The Rev. Dr. Ben New

The Rev. Dr. Ben New

Passed on Saturday, 20 August 2022
The Rev. Dr. Ben E. J. New died at home on August 20, 2022 in Greenfield, MA, surrounded by his beloved family, following a long struggle with congestive heart failure.  Ben is survived by his wife of 69 years, Mary Helen New; his daughter Jenny Jackson and her husband Thomas W. Jackson; his son Mark New and his partner Victoria Blunt; his son Jonathan New and his wife Debbie New; and grandchildren, Sarah New, Elinor New, Justin Peterson-New, and Ethan Peterson-New.

Ben was born in Dallas, TX, son of Benjamin Earl New and Lona Belle (Buckner) New. He grew up in Dallas with three siblings who predeceased him: Older brother James, older sister Winona and younger brother Don. He was an Eagle Scout and graduated from Sunset High School in 1946, and earned an AB at Baylor University in 1951. During his time at Baylor he fell in love with a young woman he knew from church, Mary Helen Morrow, and they married on November 1952. They were constant companions during their 69 years of marriage, their love and support of one another beyond measure.

Ben graduated from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in 1954 and was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister in 1953. He served as Pastor of Midway Hills Baptist Church in Dallas from 1954 to 1958 where his first child, Jenny Jackson, was born.  Ben then served as Associate Pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas from 1958 to 1963 where his son Mark Morrow New was born.  At Park Cities, Ben found encouragement to engage in higher theological studies, supported by mentors, pastors and church members.  In the fall of 1963, Ben and Mary Helen moved their young family to Boston, MA where he entered Boston University School of Theology.  After a year living in Boston, Ben became Pastor of First Congregational Church of Eliot, ME where his son, Jonathan Buckner New, was born.  Complementing Ben’s studies at Boston University, he helped the congregation in Eliot to join the fledgling denomination, the United Church of Christ, while also gaining his full standing as a pastor in the UCC. He earned the degree of STM at BU School of Theology in 1965. He augmented these studies with a Fellowship with the Human Relations Center at BU, acquiring knowledge and skills which were foundational to much of his pastoral ministry.

Ben and his family fell in love with New England and the Maine coast during this time, taking frequent trips to Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick as well as to York Beach. Ben was an excellent photographer, documenting much of family life and travel on 35mm slides from this time in Maine through the later years of his life.  In early 1969, Ben started his pastoral work in Shelburne Falls, MA, at what was then called Trinity Fellowship (Episcopal, American Baptist, and United Church of Christ). Within his first few years there, he was instrumental in helping the United Methodist Church in Shelburne Falls to join with the other three denominations to form Trinity Church, where he was Pastor Emeritus for the last few years of his life. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT in 1982. Ben was heavily involved in work throughout the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, serving on several different committees through the years. Ben served on the Shelburne Council on Aging and the Shelburne Housing Authority. Through this work he was instrumental in the development of Highland Village, a housing development created to provide affordable housing for seniors in the surrounding area.

His leisure activities included hiking in Catamount State Forest in Colrain, MA, vacations, camping, fishing and canoeing on Pawtuckaway Lake in Nottingham, NH, and flower gardening in the flower beds surrounding the parsonage on Main Street and vegetable gardening on Helen Stacy’s land in Colrain. Ben loved classical music, especially Beethoven, so frequent trips to Tanglewood were taken with Mary Helen during summer seasons of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

In 1987, Ben and Mary Helen moved to Salem, MA, where he served as Pastor of Tabernacle Church, UCC until his retirement in 1994. In retirement, Ben learned new ways to support Mary Helen as she continued full-time work, and spent many hours meticulously renovating the house they had purchased in Salem.  In 1997 Ben and Mary Helen moved to The Villages, FL, where he enjoyed golf and traveled both at home and internationally with Mary Helen. During this time they visited Australia, Singapore, Japan and Russia, locations where their daughter, Jenny Jackson, was living abroad over more than a decade. Ben organized two trips to the Holy Land with Educational Opportunities, Inc., which were deeply meaningful trips to parishioners, colleagues, and he and Mary Helen. While living in Florida, Ben and Mary Helen became charter members of the United Church of Christ at The Villages, instrumental in its formation and early growth. Ben also served as an Annuitant Visitor for the Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ, traveling widely around Florida, ministering to elders and finding new delight in new places, Mary Helen at his side.  In 2016, Ben and Mary Helen moved back to western Massachusetts to enjoy more time with their children and grandchildren.

Ben’s family is grateful for the kind support of The Arbors Assisted Living in Greenfield and Compasses Hospice in Northampton as well as the gentle compassion of Smith-Kelleher Funeral Home.  A service in celebration of Ben’s life will be held at 1pm on Saturday, September 24 at Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls, MA.  In lieu of flowers, Ben asked that memorial gifts be made to Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls and/or to environmental organizations such as the NRDC (nrdc.org).
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