Archives For Rev. Kendra Vaughan Hovey

DUXBURY, MASSACHUSETTS – The First Church of Wicca (FCoW) has reopened its doors, which has reopened questions about its past. The Wild Hunt talked to Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey, founding Elder High Priestess of the First Church of Wicca, and to some of her congregants about the church, its closing in 2009, and their goals for the future.

To understand why the reopening has caused such controversy we have to look at the history.

In early 2007, the First Church of Wicca and its High Priestess broke onto the national scene when they were featured on an hour long TLC reality tv show, My Unique Family. While the show didn’t portray the family or the religion as freaks, many Pagans were surprised and curious. FCoW followed a Christian format, complete with sermons and congregants sitting in rows, and its High Priestess wore a clerical collar similar to what Christian priests and ministers wear.

The show depicted Hovey as being very dedicated to her church and to the local community. FCoW appeared to thrive with an estimated in-person membership of 200 people. The town of Duxbury, initially suspicious, seemed to accept them as part of the community.

Although everything appeared to be going well for FCoW, its sudden growth and scrutiny brought on by the show may have taken a toll on its leader. According to the April 2007 issue of Grey Matters, an e-zine for the Grey School, Hovey sent an email out to church members saying she was taking a two week sabbatical and all church activities would be canceled during that time. In the fall, the church restructured in an attempt to lessen Hovey’s duties. Then, in January 2008, Hovey took another two week sabbatical. Over the following months, church events were often cancelled on short notice.

What many people didn’t know at the time was that Hovey was not just a typical overburdened High Priestess battling burnout. By 2008, she was considering converting to Christianity.

After seeing the TLC special, Susan Jayne joined the FCoW. She said that she loved going to the FCoW and had made many friends. After being solitary for years, she had found her spiritual home.

For that reason, when Hovey confided she was considering converting to Christianity, Susan Jayne was devastated. She said, “I remember that day, vividly. We were at dinner following some event … 4th of July parade, a Pagan Pride Day, the event escapes me, and she told us that she was being baptized. I have personal issues with Christianity, so I was devastated because I didn’t know what it would mean for the church. Sure enough, it led to the eventual closure of FCoW.”

In January 2009, Hovey closed the FCoW. She sent at letter to all members of the church explaining her conversion from Wicca, pointing out her former faith’s (perceived) shortcomings.

I have come to see the serious failings of the Wiccan faith. A major problem with the faith is that there is no unity among the followers of the faith which makes it very challenging to define exactly what Wiccans do and do not believe in. Wiccans have a very open “do what you will” or “live and let live” perspective in life which very easily can cause harm to oneself and others without one actually knowing it until it is much too late. Additionally, there is no unified moral code of ethics. This puts up huge red flags for society-at-large because no one can really be quite sure of what any group’s intentions are. Society would have no way of knowing, for example, if you are a Wiccan that practices the Great Rite or polyamory, to name only two examples. Also, they would have no way of knowing just what “Do what ye will and harm none” means, and quite frankly, neither does each individual Wiccan. – from email sent by Hovey to church members, January 2009

The closing of the FCoW not only stunned its congregants, but it stunned the wider Pagan community. Once it was made public, her email angered many Pagans who saw it as a misrepresentation and a bad-mouthing of the Wiccan religion.

And then the accusations came – accusations of excessive monetary charges for classes and inflated egos. In a 2009 comment on a blog, Linda, claiming to be an FCoW member and participant in the TLC special, said that the FCoW started out with a fantastic group of people, sharing joys and sorrows while taking a Wicca 101 class. Then, after the TLC special aired, things began to change.

When our Wicca 101 class went from being free to the middle of the 52 week course, she announced that we would have to pay for it, I almost lost my friggin’ mind. The “Church” had also decided that all true members were to send a monthly payment as well for the services rendered to us. I could pay for one but not for both. It was insane! Money was needed for everything and of course we were given the sermon of “give until it hurts.” I was also told that if it hurt me to give, then I was truly giving, but if it didn’t hurt then my spiritually was in question …

I really could go on and on about the messes that were created, the hostility that began to grow. And because I was one of the first to verbally express my dissatisfaction I was one of the first to be “rejected” among the other members. It turned out to be a total nightmare, ruining the relationship that I was in as well as the entire home life. I watched as others who were involved in a relationship become disenchanted and more breakups were occurring than anyone staying together.

The angry blog comment ended with “The First Church of Wicca may it burn as ashes in her christian hell.”

