The Rev. Marv Mutzenberger is beginning to think he's Martin Luther.

Mutzenberger has been posing as Luther, called the father of the Protestant Reformation, at events at churches and organizations for years. He first donned a Luther costume in 1983 as a campus pastor at Bismarck State College.

On Sunday, he'll put on his tailored costume again to speak to a crowd of more than 3,000 people expected to attend a worship service at the Bismarck Event Center commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The event is to celebrate the entire Reformation, said Mutzenberger, who will give an opening statement and invocation, and then he’ll lead a processional with about 70 to 80 clergy members.

On Oct. 31, 1517, Luther posted 95 theses, or complaints, against the Roman Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This caused a schism in the church.

Other reformers before Luther include a Czech priest named Jan Hus, who was burned alive at the stake, Mutzenberger said. But Luther was the first reformer to be aided by the printing press.

The Reformation was a turning point in history, said the Rev. Paul Schauer, of Sunne Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wilton, who has been involved with the planning of the event.

"Especially for Lutherans, the Reformation is the beginning of our church," he said.

And though a lot of the things that Luther wanted the Roman Catholic Church has since changed over the years — for example, the church now worships in the language of the people rather than Latin — the beginning of their church is a cause for celebration.

Sunday's event is projected to bring together thousands of people from Bismarck-Mandan and the surrounding community. Other denominations will be present there, as well, including a Methodist bishop and a representative from an Episcopalian church.

Some congregations are busing people to the Event Center, and the service will be live-streamed via BEK television and online.

There will be an 80-member choir from churches in town who will sing the Lutheran hymn, "A Mighty Fortress," as well as a hand-bell choir. Bishop Mark Narum of Western North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be preaching.

The service kicks off at 11 a.m., with a children's service at 10:45 a.m. For more information, visit www.wndsynod.org.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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