A “Fresh Start” for the First Church of Wicca

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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.”

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92 thoughts on “A “Fresh Start” for the First Church of Wicca

  1. I don’t think that even all the gods and goddesses in all the universes can’t come up with a face palm big enough for such foolery.

  2. Hovey is quite probably the greatest ambassador this side of the Altantic for solitary Wicca. What a self-serving manipulative flake. She held herself out to be a Wiccan priestess and yet clearly had done no serious thinking or study of the Rede or other historical sources of Pagan ethics. She insulted Wicca in the same terms as Evangelicals, essentially calling us inherent amoralists and denigrating the central right of our religion as some sort of sexual deviancy.

    She insults those of us who are polyamorous, who have been part of this movement since the very beginning (a “safe place to explore”, indeed. I’m curious where she stands on same sex marriage). Even before going over to Christianity, she felt the need to impersonate Christian ministers (cause how could Pagan ministry ever find credibility in the public arena after all?).

    Three religions in five years, folks, all of them at zero depth, and she’s holding herself out as a spiritual leader at…..(help me here)….Wicca/Christo-Pagan/Unitarian-esque Metaphysical Stuff?
    To each their own, and let the marketplace of ideas thrive, but new and potential congregants should go into it with eyes open. Those called to Wicca need to realize that it’s not some color in a beige mashup of world religions. It’s not an extension of liberal Christianity, and it’s not a vestment or superficial identity that one dons or shucks according to market conditions for clergy. Wicca is a real thing, and you can find some wonderful Wiccan leaders and teachers who, by middle life, have worked out who and what they are and aren’t going to do so on your time and dollar.

      • I left that out only because Hovey did not, so far as is known, hold herself out as a Rabbi after her three-month whirlwind synagogue tour.

          • True enough, and that might be her next move. Then again, the Dalai Lama isn’t getting any younger. If that job comes open, Hovey might just put herself forward for the gig and discover that Goddess had been calling her to Tibetan Buddhism all along….

          • It would be an excellent way to undermine the legitimacy of traditional Tibetan institutions and identity. They’d back her in a heartbeat.

    • “‘[T]he collar worked out well in providing credibility to our faith,’ she explained.” Ah, yes. All Wiccans ever really needed was a collar. Who knew?

      • Plenty of people seek and “hop” for years or a lifetime. The difference with someone like Star is that, it seemed to me, she has never been afraid to step away and say something to the effect “I need to work on me and my own journey for a while.” Hovey’s instinct, in contrast, is to immediately install herself as the head of a congregation and teacher of a religion she just barely learned about herself, and to figure out how to leverage the thing into a paycheck.

        • I would agree, if not for the fact that Star seriously wasted no time in taking stabs at bad-mouthing pagans and polytheists and the entire ideologies, once she decided to go back to church. YMMV, I guess, but that’s certainly what I took out of her blog.

          That said, Star also seemed very adamant that she was no-one’s “leader” even if, in spite of, or perhaps because of her insistence on that, many people took her position as a de-facto spokesperson for the communities as something akin to a leadership position, and they really can’t be blamed for drawing that line between those two points. And, at least for a time, I though she had a genuine interest in pagan and polytheist ideologies (until she ticked off her former Ravenwood[?] Covenmates with her first post-initiation post to Patheos, and then dropped Wicca like a wet rag for Hellenism –that’s when I seriously started questioning her sincerity, it was seriously in less than a month that she abandoned Wicca for something else, after dedicating herself to its study for *years*, she jumped ship the moment she was called out by her now-former Coven for sharing too much), simply because Star positioned herself as a student, not as a leader. And I’m sure some part of Star is genuinely still seeking a “home”, spiritually, she may indeed be one of those lifelong seekers, but her eagerness to jump ship and blame everything, including the gods themselves, for her problems is where I have my doubts in exactly how much of her is seeking and mow much of her is more interested in running.

