Old Montreal rectory welcomes Witches

Dodie Graham McKay —  January 5, 2017 — 6 Comments

UPDATE 1/5/2017: It was announced Jan. 11 that The Rectory will be permanently closed as of February 2017. We will update this further as we learn more.

 

MONTREAL – The Pagan community in Montreal, Quebec has a new community space called The Rectory. It is the brainchild of T.Scarlet Jory and Robyn, two witches who identified the need for a new venue for Pagan classes, rituals and events.

Located in the actual rectory of an Anglican church, The Rectory is promoting itself as “a multifaith sacred space aimed at supporting community.” The adjacent church is St. Thomas’ Anglican Church and part of the diocese of Montreal.

twh_rectory

[Courtesy Photo]

The story of The Rectory began last August when Jory received a phone call from the landlord who was renting space to the literacy program for whom she was working at the time. That program was sharing rent with Jory’s own Crescent Moon School of Magic and Paganism. The landlord was calling to give them notice that effective October 1, 2016 both programs would no longer be able to rent the space.

In need of a new venue, Jory and Robyn began the search. They eventually chose the main floor of the old church rectory, which features a large temple room and adjoining office space. Additionally, they have access to a communal kitchen and a bathroom.

The building itself is a 175-year-old stone structure with period charm and interesting features, including leaded windows, hardwood floors, and an impressive fireplace. The exterior has the old-world charm right out of a Harry Potter story.

It is uncommon for Pagan groups to be operating out of an Anglican church facility, which begs the question: how are the Pagans and Anglicans getting along as neighbours?

Jory cannot say enough about how accommodating and cooperative the relationship has been. “They are fine with us doing our Pagan stuff indoors, they just say please don’t do rituals outside, because not everybody will understand. So, that’s our respect for them, we are on their ground.”

This relationship has provided opportunity for both sides to work together on interfaith projects. “They do a bunch of interfaith stuff. They wanted to do something that would help build community,” Jory explains.

“Some of the projects that we do are community building specifically. We are going to petition to clean up their tea garden. They have an old tea garden in the back yard that hasn’t been touched in decades. We want to refurbish it, and replant all the roses, put in more tea garden related stuff, put down more flagstones and host tea services and things out there.”

The duo took possession of the space on October 1, 2016, and a soft opening followed. “We haven’t made it very public until just recently,” Jory says.

Period features inside The Rectory [Courtesy Photo]

Period features inside The Rectory [Courtesy Photo]

“The first few months have been very rocky, getting set up, figuring out what we want to do and what the plans are, and what the gods want of us. As December rolled through we saw this is really working, this is the direction things are going to go. We will run with it! The gods have said: “Here is what you can do, if you follow this, it will go well!” And I think it really has.”

Other groups have joined the team at The Rectory, to share space and operating costs. These groups include: Etudiants Savoir Faire, a tutoring service, offering support to children in English, French and math; the Maplestone Academy a monthly, Hogwarts-like magical immersion program for children and adults; Sophia Rising, a Wiccan coven; The Sisterhood of Avalon, a non-profit, international Celtic Women’s Mysteries Organization; Montreal Reiki; The Crescent Moon School of Magic & Paganism; and the Temple Oracle, a French eclectic Wiccan group.

This wide spectrum of groups and individuals represents both of Canada’s official languages: French and English. In Quebec, French is the most commonly spoken language; however, in the Pagan community, it is not always easy to find events that are held in French or that are bilingual.

“Montreal is very much two Pagan communities” explains Jory. “The language is such a big issue in Quebec as a whole. It almost divides the things that are going on. We have two very distinct Pagan communities and on occasion they cross over, like for the public Sabbats, but they don’t have any other cross over points.”

The Rectory is poised to fill that need. Jory adds, “One of the women in [Temple Oracle] is one of my level two students and they were looking for a space as well, so they were not bouncing all over from one person’s house to another; they wanted something central. She wanted to get into community stuff, so I said why don’t you tap into the French community, because they have nothing. So that’s what she did. She is hosting French workshops and French rituals and that is working really well.”

Many form of divination will be available at the Divine-In Fundraiser (courtesy photo)

Many forms of divination will be available at the Divine-In Fundraiser [Courtesy Photo]

With the new year comes the grand opening of The Rectory, and there are many different types of events in store for visitors. Jory explains, “When we were setting up our calendar of events, October through to the end of December was kind of scarce with just dark moons (ceremonies), Crescent Moon School and the odd workshop. Then we looked at our January calendar, and it is so packed.“

The calendar holds an array of classes, workshops, healing opportunities, and fundraisers. The next big event will be held Saturday, January 7 when doors will open to the public for a Divine-In Fundraiser to help support the organization. Tea & treats are on the menu, and guests will be able to get a tarot, tea leaf, lithomancy, or rune reading, to name a few, from one of the students or teachers of the Crescent Moon School.

The fundraiser held in October has already become a tradition for The Rectory. Just before Samhain, the organization hosted an Elder’s Tea, in order to get people together to see the space, and listen to the stories of the Montreal community’s elders. Participants were encouraged to dress up Downton Abbey style, and antique tea sets were used to serve tea and dainties to the guests, who were waited on by Crescent Moon School students. Invited Elders were entertained for free and encouraged to share their stories.

