Meet The Pastor
A preacher from the heart: Christ United Methodist in Northampton welcomes new minister
Gazette staff/Jerrey Roberts and Laurel Demkovich
Friday, August 04, 2017
David Hurst is the new minister at Christ United Methodist Church in Northampton.
FLORENCE — The Rev. David Hurst, 67, calls himself orthodox with a small “o.”
His preaching style is more casual and informal than others.
The Bible is not all about rules, Hurst said. Parts of it are serious, but religion is mostly about loving one another and using the rules taught in the Bible to help other people.
Hurst joined Christ United Methodist Church in Northampton a month ago as the church’s new minister. Hurst brings what members of the congregation call “a breath of fresh air.” He urges anyone to visit the church for a service, and stay.
“All our welcome,” Hurst said. “It’s really important for people of all communities to have that assurance and know that they are welcome.”
Growing up in Lennox, Hurst said his grandmother would tell him, “David, you have God in you.” But Hurst didn’t always see it.
“As a kid, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Hurst said.
Hurst had numerous jobs before he became a minister. He worked as an alcohol and drug counselor. He owned two businesses: a dry cleaning and laundromat and a flower bending shop. He worked as a salesperson at John Hancock Life Insurance Co. All these jobs gave Hurst the leadership skills he needed to take on ministry, he said during an interview this week.
“It was a weird way of God preparing me for this kind of work,” Hurst said.
Hurst was sitting in church with his daughter, Jillian, now 30, when he first thought about becoming a minister. He was 50 at the time.
But, he procrastinated for months. Then, at a service on Easter Sunday, Hurst decided he was actually going to do it.
“I was finally in a position where I could do it,” Hurst said. “It all just fell into place.”
Hurst attended Boston University School of Theology for three and half years. He lived in Lennox and commuted to Boston University twice a week for class. He also worked nights as a care worker and supervisor at the Department of Developmental Services.
“It was difficult, and I was exhausted all the time,” Hurst said. “But, I didn’t regret a single minute of it.”
After he graduated, he became an ordained United Church of Christ minister and worked at a church in the Berkshire County town of Tyringham, where he quadrupled their congregation of eight. He then moved to Wilbraham, and worked at Grace Union Church for 12 years before retiring.
He was retired for a year, but it wasn’t for him.
“I felt like I didn’t have a purpose,” Hurst said. “I needed the purpose of a church.”
He decided in June to give Christ United Methodist Church a call, and he’s been working there ever since.
The church, built in 1978, has one service every Sunday at 9 a.m. Starting the first weekend of September, services will be at 10 a.m. to accommodate children who attend Sunday school, which is offered every week during the service. The congregation has 180 members, but most Sundays, only about 40 members are in service.
Hurst said he wants to make it more accessible, welcoming all types of people to services. He wants to see the church do more outreach and mission work. He would like to start an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the church. He urges people who have stopped coming to church to come back.
“I’m here to create a sense of unity,” Hurst said. “A minister’s job is create a real enthusiasm, so that people can go out and do good work.”
Hurst’s goal when he preaches is to take Biblical stories and relate them to everyday life. He wants members of the congregation to take a problem happening in their world and leave the sermon with a little more clarity.
His sermons come from the heart, he added.
Joe DeGrande, a church musician, called Hurst refreshing. He said Hurst comes from a place inside the congregation, instead of just an outside visitor.
“He’s one of us, and you can really feel that,” DeGrande said.
Hurst said he always remembers to have a sense of humor.
He jokes when he finally finds a light switch in the church saying, “Let there be light.” He tells Joyce Monska, a church musician, not to forget his birthday in a few days. He laughs when he calls himself a great tennis player.
He got into ministry because he loves people. Whenever he travels, he writes down all of the different license plate states that he sees because he likes to see how mobile people are. During one trip, he and his granddaughter Millie, 4, counted 40 different states.
“I love people,” Hurst said. “I love to hear their stories. Some are really bad, and some are really good. I want to help them if I can and give them some sort of spiritual guidance.”