          I don’t get that from Hovey, for all the reasons you’ve stated. She reads up on something and is *too eager* to not just put on the hat, but position herself as an authoritative source on that religion. It’s like that episode of King of the Hill where Strickland Propane had briefly closed and the Hills had to economise, and Peggy, who did not play piano, suggested she help the family make ends meet by giving piano lessons by “staying one lesson ahead of [her] students”. That’s not the kind of person one should learn piano from, nor is it the kind of person that one should learn religion from, but it’s the model that Hovey has chosen to exploit.

  3. This just shows that we, as Pagans, have to take stance, if not against, at least towards abrahamic religions and the cult of yahweh.

        • I’m good with that, although I tend to frame it more in terms of asserting a fundamental and irreconcilable difference between Abrahamic and Pagan religions. The core of the problem in Hovey’s case is less about the cult of Yahweh than the cult of personality.

          • Such a separation is impossible, and even if it was attempted, then its automatically excluding those of syncretized faiths.

          • For me, it’s not so much about trying to purge Wicca of all Abrahamic vestiges as it is about articulating a vision of Pagan identity which is utterly distinct from, and incompatible with Abrahamic faith.

            For me, and I think for a great many others, Wicca (or other Pagan paths) is not an aesthetic or a handy spiritual “tech”. It’s a calling to be with and honor Pagan deity. It is also a vision of how to be human in the world and beyond which is radically different than those of Christianity or Judaism. For me, Wicca and Christianity are not two paths up the same mountain.

            Our respective religions are not software patches to each other’s operating systems. They are not escape hatches from the problems in our home religions (Rev. Hovey would have discovered, sooner or later, that Christianity is not immune from failed love triangles). Liberal Christian groups are not Pagan because they feature a spritz of divine feminine theology or socially progressive politics. Wiccans are not Earth conscious but morally deficient proto-Christians who need Christ to complete them.

          • Very much agreed. While I do tend to have respect for individual religious syncretists, those who clearly have formed a cohesive bridge between the polytheism and the (often heavily Gnostic or apocryphal-influenced) Christianity they’ve brought together, I see syncretists as doing something both distinct from traditional paganism/polytheism, yet more compatible with it than with Christianity. Christo – paganism is as much pagan as ska-punk is punk (very much, but worthy of its distinction), but as Christian as ska-punk is ska (considerably less so and far more worthy of being recognized as distinct from the latter).

          • Well, I´m all for reconstructing Middle-Eastern pre-abrahamic Religions, and sure, every abrahamic faith have made use of the stepping stone of Paganism but, as kenofken said, it’s more about shaping a different worldview than sharing theological elements.

    • I doubt anyone really needs to take a stand but it does highlight the pitfalls to some eclectic varieties of paganism floating around out there. When one religion can be swapped for another without turning a hair it kind of illustrates the superficiality and lack of depth your chosen religion has.

  4. It sounds as though she is a seeker. Nothing wrong with that – some of us will seek our entire lives before finding a home. But seekers don’t belong in positions of leadership until they get where they are going. If they get there at all.

    • There’s a difference between seeking, and plain old manipulation, deceit, and being flaky as ‘eff.. This sort of person does nothing but harm the image of paganism as a whole. Unless this is the sort of person we want our pagan leaders to be like?

    • Just for the sake of perspective, let’s say a coven leader wanted to become a Catholic pastor. Just becoming a pewsitting convert would take a year, maybe two. Seminary would be another 4-5 years, assuming you already had a bachelor’s degree (from real accredited universities, not online “metaphysical” programs. Add in the several years of your first post-ordination apprenticeship type gig as an assosiate priest. and you’re looking at a dozen years door to door from being coven leader to pastor of anything in your new Christian outfit.

      • That would give you enough time to fit chastity belts with remote alarms that send a message to your cell phones on your kids for their safety.

      • On one hand, it maybe is one of the reason the catholic church gets less and less priests these days.

        • It’s also one of the reasons why I have far more respect for Catholics than I have for most brands of protestant, and I grew up Catholic. Then again, I only kinda-sorta identify with pagans even a fraction as much as polytheists, and more with the traditional side if polytheists than with neopagan polytheists.

          • I would tend to agree. For all the filth it harbors, the catholic church at least does carry some distinctive Pagan elements. + catholic churches are just way cooler (from a purely architectonic/aesthetic point of view) than empty protestant ones.

