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St. Armands Key Lutheran Church organist Lois Habib retires after 27 years

St. Armands Key Lutheran Church organist steps away after 27 years, but she won't be far from the keyboard.

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  • | 10:07 a.m. March 15, 2021
Wahib and Lois Habib
Wahib and Lois Habib
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At St. Armands Key Lutheran Church, March 14 brought about the end of an era as organist Lois Habib played her last service after 27 years. 

Habib made the rounds before her second-to-last contribution at the church’s 9 a.m. service, greeting friends and thanking them for coming to church. Sunday, she'll still be there but watching from a distance as Director of Music Michael Bodnyk takes a seat behind the organ.

“It'll be nice to sit in the pew and watch it happen for a while,” Habib said. “I'll still sub for Michael when he goes away on vacation. He's already asked me to play on Easter, so I'm not going very far for a while.”

Lois Habib and Michael Bodnyk warm up before the 9 a.m. service.
Lois Habib and Michael Bodnyk warm up before the 9 a.m. service.

Retirement comes with bittersweet satisfaction for Habib, 68, who’s been involved with the Lutheran church and specifically, organs at Lutheran churches, her whole life. Her father was a pastor in Toronto and her mother played the organ there. Habib eventually played the organ at her home church, but moved to the area from Toronto in the early 1990s. She came with her children to start a new life, and soon became a member at SAKLC. 

“I started going to various Lutheran churches to see where I felt comfortable,” Habib said. “As soon as I walked into St. Armands … the pastor, Bob Zimmer, was also Canadian. We just struck it off right away.”

She didn’t become the organist immediately but followed in her mother’s footsteps once more two years later. 

“I filled in for the organist a few times when she wasn't well, so they knew I could play the organ,” Habib said. “They asked if I'd fill in until they found someone else. And 27 years later, here we are.” 

Back in her childhood in Toronto, she used to play for her mother as she went to receive communion and even filled in during Holy Week once when she was 13 — the nervous teen Habib prayed that her mother would be well enough to play by Easter. Her musical career began at 3 years old when her parents plopped her in front of the piano. She took lessons for years and picked up the organ when she declared to her mother that she was bored one summer when she was 11. 

“My mother took me over to the church, showed me how to turn on the organ, which fingers to press to make it go and she gave me the hymn book,” Habib said. “She said, ‘Start at the beginning.’ I just sat down and taught myself how to play.”

Though she was always in a Lutheran church, Habib’s career and personal style evolved over the years. In 1995, about a year after she had started as the organist, Pastor Zimmer wanted to start a contemporary worship service with instruments you wouldn’t always find in a church. She went back to the piano, while fellow congregant Rev Voth picked up his guitar. The pair led the service, eventually termed “Team Spirit,” for years, following the ebb and flow of participation. For a while, there were several singers, a flute player and another guitarist, but Habib and Voth were the constants. 

Anita Voth, Lois Habib and Rev Voth.
Anita Voth, Lois Habib and Rev Voth.

“After a while, we sort of got this musical bond where we know where each one was going with the music, so it was really easy to play,” Voth said. “We instinctively could play and go to the same place in a song without even having talked about it.”

Habib bonded with members of her church family over the years and was one of the church’s few stalwarts as it grew into a new sanctuary and changed hands from pastor to pastor. She played at the funerals of congregants she knew and at the weddings of friends who found love in their later years. In the end, she’s closing the chapter on a happy note and confidence in the new era.

“Sometimes it was a challenge, but you're just so blessed to have done it with some of these people,” Habib said. “And Michael (Bodnyk), we had a connection, the first time we met. We've always got along really, really well. They're in good hands with Michael there at the helm now.”


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