On weekdays, ETHAN DURST can often be found at the family business — Durst Cycle Shop, founded by Grandpa Charles — helping customers pick the right bike and assisting with sales.
But come the weekend, he’s the Rev. Ethan Durst, the associate pastor responsible for busing in parishioners and leading worship services at the 60-member Faith Church on Urbana’s north side.
Staff writer Tim Mitchell sat down with the 1993 Champaign Central High grad to talk about his life, his ministry and more.
How did you meet your wife, Jennifer?
She is a nurse practitioner at Carle. I met her as a result of my ministry. I frequently went to The Carle Arbours, where she worked, to visit a 102-year-old lady.
She was in the nursing home because she had broken both femurs. I preach the nursing home service there every week. I originally planned to visit the lady one time after I completed the nursing home service. She had a spitfire personality, even at age 102. So I kept returning every week to visit with her.
Jennifer was working there as a certified nursing assistant at the time, so I asked her out. I had a convertible Mustang, and for our first date, I drove around the countryside with her in that convertible. We were married in August 2009 right here at Faith Church. We have four children: Elsie is 8, Emie is 7, Harry is 5 and Robbie is 2.
Tell us more about your family.
My dad was a mechanical engineer at the University of Illinois. He met my mom here, and they got married. After he graduated from the UI, he went to Rockford and worked for Sun Strand, an aviation engineering company, for 10 years.
When my grandfather, who started Durst Cycle in 1935, was getting older, he called my dad to come help with that. My dad took over management in 1977. When I was a kid, we lived in Savoy, and I smarted off to my dad, so he made me walk to the bike shop that day.
I still help out there. I go in and help out. My mom and dad are both 75 years old, and they are trying to step away a little bit.
What’s the key to a quality bicycle?
Avoid cheap parts. Look for nice parts and a good assembly. The places that sell a cheap bike don’t know what they are doing. Many of those bikes show roughshod work.
How did one of the heirs to the Durst Cycle empire get called to ministry?
When I was in high school, I didn’t have any desire for a career at the bike shop long-term. I wanted to become an accountant. I wanted to be a CPA.
Money attracted me, honestly. I wanted a comfortable life. I wanted a nice house, a nice wife and nice kids. I wanted to earn a lot of money.
My dad wanted me to take small engines at Central High School, but I had zero interest in doing that. I was good at math and good with numbers. I took accounting in high school, and it was easy. I liked the idea of working with money.
But during my senior year in high school I began to get a deep, nagging feeling that God wanted me to be a minister. I remember feeling this deep, heavy pull toward ministry. So I called my pastor here at Grace Church, the Reverend Jack Jones. He was very wise and noticed that something was heavy on my heart. He asked if I was called to preach, and I said, “Yes, I am.”
When I told my mom, she was very pleased. We had a small seminary right here at Faith Church at the time, Faith School of Theology, and that is where I studied to become a minister. I was ordained here.
What ministry are you proudest of?
Driving our buses to bring people to church on Sundays. I have been driving those buses on the Urbana route for 23 years.
When I was 22 years old, I got my CDL bus driving license, and I have never had a week off other than vacation. We start picking them up at 9 a.m. and get back here at 10 a.m. in time for Sunday school. We pick up kids and families. We go to the inner city, the ghetto, the projects and the trailer parks.
After services, I drive them home. We have had as many as 123 people take the buses on Easter Sunday in 2006. Sometimes, we have four to a seat. We are most proud of this ministry because we have done it since 1972.
Tell us about a time you helped convert somebody to Christianity.
One of my ministries involves going from home to home knocking on doors to tell people about our church and inviting them face to face to join us. We do that all the time. Door-to-door knocking is one of the most effective ways to reach people.
One day, I knocked on the door of a home on Dodson Drive in Urbana, and an elementary-age girl answered. Pretty soon, her brother, who was in sixth grade, showed up at the door. His name was Tyler Hucke. The very next Sunday, he was in a suit and tie riding on my bus. Later that summer, he gave his heart to the Lord. Before long, he was baptized.
It was wonderful. Today, Tyler drives our bus on the Champaign route.
Have any hobbies?
I like playing softball, table tennis and board games. I am an outfielder for a team called The Slugs. It is fun to play with the guys and run around the field for a while.
A buddy and I got into table tennis after we met some Chinese guys on campus who played a lot of table tennis. I ended up joining the Champaign Table Tennis Club.
My favorite board games are Catan, chess and Monopoly. When I play Monopoly, my playing token is always the battleship.
Is there a book you read as a child that still sticks with you today?
Yes. It is called “Tortured For His Faith,” by Haralan Popov. It is about a Bulgarian minister who was imprisoned by the Communist government. Reading about the struggle that he had really impressed me.
What’s the one place you’ve never been to that you’d most like to visit?
I would love to visit the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked.