MONTREAL — It was announced Jan. 11 that the Rectory, a newly-created Pagan ritual and learning space, would be closing its doors as of Feb. 1. Located in an historic building owned by an Anglican church, the Rectory was to be an inclusive facility welcoming Pagans of all practices and as well as providing safe space to other organizations and their work. However, once the plans were made public, the founders were forced to close the project down.
We spoke with founders T. Scarlet Jory and Robyn about what happened in order to clarify the situation.
“Prior to [publication of The Wild Hunt article], there was nothing to suggest that we needed to hide who and what we were. We were not concerned about the diocese finding out that we were renting the rectory space,” said Robyn, who is co-founder and the daughter-in-law of the church’s reverend.
The women originally located the available church space through this family connection, and Robyn added that her mother-in-law is open-minded and knows that she and Jory “are Pagan and deeply spiritual.” However, the reverend reportedly did not know the full plans for the rectory space, nor did the diocese.
Robyn explained, “When we signed our rental agreement with the church, to rent space within their rectory, it was with the understanding that we were opening and running a tutoring centre, and that we would also run some workshops on the side.”
When asked why they didn’t reveal the full scope of the project from the get-go, she said, “We didn’t know that things would take the direction that they did, or that the workshops and community events would become such a focus for us, until suddenly there was no tutoring happening, but lots of very excited Pagans and others who were interested in coming out.”
As we noted yesterday, it was a TWH article, which is published and available unedited, that led to confusion among the organizations involved. Members read our article and alerted the Anglican Diocese of Montreal, who reportedly became angry and immediately contacted the church.
The reverend, who was at the time on her way to India, contacted Robyn and Jory about the news. The very next day, the women contacted us about misinformation and the anger coming from the church community. Additionally, Robyn reported to an Anglican blog site that we had taken quotes “out of context,” reiterating that the space was only for tutoring. She said:
Yes, I am a witch by faith, and yes, I rent an office space at the Rectory. What I do there is tutoring, and offer some small spiritual services to a small group of people. We are an interfaith group. The Church itself is Anglican, and friendly, but not involved in my personal activities, or that of my business partner Scarlet. Further, a lot of what Scarlet is quoted as saying in the original article, was taken out of context from a conversation between her and the writer.
When we recently asked exactly what was out of context and wrong in our report, Robyn simply said, “That is difficult to answer. I think Scarlet said some things casually that she did not realize would go on the record. She was also distracted and caring for her baby while doing the interview, which I was also told.”
When we contacted Jory for her input on the alleged misinformation, she asked that we speak with Robyn on the matter.
Robyn also added, “I was not asked about the TWH interview – but rather was informed that it was happening. [..] I was not available to join the Skype interview that was done, so I had no idea what was being said.” Additionally, at the time and now, the reverend has been unavailable for comment due to her trip.
What Robyn did confirm was that their plans for the Rectory, as we accurately reported, included far more than tutoring.
While Jory wouldn’t speak to us again directly, she did post on her blog about the Rectory’s closing. She wrote, “It is with great disappointment that we must announce that we will be leaving the Rectory as of February 2017. […] This past Friday, January 6, 2017, we were given notice that we will need to leave our stay at the Rectory, due to some very awful miscommunication that led to a lot of anger on the part of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal. Ultimately it was their decision, and not that of the church from whose Rectory we have been operating, that we needed to leave.”
Robyn and Jory are now looking for a new location to restart their project. Robyn said, “You can only begin to imagine how sick of talking about this I am. It is all anyone wants to talk about and I just want to move on and focus on finding the new space and moving there.” She added that they now have a potential new location and will be making an announcement soon.
“A teacher of mine once said that you run into the most adversity when you are doing the best work,” Robyn added. “I believe this, very much, and I think that if anything, this has galvanized our purpose and resolve that what we are doing is good and necessary, and that we should persevere.”
We would like to be clear that the matter of our leaving is not a case of Christians vs Pagans. It is a matter of human error. Please be kind and understanding to everyone involved on both sides of this situation. […] The decision for us to leave was made to try to keep things from getting out of hand and to try to ensure no one is hurt moving forward. Rather than fight to stay where we are not welcome, we would like to move forward peacefully, with dignity, and respect for our present hosts who have been perfectly lovely with us to this point.[…] That said, we would like everyone to keep 2017 positive…
After this experience, we asked Robyn what advice she’d offer to others: “I think the most important thing I would pass on, in terms of advice, is to be as utterly transparent with everyone, every single step of the way. Never hide anything, never omit anything, keep people as up to date as you can.”
Robyn explained, “I doubt that [the reverend] would have even minded [about the full plans] had things not suddenly gone explosively public before she had the chance to talk to her church council, or to the diocese to wean them on toward the idea.”
“I can’t help but wonder if we’d done things more slowly, with baby steps, if it would have gone differently.”
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Editorial Note: The Wild Hunt article that led to the reported public outcry was never deleted, but only removed temporarily while we clarified the reports of misinformation and learned what in fact was going on. We apologize to the readership for the confusion.