The Rev. Michelle Childs-Ward is sorry to say that Christians are all too often viewed by secular society as narrow and straitlaced. “The unchurched see us as conservative politically and conservative in lifestyle,” says the incumbent of St. John’s Anglican Church in Weston, outside Toronto.
They see Anglicans as stiff-upper-lip types who have no time for fun and are more likely to spend Friday or Saturday night with a youth group than go out on the town.
Childs-Ward wants to change that perception, starting by serving as an anti-stereotypical role model. “For me, living outside the box means living your faith in ways that show faith can be fun,” says Child-Ward, who recently completed a fashion shoot for Kaliyana Artwear, an upscale clothing line for professional women.
“As a person of faith, I can be engaged in contemporary life and the trends around me. I don’t have to reject the outside world; I embrace it with open arms and love and accept it for what it is,” she says.
Ordained in 2006, Childs-Ward studied anthropology and medieval history at Toronto’s York University before entering divinity school. During high school and university she learned to cook by working as a sous-chef in a restaurant and later supported her studies by building electrical panels as an industrial electrical assistant.
A while back, the priest’s edgy post-modern looks caught the eye of staff at Kaliyana, a fashion house known for creating the architectural but comfy “Anti-Suit.” Childs-Ward, who travels frequently, had shopped in all three Kaliyana stores-in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. “They liked my look and asked me if I’d be interested in modelling,” says Childs-Ward, who readily signed on.
The reverend did her own makeup for the lengthy shoot, which she admits was very demanding physically.
And how was she compensated? “In clothes, fortunately,” she says. And how did her parishioners react? “It raised some eyebrows but the congregation has been very supportive,” says Childs-Ward. One older lady from the chancel guild sent her an email saying, “You go, doll!” And she will. “You have to be prepared to have fun.”