Students express faith through music

Residence students walking past Oasis in Residence Commons on a Friday night may encounter a crowd of people singing together. These events are led by House of Worship Ottawa (HOWO), a team of Christian musicians who hold musical gatherings every two weeks, either at Carleton at the University Centre at the University of Ottawa (U of O).  

Joanna Abalos, the founder of HOWO, said the vision of the team was “to see lives changed through Jesus as we share our joy in God’s truth and love and worship.”

Abalos added that the idea for HOWO originated from practicing Christian worship music around campus.

“Almost every single time that we were worshipping,, someone would approach us and ask us what we were singing about or if there was an event that they could come and attend,” she said.

Abalos said that she decided to start HOWO after being inspired by a similar group called House of Worship Montreal who went “worship-busking” in the Montreal subway system.  

Abalos said that the HOWO team has expanded since then.

“We started off as just Carleton students, but now we are both from University of Ottawa and Carleton and also, a few students are graduated,” she said.  

Abalos added that the team is fairly relaxed in terms of criteria when recruiting people.

“For the most part, it’s people that share in the same passion as we do,” she said. “They share in the same vision of wanting people to know of the love of Jesus and using public worship as a way of fulfilling that.”

Abalos gave an example of a new team member who is currently starting to learn how to play a musical instrument.

“Even though he doesn’t play anything, we get to share in the vision together,” she said.

Brittany Greier, one of the core team members of HOWO, said “ultimately, it’s about the person’s heart. It doesn’t matter about how talented they are.”

Abalos said that HOWO chooses to sing in public spaces “in hopes that people walking by hear of who Jesus is and what He’s done for us and hopefully they get to experience God’s love through music.”

Rosena Zhuang, an attendee at the most recent HOWO event on Jan. 29, said, “it was very powerful and moving, and I was really surprised, because I was a little intimidated at first.”

Greier said that the most challenging part about being part of HOWO is to stay focused on its purpose, instead of the performance aspect of it.  

“We want to be doing this as sincerely and wholeheartedly as possible, so that we’re not just leading worship as a performance, but that we’re leading in actually worshipping God, so people can experience that and not just a really nice song,” she said.

Photo provided