To Robe or Not to Robe

I’ve gotten a few questions recently about why I haven’t worn a robe, and why the acolytes are not wearing robes either, so let’s talk about it!

I understand robes to be an outward sign of our baptisms. Many of us wore white gowns when we were baptized as babies. Some were passed down from generation to generation or made out of a family wedding dress. Robes have been worn by clergy, acolytes, choirs, and other worship leaders over the years. Ultimately they are all a sign of our baptisms.

For me, it doesn’t make sense for me to be wearing a robe as a sign of my baptism when none of the rest of you are. My internship supervisor always reminded me that ordination adds nothing to baptism. I am no more baptized than anyone else. I wear my clergy collar and stole as signs of the office of Pastor. As a Lutheran, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. That means that all of us are just as baptized as each other period and just as beloved as each other. it makes sense to me that if we’re going to wear baptismal garments we will all wear baptismal garments.

I was already thinking along these lines when I read “Dear Church” by Lenny Duncan. He wrote a love letter to the Church, specifically the ELCA, naming what he’s experienced as a black man in this denomination. He mentioned that in Westerns the good guys always wore the white hats and the bad guys always wore the black hats. One of the things that he brings up is that we have many things in our worship spaces that are white that signify purity. Some of the only times that we use black pieces in worship is throughout Lent and on Good Friday. While we of course are not consciously doing this, it feeds into our idea that what is good in black is bad. It really struck me on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9 as I wore a white robe and named our complacency as a denomination that allowed one of our young people to take the lives of nine beloveds because of the color of their skin. This was the final icing on the cake for me. If I can do one small thing like this to change our unconscious bias, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Overall, my theory is that if we have a reason to do something and it makes sense we can keep doing it. If we don’t have a reason good reason, we are free to stop. For one or three or ten people in a worship service to be wearing an outward sign of their baptism when everyone else is not just doesn’t make sense to me.

Thanks so much for asking me why I do what I do! I’m pretty intentional about everything, so there is usually a reason! Thanks for loving each other so well!


Pastor Janine

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