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Photograph: Erica Gannett

The tattooed preacher’s wife | Chicago ink

Maggie Swanson defies the classic image of the dowdy pastor’s spouse.

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Maggie Swanson This North Carolina native always saw herself as too unconventional to marry a man of the cloth. After graduating high school in the mid-’90s, Swanson says, “everyone went to college right away, except me.” She went instead to Togo and Ghana to work for a Christian missionary organization, and, following that adventure, met her future husband. Yep, a preacher man: David Swanson, pastor of the New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville. For all the couple’s love, tying the knot with a member of the clergy made her nervous. “The classic image of a dowdy woman who’s held up as the support for the church and her husband definitely crossed my mind,” recalls Swanson, 33, a part-time culinary instructor. The tree tattoo on her back, she explains, was a preemptive break from that traditional notion of the preacher’s wife and an assertion of her independence. “I wanted some kind of permanent symbol,” she says, “that would remind me to always continue to grow and pursue what made me.” For good measure, she got a nose ring, too.

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