By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Calvary-St. George’s Church’s new Associate Minister Ben DeHart officially took up the position at the Gramercy house of worship on September 28, but the New Jersey native said that he’s still in the process of acclimating himself to the change of scenery.
“I’m still transitioning,” he said. “It’s been fun. During the first week I started to realize that I was kind of over stimulated, but it’s been nice not owning a car.”
DeHart ended up at Calvary by way of Pittsburgh, where he went to seminary. He was ordained there in 2012 and has lived in that area for the last 10 years, although he has only officially been a priest since January.
For the last few years, the church’s priest-in-charge Reverend Jacob Smith has been taking on most responsibilities on his own, so as associate minister, DeHart will be helping to ease the burden.
“Calvary has grown a lot in the last couple years,” he said. “Jake was really being overloaded for a while.”
DeHart will be responsible for pastoral care and new members ministries, going on hospital visits and working on events for newcomers like connecting them to devotion groups, as well as helping run the soup kitchen.
“I hold devotion groups in my apartment and that’s really nice because it’s small, about five to 10 people max,” he said.
He also spends some of his time visiting people who are homebound and stops by to see others who ask for visitations.
“I love doing that because I’m seeing their lives outside this place. You see the people behind the mask and they see behind mine,” he said. “In a self-sufficient place like New York, I have to take the initiative sometimes but people always appreciate that. I always have to have ears everywhere. It’s a way to get to know them very well. People share the most remarkable things, some very, very good and others very, very bad. Very few people get that opportunity to connect on that level.”
One of the main tasks he’s focusing on now is learning how to run a ministry, since the culture in Pittsburgh is different from that in New York.
“Everything is very leisurely there,” he said. “They would want a devotion group to be two to three hours but in New York, everything is very fast and very busy. The devotion group is an hour, max. Time is very precious here. But it makes sense, because people work until 9 p.m. I want them to hang with me for an hour, but they also have to get home to their wife and kids.”
Aside from the change of pace, DeHart said that he’s loved the city since he was a kid growing up around Trenton and Princeton and one of the things he’s most looking forward to is trying out all the different kinds of food available.
“I’m almost overwhelmed by the number of places to eat,” he said. “You just have to walk out the door and they’re there. I want to get more plugged into the community and find more places to go. I’ve been really into Thai food lately, unexpectedly. And there’s a much wider selection of that here.”
His main focus, though, is connecting with the members of the congregation, despite the faster pace and city atmosphere.
“People are at their best at these places,” he said. “We foster arenas for friendships and lessons from the world. We’re forming a community in a contemporary, urban, mobile world.”