The Rev. Dr. Amy Richter relates her experience as a contestant in the Wisconsin State Fair physique competition. The New York Times carries her story:
I stood by the mailbox holding a package that weighed about as much as an apple. Inside, I knew, there was a bikini. I was almost afraid to open it. How could something so small hold such a big risk?
As an Episcopal priest, I am usually more interested in what is going on inside a person than in what shows on the outside. Most days, if I have official duties, I put on my black clergy shirt, my white collar and a suit that looks decent and head out looking like a priest.
Now here I stood with my package, wondering how “priestly” I would look in its contents. The fabric was fire-engine red; a sprinkling of rhinestones along the edge caught the light.
I needed the bikini for the physique competition at the Wisconsin State Fair. I started training the year before. I loved how strong it made me feel. Now I was about to compete in front of hundreds of people.
What about when a priest wears a bikini? What if she complicates the picture by having sizable biceps or well-defined lats? Can “buff” and “holy” go together? “Ripped” and “reverend”? If the “reverend” is a woman?
I came in second. Third went to an amateur wrestler. I wonder if she tells people she was beaten by a priest as quickly as I say I beat her. I carried my three-foot-high trophy proudly through the fairgrounds. The trophy was so flashy that children stopped to ask how I won it. “Tell them you got it for reading a lot of books,” my husband advised. Noble, but no way.
I wanted to say I won it for being the strongest priest in the state, for being a woman who is a priest with a really strong and healthy body. I wanted to tell them I won it for being brave, but that wasn’t really true, because I hadn’t been brave enough to tell the people it would be the biggest risk to tell.
“I got it for being myself,” I said.