Hovey went on to become a minister of a Christian church for a short time, then returned to her cultural Jewish roots before gradually working her way back to Wicca and reopening the FCoW in fall 2014.

So what happened?
Hovey said that several months before she decided to leave her church, an ongoing situation involving polyamory came to a head. She said that she was asked to take a positive and public stand on polyamory and, after contemplating it, she agreed.

Hovey recalled, “I held a class and taught the entire concept, along with the very clear boundaries that needed to be adhered to, in order for it to truly work among any couple exploring it. Everyone seemed to understand, at least until they didn’t. To say that things got complicated, ugly, and out of control is an understatement.”

She said that people ended up splitting up or divorcing, which caused stress and turmoil in the church. She was then asked to speak about polyamory for a Pagan Pride Day in Maine. She said, “Hindsight being perfect vision, I should have canceled; instead I spoke against it. Needless to say, things were spiraling down.”

Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey [courtesy photo]

Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey [courtesy photo]

During this same time she became friends with a local Christian Pastor. As she came from a Jewish background, she hadn’t much experience with Christianity and wanted to learn more. Over the course of two years, they emailed back and forth daily. “I had learned so much about Jesus and his teachings, that I saw nothing but metaphysics all over it. It spoke to my beliefs, and added a level of dimension that I had never before experienced,” said Hovey.

It was then, in August 2008, that she asked him to baptize her, but she planned to stay with her church. Yet Hovey’s plans changed. “When the whole polyamory mess happened in our church, I thought it might be a sign to move on, and so I did, to Christianity,” she explained.

She said that she was surprised by the reaction from the wider Pagan community when she closed the church and sent out her explanation to church members. “…I had no idea the letter would go viral. I was actually addressing some very serious issues that were taking place in our church, and wanted to be sure my congregation knew what was driving me to leave. However, after all of the backlash from the wider Pagan community, I think the point was lost.”

There and back again – a spiritual journey
Hovey opened Living Waters Community of Hope in the same space as her former Wiccan church. She said it was tough being a progressive minister in a born-again community and her struggle wasn’t so much with the religion, but with other Christians.

By 2011 she had had enough. Although she loved the teachings of Jesus, it wasn’t enough. However, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to return to Wicca, but she knew she was a Witch and she missed magic.

In October 2013 her mother died. When Hovey attended her mother’s funeral, it was the first time she had been to a Jewish event in decades. She said it felt incredibly comfortable and familiar to her, saying, “My children have over the past several years identified themselves as being Jewish, and I thought to honor my mother, I would take my children back and re-embrace my heritage.”

In a December 2014 blog post, Hovey detailed how she underwent a ritual bath to re-embrace the Jewish faith.

December 31, 2013, wasn’t just the start of a new year and new religion for me. It was the end of a very long spiritual journey that had led me in a complete circle. As I immersed in the living waters, I was met with a full gamut of emotions. My journey was complete and G-d was right there in the center of it all embracing me in His loving arms. Then I heard Him whisper, “Welcome home, Shifra, my dear prodigal daughter. Welcome home.-  Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey, writing as Shifra Hovey in her now deleted blog MyJewishness.com

Hovey said that she and her children attended a synagogue for about three months, but the experience only reaffirmed that she had been right to leave Judaism when she was young. That’s when she returned to Wicca.

While Hovey was on this spiritual journey, her former Wiccan congregants were traveling their own paths.

Sara Jayne tried attending Hovey’s Christian church, but soon stopped. She then attended a liberal Christian church that didn’t mind a Wiccan sitting in the pews. “I actually love the Christian philosophy of loving everyone and spreading God’s love, which led me to be baptized myself ultimately,” said Susan Jayne. She eventually served as an Elder in the Presbyterian church, and she thought that was it, “My Wiccan “phase” was over, and I was very spiritually filled.”

But it wasn’t. Susan Jayne explained, “I missed being a Witch, and having a bunch of other Witches to worship the God and Goddess with. I wanted to go back to FCoW then, and every time that thought crossed my mind, I would strongly remind myself that that was in the past, and FCoW was gone.” She said that lasted about ten months. Then she came back from a vacation saw a message on Facebook about the FCoW reopening for a Samhain ritual.

Delia joined the FCoW back in 2006. She enjoyed finding like minded people and felt she was growing by learning from others. She said that she was upset when the church closed and tried attending Hovey’s Christian church but it didn’t feel like home to her.

