’s not Roman Catholic, it’s the Church’s music and so it’s a beautiful thing,” said Rev. Michael L. Keith, pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Stony Plain.

“Despite the divisions, we are brothers and sisters in Christ —  ‘one holy catholic apostolic Church’ — and we believe that. We don’t see it, but we believe it. That’s a strange tension to live with on this side of heaven, and yet we believe wholeheartedly that in Christ we are one.”

The concert is also a chance to highlight the common links between Catholics and Lutherans instead of their differences.

“St. Augustine, one of the ancient fathers of both our churches, has a famous line: ‘The one who sings, prays twice,’ so music is a particularly sacred form of art,” said Dr. Jason West, president of Newman Theological College, who co-chairs the Edmonton Lutheran - Roman Catholic Dialogue Group with Keith. 

“Both of our traditions have a remarkable body of sacred music, which is still studied and performed in the concert hall but less so in the church these days.”

Martin Luther,  the 16th century Catholic priest and Augustinian monk, came to reject several teachings of the Church at the time, including the selling of indulgences by priests for the forgiveness of sin.

“He was not really looking to found a new church, but really to reform abuses that he saw in the Church of his time, some of which were legitimate concerns which led the Church to make some significant changes,” said West.

Luther was excommunicated as a heretic. Over time, the Roman Catholic Church came to a point of re-examining the critiques made in the 16th century, in search of commonality with Lutherans. 

“We speak now of brothers and sisters in Christ,” said Julien Hammond, the coordinator of ecumenical and interfaith relations for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.

“For the last 50-plus years since Vatican II (the Second Vatican Council) we have been attempting through dialogue, through praying together when it’s possible, through social action works together, through education and study, to grow closer together in Christ.”