This week, a group of young people from the First Baptist Church of Marion will embark on a tour of Germany, Switzerland and England as part of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

And during the regular Sunday service, the congregation of First Baptist gave these young missionaries their commission and prayed for their safe travels.

Several months ago, the church announced the youth would embark on a mission trip to Europe during the summer of 2017. The focus of this mission trip would be music and it would take place during the 500th anniversary celebration of the Protestant Reformation. They would travel to Germany, Switzerland and England and see the places where this historic movement began.

The trip starts on Thursday and will last until Tuesday, July 4.

“The mission is faith formation,” said the Rev. Scott Hagaman, pastor of First Baptist. “The group will celebrate the beginnings of the Reformation 500 years ago through the lives of Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and others. The mission is engagement. The group will worship and fellowship with contemporary Lutherans, Baptists and Anglicans as we travel the cities of modern Europe. The mission is learning. The group will experience the culture and history of other lands and peoples. The mission is communion. The group will grow closer to God and one another as we share this tremendous journey together.”

During this trip, the group will share God’s love through sacred music in worship at the American Church in Berlin, Germany. They will also sing in the town square and at a public vespers service in Wittenberg, Germany. It was in Wittenberg 500 years ago this year that Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses that challenged the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences and sparked the Protestant Reformation. This religious movement profoundly changed Europe and consequently the rest of the world. The Reformation eventually led to the creation of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and other Protestant denominations.

The group will also sing at the Baptist Church in Erfurt, Germany and at The King’s Cross Baptist Church in London, England. They will learn about the history of the Reformation, visit historic sites and connect with the contemporary church.

During Sunday’s service, the 36 members (24 youth and 12 adults) of the team were commissioned by the congregation.

The members of First Baptist pledged to pray for the team and their work. Both the youth and adults pledged to “do their best as they seek to be Christ’s hands and feet along each step of the journey,” reads a statement from the church’s Facebook page.

“May God bless and protect them; may God allow this trip to strengthen their faith and dedication to God; may God use them to make a difference for Christ in the lives of individuals they come in contact with,” reads the statement.

The 22 middle and high school students in the team are: Grace Anderson, Molly Anderson, Olivia Bell, Christopher Boyette, Kyle Boyette, Darcy Dean, Zoey Dean, Ben Hagaman, Tori Hensley, Savannah Jordan, Meredith Kearson, Zachary Kearson, Charlotte Moore, Markham Orange, Tyler Price, Ella Pyatt, Shelby Pyatt, Bethany Schmidt, Hunter Shook, Courtney Taylor, Morgan Whittemore and Avery Wilkerson. They are seventh grade through high school graduation; nine are recent high school graduatess and will be college freshmen in the fall.

The two college students are Emily Clark and Taylor Smith.

The 12 adults who will accompany them are Heather Anderson, Deb Ayers, Glynda Dean, Rev. Scott Hagaman, Jennifer Kearson, Lee Kearson, Natalie Morgan, Melanie Orange, Emily Roberts, Matt Roberts, Dan Smith and Ruth Wakefield.

Hagaman said various partners such as Baptist churches and denominational leaders in each country have helped make arrangements for this trip. Terra Lu Travel will be their guide in Germany and Switzerland.

“They specialize in Reformation/Luther historical tours and are heavily involved in the Reformation 500th Anniversary Jubilee in Germany,” said Hagaman.

Ruth Wakefield will lead the music preparations and direction. Matt Roberts will provide the faith formation leadership with the group, especially the youth.

“I am the primarily leader for scheduling, logistics, general travel planning, and contact with local officials,” said Hagaman.

He added the Alpha and Omega Youth Choir from First Baptist Church of Marion has been ministering through song for more than 40 years now through generations of young people.

“Every other year, the choir travels to various locales throughout the United States, singing about God’s love in churches, hospitals, nursing homes and other venues,” said the pastor. “Summer 2017, the group is excited to tour Europe learning the history of the Protestant Reformation while also engaging the contemporary churches along the way.”

He added the First Baptist Church's last choir tour of Europe was back in the mid-1980s.