Faith-based Travel: Reformation Tours
by Brian Mathis, Special Projects Coordinator
As a guide that leads a variety of programs, I can easily state that the religious and historic importance of the Reformation is very difficult to overstate. It’s impact still reverberates around the world. With that in mind, it is not surprising that year after year, tens of thousands of Americans travel to the key sites that shaped the Reformation. Extending from Prague in the Czech Republic to Edinburgh in Scotland, from Lutheranism to Anglicanism and beyond, there are countless paths and themes that can be explored.
The epicenter of the Reformation for nearly four million American Lutherans is, of course, Germany, the home of Martin Luther. Touring the key sites in the life of Martin Luther has the added bonus of traveling through some Germany’s most charming landscapes, cities and towns. Most of the key sites on a life-of-Luther program are in small, charming German communities that have retained their authentic appeal, not like major cities. As a tour director and travel guide, I find that the smaller, intimate charm of these locations lend themselves well to reflection and contemplation. During ample free-time, participants can explore the narrow streets and squares with ease and confidence and the group can easily find quiet spaces to discuss and enjoy fellowship.
Many synods and churches have begun the process of finalizing their plans to visit Germany for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s defining moment – nailing his theses to doors of the church at Wittenberg. I think that it’s vitally important not to get bogged down in the details of travel. Instead, paint a picture in your mind of how you would like your trip to Germany to unfold. As an example, a typical day will start with breakfast. The group will then gather and the pastoral leader will lead the group in prayer and the guide will outline the logistics of the day. By 9 am, the group is off visiting sites where they will be given historic and faith-based interpretations of what they are seeing. Most often, we will break for an extended lunch so that individuals can explore, relax, contemplate or simply soak in the experience. Mid-afternoon, we will probably move on to the next major site on the itinerary. After a late day break, the group reconvenes for dinner and discussion led by the pastoral leader. Each day varies but follows this general flow.
As with all travel, expect the unexpected. Look for the beauty in small things as well as the large and remember that this is about people, about fellowship and about faith. The small, intimate locations and beautiful landscapes will be very conducive to an amazing faith experience so don’t get bogged down in details or try to see and do too much. Whether you are a going to learn about Wycliffe, Luther or Hus, Reformation tours can help to deepen your understanding and faith if you let them.