The Rev. Julie Denny-Hughes died on October 14, 2016 at the age of 70.
Julie was born on April 4, 1946 to Helen Pentzer Denny and Morris Duane Denny, and grew up in Bedford, IN, where she developed a love of humor and music. She received a Bachelor of Arts in American Literature from the University of Illinois in 1972, where she was on the Dean’s List. For the next twenty years she worked in the computer software industry as a technical writer and trainer, often as an independent consultant.
In 1978, Julie found Unitarian Universalism at the Unitarian Church of Princeton, NJ (now the UU Congregation of Princeton), where she became an active member and led the congregation’s first “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven” course. She later moved to Stratford, CT, and began her journey to become a minister while a member of the UU Church of Greater Bridgeport—the congregation that would later ordain her. Rev. Denny-Hughes earned a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 1995, where she conceived and co-created a public interfaith service to celebrate democratic elections in South America; at graduation she was awarded the school’s faculty award for Excellence in Religious Leadership.
After interning at the UU Fellowship of Raleigh, NC, Rev. Denny-Hughes was ordained to the ministry in 1995. First called to serve the UU Community Church of Glen Allen, VA, her four-year ministry there led the congregation to more than double in size. Rev. Denny-Hughes then returned to the Raleigh congregation, ministering there from 1999 until 2004. She later answered calls to serve Countryside Church UU of Palatine, IL, and the UU Church of Halifax, NS. Rev. Denny-Hughes retired from the ministry in 2011, after which she moved to Indianapolis, where she remained active in the community as a member of All Souls UU Church.
While serving in Virginia, Rev. Denny-Hughes served on the board of the Thomas Jefferson District (now the Southern District), and authored its long-term plan. She later coauthored a Unitarian Universalist Association task force report on clergy sexual misconduct. And throughout her ministry she remained committed to the causes of equality, human rights, women’s rights, and environmental justice.
Julie carried a lifelong love for joyous laughter, Scrabble, crossword puzzles, and arts of all kinds—especially music and reading. She also held great affection for her cats and all the other comforts of home. Most of all she treasured time spent with her family and friends, and believed that you ought to tell people you love them every time you see them—in words, a hug, and a kiss.
In their obituary for Julie, children Suzannah and Phillip said of their mother: “Julie had a heart of rare proportions, and with it she embraced family, friends, and strangers-who-would-be-friends warmly and openly, with a bright smile and lilting laughter that will long be remembered.”
And in her own words, from a sermon she delivered to her Glen Allen congregation:
It’s one of the mysteries of life to me that we can give at the same time we are receiving. And that we receive so much when we give. That happens at the level of the soul, I believe. Because at that level we are all connected in such a way that giving and receiving become the same thing. They are part of the same sacred source of connection. Times of fear and uncertainty afford us those glimpses.
Rev. Denny-Hughes is survived by her daughter Suzannah Wilson Overholt (Tony); son Phillip Earl Wilson Jr. (Suzanne); grandchildren Max Overholt, Elise Overholt, Helen Overholt, Meghan Wilson, and Melanie Wilson; brother Marc Denny (Mayme Jo) and sister Marian "Susie" Rumsey (Guy); and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents Morris Duane "Beanie" Denny and Helen Olive Pentzer Denny, and by her brother John L. Denny.
A memorial service was held on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the First Christian Church, 1101 15th St., Bedford, IN 47421.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alzheimer’s Association.
Notes of condolence can be sent to Suzannah Overholt, 635 E. 84th St., Indianapolis, IN 46240.