Who We Are

An Interview with Pastor Sheth LaRue

I sat down with Pastor Sheth LaRue over coffee and a tasty apple muffin on the morning after he was called to serve as the minister at First Presbyterian. We discussed several questions—from the sublime to the ridiculous. I didn’t want to repeat the questions asked by the PNC or to cover material he’d already included in his excellent bio (which you can read below), but it was a lovely conversation, relaxed and light-hearted, and it’s evident that Sheth and First Pres will be a great match.

I eased into the conversation with some important issues—for example, I asked this potentially polarizing question: Does pineapple belong on pizza? In the spirit of true inclusivity, Sheth laughed and said that he wasn’t a pineapple-on-pizza guy himself, but that he wouldn’t pick pineapple off pizza offered to him. In answering other questions, Sheth revealed his pet peeve (bad drivers), his hobbies (hiking, fixing things, old bicycle restoration), and the place he’d most like to visit (Germany, where he has in-laws).

Pastor Sheth (pronounced ‘Seth’) also told me the story of that extra ‘h’ in his first name: His father found a mention of a ‘Sheth’ in Numbers 24:17 just before he was born, and as the name appealed to him, it stuck.

Since Sheth and I are both writers, we talked for a little while about this common interest. Sheth’s blog is these sacred thoughts—pointing to the holy, and it contains his writings, sermons, thoughts on truth, and other essays. He enjoys helping others to be better writers; more importantly, he is a proponent of the Oxford comma. (If I’d had any doubt about his worthiness—and I didn’t—the Oxford comma sealed the deal for me).

When I asked the old question about which people, alive or dead, he’d like to have lunch with, Sheth chose Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a 20th-century German theologian who was executed by the Nazis), former president Jimmy Carter, and his theology professor, Cindy Rigby. Not surprisingly, they’d discuss…wait for it…theology.

Finally, we moved into some deeper questions. Pastor Sheth told me that he’s drawn to the book of Ephesians, which he finds both encouraging and challenging. There are several current issues and events that are important to him; he mentioned specifically a concern for the plight of immigrants. He states that with this issue and others that are divisive in today’s America, it’s important not to compromise, even when there are people you love who stand on another side. And his most recent specific prayer of thanks was for God’s guidance and direction which brought him and Chelsea May to First Presbyterian and to Benton Harbor.

Sheth and Chelsea May are looking forward to exploring Michigan’s natural beauty and to establishing a home in the Benton Harbor area. He loves the fact that First Pres is a church that has stayed “where the people are” and has established ministries there, and he is eager to jump into those ministries.

Welcome, Pastor Sheth LaRue and Chelsea May!

The people are First Presbyterian are unapologetically diverse. We are black, white, and everything in-between. We are rich, poor, and stubbornly middle class. We are young, old, and defying age. We are as different as we are alike. We are united in love. The love we learned from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are welcoming to all. We want to get to know you.

The people of First Presbyterian…
Nearly 125 years old, First Presbyterian has an integrated congregation and stands out for closely reflecting our community demographic makeup.

With the help of Presbytery we are able to conduct an extensive outreach program in our neighborhood. We operate a food bank serving the immediate neighborhood, Christian education and fun activities for the youth and children of the community. We host summer mission groups, who paint and clean up areas in the community while developing relations with people they may not otherwise come to know.

While many of the mainline churches have moved out from the inner city setting of Benton Harbor, we have consciously chosen to remain here, where we feel we are called. We are a very self-reliant group with an effective committee structure of committed individuals. We have learned to focus our outreach programs to allow our members to provide leadership and oversight through the Outreach Committee.