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Services at Nile Our Savior Lutheran Church
On most days, the chapel at Nile Our Savior Lutheran Church is quiet and empty. But on Sunday afternoons, the room is loud and full of life. Rows of red-cushioned chairs face the front of the chapel, providing seating for no more than 20 worshipers. The wall behind the lectern from which Wal delivers his sermons is decorated with an elaborate wooden design, in the center hangs a large wooden cross. To the side of the lectern is a wooden table, upon which stand three tall, white candles, sometimes lit.
Though the Nuer language services officially begin at 1 p.m., worshipers arrive leisurely and Wal is sure to wait until everyone he is expecting has arrived. As worshipers enter the chapel, children flock to the back row of chairs, climbing over them as though they are a jungle gym. Adults pick up Bibles and hymnals from the back of the chapel and proceed to their seats, saying hello to fellow worshipers as they enter. While about half of the Sudanese in attendance at each service are children, the majority of adults are men. Though most worshipers, men and women, wear casual or moderately fancy Western clothes, one older woman wears traditional Nuer clothing — a dress of blue cloth draped around her body and a white head wrap on her head.
"Music is very important to us." —Wal Reat
On my first visit to Nile Our Savior, I was guided through the Nuer language service by the man sitting next to me who instructed me when it was time for prayer and what number hymn would be sung next. Both the Old and New Testament have been translated into the Nuer language, and hymnals at Nile Our Savior Lutheran Church include both translated Lutheran hymns and traditional Nuer hymns.1 The service at Nile Our Savior is composed of song, prayer, and a sermon. While the majority of the service is led by Wal, the hymns involve the entire congregation in singing, chanting, and drumming.
According to Wal, “Music is very important to us.”2 In South Sudan, music — especially drumming — is an art form that requires much training. Although there are specialized music schools in Africa where people can train to become drummers, such schools do not exist in the United States.
In 2016, the chapel is home to the quilters club and choir practices.
During worship services at Nile Our Savior, a member of the congregation beats African drums with the end of a drumstick at a steady, methodical pace during the singing of hymnals. While this is not ideal, Wal hopes that in the future Nile Our Savior will be able to send some people to school in Ethiopia so that they can learn the art of drumming and provide traditional Sudanese music to the congregation.3
Listen to some sounds of worship at Nile Our Savior.