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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

MSU Department of Religious Studies Celebrates 500 Years of the Reformation

(Photo courtesy

Missouri State University is collaborating with Springfield-Greene County Library, University Heights Baptist Church, and the Springfield Art Museum to present "500 Years of Reformations." The Reformations of the sixteenth century radically changed the churches of Western Europe, and later shaped the religious landscape of the Ozarks as well. This series of local events marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses through an exploration of the history, books, visual arts, and music of the various movements — Protestant and Catholic — that emerged. 

Dr. Austra Reinis, the Reformation/History of Christianity specialist on the MSU Religious Studies faculty, decided, with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaching in 2017, to start searching for "people who might be interested in doing some educational events. And I found a wonderful team."  When people ask her "why commemorate the Reformation?" she counters by saying, "Well, what were the religious beliefs of the first European colonists in America?  They were Protestants.  what are the predominant religious beliefs here in the Ozarks? Well, it's Protestants.  So, educating oneself about the Reformation is a great way to understand the religious beliefs of the majority of folks here in the Ozarks."

Adds Dr. Reinis's colleague in the Religious Studies Department, Dr. John Schmalzbauer, "This is a different kind of Reformation exhibit, unlike any in the country, because we also tie it in to the Ozarks.  A recent survey by our colleagues in Sociology found 62 percent of Greene County residents identify as Protestant. So there's a presence here that goes back to 1831, when a Methodist circuit rider preached the first Protestant sermon that we know about in Springfield. So we talk about multiple waves of the Reformation:  not just the Lutheran, but also John Calvin, and what happened in England with Henry VIII.  We also talk about when did these groups come here? Actually, Lutherans are among the LAST to arrive in Springfield. They didn't found a congregation until 1910. We're going to tell that story too." 

Kicking off this series of events will be an exhibit featuring "The Reformations and Their Books" and "The Reformation and the Arts" now through February 28 in the New Books Room of the MSU Meyer Library.  It will open with a reception Friday Feb. 3 from 5:00 to 8:00pm during tonight's First Friday Art Walk.  It will be available through the end of this month for free viewing during regular Meyer Library hours.  There will also be a free guided tour of the exhibit Sunday Feb. 5th at 1:00pm.  Later this year in October and November the exhibit will travel to the Springfield-Greene County Library Center.

According to Dr. Schmalzbauer, the exhibit not only features the fine arts--"there are beautiful posters from our colleagues in the Art Department, and there are also items from local congregations: some chairs from First and Calvary Presbyterian; church fans; cookbooks; even a mug from the Center for Lutheran Pride--But Not TOO Proud!" (With a wink and a nod toward Garrison Keillor...)

Sunday Feb. 19 there will be a concert, "Reforming Worship: A Musical Celebration of the Reformation" at 3:00pm at University Heights Baptist Church, 1010 S. National, according to MSU Professor of Music and University Carillonist Jeremy Chesman.  "From the very beginning the Reformation was all tied in with music, and music has always been a way to express that theology. So we thought it would be really interesting to do a music concert--and what better way to do that than with a choir concert?"  Chesman has partner with a former student, Jared Swope, to organize this concert, which will include a Bach motet performed by a student group (can't get more Lutheran than that!), along with various Lutheran hymns.  Also, a community choir is being organized to sing music from the pre-Reformation Catholic liturgy by Palestrina, as well as music by early American composer William Billings.

The community choir will meet for a rehearsal Sunday Feb.12 at 3:00pm at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 815 E. Farm Road 182 in southeast Springfield.  If you would like to participate in this choir you can email Jeremy Chesman at

And on Tuesday February 21 from 6:00 to 8:00pm at the Springfield Art Museum, 1111 E. Brookside Drive, there will be a symposium called “Prints, Propaganda, and the Reformations.” Speakers will include Dr John Chuchiak, Dr Mitzi Kirkland-Ives, and Dr. Eric Nelson all from Missouri State University; and Dr. Maureen Warren, Curator of European and American Art at Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Again, all these events are free and open to the public.  For more information contact Dr. Austria Reinis, Professor in the MSU Department of Religious Studies, at 836-5514.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.