After that, she continued with her solitary practice and “… took time to reconnect with the Goddess and God on [her] own.” She also kept in touch with other former members of the FCoW. Once she heard the church had reopened she joined back up, happy to once again see her old friends. “It feels like home,” said Delia.

Hovey said that her journey has taught her many things. She said that she’s always been willing to look for answers and doesn’t fear exploration. “I will forever be a seeker, but that doesn’t mean that my seeking needs to be explored by jumping from religion to religion. I have found that the Goddess supersedes all religions, but that I best fit where I am today,” said Hovey. She added that one of the beautiful things about eclectic Wicca is the freedom it gives to seek and experience other faith beliefs.

Allegations from the past
When asked about the allegations that she had excessively charged congregants for classes and tithes, Hovey said that these allegations were false. She explained that the church hosted an annual meeting where members voted on the budget. She said that one year they voted to pay her a salary of $200 a month, adding “a very small salary, but it showed me that I was appreciated.”

In order for FCoW to meet its budget, each member agreed to tithe $40 a month. Hovey said that she understands that for some $40 a month is large amount of money. However, she felt church goers received quite a bit for that voluntary donation. She said that she was a more than a full-time minister who held services every week. There were church outings, religious education for children, and pastoral counseling and healing treatments Monday through Friday from 8am to 8pm. She welcomed church members to eat meals with her family anytime they wished and took in congregants who faced temporary economic hardship.

As for monetary gain? Hovey said her husband donated over $200,000 to the church, and it caused them financial difficulties.  She added, “We ended up having our home foreclosed and currently live in a small two bedroom apartment.”

According to the former FCoW website from 2007, there is no required payment for church membership. It does list the available classes that members can take in order to advance in their initiation degrees or to simply gain basic knowledge. They range from $30 to $100 per class.

And what about the clerical collar and the congregational model of worship?

Hovey said her model for FCoW came from the Unitarian Universalist Church, where she and her husband attended for several years as Wiccans. As for the collar, she said that she had noticed one of the UU ministers wearing one and asked “why.” The minister explained, “because I am a minister and I have every right to wear one if I choose to.” That answer stuck with Hovey. “At the time I was doing both hospital and prison chaplain work as a Wiccan minister and the collar worked out well in providing credibility to our faith,” she explained.

In addition, Hovey makes no apologies for running a church rather than a coven. “We are a public Wiccan ministry and I want anyone who comes to our services to feel something that they can identify with that gives them a level of comfort,” she said. Although FCoW’s metaphysical services look and feel somewhat like a traditional church service, its ritual observances are done in a coven-like setting.

FCoW reopens
Hovey said that she didn’t make the decision to reopen FCoW lightly. She remembers how challenging it was to be a solitary practitioner and not have anyone “standing in her corner when she was ready to come out of the broom closet.” She said that there are Wiccans out there who want a spiritual community, but aren’t trusting of a coven environment. “The First Church of Wicca is public. We have nothing to hide,” said Hovey, adding that FCoW “… encourages people to bring someone they trust with them to check us out—a friend, a family member, anyone. We’re a safe place to explore, and welcome anyone who is curious.”

FCOW Church LogoThe church reopened November 1 to host a Samhain ritual and is currently being run out of Hovey’s home. She said that they have already outgrown the space and so they are looking to return to Tarkiln Community Center in Duxbury. Old members, like Susan Jayne and Delia, are returning and new members are joining.

Hovey noted that their private Facebook group has already grown to 70 members in just two months and that she receives inquiries by phone and email daily. She hopes that the church is so successful in meeting the needs of their members that people forget the past six years.

Susan Jayne is one of those hoping for success, if not quite able to forget the past. She said, “Life in FCoW 6 years ago wasn’t always sunshine and roses, and there were things that happened there that gave me pause. It took a lot of prayer and meditation to decide to return. I decided to go back for the Samhain ritual and get a feel for the new FCoW, and I think that’s where I’m at right now. I’ll stay as long as it’s a positive thing in my life.”

Hovey invites people who have questions to contact her directly at KVHovey@gmail.com. She said that she’s made mistakes in the past and apologizes for the hurt she may have caused. She also added that “…even though our name is the same, our leadership is the same, and our church mission is the same, there have been many things that have changed and are very different here. So, I don’t even view the First Church of Wicca as the same church anymore. It’s something new, and we’ve all been given a fresh start.”

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. Our hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!
Gaia Gathering

Gaia Gathering, a Canadian national Pagan conference, launched a new website to announce the opening of registration for its annual event. This coming year marks Gaia Gathering’s 10th anniversary, which will be celebrated in the city where “it all began,” Edmonton, Alberta.

