A METHODIST minister who says that he is being forced out of his home by an Anglican monastic order taped his mouth shut to draw attention to his dispute.
The minister, the Revd Paul Golightly, ran St Antony’s Priory, in Durham, for 14 years, but his contract was ended this summer after he fell out with the Society of the Sacred Mission, which owns the retreat centre.
He alleges that the Society has treated him in a “cold and cruel” way by trying to bully him and his wife — who also worked at the priory, as an administrator — out of the house, which was tied to the post.
Their contracts were ended in August, but, because they have not yet found a new place to live, they are still living in the home. Last month, the Society served them a court summons, demanding that they move out by December or face eviction, Mr Golightly said on Tuesday of last week.
On Monday of last week, he was photographed by a local newspaper with tape over his mouth outside the priory to protest against the Society’s handling of the case.
Mr Golightly said that he was trying to move out, but had not yet been able to finalise the process of buying a new home. His contract was terminated after he went through a formal grievance procedure with the Society, who appointed his successor in January, and intend to take the priory in a new direction, Mr Golightly said.
No one from the Society had contacted him before serving the summons, he said, but this account is disputed by the order.
When asked to comment on Mr Golightly’s claims, the Society said in a statement that they had offered to discuss the situation with the couple on multiple occasions, but had been ignored. “The trustees dispute the account of events as reported by the Golightlys, and point out that several invitations to discuss their issues have gone unanswered,” the statement said. “These date back some months.
“The trustees do not intend to comment further on matters that are sub judice, but request that actions designed to intimidate and harass staff members are terminated.”