Inshallah, a 130-plus member choir – based out of Waterloo Lutheran Seminary (WLS) at Wilfrid Laurier University – found its origins during a study tour to Palestine and Israel in 2007. Now it is giving back to that same community through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) Reformation Challenge.
During the seminary’s study trip, Debbie Lou Ludolph, who is now the choir director for Inshallah, was tasked with coordinating worship. She, along with 20-30 other travellers, sang and worshipped daily, listening to the stories of the Palestinian people.
“At one of the Palestinian churches in Beit Jala, the women gave us 20 song books of music that they had collected from their community for us to take back home to Canada,” Ludolph said. “They told us to go home and continue to sing their songs as a way to help tell their story. So with the help and support of Eastern Synod Bishop Michael Pryse and David Pfrimmer, the Dean of the seminary at that time, we were able to put together the 20-member choir, Inshallah upon our return.”
That trip transformed the ideas of worship and prayer in song for the members of the choir. This continues to brew deep within Inshallah as the choir has since transitioned to become an ecumenical group, even hosting members without a faith background. Inshallah currently gathers once a week at WLS and has travelled and performed across most of synod.
Just this past November, Inshallah celebrated 10 years of singing together. Throughout those years, Ludolph says that the Palestinian Church and, in particular, Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) have been extremely important and supportive to Inshallah and its singing.
“When we started getting closer to November and began to wonder what we would do to honour our ten-year anniversary, we thought back to Palestine and them giving us the 20 music books – a commissioning of sorts,” Ludolph said. “So we figured that when we go back on our next study trip this coming May, that we would bring them copies of our new song book, Sing the Circle Wide – a collection of songs that have really impacted us.”
But that wasn’t all that Debbie Lou Ludolph and her choir were able to provide. One objective of the ELCIC’s Reformation Challenge is to raise funds for scholarships to help send children to school in the ELCJHL. As a group, Inshallah embraced that goal and came together to donate money for a cause very close to home.
“We have done fundraisers before for the church, but this one was very different,” Ludolph said. “We ended up collecting enough money for two scholarships. The funds came from an offering that we took from those in attendance on the night of our ten-year celebration. We thought about it carefully and decided that putting the money towards scholarships would be the best thing for us to do.”
Even Ludolph – a seasoned choir director – admits that she is always learning something new from Inshallah. Whether it is something musical, emotional, or even geographical, the experience of Inshallah is ever-changing.
“It is very transformative experience,” she said. “Sometimes it is very much about how we can equip the church to sing this song, while other times it is very much about how we can partner in the public square towards the human flourishing of being a community. It is not always easy, as it challenges who you are and what you believe, but it is always very rewarding.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 114,592 baptized members in 525 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.
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