Organizers are currently calling for academic papers saying, “We invite papers and proposals for our academic stream from all fields within the social sciences, arts, and humanities, which are relevant to the academic study of contemporary Paganism, New Religious Movements and related interests.”  In addition to academic paper presentations, the conference also hosts “workshops, panel discussions, and evening entertainment.” Gaia Gathering has been held every year for 10 years during Victoria Day Weekend, May 15-18.

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witch school 2Last week Witch School International released a new book, The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca. The publication is available for free via download from the school’s website.

Written by Don Lewis, the book’s forward explains that the new book is “a compendium of copy-right free materials dealing with Wicca and Witchcraft. All the materials within it may be freely shared without the need for any further permission. These materials have been created for the world, and are explicitly intended to be shared. Why? Because we believe that sharing knowledge can create a better world.

In its nearly 400 pages, The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca includes articles, poetry, chants, artwork and a biography listing. As reported by Witch School’s website, the digital publication has already been downloaded by people in over 55 countries in the seven days that it has been available.

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church of wiccaThe First Church of Wicca has reopened in Duxuby, Massachusetts after a five year hiatus. The announcement was made on Oct. 19, and the group celebrated its first Sabbat, Nov. 1.

The First Church of Wicca was founded and run by Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey. Many might remember her from the TLC reality show “My Unique Family: The Witches Next Door.” As we reported in 2009, Hovey announced that she was converting to Christianity. After a five hiatus, she has returned to Wicca and reopened her church. The Wild Hunt will have more on this story in the coming weeks.

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Brigid-Color-HorizBurning Brigid Media, a newly established Pagan-run production company, is beginning production on its first film project, a web series called Sleep Study. Company founders Michael Coorlin and Kat O’Connor have extensive experience in Chicago’s film and theater world. They both became disillusioned with many of their mainstream projects and the common representations of marginalized populations.

Last spring, they came together to aim their extensive experience and talents in a new direction. Burning Brigid Media’s goal is to “contribute to a cultural shift through narratives that normalize stories about the traditionally marginalized: women, minority, and LGBT characters presented as people rather than genres.” Their first project, to be launched this summer 2015, is the web series titled Sleep Study. They describe it as a “transmedia atmospheric surreal horror” that will “question the very nature of reality.

In Other News:

  • While most of our readers have been celebrating the Winter Solstice and other early winter holidays, some readers, like those living in Tasmania, Australia, have been preparing for the harvest. Each year the Tasmanian Pagan Alliance hosts an annunal Harvest Fest in mid-January. This family-friendly event includes rituals, workshops, and vendors, and is held 25 minutes outside of Devonport.
  • For some Pagans, the Winter Solstice means a trip to a sacred site, such as Stonehenge and Newgrange. Our own columnist Rhyd Wildermuth was fortunate enough to be selected to enter Newgrange on the Winter Solstice. He will be sharing the experience and photos in his next column.
  • Registration has opened for a new Spring Equinox festival in Florida. The Equinox in the Oaks will take place 30 minutes west of Ormond Beach and Daytona, in the central part of the state. Organizers are excited about the new event, describing it as an “Earth-centered, ethically-focused, family-affirming Pagan festival.” Pre-registration is already underway and they have launched a Facebook fan page to allow future attendees to follow the event’s developments and additions.
  • Another festival that has opened its registration is the mid-winter Feast of Lights hosted by the Earth Spirit Community. The annual event is held in Nothhampton, Massachusetts from Jan. 31-Feb. 1. Organizers describe it “as a weekend of warmth at the coldest time of the year – a festival of of community and hope, of tradition and creativity, of Earth spirituality and the arts, of community and hope, of tradition and creativity.” This year’s special guest will be Viviane Crowley.
World Peace Violin [Photo  Cedit: H.Greene]

World Peace Violin [Photo Cedit: H.Greene]

  • In October, we reported that violinist Scarlet Rivera would be recording a special piece using Rev. Patrick McCollum’s sacred violin. The recording is now posted on YouTube and features Rivera playing a composition written by Yuval Ron specifically for McCollum’s violin. The piece is entitled “Voice of Peace.”
  • Last week Patheos Pagan Blog, A Sense of Place, welcomed a new contributor. James Lindenschmidt has been Pagan for more than 20 years and “feeds his spirit by bonding with his ecosystem.” Originally from the midwest, he now lives in “a small place in the woods” in Northern New England. His inaugural post, entitled “By Way of Introduction,” was published on Dec. 24.

