In 2025 it will be 500 years since the Anabaptist movement began and Mennonite World Conference (MWC) is hosting a celebration in Zurich, Switzerland, of this milestone.
The Anabaptist story begins in 1525. 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 a different understanding 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 Jan. 21, 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 May 29, 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 MWC’s 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.
Begun as a renewal movement, Anabaptism has endured only because each generation of Anabaptist-Mennonites has been renewed by a fresh movement of the Spirit. Beginning in 2017 in Europe and culminating in 2028 in Ethiopia, the MWC Renewal initiative has celebrated this ongoing renewal of Anabaptism around the world.
The 2024 Renewal event is planned for Brazil and a global family reunion in Zurich is scheduled for 2025. Assembly 18 will be held in 2018 to celebrate the remarkable ways that the Holy Spirit has been moving in the Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia.
Mennonite World Conference is a communion of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness. USMB is a member conference of this global ministry.