“It was such a beautiful experience, we were asked if we could do something like this every year. So now every year, we will hold an Elder’s Tea.” explains Jory. The next one is already scheduled for October 22, 2017.

Teacher and Rectory organizer, T.Scarlet Jory [Courtesy photo]

For Jory, running this venture has become a full time job, but is it supporting her as well as the community she serves? With a sigh and a laugh, she says “Running all of the community stuff, that is my day job. Does it pay for things? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Paying the rent on that space comes first and then whatever is left over becomes income.”

So what motivates her? “When I got to 3rd Degree, one of the vows that I took was to be in service to the community and to the divine. We do rituals here; we do healing services; and spiritual counseling and the workshops. We also provide space.”

The Rectory is not the only Montreal Pagan space operating. Sacred Cauldron is back after closing its old location and relocating to a new address. It also offers classes and workshops. And while Jory’s former business, Melange Magique, a keystone of the local community was forced to close its bricks and mortar location in 2013 (it is still operating online), another shop, Charme & Sortilege continues to cater to the French-speaking community.

But the size of the population, language barriers, and large geographical spaces dictate that this small sampling is not enough, and Robyn reflected on that, saying, “We need a place like The Rectory because our community lacked a place to gather. While we recognize and appreciate that there are other shops and a couple of centers in Montreal that do offer courses and rituals, we have seen that people feel that the distance is an issue to get to them, or else that they do not always ascribe to the same beliefs as those holding them there. We are doing our best at The Rectory to be open to all, and to renew some of the sense of community that the Montreal Pagans used to have.”

Jory and Robyn have negotiated a slight break on the rent for the first year, and are working to ensure that this new venture is sustainable into the future.

Dodie Graham McKay

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Dodie Graham McKay is an initiated Witch and independent film maker living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She has been involved in magic, music and media since the late eighties, and finds it important to be connected to the currents and communities that influence our art, environment and magical practices.
  • kenofken

    At first glance, this seemed like a pretty positive development, but the church’s stipulation against outdoor ritual really doesn’t sit well in my stomach. Outdoor ritual is a central aspect of many Pagan traditions, certainly the vast majority of those on the witchcraft spectrum. In almost every group in which I’ve been a part of, outdoor ritual was the preferred default, with indoor space used as a concession to truly inclement or freezing weather. Even then, we would try to do at least some outdoor winter workings. If outdoor ritual is truly not important to the Montreal group, then it’s not as much of a practical shortcoming, but I still find the sentiment behind it demeaning and insulting.

    “… please don’t do rituals outside, because not everybody will understand.”

    Isn’t that, like, the entire raison d’être for interfaith work, to foster that understanding to achieve tolerance and acceptance of diversity?

    What it seems to boil down to for the Anglican landlords is that Pagans are good enough to pay for their building upkeep, but not people they want the neighbors to find out about. How would it go over if Pagans had a nice building and were willing to share it with a Christian congregation, on the condition that they don’t sing or put up crosses in open view during their rituals? Or hosted a Synagogue and asked the men not to wear their yarmulkes where anyone outside could see them?

    Pagans who are enthralled with interfaith work are forever plugging its virtue as giving us a “seat at the table.” This is not a a seat at the table. It’s a key to the servants entrance.

    • Géo McLarney

      It does seem somewhat backwards, but then if the Anglican congregation gets booted it won’t be very much use to anyone.

    • Tauri1

      An interesting comment that requires much contemplation on everyone’s part.

    • Robyn Stroll

      Hi, I’m Robyn, (she of the article above). The situation with the outdoor rituals was not properly described in the article, and before you get outraged, you should hear the rest of the story properly. We were *never* asked not to do ritual outside, that is a total misunderstanding of the situation.

      The congregation is still getting to know us. The interfaith community spirit at this church is very strong, and they have been very kind. They have a lot of questions, and we wish to handle the situation respectfully from both sides. We are planning to meet with the Reverend and key members of her congregation in the coming weeks to talk more about who we are and what we do, spiritually, so that when and if we do decide to do rituals outdoors, that there will be no fear, and no misunderstandings between our community and theirs. Theirs is a message of love and courage in as much as ours is.

      Frankly, it is winter, and cold, and we are unlikely to want to do anything outdoors until springtime anyhow.

      • kenofken

        In that event, I hope the remainder of winter will be used to good effect to build some real understanding and mutual respect between the parties involved. I hope you are able to impress upon them that outdoor ritual is integral to many of our traditions and that it’s nothing anyone need fear. I think it would be an especially pitiful situation if your group were to rebuild a beautiful tea garden for them and then not be able to use it or any of the grounds for a moon ritual or summer solstice.

        I hope the hosting congregation is committed to interfaith in the true spirit of what that should mean. I’ve seen too many situations over the years when purportedly open-minded people host Pagans at events or venues but then refuse to allow our rituals or try to edit them down to some Disney version because they don’t want anything “too dark.”

        There’s no question the deal is potentially very beneficial for Pagans in your area. It’s a very nice facility and the collaborative economics make a lot of things possible which would not otherwise work on your own. I would simply be aware of the false economy created by arrangements which require Pagans to compromise the integrity of our rituals or otherwise “tone down” who we are and what it is we do.

        • Robyn Stroll

          I do agree, and I foresee some lovely things coming of the partnership. I have no doubt that with patience and clear communication this will work out in everyone’s favor.