Interim Sharon Pastor Prepares to Serve Her Final Sunday Here
The Rev. Helen Nablo will leave the First Congregational Church of Sharon, ending three years there.
The Rev. Helen Nablo says she sometimes compares being an interim pastor to being a cultural anthropologist.
"Every church has its own culture. It has its own history. It has its own way of doing things. And one of the things you do is pretty quickly try to figure that out. And so, having been at many churches over the course of now 20 years, I've had more practice with that, and that's true for Steve," Nablo said Monday.
Steve is the Rev. Steven Alspach, who will preach as the First Congregational Church of Sharon's new settled pastor for the first time on Aug. 19, according to the church's website. Alspach has served nine churches as interim minister, according to the biography on the website. He will be the 24th pastor in the North Main Street church's 191-year history, the biography says.
Nablo has served as the church's interim pastor for three years. She succeeded the Rev. Jack Condon, who served as pastor for 23 years, she said.
This Sunday, Nablo leads her final service here before becoming settled pastor at the Church of the Pilgrimage in Plymouth.
Staying in Sharon was never an option, Nablo explained.
"When you come, you sign a contract that says you will not be considered (for "settled pastor")," explained Nablo, who came here after 18 months at North Community Church in Marshfield.
"The reasons for that are quite good. Because if you're going to be an effective interim, you need to kind of shake things up and maybe challenge the way things have been. Some people will love that, and others will find that difficult.
"It was indeed longer than I would have thought. I thought it would take about two."
On her first day in Sharon, "people were eager and interested to meet the new person," Nablo recalled.
"There was a lot of warmth, and I think a warm welcome was extended. And I think that fairly shortly after that, I also encountered some questions about how are we going to do this transition process," she said.
Nablo said that process began with "reflective conversations" after church about what the members valued there and areas they wanted to strengthen or change.
"We talked about having more outreach and visibility in the community. We talked about working harder to welcome new people," Nablo said.
The congregation has about 175 adult members, and draws an average of 100 to 110 people for worship, she said.
Nablo said she thinks the church "came to value" her prior experience as an interim pastor.
"I could tell them stories or ideas from other congregations, because every congregation has strengths and has been through different things," she said.
"They saw that as a real plus."
Under Condon, the Sharon church was "a real strong pastorate, but there was a need for a fresh look at things," Nablo said.
Nablo said she is proud that during her tenure here, "we have welcomed some new people that are not just content to be bystanders, content to sit in the pew."
"Some of those new people have really helped contribute to shaping the ongoing life of the church," she said.
"I'm also proud of continuing to raise questions that need to be wrestled with. I'm not setting an agenda for them. But I'm raising questions that will make them think about how they move into the future."
In recent years, the church, at a member's suggestion, began making homemade soup for the Ilsa Marks Food Pantry, which serves Sharon and Stoughton, Nablo said.
"Rather than people just coming and picking up cans, they could have real homemade soup. And it would be a fun activity for our people," she explained.
"Worship is wonderful. But it's also wonderful when you can celebrate things that are hands-on."
Nablo said she also enjoyed working with Sharon's other clergy.
"There are some very fine people, and I think we've tried to get to know each other and be a supportive community to each other," she said.
"But, I think we've also tried to ask, 'What's happening in Sharon?' and 'What do we need to be attending to?'"
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