In October of this year the Rev. Julie Denny-Hughes died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 70. She served congregations in Richmond VA, Raleigh NC, Palatine IL, and Halifax Nova Scotia before retiring in her hometown in Indiana. You may remember seeing this announcement in our Tuesday Caring Emails. Julie was a member of UUCWC many years ago and it was here that she first found her call to congregational ministry.
There were a lot of emails written and considered the week Julie died. Emails between congregants here at UUCWC and me; past ministers of our congregation; and even folks from the UUA. Julie was the wife of Peter Jenkins, the minister who, in the late 1980s abused his power and authority, his ministerial credentialing, and worst of all made victims of congregants at UUCWC by way of sexual abuse and manipulation.
When Julie died I wanted and needed to honor her passing and the hearts that still loved her all these years later. She deserved this acknowledgment and remembering, didn’t she? And, in my mind, not clouded by or muddled by her ex-husband’s gross indiscretions, was she not also a victim of his abuses?
But only weeks earlier a victim of Jenkins’ showed up for a service, wounds still open, and wondering if this place, our community, was doing anything to heal from his misconduct all those decades ago (only those few decades ago). I tried to assure the person that, because of our particular story here at UUCWC and because of the harm she experienced, the UUA has made it a charge to help “After Congregations” heal. I tried to assure the person that this was not a secret in our congregation but a history we’ve spoken of from the pulpit numerous times, especially in wanting to celebrate – but also understand – our Centennial accomplishments. I tried to assure this person but I had too few words and too little promise to offer.
What does one do when the spouse of an abuser passes? When we want to honor her but fear reminding ourselves of him? I chose to only share of Julie’s passing without the attachment of her ex-husband’s name or association with our congregation. And then I remembered the UU World’s publication about our story, and I recalled the Rev. Deborah Pope Lance’s words:
“UUCWC is one of the very few places that early on named and talked openly about their minister’s misconduct. Linda DeSantis was instructed by the Department of Ministry, [a UUA lead] and others not to talk about it. As I understand, [Rev. DeSantis] and others, among them, [including the] congregation president at the time, defied that instruction and held opportunities for individuals and groups to process the experience. They refused to be silent then. Why start now….it won’t change the past not to talk about it. Silence is one of the things that made his abuse possible.”
So here is another try at this:
In October of this year the Rev. Julie Denny-Hughes died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 70. She served congregations in Richmond VA, Raleigh NC, Palatine IL, and Halifax Nova Scotia before retiring in her hometown in Indiana. While married to past UUCWC Minister, Peter Jenkins, Julie discovered her calling to congregational ministry.
Jenkins’ name will always elicit a deep sting to the heart of this congregation. His misconduct was inexcusable and his actions continue to affect the lives of his victims.
Holding Julie and all that made her real and true to those who knew her, I pray we may each be remembered fully and without a silence that negates the grief or strength that colors our lives.
We lift up Julie, the victims of UUCWC and others in the country and world who were abused by Jenkins. If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of support please find the following resources below, as well as the open door of Rev. Kim.
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
24/hr Crisis Line: 609-394-9000