That is it for now. Have a great day.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Just a few quick news notes for you this Sunday.

Altar of the Twelve Gods Update: Back in February I reported on how Greek Hellenic group Thyrsos Hellenes Ethnikoi has been protesting to preserve the famous Altar of the Twelve Gods, which was uncovered on February 17th during railway construction. Now Tropaion has an update, looking at how different Greek papers are covering the protests.

“The Kathimerini story did not claim that Polytheists were the ‘troublemakers’ in contrast of what To Vima clearly states that “members of polytheistic organizations, which had occupied the site where archaeological reburying work was undergoing for the antiquities.” It is important to note the language used by the newspaper To Vima which is clearly biased. It is also important to underline what Kathimerini notes that the reburying has been called “emerging” –  Central Archaeological Council has approved the reburial of the altar, faithful to the notion that the monuments are better protected hidden – as part of a renovation of the Metro line exactly were the altar exists which is one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of recent years.According to reports, citizens formed a cordon around the monument, which was split violently by the riot police who up to now patrol the site. The work had continued.”

You can read an April 13th update (in Greek) from Thyrsos Hellenes Ethnikoi, here. More on this situation (in English) here, here, here, and here. Petition, here. It looks like things are becoming heavy-handed in Greece, and reburial is moving forward. I’ll update when I have more information.

Vodou Flags, Vodou Culture: Gina Athena Ulysse, Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Wesleyan University, writes about Haitian Vodou flag-maker Myrlande Constant, who is part of a current exhibit entitled Re-Framing Haiti: Art, History and Performativity at Brown University.

Erzulie LaFlambeau by Myrlande Constant

“Born in 1970, Constant is a self-taught flagmaker whose artistry is rooted in her skills as a seamstress and the beading techniques that she learned from her mother as a child. While in her teens, both of them had worked in a wedding dress factory. Her foray into the world of flag making coincides with a story of self-emancipation from exploitative factory labor. In a public dialogue in Kreyol that I had with her at Brown last Wednesday, Constant recalls quitting her job at the factory over a compensation dispute. When her mother who still worked at the factory asked her what she would do, she responded, she didn’t know. She then found herself tracing the outline of what would eventually become her first flag, an homage toDanbala that was purchased by singer and bandleader, Richard Morse, also owner of the Hotel Oloffson, where the flag still hangs.”

The exhibition runs through April 21st, and will feature a talk by Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat at its closing. I also wanted to mention that Ulysse linked to a very interesting-looking new book in her article, “The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti” by Kate Ramsey. The work looks at “the long genealogy of anti-Vodou rhetoric” in Haiti, and might be a must-read for those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of struggles Vodou currently faces.

Former Pagan on Easter’s Pagan Influences: Here’s a slightly unique take on the “pagan roots of Easter” story, the Patriot Ledger interviews Kendra Vaughan Hovey, a former reality-television star who converted from Wicca to Christianity, about bunnies, eggs, and Eostre.

“…as they follow those rituals, they will be evoking age-old, pre-Christian practices so familiar that few people give them a second thought. No one knows this better than Kendra Vaughan Hovey of Duxbury, a former Wiccan priestess who is now Christian. She sees reminders of her former religion at every turn this time of year, and she still embraces much of it. “It’s a holiday of new life,” she says of Easter. “There’s a beauty in that.” Hovey notes that even the name Easter has a pagan source – most likely from Ostara, the ancient Norse goddess of spring. Ostara’s festival was always around the spring equinox, which is still used to calculate Easter Sunday dates.”

I have to say, kudos to Lane Lambert at the Patriot Ledger for finding a new angle to this old chestnut of space-filling holiday-themed content. One wonders if this was accidental serendipity due to out-of-date source lists, or if it was planned. In any case, it was novel enough to gain my attention.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

An announcement has come forth that Rev. Kendra Vaughan Hovey, elder high priestess of Duxbury’s First Church of Wicca, and star (along with her family) of the reality television program “My Unique Family”, has converted to (some form of) Christianity and is opening a new church. In a letter sent to members of the church (thanks to Kat for forwarding it to me), Hovey takes time to explain her conversion from Wicca, pointing out her former faith’s (perceived) shortcomings.

