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David P. Hubner

1980 - 1988

Biography

David Peter Hubner was born on August 22, 1940 in Middlebush, New Jersey to parents George C. Hubner and Sara F. Johnson. His family belonged to the local Dutch Reformed Church where David went to Sunday School.  After completing 8th grade in Middlebush, Hubner attended regional high school in New Brunswick where he earned honor roll grades, headed the Electric Club, and participated in the theater program. During his teens Hubner became friendly with a fellow student whose parents took both boys occasionally to the Unitarian Church of Princeton. After high school graduation, Hubner entered Rutgers University’s 5-year engineering program and upon graduating in 1962 enlisted in the Navy where he served as intelligence officer and participated in the 1965 U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic. Disillusioned by what he considered an unjust use of force, Hubner cast about for another career and hit upon banking, taking a job at New York’s Bankers Trust Co. as an assistant vice-president in charge of Latin American loans. However, the late 1960’s turmoil caused by the Civil Rights Movement, resistance to the Vietnam War, urban riots and social protest, including the 1968 student uprising at Columbia University, motivated Hubner to investigate more meaningful life choices, finally settling on the goal of becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister.

Hubner entered the Harvard Divinity School (HDS) Master of Divinity program in 1971 shortly after which he took on an internship at First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Arlington, MA under the tutelage of Reverend Charles Grady, a noted humanist. At HDS Hubner met fellow student and Master’s in Theological Studies candidate Michael Kehoe whom he married in 1972. During their Harvard years, they served as house parents at a Cambridge-based halfway house for discharged Maclean Hospital patients.    After completing his course of study at HDS, Hubner was hired as a settled minister at the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson, in Hudson, MA in 1974.  However, when Michael finished a Smith College MSW degree in June, 1980, she wanted to continue her studies at Simmons University so as to earn certification as a social work administrator. This career transition required the Hubners to move closer to Boston, so David accepted a call from First Church and they moved to Dedham in the summer of 1980 and the Hubners moved into the Parsonage in August 1980.

In some ways Hubner’s First Church ministry offered continuity with Jan Vickery Knost’s previous decade+ tenure. To start off, Hubner recognized the importance of excellent Religious Education leadership. Thus upon the retirement of Frances Wayland Wood, Hubner encouraged the First Church Parish Committee to hire yet another dynamic and highly competent RE director, Berna Derby.  A graduate of Tuft University’s Crane Theological School, Derby was ordained as a Minister of Religious Education by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. Derby headed the RE program from 1980 to 1983 and in 1985 she was succeeded by yet another Minister of Religious Education Reverend Betsy Stevens who would serve First Church until 2003. During Hubner’s ministerial tenure, Derby and Stevens were credited with enhancing First Church RE by providing volunteer RE teachers with expert supervision and support,  introducing new RE curricula, such as the 7-9 “Our Whole Lives” sexuality education program, engaging parents in family fun activities like sledding and apple picking, and launching an adult RE program featuring, for example “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven”, a curriculum still employed by First Church women. 

Hubner also followed Knost’s lead in several other ways. It will be remembered that Knost prioritized creating positive publicity for First Church by, for instance, writing a bi-monthly column in the Dedham Transcript, a practice that Hubner continued. Knost had also charged the Committee on Music and the Arts with enhancing First Church services. Under Hubner’s auspices, First Church committees like the Women’s Alliance, the Social Action Committee, and Youth Group were actually empowered to lead services. Moreover, in the 1980’s First Church’s music program continued to generate enthusiastic attention, led sequentially by talented young music directors Peter Sykes and Lawrence Siegel. Sykes is now a world-renowned organist and area music professor, while Siegel has become national famed as a composer of music-theater. Moreover, under the direction of Libby Allison, Junior and Youth Choirs performed at services that thus attracted extended family participants. In addition, during the Knost era, First Church had hosted a conference on “The New Feminism and Women’s Liberation” featured speakers from National Organization of Women, UUA Women’s Federation, and Bread and Roses.  Later, in 1977 the UUA’s General Assembly adopted the Women and Religion Resolution, pledging to “challenge sexist language, assumptions, and practices.” During Hubner’s tenure in the 1980’s First Church celebrated the Women’s Movement by the establishment of Women’s Essential Connections, the founding of Evening  Alliance, and the use of more inclusive words when singing hymns in service.

However, in one important way, Hubner’s ministry at First Church differed significantly from Knost’s. Hubner noted this difference in his essay “Life in the Eighties” in The First Parish Church and Parish 350th Anniversary commemorative history that “By the time I arrived in Dedham, the Civil Rights battles of the 1950s and 60s and the anti-war movement 0f the 1960s were over…. The 1970s had seen some of the spirit of these two movements carried forth in society, but life seemed to be moving in a more conservative direction.”  In reaction to what Hubner conjectured to be a changing spirit of the times, First Church congregants adopted a less confrontational style when responding to social and economic injustice. He observed that First Church members still worried about hunger and homelessness, but preferred volunteering to serve Arlington Church Dignity Dinners to lobbying for more government aid to the needy. Similarly, Hubner reported that First Church congregants considered ceasing to hold stock in companies that did business in South Africa as a protest against racial apartheid, but instead settled upon “what seemed to be a prudent middle course shot of disinvestment.”  Nevertheless, Huber conceded that “if our social action efforts were less dramatic or confrontational, they still were important to us.” Thus in addition to volunteering to serve the Arlington Street Church Dignity Dinners, the Social Action Committee advocated for congregants to donate to Renewal House and the Benevolent Fraternity.  

 

Hubner’s ministry at First Church ended in 1989. David and Michael had decided that they needed to purchase a house to accrue equity for their growing family. Since First Church Deacons mandated that First Church ministers live in the parsonage, David decided to resign as First Church minister, move to Wellesley, and assume the position of UUA Director of Church Staff Finance. There, he oversaw the creation of guidelines for the financial compensation of ministers and staff and the establishment of “green” pension plans. Later, Hubner worked as UUA Director of Ministry and Professional Learning, overseeing church staff finances and UUA credentialing, professional learning, religious education, and support of minister transitions. Hubner retired from the UUA in 2006 In 2008, he was invited back to First Church as minister emeritus.  At that time, David and Micheal returned to First Church as parishioners. In his role as emeritus, David was an invaluable support to the Dedham Ministry, preached several times, and met with the Minister for counsel and support. Michael Hubner died from ALS in 2018, and just six months before her death, she offered her insights from her career in Social Work and as a patient in worship service about hospice care and dying.  Her memorial service was held at the First Church.  David continued to be a pastoral presence for the minister until 2023 when he moved down to Virginia to be nearer to his son Ben.  Rev. Rali Weaver stated, “David Hubner was an invaluable asset both to my ministry in Dedham and to UUA clergy in general through his caring support of and wise counsel to ministers in formation. His greatest Legacy is the health and well-being of countless UU ministries over decades.”

Bibliography

050429_religiousleader.pdf (uua.org)
David Hubner | UUA.org
David Hubner | UUA.orgCan Unitarian Universalists talk about failure? | UU World Magazine
David Hubner Interview with Geoff Tegnell on March 20, 2023
Helen Bancroft, ed. The First Parish Church and Parish 350th Anniversary Dedham,1988.
MICHAEL HUBNER Obituary (1947 - 2018) - Dedham, MA - Boston Globe (legacy.com)
myUUA: People
Our Minister - Unitarian Universalist Congregation (uucob.org)
Our Officers and Directors (uuministerialrelief.org)

 

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