In my last post, I wrote about the amazing women mentors who’ve been a part of my life here in Wheaton. Today, I want to share about another one of my mentors—my choir director, Mrs. Fray. Two weeks ago, I learned that she is battling brain cancer. This post is in honor of her birthday next weekend.
When I was seven, my family moved to Dallas. During our time there, life was constantly in flux. We moved several times, church-hopped regularly, and never stayed in the state for more than 9 months at a time. Nothing felt stable except for choir. For ten years, at first on Sunday nights and later on Wednesday nights, my sisters and I would race up the two flights of stairs to our rehearsal room and find the color-coded name cards that marked our seats. We always began with vocal exercises and—in the younger choirs—solfege. Then we’d pull out our music and begin in earnest. Our choir director, Mrs. Lynda Fray, was my hero—she was everything I wanted to be when I grew up.
She treated our time in choir as a space for spiritual formation, not just vocal exercise. She’d often stop us to have a conversation about the meaning of the texts—especially if our singing got lazy. At sixteen, I wrote in my journal, “She taught me to sing, not just with my voice, but with my heart.”
Everything we sang, from simple hymns and anthems to Vivaldi and Handel, was chosen with care in order to fulfill Paul’s directive in Colossians 3—Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts towards God.
I learned so many things from Mrs. Fray at Park Cities Presbyterian Church—but this was one of the biggest lessons: God deserves the best we have to offer. While some Christian traditions place a high value on frugality and simplicity, PCPC spared no expense when it came to worship. We always had a full orchestra at our Christmas and spring concerts. The brand new Schoenstein organ with its 75 ranks and 64 stops, boomed out at every service. Towering floral arrangements framed the altar every week. And the choirs were no exception. We strove for vocal perfection, laboring over the shape of our vowels and the placement of final consonants.
This careful attention to quality was never about performance. In fact, Mrs. Fray gave us a talk every year. “We don’t perform on Sunday mornings,” she said. “We are participating in worship.” It was a very important distinction—a performance is for people, worship is for God. As the choir, we had the privilege of inviting people to see and glorify God through our music. But it was more than just the music—Mrs. Fray taught us that everything from our choir robes to our posture could contribute to or detract from the reverence of the worship experience.
Our robes were especially significant to me. It was always easy to find mine on the rack because they were organized alphabetically by last name. Something about my identity changed when I zipped up the front of the long red robe and draped the white stole over my shoulders. I wrote in my journal that when I put on that robe, I stopped being a random teenage visitor at a church I didn’t even attend. When I put on that robe, I belonged. I was a representative of the choir and I had a purpose: to worship and to lead in worship.
Throughout my life, I’ve struggled a lot with belonging. Maybe it’s because we moved so much and maybe I’m just insecure. But through Mrs. Fray’s gentle guidance, I found that I always belong in worship. There is no place I’m more at home than when I’m worshiping God with his people.
Read Mrs. Fray’s reflection on one of our concerts.