      • If she wanted to be a Baptist, she could just pick up a Bible and start whooping. It isn’t that hard to become a Christian pastor in the Bible Belt, and training is optional.

    • Shes a seeker all right, a seeker for attention, for money, for celebrity status, for self importance etc.Where are all the Pagans in Massacusetts, are they speaking out against this fraud?

  5. Gee, I don’t know if I am betraying a sense of manners or indulging in what David Cameron says is my RIGHT to give offense. But reading this? The phrase that came to mind is “Grifters gotta grift.” She obviously couldn’t swim with the big grifting fish in the “Big Five” religious oceans, so she is coming back to be the Big Fish in Wicca’s much smaller pond.

  6. I didn’t meet her in person when she came to the Pagan Pride event in Maine. I did pick up on the uneven energy that she was giving off. This put me off and I’m glad for it at the time. I have had students do this same thing before, but none of them ever come back to me due to embarrassment I’m sure. I see nothing wrong with her progression, but it would give me pause as far as trust goes. I would have to meet her in person to “feel” her out first.

  7. People who don’t trust a coven environment will put up with this level of bullshit?

    Also: why would anyone who was involved with this steaming pile of feces then, upon learning that their “leader” had abandoned them and gone to be Christian, choose to attend her Christian church?

    Do any of these people have any idea what they want, beyond some socializing with vague trappings of mysticism?

    Nothing about this trainwreck even remotely resembles my religion.

    • Do any of these people have any idea what they want, beyond some socializing with vague trappings of mysticism?

      “I missed being a Witch, and having a bunch of other Witches to worship the God and Goddess with.

    • It’s hitting several of my cultish-group red flags. The fact that some of her members followed her to her Christian church rather than seek out a different Wiccan group to join is definitely one of them, it tells me their connection to the religion is mainly through this particular leader, and that’s really unhealthy.

  8. i’m curious as to how the author knows that an article appeared in the grey matters magi-zine. we had a hard enough time getting the target audience at the grey school to read it! bb /s~ (silverlocke)

    • Whatever I think of the subject of the story, I have to credit Cara Schulz with some solid reporting. Hovey’s story has been talked about over the years from this or that blog post or media attention surrounding the reality show etc., but this story gave us a current and balanced look into the story with primary sources.

  9. tl;dr: Indecisive, inexperienced dabbler insisted on immediately misrepresenting herself as an elder, as clergy, as a healer and community leader of a variety of religions she knows very little about. And for some odd reason, Pagans, Christians, and the media enabled her.

    She clearly is much more interested in self-promotion than in learning any religion thoroughly enough to practice it, let alone teach and counsel others. If this shows the shortcomings of Wiccans and Pagans, it’s that too many are too willing to accept self-aggrandizement over real world experience. Being on a reality show is not a reason to hire someone as a presenter, or feature them as a guest at an event. It should be a red flag, an indicator the person’s motives may not be all that spiritual.

  10. Oh man, there are a whole host of fantastically wrong things going on with that woman. She wants power, she wants to be in control and she wants to be at the centre. Everything else just hangs off that tree of woe right there.

  11. 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.”

    So why keep the same name?

    By Your Own Name

    Sometimes I hate being right.

  12. First- You have to has some kind of training or schooling to even contemplate teaching let alone lead ! It’s called a year and aday and then 3 degrees. This woman is a laugh.

  13. Really, I think people ought to have been suspicious just from the name of the church. I don’t have a problem with Wiccan groups calling themselves churches, although I wouldn’t join such a group myself. But even in the Christian traditions, the “First [denomination] Church” designation is for the first church of the denomination in an area to specify that it is the first church in that area, and it is indeed a status thing. “First Wiccan Church of Duxbury” or “First Church of Wicca, Duxbury,” fine, if somewhat foolish. “First Church of Wicca,” however, implies that it is actually the first “church” of the Wiccan faith anywhere — something we know is not at all true. That alone is self-aggrandizing, disrespectful to other Wiccan churches, and clearly quite ignorant of what the phrase means.

