Scientology Church Takes on Carytown

Style, Richmond Virginia/November 14, 2007

Attention Richmond, the mother ship is landing — assuming it doesn't get shot down by city building inspectors.

The Church of Scientology, a self-help New Age religion created by best-selling science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, is opening a mission in Richmond — Carytown, to be exact. Right across the parking lot from Richmond's own defenders of the faith and purveyors of produce, Ukrop's Super Markets.

The city issued building permits Aug. 8 for the property at 3600 W. Cary St., giving the go-ahead to replace two toilets and start some lighting work. Since then, neighbors of the planned church have seen neither hide nor hair of the Scientologists.

"I haven't seen anybody go in or out," says Stefanie L., a receptionist at a nearby business who asked that her last name be withheld. "You'd think they'd come over and introduce themselves."

The mission should open "very soon," promises Sylvia Stanard, director of external affairs for the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C.

"There's such interest in Scientology, we're trying to establish churches — missions — in every state," Stanard says, calling the mission location unique in Virginia outside the D.C. area. It will serve the faithful from as far away as Blacksburg and Fredericksburg, she says: "We have quite a few members in Richmond and the surrounding area."

Initially, the storefront mission will serve about 50 practitioners.

Dianetics, a pseudoscience developed by Hubbard for clearing one's negative memory bank, promises to help its followers overcome "problems, stress, unhappiness, depression and self-doubt." But as so many Richmonders know, positive mental attitude is often no match for city building inspectors.

Stanard says no date has been set for the storefront mission's grand opening, as there have "been some questions about the renovations."

There may also have been some delay caused by the need to call in an acolyte of orthographics to help with the spelling of "dianetics." Until sometime last week, the new Scientology sign on the building's facade spelled the word — the founding tenet of the religion — with an extra n before the t.

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