BY JENNIFER CROWLEY
Scottsville’s Union Presbyterian Church is getting ready to welcome local resident Kevin Hershey as its new pastor. The 41-year-old known as “Pastor Kevin” is joining the church as of Sunday, May 5th. Hershey is filling the vacancy created a few years ago when the Rev. Susan Hartley retired; an interim minister, Rev. Ed Hoener, filled in while the congregation sought a permanent replacement.
Rev. Hershey along with wife Jessica, a social worker, and daughters Paige (7) and Ellia (5), have been living in Scottsville since 2011. The family moved here from Boston after Hershey was offered a position with the Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church in Brighton. The opportunity to minister to his local community is something that Hershey, who looks like he could be a rockstar with his longer hair, leather cowboy hat, and tattoos, is very enthused about. “We’ve lived here for about eight years and have made many friends, especially with other families in the village who have children about the same age as our girls. We love being part of a community that knows and cares about each other, and where you see familiar faces wherever you go. I see ministry as something that goes beyond the walls of the church building, and I love the opportunity to be a support to our community,” offered Hershey.
Hershey spent his youth in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. He recalls first having a call to ministry when he was 14-years-old. “I didn’t go to church much as a teen, but I talked to God a lot, and often read the Bible to see who this Jesus guy was. I was kind of blown away by what he had to say. And whenever I was struggling with typical teenager stuff in which the world seemed to be coming to an end, I would always end up talking to God about it. When I realized most kids my age didn’t do that, I started to wonder why. I didn’t think of it as a call to ministry then because I figured, ‘I’m only 14-years-old, what do I know?’” he explained.
Later in life when Hershey was living in Oregon and attending graduate school for counseling, he thought the sense of calling came back (though now he realizes it was there all along). He decided to finally answer the call by entering the seminary. He soon found himself moving to Boston to enroll in the Boston University School of Theology, where he met future wife Jessica, also studying there at the time.
Today, in a world that feels a bit madder than in recent memory, Hershey takes a pragmatic approach to engaging with parishioners. “My goal is to help people connect their faith to every-day life events. It’s not enough to learn Bible stories and worship on Sunday mornings. God isn’t in the building; God is in the world. Christianity, to me, is about understanding how God speaks to us in our own time and context, and how we can spread greater love in all areas of our lives, and help people everywhere we go. That’s what I consider real discipleship, and it’s what I try to help parishioners, and myself, work on.”
While Hershey is optimistic that new families will come to worship at Union Presbyterian once he’s formally appointed, he takes a broader view on what it means to attend services. “Certainly I hope new people come but at the same time, I see it less as a goal, and more an effect of people living their spirituality well. What I hope for every church is that its parishioners are excited to be a part of it. That their love of God translates to a love of others. If this is how we all at Union feel and live, maybe it will make others curious enough to want to try being a part of it, too. And if the curiosity doesn’t come, but they’re still supporting each other, loving God, and helping others – that is what I think Christ really wants, anyway.”
For any Scottsville residents that have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Hershey, chances are they have seen him around town. Reflecting on the days of pushing his daughters’ stroller down to the playground, wearing his hat, and practicing his sermons, he laughs wondering how many people drove by him with a raised eyebrow wondering who he is and what he’s talking to himself about. When asked about the genesis of the trademark cowboy hat, he explains that he wore it once in high school as a whim on Halloween and it just “stuck,” eventually leading to more interest in western culture including music, rodeos, and target shooting.
Hershey’s excitement about starting at Union in the coming weeks is only tempered by his practicality around modern times. “Whether it’s creating space to be together after national tragedies, providing ways to celebrate diversity, or organizing resources to serve a need within or beyond Scottsville, I’d love to see us do more as a community to address what is happening in the world. Many local churches and organizations are doing great mission and service work. Maybe we can do even more to bring everyone in the community together to be a part of it.”
Pastor Kevin’s first service at Union Presbyterian located on Browns Avenue will be Sunday May the 5th at 11:00 AM.