    Proceeding from that, the cluelessness with which a lot of other things were handled seem less inexplicable. I’m ambivalent about paid clergy for Wicca, but hey, if a group wants to do that, that’s their business. However, regardless of how freely-chosen Hovey insists the tithing was, some members clearly felt a lot of pressure to contribute money, and that’s not ok, not when so many people are barely getting by. $40 a month can be a lot of money for some people (myself included, at this point). And no class should ever, ever suddenly be charged for when it was free from the outset. You don’t do that. The next time you start up a new class, you can charge for it, as long as you make plain ahead of time that that’s what’s going to happen, but you just don’t start charging halfway through. That’s unethical.

    You also don’t simply declare yourself a pastor in a religion you’ve only just joined and clearly still have only a vague grasp on the doctrines and cultures of. More self-aggrandizement, more disrespect, and very clearly much more about Hovey than about Christianity or the needs of a congregation.

    And really, if she actually wants to indicate that it’s a fresh start, she should pick a new name.

    • You also don’t simply declare yourself a pastor in a religion you’ve only just joined and clearly still have only a vague grasp on the doctrines and cultures of.


  14. I was raised in an Assembly of God Church, I was able to finally leave when I was 13, it caused me great stress and anxieties, setting in a pew, feeling like I was getting screamed at, I found out about Wicca from an 80 year old women, she was so alive and such a beautiful, vibrant soul, who loved to dance and watch the sun rise. I love Earth Based Spirituality, because most of us view the out doors and nature as our church and place to worship. What amazes me the most about this story is the fact, that she is like Saul “Paul” in the Christian Bible, he was Jewish, Roman, Greek, Christian etc. Not even Peter wanted him around, he was what he had to be to win the people over.
    Instead of leaving the church, and converting to Christianity why did she not teach on the views of Christian Wicca or have classes on the Kabbalah, I mean ultimately I understand she had to follow her heart and soul search, but when you are a Rev. High Priestess, you are expected to set an example, be a leader a spiritual councilor.
    She said ” 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.” She Speaks for herself, I wonder if she understands the Rede yet? Obviously she has never even had a small fraction of the Goddess enter her or even move her spiritually, or she would have never made that statement. When I embraced my path I have never once been persuaded to covert to anything other religion. Do I study other religions and their doctrine? Yes, for knowledge. The last thing I want to say with all my rambling is a lot of us say “In Perfect Love, & Perfect Trust” there was nothing perfect or trusting about this FCoW leader. Don’t walk but run from these type of teacher’s. In “Love” and “Light”, everyone!

    • Hum…wasn’t Paul the dude who argued for the opening of the faith to non-jews? Hence causing the collapse of European Pagan traditional Religion? In that case this comparison is both apt and cruel.

      • I agree. Paul’s ideas about religion were not mainstream rabbinical teaching and he utterly failed to based his teaching on what Jesus taught. I think I see a pattern here.

  15. She was Wiccan (with no experience but going right to ministry), but got out because of other Wiccans. She then tried on Christianity (with no experience but going right to ministry) but got out because of other Christians. She tried going back to her family’s Judaism, but got out…it looks because she couldn’t wrangle a leadership post. Now she’s back to Wicca, with still no experience but going right to leadership. She blames everyone but herself, she and her husband threw away 200 grand (seriously, on *what?*), and now she thinks she’s fit for other people to pay her to lead them in a religion she still knows f** all about.

    You’d think this would be a clarion call to, if she wants to go back to Wicca, dig deeper and study harder by seeking a real teaching coven to train her, but I can’t imagine there are any reputable ones which would take her. She needs to fix her damage before trying to lead other people, but it’s all so clearly about her own aggrandizement that I doubt she’d ever see it that way.

    • Like a lot of lottery winners, her earnings from the show disappeared quickly. Too bad, it would have made a nice endowment for a Wiccan church so she wouldn’t have to worry about getting just $200 a month.

  16. Out of curiosity, I looked up the “International Metaphysical Ministry” that granted her “Reverend Doctor” status. I’m still a little bewildered by her use of the term “Wicca” to describe her spiritual casserole, but it seems that the basic recipe is IMM’s signature dish.

