I left the church and put on a “collar” to spread love.
I had it all. I had any pastor’s dream job in the perfect city, but I rarely saw my kids or husband and that wasn’t what I envisioned as I begin the process of ordination to serve the church. I became an ordained pastor through the Presbyterian Church, USA, and served the church faithfully for many years. But like so many other women in ministry, I found that the unrealistic expectations and the reality of the “stained glass ceiling” were sucking the joy out of my life.
After plenty of weeping, I decided to leave behind a vocation I thought I was “called” to do, to take better care of my little boys, my hubby, and myself. It wasn’t a bad deal, and my family is incredibly important to me. I walked out of the church doors and didn’t look back. As I left the working world to become a stay-at-home-mom, I still had a deep desire to continue to in ministry. At the same time, I was unsure how I felt about the institution for which I had worked so faithfully for so many years. I found myself collecting stories of those feeling “fed up with” or “put out” by traditional religion. It particularly broke my heart when I heard couples being turned away from churches for marriage – even though they sought blessing. I couldn’t reconcile it in my head or heart.
As a woman, I was routinely told that I shouldn’t be pursuing ministry as a vocation (it was just for the men!), so I knew what it was like to feel on the outside of normal (I had a professor routinely hand me a pamphlet on “why women should be silent in church” when I went to see him about my assignments or for help). I’ve preached in the pulpit and afterwards been told things like, “Hey, that was pretty good for a woman.” I have often been told I don’t fit – I am a woman, I wear jeans to the office, I have piercings and even a tattoo…
As I collected the stories of others, I felt a compelling desire, in my own small way, in my own small world, to do something to bless others who felt on the “outside” or were equally disillusioned with the modern church. Because I live in Paris, where, on any given day, you can see dozens of people getting married, and because I am a hopeless romantic who believes that those who desire blessing deserve it, I created Ruffled By Grace: Paris Wedding Blessings. I also decided that I could love Jesus and tulle, and didn’t have to shove myself into the “conformity” box in order to live out my faith or my vocation. I found “Collared” fashion forward, modern, and comfortable clergywear for women, cried, and ordered immediately; no longer did I need to shove myself into a drab old man’s shirt to claim my pastoral office. So, I put on the traditional sign of the church and went out into the world.
Ruffled By Grace is not only my brand, but my tagline for life. As someone who firmly believes that grace abounds, and that you don’t have to fit inside of a box to have faith, to share love, or to give blessing, I began a journey of blessing couples in the most Romantic City in the world. It’s not every day that a pastor has the privilege of performing a wedding at garden of Notre Dame, serving Communion on the Champ de Mars, or telling someone’s 25 year love story at a vow renewal. I have that joy and that privilege every single day. Not only do I meet amazing couples from all over the world, I have had the chance to meet other amazing women entrepreneurs. From skilled bakers, and photographers, to vineyard owners, and table designers, I have met so many talented and interesting creatives. It gives me hope and joy to know so many others who wish to spread love.
So, here I am, in my little corner of the world, spreading love in Paris and breaking the stereotype of “stuffy pastors” one wedding at a time. If you happen to be here, and see a small blonde pastor in a clergy collar (with lace!) and also wearing Converse, it’s probably me. Stop and say “hi.” I’d love to meet you. I’d also love to tell your love story.
(Miss Paris Photo and Catherine O’Hara are the fabulous Paris-based photographers behind these perfect photos.)
More info: ruffledbygrace.com;%20instragram.com
Communion at the Champ de Mars
Rev. Michelle Wahila of Ruffled By Grace
Paris is Perfect even in the rain
25 years of love
Breaking stereotypes one wedding at a time
The rosé wedding champagne
A non-traditional cake for a non-traditional couple
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