I've pre-scheduled this blog to be posted at the moment I should be in Paris, France and meeting with my Reverend fashion guru, Michelle Wahila.
I often resist the use of the "R" word Reverend and I have never been compelled to get a collar. I associated the look with patriarchy, hierarchy, authority, and a high level of piousness that often conflicted with my feminist views and social advocacy. Many of the couples I marry have blended faiths, and my faith is to honour those in marriage, which is the faith of love.
However, when I first came across Rev. Michelle on Instagram, my previous perceptions of what a Reverend had to look like completely changed. Her website, Ruffled by Grace, has many photos of the very cool UK collar designers, appropriately named, Collared. How fabulous is she!
The Rev. Michelle Wahila was born and raised in Endicott, New York. She received her Master’s of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Since then, she’s pursued her calling to love others in the US and France. Most recently, Michelle served as Associate Pastor of The American Church in Paris where she helped organize and execute events that reached the expatriate community and welcomed hundreds of visitors into the church as a part of her commitment to radical welcome and hospitality.
As an advocate for marriage equality, Michelle and I share the same values, but unlike me, she has encountered online bullying for her role as a same-sex marriage Officiant. When her photo on the All Africian LGBTQ We Have Rights Too Facebook Page went out, it was littered with homophobic comments and many were directed at her personally. An experience I've never encountered in Canada, even after Officiating the largest wedding in North America during World Pride in 2014.
Speaking to our Facebook Page The Celebrants Collective, others reached out from around the globe to offer their support and to also express their own challenges with dealing with the hate they have encountered in the world, such as this group in Georgia.
It has become clear to me that embracing the "R" word is important as the world needs those who will stand up and stand out against hate while promoting love and commitment. Thanks to Reverend Michelle, I've come to learn that this important stance can be done in a truly fabulous outfit as well and well, that just puts the fem back in feminist for this radical Reverend!