A Personal Remembrance from UCF Member Amy Jones
Leigh and I moved to Beaufort as full-time residents in the Spring of 2015. Over the next year, we visited UCF several times but did not make a commitment to become members. On June 12, 2016, one of our biggest fears happened when a gunman entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and opened fire killing 49 people and injuring 53 more people. This terrorist attack is the deadliest incidence of violence against the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.
Leigh and I have been together since 1984 and in our “younger” years, we would frequent the only LGBTQ+ nightclub in Greenville. It was here that we met and celebrated with many dear friends who we consider our family and community. We often wondered, given the magnitude of intolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community especially during this time period, if the sanctuary of love and acceptance we had at this nightclub would be shattered by an act of violence. Thankfully that did not happen, however, seeing the incomprehensible occur at Pulse brought back the harsh reality that there are still people who are fearful and intolerant of the LGBTQ+ community.
Two weeks after the terrorist attack on the LGBTQ+ community at Pulse, Leigh and I attended the service held at UCF to honor the Pulse nightclub victims. To our knowledge, the service at UCF was the only acknowledgment in Carteret County of the horrific attack at Pulse. Through this public acknowledgment, the local community could clearly see UCF as a welcoming, supportive, and loving refuge for all. On our ride back to Beaufort and into the evening, Leigh and I talked about how during this time of remembrance and mourning for the victims of Pulse and the LGBTQ community-at-large, we felt a kind, welcoming, and loving presence at UCF that day. We knew that we had found our sanctuary in the people of this congregation.
In our nearly 38 years together and living in rural eastern NC, Leigh and I have experienced a wide spectrum of responses to our relationship. We have experienced hostility and intolerance but thankfully this has not happened often. We have experienced tolerance. Tolerance, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviors that one dislikes or disagrees with.” We have experienced acceptance as well. Acceptance goes a step beyond tolerance. You can tolerate something without accepting it but you cannot accept something without tolerating it.
In this church, Leigh and I are not merely tolerated. We feel accepted and celebrated for who we are and the beautiful thing is that this is not unique to us. We have experienced and witnessed the “Welcoming Congregation” statement in action. The people of UCF live the UU principle that affirms and promotes the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Do we all still have room to learn and grow? Absolutely and we will rely on and draw strength from the power of love and acceptance to guide our way.
We are thankful for our UCF family.