    • And this person uses the title Doctor to the detriment and embarrassment of everyone with an actual doctorate degree from an accredited institution. There are so many things wrong with this whole situation. What a bad taste it leaves in my mouth.

    • A catalog of ultra-short unaccredited degree programs with very minimal academic rigor is IMM’s signature dish. You can get a doctoral degree in a year or two. It all hinges on the fact that religious education is beyond the reach of governmental regulation due to church-state separation.

  17. I look forward to Hovey becoming a Muslin, going to Syria joining ISIS to murder the infidels. Maybe we’ll finally be rid of her that way, when someone drops a F15 load of JDAMs on her. One can only hope. She’s certainly an embarrassment to Wiccans specifically and Pagans in general.

    She sends a letter to her former group upon become a Christian expounding what’s wrong with Wicca as a religion. In doing so she amply demonstrated that she’s a big enough asshole to have what it takes be a successful Christian. Perhaps she should have stayed one.

    Which brings us to her former group. It seems like the only people more messed up are the group members that have decided on welcoming her back. Well if they were smart. they’d have changed their name, shown her the door and applied a boot to the ass.

    Get your popcorn and soft drinks people and grab your seat everyone. This should be entertaining show. Guaranteed to have you rolling in the isles They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting a different outcome. You can’t cure stupid. But you can spay or neuter so it doesn’t reproduce.

  18. It’s really upsetting that people feel the need to be so immature as to act like children in this matter. Some awful comments were made and being someone who saw the full answers to all of the questions she was asked when agreeing to this article/interview, you all don’t even know the half of what was said. What a negative spin to an article that I thought would have had some positive light or at least a fair balance.

    • You’re right, I don’t know what else was said in the interview.

      As for what I do know, I stand by what I wrote. It fits a pattern I’ve seen before and not just in paganism.

      I would love to be proven wrong.

    • I’m all ears. What in Kendra Hovey’s public career in Wicca are we supposed to find positive? Her words and actions over a period of years and in a variety of media sources have painted a very consistent picture of someone who exploits our religious tradition (and its sincere seekers) for material gain and/or ego while demonstrating a deep contempt of it and little to no real knowledge of it.

      Moreover, she has had ample opportunity over time to get her message out and address these points. She has her own web site and blogs, and the same access to the comments section here as any of us. She could certainly publish the whole Q&A on her own site, or address the same points in some depth. If there is something she, or you, believe will fundamentally change the shape of the narrative and the debate around it, by all means, let’s have it.

    • How much of a fair balance did she give to those she led, abandoned, and now hopes will come back to her?

      She screwed things up in polyamory, so it’s the fault of polyamory? People don’t usually say that about monogamy, when they have relationship problems – they don’t blame monogamy for their issues.

      She thinks Wicca has no core ethical values, and sees the rede as license … As if having a specific code of conduct prevents people from still hurting others, see, for example, those she hurt.

      She brings up the bogeyman of the Great Rite, and in the same breath as polyamory, as if there’s a direct link …

      Into exactly what Tradition was she initiated in Rhode Island, in which she appears to have not learned any ethical teachings, regardless of whether they were taught or not?

      • I have not see anything that lists her history or lineage in the Craft beyond the group she founded. Her ordinations appear to have come from the online doctoral course and from the church she founded. She is described as the “Founding Elder High Priestess” of the church, and so far as I have ever read, the only one. Was this a self ordination of some sort? “I dub thyself HP….?)

        • I found, after posting this, elsewhere on the web, she claims to have been initiated into the “Dark Forest Coven” in Rhode Island, but I can find no further information on said group, as to what tradition it is, or claims to be, or any other reference besides her.

  19. They lost their home, and she’s switched religions numerous times? There’s something wrong there, beyond poor judgement.

  20. So I never really heard about the “Honey Boo Boo’s Mom” of Wicca before today, and after reading this, I set about reading up and watching everything concerning the story.

    It seems to me that this is a person who is on a very personal spiritual journey, and yet insists on taking everyone she comes in contact with along with her. Seriously…who after reading ANYTHING about / by Gardner or Valiente would come to the conclusion that the Wiccan faith is best expressed in a church congregational setting with one (paid) person at the helm?

