The Rev. Eugene “Gene” Barnett Navias died on August 17, 2014, at the age of 86. Gene was born on March 18, 1928 to devout Unitarians Dr. Louis Navias and Adelaide Gant Navias. He graduated from St. Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1949 and from the Theological School of St. Lawrence with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1951.
Rev. Navias was ordained to the ministry by the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, OH in 1951. He was called to serve as associate minister and director of religious education to the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland from 1951 to 1957; minister to the Unitarian Church of Concord, NH (now UU Church of Concord) from 1957 to 1963; religious education field consultant to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) from 1963 to 1982; director of the Religious Education Department of the UUA from 1982 to 1993; associate minister to Arlington Street Church of Boston, MA from 1993 to 1999; and Minister Emeritus of Arlington Street Church from 1999 to 2014. In 2005, he was awarded the UUA’s Distinguished Service Award.
Rev. Navias was instrumental in shaping Unitarian Universalist religious education. Throughout his ministry, he led numerous workshops and trainings and brought an experiential approach to teaching those who would then teach children. While serving the UUA as a field consultant, he began developing the About Your Sexuality program. The program was launched in 1971, and was run by Unitarian Universalist congregations for over 25 years. In the late 1970's, Gene collaboratively developed the Renaissance Program, a religious education training program, and in 1981, he developed the UUA’s Accreditation Program for Directors of Religious Education. He was also involved in developing the Meadville Lombard summer and winter institutes for religious educators, and he edited the UUA’s Religious Education AIDS Packet in the late 1980’s. During the ten years that he served as director of the UUA’s Religious Education Department, participation in religious education grew by nearly forty percent.
Rev. Navias successfully united music with religious education. He authored new lyrics to well-known tunes, such as “John Murray Sailed Over the Ocean,” as a way of teaching Unitarian Universalist history and theology. He served on a team that studied the feasibility of the first Unitarian Universalist hymnal, and organized a program of narrations and hymns for the 1992 UUA General Assembly titled "Singing - Shouting - Celebrating: 200 Years of Universalism."
Gene was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Retired Ministers and Partners Association (UURMaPA); the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA); and was involved with the former Boston UU Gays and Lesbians, which met at Arlington Street Church.
Gene had a wide range of interests, and succeeded in many different areas of life. Quite musical, he was an accomplished pianist and a tenor soloist. He was fond of opera, and attended the Glimmerglass Festival each summer. He collected church music, and his collection is now housed at Arlington Street Church. During the six years he served in Concord, NH, he was involved with a community theater organization and performed in a number of musicals. Gene also enjoyed traveling, and with his partner, Jim, ventured to Austria, Czech Republic, England, Mexico, and Spain. Additionally, he was interested in antiquing; his mother was an avid antique collector, and she brought Gene along in her hunts. When Gene entered adulthood, he developed his own interest in antiquing, and he soon couldn’t pass by an antique store without entering.
Gene is remembered lovingly by family and friends. His niece, Jennifer Hamlin-Navias, recounts, “he was always very interested in who you were as a person, and whatever response he gave you was crafted around whoever you were” Gene’s partner, Jim, describes him as “energetic” and “effervescent.” He remembers, “to say Gene was good natured would be to put it mildly.”
Gene is survived by his guardian Jim Buckley; nieces Rebecca Atwood (Barry Atwood), Susan Perkins (Mark Perkins), Mathilda Navias (Dan Bell); and nephew Geoffrey Navias (Jennifer Hamlin-Navias). He is also survived by thirteen grandnieces and nephews and three great-grandnieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 5th, at Arlington Street Church, 351 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, 02116. Doors will open at 1:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Gene B. Navias Memorial Fund, Arlington Street Church, 351 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, 02116. Checks should be made to Arlington Street Church with Gene B. Navias Memorial Fund noted in the memo line.
Notes of condolences may be sent to Jim Buckley, 11A Senate Road, Milford, MA, 01757.
Thomas, Joshua. Christian Educators of the 20th Century Project. Protestant Educators - Eugene B. Navias. Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.