Commemoration of 500 years includes worship, speeches, discussions and art
In the shadow of the Grossmünster cathedral, the main Catholic church in Zurich, a group of young people gathered in a house to commit an act of subversion: adult baptism.
Their study of the Bible had led them to different understandings than the state church. As they understood it, baptism was a symbol of their conscious decision to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ and follow his example in life − a commitment only an adult could make. That decision challenged the millennial-old practice in the Catholic Church of baptizing infants.
This radical act on 21 January 1525 marked the symbolic beginning of what would become known as the Anabaptist (“re-baptizer”) movement. Today, the movement has grown to include some 2.13 million believers in more than 80 countries around the world.
On 29 May 2025, Mennonite World Conference invites guests from around the world to gather in Zurich to commemorate this beginning. “The courage to love” (the theme for the event) will mark this history and celebrate what the movement has become today. Local government officials and church leaders of related traditions will also be invited.
“On this day, Anabaptists will become visible in the streets of Zurich,” says Liesa Unger, MWC Chief International Events Officer.
A walking tour within the city will feature stations that commemorate historical events and reflect on the contemporary church. Workshops, musical concerts, theatrical performances, panel discussions and more will be scattered throughout the downtown.
The day will culminate in an ecumenical worship service that recognizes the many steps toward reconciliation that have occurred in recent decades and an act of public witness. The final worship service will be livestreamed.
Rashard Allen (USA) of the international ensemble in Indonesia is coordinating ensembles to participate in the event; one from each of the five regions. Deborah Prabu (Indonesia), worship leader from Assembly 17, is coordinating an international ensemble to lead congregational singing during the worship service.
“We want to have a strong historical component that makes it clear why we are gathering in Zurich. But an even stronger emphasis will focus on the future,” says historian and Renewal 2025 coordinator John D. Roth. “The Anabaptist movement continues to be dynamic, diverse, and creative in sharing the gospel in many different cultural settings.”
General Council delegates will be encouraged to craft local events to teach about the historical roots of Anabaptism and collect stories on the expressions of Anabaptist faith in their own contexts.
Check the MWC website for new information being released about the quincentennial commemoration.