    Though not a Wiccan myself since the early 90’s, this whole deal offends me as a Neo-Pagan. That whole shepherd – sheep relationship is for Abrahamics and New Agers, not us. In fact, it would be nice if an actual local coven reached out to these people that she has no right to “lead”.

    I’m also a bit offended that there are now swaths of TV zombies who associate this crap as actual Wicca. May the Neo-Pagan movement as a whole never be “Duck Dynastied” again….

  21. There is nothing in the First Church of Wicca that appeals to me in any way. There’s nothing here that suggests a strong and cohesive community that allows people to grow spiritually in any path, and it does appear that the church relied all to heavily on one central, charismatic organizing figure for its health.

    However, I read reports on such organizations here at TWH all the time, and rarely do I hear such animosity directed at their leaders. Sometimes, indeed, reading between the lines, it’s very hard not to conclude that the leaders of many Pagan institutions are egotistical at best, narcissists in all probability.

    But in this case, I’m hearing a hue and cry about someone who charged money for religious lessons–not according to Hoyle in Trad Wicca, to be sure, but far from unprecedented–and whose organization has closed its doors but appears to be reopening them, which is, again, hardly unprecedented.

    What seems like it is really pissing us off, collectively, is that Hovey has had a fling with Christianity. And honestly? While it has never been my cup of tea (I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Christian), and I think it mixes about as badly with Pagan religion as pumpkin flavoring does with coffee, it hardly scandalizes me that someone else feels differently.

    I am scandalized by the many petty, quarrelsome, self-promoting Pagan leaders I see filling my news feed on a regular basis. And while it is possible that’s just what Hovey is, this report hasn’t made it clear to me that is true. If wearing a clerical collar is what it takes to get us up in arms, but we continue to give free passes to leadership that plays out personal grievances within institutional politics, all while demanding financial support from the wider Pagan community… well. We deserve the leaders we get, I suppose.

    Like I say, there’s nothing about this model of Paganism that appeals to me. But I don’t see character assassination as particularly helpful when it comes to addressing problems of leadership and accountability that I think are much more pressing.

    • With all due respect, my problem with Hovey isn’t her fling with Christianity. It’s her covenant marriage with insincerity.

      • Indeed. For a lot of people, this goes WAY back before her “fling with Christianity”. WAY before.

        I’m not at liberty to say a lot of stuff I’ve read in semi-closed settings (like the members – only dot_pagan_snark), but I do clearly remember that most beefs with this woman from pagans and especially Wiccans far predates her “fling with Christianity”.

    • Honestly, I think Hovey’s story goes directly to the heart of the leadership and accountability issues you mention. It is the sum total of her story, and not simply money or Christo-Pagan syncretism. I think the traditional aversion to money for teaching and ministry has evolved considerably since the old days. Those wanting paid clergy and congregational models remain a distinct minority, but I think most covens have systems of “donations” or outright class fees, and more people are recognizing the need to pay leaders something fair for their outside ministerial roles and teaching.

      The fact that she asked for money isn’t the core problem, it’s that she apparently leaned on church members for cash. More broadly, the problem I have is that she always seems to be looking for ways to capitalize on whatever church she’s running. There is a need to Feed on a congregation, whether for money, ego, or publicity for what might be the next reality show or media venture. Rev. Kendra Hovey is the product – the theology is secondary, at best. It’s about the Who, not the What or Why.

      I don’t even think it was her move to Christianity that grinds our gears so much as her nasty and ignorant parting shots at Wicca. Her remarks showed that she had done no deep work of any kind in Wiccan theology or ethics and yet had drawn 200 people to herself, charging for her supposed expertise. Still more galling is the fact that when she bounced into Christianity and back into Wicca, she was utterly unwilling or unable to take a step back and admit that maybe it was time to turn over the pulpit to someone else while she figures out some really basic stuff with her own spirituality. That, to me, is the epitome of narcissism.

    • I still don’t know how one can be a Quaker and not being a christian. We don’t have those in Europe but aren’t Quakers actual christians?

  22. I wonder if this church’s use of Wicca could be considered cultural appropriation of a British religion?