The Church of Our Saviour Lutheran in Manhasset had expected to spend a year finding a new pastor who could form a strong connection to community, according to congregation president Kathy McNally.
That, McNally said, was three years ago.
As it turned out, she said, the extended process was a blessing, allowing them to select Rev. Marc Herbst, who was installed as the church’s fifth pastor on Dec. 6
McNally had met Herbst early in the selection process when Herbst was serving a two-year stint as the chief of staff for the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Herbst had visited Church of Our Saviour Lutheran in Manhasset in his role as chief of staff for the bishop, which called on him to visit local congregations to preach and run worship services.
“I thought he would be a good candidate,” McNally said. “But everyone said ‘no he’s the bishop’s assistant so he’s not available.’”
She said the church’s review process involves both church officials and congregation members who fill out a multiple page questionnaire to help church officials better understand their needs and wants in a pastor.
The church officials then review the applicants’ information based on what congregation members want, and how applicants can fill that role, she said.
“We took so long that [Herbst] became available,” McNally said. “We were very persistent.”
After his two-year commitment, the congregation still had not selected a pastor, and Herbst asked the Bishop to release him to pursue his passion in parish ministry.
Prior to his time at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Herbst served as pastor of Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Syosset, president of the Hicksville Community Council, and president of the Hicksville Library Board.
“My past background has heavily been in community relations. I was very active in civic associations, community organizations, I served on a school board,” Herbst said. “The roots here in Manhasset, the neighboring community, are something that I feel we need to build a better relationship.”
Unlike most congregations, he said, the Church of Our Savior Lutheran draws from 37 different zip codes, as opposed to just the surrounding area. Because of this, Herbst’s background aligned with what the congregation was looking for. “One of the things that was a big importance to us was interest in youth, experience with youth, and someone that will be interested in being a more integral part of the community,” McNally said. “Being a pastor to our congregation is very important but we also feel in this day and age you can’t exist in a vacuum.”
Herbst said he wants to draw upon his previous work, and is excited to expand the congregation’s youth programs and local presence.
“At Syosset, I really kick started a lot of the youth programs there like school programs and confirmation class,” he said. “I also started something brand new there, children sermons. It really became the hallmark of my ministry.”
Herbst said he really enjoyed engaging with the children and wants to explore the possibility of starting a similar sermon with his current congregation.
“I try to make them feel comfortable and welcome, and show them that this is not a place where you do not want to come to,” he said. “This is some place that’s fun, but its not a joke either, so its just trying to find that balance.”
But Herbst said right now, he is using his time with the church as a learning experience.
“I’ve met with the neighboring pastor, the whole clergy in a group, and even the town supervisor,” he said. “I just want to get to know a lot of the civic groups, the chamber of commerce, the rotary clubs — those types of people. Not necessarily to reach out to them and try to convince to be members here, but they know the communities, they know the issues, and they know the concerns.”
“We want to let people know that we are here to help in anyway,” McNally said. “If there’s something that needs assistance we’ll work together with the organizations.”
Herbst said the process of reaching out to the community is a lengthy, but important one.
“We know they’re here, they know we’re here,” he said. “It’s just building the relationships and it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a constant presence.”
Herbst succeeds Rev. Raymond Ormand, who retired in 2013. Rev. John Jurik served as interim pastor during the review process.