Choir robes symbolize unity, negation of self

My heart was full to overflowing on Sunday as I watched – and heard – our St. James choir process in wearing our new choir robes. I could not have been more pleased if I’d been standing in Westminster Abbey!

It’s hard to believe that this time a year ago, we didn’t even have a choir, let alone a choir that looks exactly like a proper Anglican choir should look: black cassocks, white surplices, faint glow of God all around them.

Lord knows that when our choir debuted last December, they would gladly have worn virtually any robes they could have laid their hands on. Anything, that is, but the old choir robes we found stored downstairs, left over from the last time St. James had a choir. The years in storage had not been kind.

Multiple attempts to track down hand-me-down robes from other congregations proved equally fruitless. Thwarted at every turn, we set our sights on getting our own. It took several months of fund-raising, but eventually we had enough to purchase exactly what we wanted, and in sufficient quantity to robe our choir even as it expands in size. This is a vote of confidence that we’re going to need extra robes before long.

I’ve been pondering, too, just why churches feel that choir robes are a good investment. After all, robes don’t affect how choirs sound, and there are always competing demands for how each dollar is to be spent. . I think that, as much as anything, besides being pleasing to the eye, a beautifully robed choir is symbolic.

It’s a symbol of conformity, a symbol of individuals voluntarily setting aside differences or assertions of self, and subsuming their own voice into the greater unity of the choir’s blended voice. And this greater voice – formed of the many parts into one beautiful harmony – resonates through the house of God.

Isn’t that a marvelous symbol of what we are all called to do? To set aside our own self-interests and self-will and instead stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow believers, clad in oneness with each other and with Christ, each singing our assigned notes as we take our place in that great cloud of witnesses.

Glory to God in the highest!