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Getting inked

Six ministers share their stories

By Trisha Elliott

Rev. Murray Speer, member of South Alberta Presbytery

‘‘ I have five or six tattoos depending on how you count them. It started as things I want to remember forever and has expanded to be an outward testimony of my inward faith, hope and gratitude. Since high school, I’ve moved around a lot. My body has been the only thing I’m sure to bring with me.’’

Lt. (Navy) (the Rev.) Mary Anne VanHeuvelen, serving the Royal Military College, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

‘‘The gryphon has traditionally been used to represent wisdom and strength. Later it became a symbol of the humanity and divinity of Christ. As a young person going through for ministry, my ‘wisdom’ was not always recognized or even acknowledged. It took a great deal of inner strength to keep lifting my voice until it was heard.’’

Rev. Catherine MacDonald, intentional interim minister, Elmsdale (N.S.) Pastoral Charge

‘‘I eventually decided to get a Celtic knot tattooed on my upper calf as a reminder of God and relationships and how everything is connected. I have come to believe that whenever I am engaged in something with someone or something else, there is a sense of trinity. There is me, there is the ‘other’ and there is the relationship between us. This relationship is something more than what we are as separate beings. We are creating something new each time we interact with one another and/or the world around us. The tattoo becomes a window on life, on my life, my faith and my world.’’

Rev. Andrea Allan, Knox United, Embro, Ont.

‘‘As I am slowly crawling my way through a massive depression, I decided to get a semicolon tattoo on the inside of my forearm as a reminder to myself of all I have come through and all I want to continue through. I chose to incorporate it with a butterfly because the butterfly is one of my favourite symbols of the resurrection. It is a reminder to me of all of that as well as an outward sign to others if I choose to share with them.’’

Rev. Heather Landry, Trinity United, Edmonton

‘‘My son and I have matching tattoos of an eagle in the sun’s rays. It was a moment of deep bonding that came at a profound time of loss when my marriage broke up. I wanted to remind my son of our deep connection that would never change. I remember saying to him, ‘I know this really sucks. It changes everything for all of us. It makes me want to do something crazy — like go get a tattoo.’ His whole face lit up. He started laughing. He said, ‘Do it, Mom. Do it. I’ll get one too.’ We went to the parlour together. I got a little one on my shoulder blade. He got a large one over his heart. It was painful. He laid there with tears in his eyes. I held his arm, and tears rolled down my cheeks. The space over the heart is such a tender spot. It was so symbolic. That’s the kind of permanent tattoo I will always want to have.’’

Revs. David and Isaac Mundy, father and son with matching tattoos. David serves Bridge Street United in Belleville, Ont., and Isaac serves at Siloam United in London, Ont.

‘‘We both have a tattoo of a scallop shell on our chest that was the symbol associated with a pilgrimage that I did in Europe when I was 19,” says Isaac. “We got the tattoos together at the same time in the weeks leading up to another trip that I was taking to Europe a few years later to stay in a monastic community. My dad, mom and youngest sister were also moving away from Halifax around the same time, so in a lot of ways it ended up being a meaningful way of marking the ending of a chapter in our lives.’’

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