On Monday evening, while many people were celebrating Halloween, the parish of St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church in northeast Washington was observing Lutheran Reformation Day with a service using the order of worship from Martin Luther's German Mass of 1526.
This year's celebrating marks the 460th year since the day Luther, a Roman Catholic Augustine monk, provided the challenges to official church practices that would stir many to break from the papacy when he posted 95 theses he hoped would attract discussion partners.
One of the reforms Luther suggested that day was a mass, not in Latin, but in the language of the people. Nine years later, Lutheranism had become a movement and the first version of such a mass appeared in print, Luther's Deutsche Messe, or German Mass.
The Washington church's version of the mass was presented in English, and much of it was chanted in plain-song melodies written by Luther. Plainsong chanting has survived to the present day and is more widely known as Gregorian chanting.
"Our staff worked very hard to make this mass as authentic as possible," said the Rev. James M. Ellison, 27, pastor at St. Peter's. "Our director of music, Georgia Frederick, read all Luther had to say about worship. The lesson were sung, according to music that Luther provided for that purpose."
He did point out, however, that the chants were written for male voices, and women were never a part of a choir or procession in Luther's time. Half the choir and members of the procession Monday evening were women.
The mass began with a procession of cross bearer, two torch bearers, incense bearer, nine choir members and the celebrant, Mr. Ellison. Such processions are not characteristic of Lutheranism today. During his homily, the Rev. A Hagedorn, an official of Luthcran Churchs of America, remarked that he found the mass "full of pageantry."
Mr. Ellison worn a white vestment with a brocaded red stole, which he borrowed from the Paulist order of the Catholic Church and "a chausable that would be very close to what have been worn in 1526."
He wore the chausable over an alb, a hooded robe made of white coarse cloth tied at the waist with a rope, as did Mr. Hagedorn. Albs were worn by all the elergy in the 16th century.
"Luther changed the outward ceremony very little," Mr. Ellison wrote in the program, "Vestments, altar and candles were retained. You will notice several items are missing, including the Gloria in Excelsis Deo (hymm of praise), the prayer of the church, the offertory (hymm), and the great Thanksgiving (euchristic prayer)."
The hymns were written and set to beer-drinking songs by Luther, bringing mass closer to the people, Mr. Ellison said. "This service was a break-through involving the laity," he said. "Today, our congregation is much more involved in the service."
The only participation by the congregation of 40 Monday was in the singing of hymns, recitation of the Lord's prayer and receiving communion."
"Luther liked to see men and women receive the sacrament separately," Mr. Ellison said. But the service deviated from Luther's version, Mr. Ellison said, because he personally feels that men and women should not be separated during the worship service.
The mass ended with the hymn. "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," probably Luther's most widely knowN.
More than 13 years ago (before Vatican II Catholic reforms), Reformation Day "used to be a catharsis day," Mr. Hagedorn said, during his sermon. "We use to hop all over the Roman Catholic Church.
"We still take great pride in our heritage," said Mr. Ellison, who had just finished greeting a long line of parishioners after the mass. "Now, we don't think we're better than other parts of the church."