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Bare naked church ladies

Church's playful fundraising calendar celebrates senior women.
By Jane Greer

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Miss May

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Framingham congregant Faith Waters, 77, is Miss May. (Photo © Damianos Photography) (© DamianosPhotography.com)

The 2006 calendar being sold as a fundraiser by the First Parish in Framingham, Massachusetts, lays to rest any lingering images of staid New England church ladies. Called “Celebration,” the calendar features twelve female parishioners, ranging in age from 66 to 85, in the nude. In addition to the photographs, the calendar includes short biographies of the featured women, showcasing their many interests and accomplishments.

How did the idea begin? Mary McCarty, 74, the project coordinator, credits Frieda Gillespie, who was the congregation’s intern minister. “We went out to lunch and she showed me a similar calendar done by an Episcopal church in Rhode Island,” McCarty said. “At first I laughed. Then I went to see our minister.”

All of the photographs were taken at the women’s houses, said McCarty, and they each reflect the women’s own interests. McCarty, who is a massage therapist, is photographed sitting on her massage table.

The photographs were all taken by Lynne Damianos, a professional photographer and member of First Parish who donated her services.

The idea for such a calendar is not new. The 2003 movie Calendar Girls tells the true story of a group of English women who achieved international fame with such a calendar. Framingham’s project, however, is distinctive in that it features older women. The youngest is 66—and she filled in when a 93-year-old member reconsidered. “The women in this calendar are an inspiration to all women,” said Eve Benda, the project’s sales and marketing coordinator. “One 43-year-old parishioner exclaimed upon seeing the calendar, ‘I’m finally excited about the next few decades!’”

And was it difficult to bare all? “The basic thing was that we love the church,” McCarty said. “And we trusted Lynne.”

The Rev. Stephanie Nichols, the Unitarian Universalist congregation’s minister, is enthusiastic about the project. “I am proud of our calendar girls and the talented team that created and is now promoting the calendar,” she said as part of a recent church service. “It is a beautiful product, and it does reveal, if I may use that word, a respect for human life and a sense of humor that are characteristic of this church.”

The calendar, which costs $15, is being sold online and at several Framingham businesses including a Barnes and Noble branch. Nichols said the money will go toward increasing the growing congregation’s staff.

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