“New Heaven, New Earth: The Life of Hubert D. Jessup”
Homily of The Rev. Dr. David A. Killian
Memorial Service for Hubert D. Jessup – August 7, 2021
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission
Isaiah 65:1-10; 1 John 3:1-2; Matthew 11:25-30
Our deepest sympathy to Marie, Hubert’s beloved wife of 52 years, their children and their spouses, Ethan and Sarah, Micah and Laura, grandchildren Luka and Caleb, Hubert’s fellow parishioners here at All Saints, numerous family members, colleagues, neighbors, and friends.
I am one of those friends, along with all of you who knew Hubert. We are comforted by Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
We take heart because we share Hubert’s faith that he was beloved of God, as we heard in today’s reading from the first letter of John: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”
In today’s reading from Isaiah, God promises, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create.”
These words from the prophet Isaiah aptly describe Hubert Jessup. He believed in the possibility of a “new heaven and a new earth.” As we sang in our opening song, “Morning has broken,” Hubert saw new ways and possibilities of showing forth the goodness of God. He chose “New Heaven, New Earth” as the name of the television show that he hosted on channel 5, WCVB-TV, the ABC affiliate in Boston. On “New Heaven, New Earth” Hubert produced award-winning programs on Thoreau, Thomas Merton, the Dalai Lama, Dorothy Day, Baba Ram Das, Sioux Medicine Man Lame Deer, Harvard professor Peter Gomes, labor activist Cesar Chavez, and others. Hubert said that he first learned about justice and non-violence during the protests that Chavez led in the fields of his hometown in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
Hubert persuaded channel 5 to film the Walk for Hunger in progress to focus on starving families in the greater Boston area. For many years he was on the Walk for Hunger Board. Hubert’s vision of “new heaven, new earth” had two parts, justice and spirituality.” When the peace activist Dorothy Day came to the Paulist Center in Boston in 1974 to receive the Spirituality and Justice Award, Hubert wanted to interview her on “New Heaven, New Earth.” I asked Dorothy, who could be feisty on occasion, and she replied, “Yes, I’ll go on his television show, but only if he will drive me afterwards to St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer” where she wanted to make a retreat. Hubert, of course, was delighted to drive Dorothy because this provided two extra hours for him and Marie to be with this great woman who many today consider a saint.
Hubert’s vision of “new heaven, new earth”, as I mentioned, had two parts, justice and spirituality.” In the early 1970s Hubert was part of the Ruah Spirituality Institute at the Paulist Center where he gave talks on Thomas Merton and Buddhist meditation. Hubert was a “can do” person. If there was a problem, he tried to solve it. Here at All Saints, we talked for years about getting grants for the Ruah Spirituality program. Instead of just talking about it, Hubert went ahead, wrote a proposal to the Trinity Foundation in New York and secured a grant for $66,000 for Ruah to expand its outreach and hire an Executive Director.
Hubert was a “can do” person as President of the New England Chapter and Trustee of National Television Arts and Sciences where he created a high school curriculum on media literacy. He was a “can do” person on his radio talk show on WHDH; as General Manager of BNN, Boston Community Access Foundation, the first of its kind in the country; as a teacher at Harvard Divinity School, U Mass-Boston, and Boston University; as an executive at Media Scope in Los Angeles where he researched the effects of smoking, violence and alcohol in television; as organizer of the Cambridge Forum; as a Vestry member; Norumbega Harmony Shape Notes singer; deep sea diver; hiker; and marathon runner. Did you know that Hubert gave talks here at All Saints on the “Spirituality of Running’? Running for Hubert was a way of connecting with God.
My wife Barbara and I and our children Brendan and Meeya had many happy summers together with Hubert and Marie camping in the Berkshires and attending concerts at Tanglewood. Our families shared Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays together. I remember Hubert getting down on the floor to teach games to our children when they were little. Hubert and Marie joined with Barbara and me in hosting several Rector’s Dinners here at All Saints.
Hubert and Marie traveled all over the globe when Hubert was on the Television Arts and Sciences National Board. He concluded his illustrious career working at the renowned North Bennet Street School in the North End. Hubert was an advisor on media matters to Bishop Shaw and our diocese. He enjoyed going to Red Sox games. One of his great joys was time spent with his family, hiking and camping with Marie, Ethan and Micah and playing with his grandchildren Luka and Caleb. In his later days, he fulfilled a cherished wish of mountain climbing in Tibet and Nepal.
My wife Barbara describes Hubert as a mensch. What exactly is a mensch? A mensch is “a person of integrity and honor.” According to Leo Rosten, author of The Joys of Yiddish, a “mensch” is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.” It is a high compliment, implying the rarity and value of that individual’s qualities. Yes, Hubert was a mensch, a “can do” person, who spent his life creating a new heaven and a new earth.
May his life be a blessing for all of us! Amen.