I have come to see the serious failings of the Wiccan faith. A major problem with the faith is that there is no unity among the followers of the faith which makes it very challenging to define exactly what Wiccans do and do not believe in. Wiccans have a very open “do what you will” or “live and let live” perspective in life which very easily can cause harm to oneself and others without one actually knowing it until it is much too late. Additionally, there is no unified moral code of ethics. This puts up huge red flags for society-at-large because no one can really be quite sure of what any group’s intentions are. Society would have no way of knowing, for example, if you are a Wiccan that practices the Great Rite or polyamory, to name only two examples. Also, they would have no way of knowing just what “Do what ye will and harm none” means, and quite frankly, neither does each individual Wiccan. We are left to make moral and ethical decisions for ourselves rather than realizing that by human nature we are going to do anything that feels good to us, not what is best for us, and also not necessarily what is best for society as a whole. This makes for a very dangerous and faulty moral code of ethics. In addition, Wicca teaches primarily about how we can change the world and have all that we want. Spells, magick, etc. all prove to cause us to think selfishly instead of putting others before ourselves and more importantly instead of putting God before anyone else, including ourselves. It is very understandable that one would be close to nature and the earth, as well as, feel a need to call “God” the “God and Goddess;” however, the actual rote and complicated spells involved in Wicca can prove to be a huge distraction in one’s spiritual growth. We do not need all of the “ritual things” in order to have a relationship with God – all we need is a sincere and thankful heart.

While I respect the decision of any Pagan to leave for a faith or philosophy that better suits them, Hovey’s little rant to her followers seems to point to someone who wanted Wicca to be something other than it was, and didn’t really understand (or want to understand) the theology, morality, and practice of modern Paganism as it is. Perhaps her desire to shoehorn Wiccan practice into a congregationalist model, complete with sermons on Sunday and clerical collars, bespoke a long-standing desire to fully embrace Christianity. Now that she’s moved on, her new church is aiming to heal the wounds of “inequity from past religions”.

…helping people heal from their experiences of inequity from past religions and religious institutions, using Jesus Christ and his teachings in the Bible as the foundation of how to have a meaningful relationship with God, as well as, holistic health of mind, body, and soul.

Again, I wish Ms. Hovey well in her conversion and ministry, too bad her healing journey towards Christ had to begin by misrepresenting and bad-mouthing her former faith. She’ll no doubt be far happier in her new role, though I doubt it will get her the attention she sought while running a Wiccan church.

The history of Wiccans in reality television isn’t exactly stellar. You had Fiona Horne’s starring role in “Mad Mad House”, “scary” Mary O’Leary from the UK version of “Big Brother”, the Eckhart family on the never-aired show “Welcome to the Neighborhood”, the vaguely Pagan-ish New Age D’Amico-Flisher family on “Trading Spouses” (which caused the now-famous freak-out by Christian mom Marguerite Perrin) and the infamous Wiccan priestess Donna Thompson on “Wife Swap”. So I’m always a little leery when I read about yet another Wiccan family signing up for the reality television merry-go-round.


The Hovey Family: Kendra, Tim, Alana, and Alec

“Television viewers, prepare to be shocked when you see what one Wiccan family on the South Shore does virtually undetected. They go out for ice cream. Among the reasons people willingly partake in reality TV shows, promoting religious tolerance isn’t high on the list. But for the Rev. Kendra Vaughan Hovey, elder high priestess of Duxbury’s First Church of Wicca, and her husband, Tim, it’s the sole reason they agreed to star in an episode of a new series on The Learning Channel called “My Unique Family.” For the entire month of October, the Hoveys and their children Alec, 11, and Alana, 8, were filmed, followed and interviewed – at home, at church, going to work and, yes, even going out for ice cream. More than 200 hours of footage was compressed into the one-hour program scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19.”

Will The Learning Channel be more sympathetic and fair than previous reality programs? Even the family has its concerns over their imminent television portrayal.

“They haven’t yet decided if they’ll do anything special when the show airs. One member of the congregation suggested watching together on a big-screen TV, but, the Hoveys said they’re still a little worried about whether they’ll be left smiling or doing damage control that night.”

As I have said before, reality programs (for the most part) aren’t looking to normalize outsider views and faiths, just to put them on (highly edited) display. A sanitized freak-show for our modern era. No matter how positive or good-intentioned there is always a touch of outlandishness inherent in these programs, and while I always hope for the best I’m sure there was a reason the show picked a priestess who insists on wearing a Christian clerical collar.

Then again, you’ll also note they picked a Wiccan tradition that is following a congregational model (200-strong according to Rev. Hovey) instead of the more traditional coven structure. So perhaps this might be a rare normalizing effort on the part of TLC. I guess we will just have to wait and see what the show’s editors decided to portray.