The Rev. Marc Herbst found his calling to the cloth late in life.
Herbst, who was ordained seven years ago this past Monday, was an engineer and a five-term state assemblyman before he took the leap, starting with just one class at the General Theological Seminary, an Episcopal institution in Manhattan.
One class turned into one more and then Herbst was taking weekly flights to Chicago to continue his training at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
“At the time, I was relocated to Albany, and I would literally fly to Chicago on Sunday night, sleep on a couch, take courses all day Monday and fly back Monday night for two years,” Herbst said.
Plainview native Herbst joined the Church of Our Saviour, Lutheran on Northern Boulevard in Manhasset in December 2015 after a two-year stint as New York Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo’s chief of staff and the director of strategic plan at the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
Herbst said after working for Rimbo, he was ready to go back to parish ministry, having previously served as pastor for Faith Lutheran Church in Syosset.
“Our tradition is once the congregation calls, I stay here for as long as they feel the need to have me here,” Herbst said of his Manhasset congregation. “I have no interest in leaving, and I hope to retire here. The feedback I get is the same. It’s been a fabulous experience.”
The congregation, Herbst said, is made up of about 130 families, and he said he sees about 100 people every Sunday for worship services.
Herbst said the congregation ranges from small children and young families to senior citizens drawn from across 37 different ZIP codes, which gives the congregation diversity but also hinders the church’s youth ministry because the children are involved in their own community sometimes many miles away.
Herbst has focused on the children, instituting a children’s message at the beginning of every worship service before they go to Sunday school.
Herbst said he gives the children a preview of the gospel message and a small gift on theme with the message, which helps him build a relationship with the younger congregants that was missing from his childhood parish.
Herbst has a wall of photos of churches he has preached at behind his church desk, a symbol of his passion for preaching and spreading his message beyond the walls of the church.
“I believe houses of worship are where you re-energize yourself. It’s where you charge your batteries, but the mission is out in the world,” Herbst said. “We’re being sent, and as part of our liturgy, we have four sections — the gathering, the word, the sacrament and the sending. Oftentimes, people minimize the sending, but the idea is to be through the liturgical practice, to be inspired to go out and help others.”
Herbst said he can often be seen at community events across the North Shore, giving him a more one-on-one interaction with those not in his congregation that could be of a different faith but looking for spiritual guidance during a dark time in their life or simply a new outlook on life.
“The world has changed. It’s not the 1950s and ‘60s, and a lot of people lament that our houses of worship are no longer the center of our culture,” Herbst said. “In the old days, everything shut down on Sundays. We compete with all the activities on Sunday. There is more activity across the street at the Miracle Mile than there is at the houses of worship across the street. Does that mean we’re failing? No.”