The Rev. Dr. Austin Phillip Barton Hewett died on February 24, 2018 at the age of 93.
Phillip was born on February 10, 1925 in Dorchester, England to Henry and Norah Hewett. He earned two degrees from Oxford University: a Bachelor of Arts in 1949 and a Master of Arts in 1951. In that year he married his wife Hilda Margaret Smith, mother their children Barton and Daphne. Phillip earned a Master of Sacred Theology from Harvard Divinity School in 1953, and then in 1969 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology from Starr King School for the Ministry.
Rev. Dr. Hewett became a minister with Great Britain’s General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in 1952. He served for a year as Assistant Minister to the Unitarian Church of Montreal, Canada, and then in 1954 he was called to the Unitarian Congregation in Ipswich, England. Rev. Dr. Hewett entered Fellowship with the American Unitarian Association in 1956, the same year he was called to the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, Canada. Rev. Dr. Hewett served the church for 35 years, during which time he revitalized the children’s religious education program and helped start three new congregations in the Vancouver area. Upon his retirement in 1991, the Unitarian Church of Vancouver elected Rev. Dr. Hewett their Minister Emeritus. Post-retirement, he served for a year as minister to the First Unitarian Church of Victoria, Canada.
Rev. Dr. Hewett carried out a vast array of service to the denomination. He was President of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Unitarian Ministers’ Association, and he was later President of the UU Ministers of Canada (UUMOC). Phillip served three terms on the board of the Canadian Unitarian Council, and was Chair of the CUC’s Ministerial and Chaplaincy Committee. He also chaired the UUA’s Program Committee and the board of Meadville Lombard Theological School. And Rev. Dr. Hewett was Vice President of the UU Historical Society and President of both the British and Canadian Unitarian Historical Societies.
During his ministry in Vancouver, Rev. Dr. Hewett was noted for challenging the inclusion of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools, advocating for reproductive rights, founding the BC Memorial Society to provide an alternative to the funeral industry, sheltering Vietnam War draft resisters, helping establish the BC Civil Liberties Association, and promoting LGBT rights. Philip was also the longest-standing “Elder” in the David Suzuki Council of Elders. Phillip was very active in the International Association for Religious Freedom, and in 1983 he and his wife Margaret were jointly presented the annual award for distinguished service from the IARF’s American chapter. In 1992 Rev. Dr. Hewett was presented the Distinguished Service Award of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Phillip enjoyed hiking (a long-time member of the Golden Age Hiking Club), cross-country skiing, camping, gardening, and writing: He wrote and delivered some 1,200 sermons; myriad lectures and essays; and the books An Unfettered Faith: The Religion of a Unitarian (1956), On Being a Unitarian (1968), Unitarians in Canada (1978), The Unitarian Way (1985), and Racovia: An Early Liberal Religious Community (2004).
After Phillip’s passing, his friend Rev. Charles Eddis wrote of him:
"His skills and talents have almost overawed me. His mastery of our history has been definitive. The way he has shared his experience has enriched my life. The story of his own life has been an experience itself. The way he strode up a high hill at a UUMOC national meeting in BC as though it was level ground with me struggling to keep up… was a challenge I will never forget. Phillip kept climbing to the end. All honour to him."
And Phillip’s children shared these messages that their parents felt were important to pass on to them:
Our mother Margaret Hewett always lived by and encouraged, “I do not require of you to form great and serious considerations in your thinking. I require of you only to look.” (Saint Theresa, to the novices under her guidance)
Our father Phillip Hewett felt it was important that we become part of the greater community. He taught us, “It is an unusual person who will find the optimism of the will alone. We find it together. We are parts of one interconnected whole, and if we suffer with that whole, we also gain strength from it. We are not isolated individuals. We are members one of another, and we are rooted in a deeper reality that sustains us all. We tap into energies we never knew we had, energies that can serve us well in the struggle to which we are called on behalf of everything we cherish. Knowing ourselves to be part of something far greater, which did not come into being with our birth and will not end with our death, we find what we need to steel the will in commitment and action.” (Phillip Hewett)
He is survived by his children Barton Hewett and Daphne Sweeney(Hewett), Daphne’s husband Ed Sweeney, and their children Liam, Isabelle, Natalie, and Emily Sweeney. He was predeceased by his wife Margaret in 2006.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Unitarian Church of Vancouver (address below); to the Unitarian Universalist Association, Attn. Gift Processing, 24 Farnsworth St, Boston, MA 02110; and the David Suzuki Foundation, https://davidsuzuki.org.
A memorial service will take place at 1:30pm on Friday, March 23, 2018 at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, 949 West 49th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2T1, Canada.
Notes of condolence may be sent to Barton Hewett at firstname.lastname@example.org, and to Daphne Sweeney at email@example.com or 269 Queen’s Road East, North Vancouver, BC V7N 4N7, Canada. If you would like your message to be considered for use in Phillip’s memorial service, please forward it to Rev. Steven Epperson at firstname.lastname@example.org.