Monday, 15 December 2014

Calendar shows what ministers can look like

“Don’t tilt your head to the side. You look like Jennifer Aniston. You have to look like a Minister,” said the photographer to The Rev. Trish Elliot of Ottawa. She was having her photo taken for the church wall of ministerial fame.

               Those walls of fame (or infamy, depending on how you see them) can be found in churches anywhere. I’m on a few of them myself. But the photographer’s request got Trish Elliot thinking. “What’s a minister supposed to look like anyway?”

               The more she thought about it, the more curious she became. Finally, she asked the question on a closed group in social media. What is a minister supposed to look like? What’s an appropriate look? And what is appropriate for a woman?

               The answers came back thick and fast. Some ministers were asked to cut their hair so they looked less sexy and less distracting. Some women noticed how people’s reactions to them changed when they were pregnant. Others were told that their hobbies - hunting and belly dancing - were not appropriate for a minister who was a woman.

               As the comments came in - and I watched them myself on line - an idea began to germinate. What about a calendar that featured simply women in ministry? Women doing all the things they do in ministry and in their leisure.

               The result is a very special and unique calendar titled “The Calendar Revs 2015". It’s available on the internet at . The cost is $20, including taxes and shipping.

               The pictures are quite unique and distinctive.

               How unique?

               There is a picture of The Rev. Alexa Gilmour, an Occupy Toronto Protest chaplain, mediating between factions.

               There is another of The Rev. Jennifer Swanson, a.k.a. “The Communication Diva” in her podcasting studio. And yes, she has a podcast episode on her web site about the calendar.

               Other pictures include a woman in ministry who is a hunter. There is another of a minister who belly dances. There is one who is a Canadian Forces chaplain in her duty camouflage uniform, serving communion.

               There is more.

               One picture is of two women, newly married, hugging. There is another of a mother breastfeeding her baby. There are pictures of ministers in heels and one wearing a red dress.

               The point of the calendar is to counteract the stereotypes people have about ministers, both women and men.

               The media, unfortunately, usually portray ministers as older men with white hair, a bit slow and passive, sometimes buffoonish, occasionally drunk.

               None of these ministers, nor any minister I know, is like that.

               No, you won’t find any pictures in the vein of the original “Calendar Girls”. No one is inappropriately dressed. And there are no “naughty bits”. This about changing perceptions and making clear that women in ministry are on one hand, unique, but also just like you and me; regular people.

               The first print run of 500 copies is sold out. A second print run has been ordered. The proceeds from the calendar will go to The Malala Fund for Girls Education to help girls go to school and raise their voices for girls education.

               If this doesn’t make a unique Christmas gift, it should make a good conversation starter. I consider it a privilege to be in ministry with these women, the Calendar Revs.


Rev. David Shearman is the minister of Central Westside United Church, Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.