Michigan spiritual sanctuary focused on serving community

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REMUS, Mich. – Located in the middle of Michigan, and about an hour and a half north of Grand Rapids, lies the land that has become Wolf Run Wildlife and Spiritual Sanctuary (WRWSS).

At the core of WRWSS is Stan Newcombe and his wife, Altona. Newcombe self-identifies as an eclectic Wiccan, and as a self-professed nerd and geek and fascinated by technology. In his day job, he is an electronics engineer.

They purchased the 10 acres the sanctuary sits on in 2006. The Newcombes found the property for sale almost on a whim. They were looking for property to buy but had not considered what might lie to the south of where they were living at the time since they always traveled north of the land that would come to be known as WRWSS.

Shortly after purchasing the land with a modest home on it, Newcombe’s children pointed out a narrow trail just beyond the tree line. Newcombe intrigued with where it might lead, followed the trail. The path led him to the east side of a 21-foot-diameter circle.

He said when he first saw the circle, he felt it reaffirmed why he and his wife had been drawn to the property. He also talked about how it felt to enter the space of the circle that first time, “There was a sense of resistance, almost like moving through jello and the sound of the birds and animals in trees around the circle were muted, as if underwater.” He equated it to the bubble projectors the Gungans used in Star Wars.

The growth and evolution of WRWSS have been fairly organic. After an incident at a Pagan Pride in Grand Rapids in the early 2000s where protesters disrupted the event, Newcombe who had been called on to help calm the aftermath in the community, began to think about a place for people to be. He envisioned a place where people could interact, and be themselves. And to do so without fear. It was the beginning of Wolf Run as a sanctuary.

WRWSS has become the center of a thriving community, that hosts a number of their own events, like the Annual Harvest Festival and Psychic Fair, which offers a variety of entertainment, vendors, a potluck, drumming, and of course psychics. WRWSS also plays host to other events sponsored by a variety of other groups: Phoenix Rising Coven, The Scholars of Earth and Sky, and Red Tent West Michigan.

This year during Convocation, a 4-day event that includes and explores a variety of esoteric spiritual paths and takes place in Detroit, WRWSS was the recipient of the event’s annual fundraiser. Convocation holds a raffle each year with proceeds going to a predetermined charity.

Newcombe said as the fundraising progressed he was shaking and nearly overcome with gratitude by the response. In all, the fundraiser brought in just under $6000. It will be a good start for the project they have slated to begin this spring.

On the WRWSS property, they have been making do with an elderly barn, and an assortment of pop-up canopies for events. Unfortunately, the barn is in need of serious repairs, and many of the canopies have seen better days. Rather than attempt to repair the barn, Newcombe and the board of directors decided the most cost-effective strategy would be to build to new a structure.

They have developed a thorough and comprehensive plan for building a new shelter house on their land to replace the old barn. WRWSS created a video of the proposed design that is posted on their YouTube channel and gives an impressive 3-D view of what the finished shelter will look like.

Newcombe could not say enough good things about WRWSS’s board of directors, who include: His wife, Altona Newcombe, Doug Sievers, Sarah Scram, Kristen Newcombe, Bill Ehle, Mark NeCamp, Bonnie Jean Ann Wilson, and Jessica NeCamp. Without their participation, he said none of what they accomplished to date would be possible. He described them all being, “like family, all incredible and from diverse backgrounds, who all bring different skills and work together, unified by their goal for WRWSS.”

The events that WRWSS sponsors are focused on unity, and bringing people from a variety of backgrounds together to share in a common space. Their Annual Harvest Festival and Psychic Fair is open to anyone who wants to come, not just Pagans.

Newcombe said one of the memories he has of a past event was where everyone was sitting in a circle on blankets, enjoying a meal. As he made his way around the circle to visit with those in attendance, he realized there was a Pagan sitting next to a Catholic, who was sitting next to a Druid, who was sitting next to a Lutheran, and so on. Everyone was engaged and sharing food, and conversation.

The motto for entering WRWSS is simple, “At Wolf Run, people are treated like how family should be treated, and anyone who can leave hate at the gate is welcome,” Newcombe said.