A METHODIST minister will cover his mouth with tape to stage a silent vigil to expose what he has labelled the “cold and cruel” treatment he has received at the hands of a religious order.

The Reverend Paul Golightly was the director of St Antony’s Priory, on Claypath, in Durham City, for 14 years until his contract was terminated at the end of August - a move which he says was against his wishes.

The 61-year-old, along with his wife Joan, 71, an administrator of 14 years at the priory, part of the Anglican order called the Society of the Sacred Mission, were told to leave their accommodation.

The Northern Echo:

SILENT VIGIL: The Reverend Paul Golightly says he has been treated in a "cold and cruel" manner by the Society of the Sacred Mission Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

For two months Rev Golightly has been searching for a new home but told The Northern Echo he has been under mounting pressure by the order which culminated last month in a county court summons scheduled to take place on December 12.

Today Rev Golightly will stand outside the priory with a board which reads: “We have had our contracts terminated without our consent or our proper notice given. Joan [was] dismissed because she was married to me.

"The monks of the Society of the Sacred Mission have taken our jobs, our income and now they take us to court to take our home.”

In January Rev Golightly said he informed his employer, previously St Antony’s Priory Ecumenical Spiritual Centre, that he was “unhappy and might leave” as a result of alleged “bullying and harassment” in the workplace.

He said: “They put me into a grievance procedure and before I started that they had appointed my successor.

"I went through the process which I thought was to resolve the grievances but at the end of the grievance procedure it was not found in my favour.”

Rev Golightly appealed the decision following what he described as an “internal investigation” but it was dismissed.

“After that I said ‘where does this leave me’ and they said ‘you’re leaving on August 31’,” added Rev Golightly, who said he was then told his wife would also have to leave.

The pair claim their employer was unfair and in breach of contract by dismissing them and their solicitors are preparing papers to submit to arbitration service Acas.

As a result of losing employment, they were told by the order’s solicitors to leave their provided home on Claypath and in mid-October they received a summons to court.

“It takes time to buy a house but immediately they put pressure on saying I had 28 days and they started talking about eviction,” said Rev Golightly.

He added they have also been told to stay off the priory premises and have been “banned” from speaking to any employees of the order.

Rev Golightly said his wife’s health had suffered as a result, adding: “It’s been very unpleasant. Our hard work was very fruitful but we couldn’t celebrate it.

"This is a cold and cruel process and I don’t want it to be a secret.”

The Northern Echo contacted St Antony’s Priory but they refused to comment.