Friends’ pastor wants to stay awhile
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · December 24, 2013
The Friends Church asked Sharon Treloar to fill in after Pastor Ruthie Tippin left in June 2012 for a new pastoral job.
Treloar served as interim pastor before, about a decade ago, replacing Deborah Suess, so readjusting took less time.
But Treloar grew up in the Methodist church, trained as a Methodist minister and, when she served as the Friends’ interim pastor more than 20 years ago, she split her time there with a part-time job as minister of the Springdale United Methodist Church.
So why leave the Methodist church for a Quaker church?
“I realized that in the United Methodist Church, pastors are expected to pick up and move every five years or so,” she said.
That was difficult because her husband, Joe, to whom she has been married since 1983, loves his job and she did not want to take him away from it.
So she took other jobs, some not even in the ministry, to stay close to the Iowa City area. Treloar taught religious studies at Kirkwood Community Center from 2007 to 2011 and sold shoes and clothing at Theisens until May 2012.
Then, while visiting Dr. Anita Starr’s dentist office, Starr mentioned that fellow Friends Church congregant Ed English wanted to talk to her: “We need a pastor, and you’re on our short list.”
In July 2012, she arrived at Friends Church for her second interim pastor stint. During that time, church members began a “very extensive search process” for a permanent minister that drew applications from “east coast to west coast.”
While Treloar was not included in the meetings to find a replacement, she was aware that “not everybody is called to Iowa to be a three-quarters time pastor.”
“I think God has called us together,” she said.
After a year-long search, Friends Church members agreed that they already had the minister they wanted. Treloar became the official pastor in July 2013.
Because of her background in the Quaker church and more extensive background in the Methodist church, Treloar said there are clearly differences in the two denominations.
“You learn to be flexible,” she said. “They do have a similar moderate Christian theology. It was fun to learn from the Quakers.”
She said both denominations emphasize social justice issues and call on members to have a “strong faith.”
However, the two differ on “what it means to be a pastor or elder,” she said. Not all Quaker churches have a pastor, she noted, and those with a pastor “don’t assume the clergy knows more.”
“A pastor is strongly called to the ministry,” she said. “But it does not mean that what I have to say is more important than (other members). A pastor is strongly led by God, but the (Quaker) church is run by the whole. ... It’s a dialogue, not one person coming down on another person.”
Treloar said she does bring her training and experience to the conversation, though.
“It comes down to (a person’s) relationship with God,” she said.
For example, she said, a young pastor might not have the same point of view as an older congregant.
“If we’re aware of the larger issues like love, peace, justice — we will live a better and happier life,” Treloar said. “Each person is connected with God in some way. We just have to listen hard.”
She notes that a Quaker worship service may involve long periods of silence.
“Quakers are comfy with silence,” Treloar said. “And just about nobody else is.”
She said that “in common silence, God speaks.”
“Anyone can stand up and share a message they’re given,” Treloar said, “if they feel called.”
She said she experimented with silence in her Methodist churches.
“We got up to about two minutes with organ music,” she smiled.
Treloar, remembering her childhood, remembers being known as “the daughter of the woman who ran the church” — her mother’s name is Shirley Bevans. However, while she knows much of what her mother did for the small church in Waverly, Neb., she was unsure of her title.
“I suspect she was the pastor,” Treloar chuckled. “She was very involved. She ran the women’s ministry, Christian education, sat on many boards and was very, very active. She even served on a state board once.”
Treloar said she got on the path to becoming a pastor when she realized her first passion was reading and studying the Bible.
“I was one of the weird kids,” she said. “I was given a Bible in third grade and I actually read it.”
Treloar came across a second-grade writing book, a School Days Book, and saw where she wrote that she was going to be a pastor when she grew up.
“I always felt God was very important in my life,” she said. “I’ve always loved people of the church. ... and I want to help people find their spiritual center. Life is about a whole lot more than getting a paycheck and paying bills.”
That “spiritual center,” she said, as far as the Quakers are concerned, is the belief “that God is is in every person.”
“I believe that wholeheartedly,” she said.
When it comes to addressing sin, Treloar notes that “we’re all human, we’re all finite, we mess up.”
“It’s as simple as that,” she said. “Connecting to God transforms lives so we can be who we are created to be.”
She majored in music and English literature while also taking Biblical studies at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, she said. It’s a Presbyterian seminary, Treloar noted, smiling as she added, “We’re very ecumenical around here.”
In 1998, she enrolled in Perkins School of Theology in Center Point to pursue a masters degree. After finishing there, she served at Springdale UMC for three years, from 2001 to 2004. She then moved on to Wapsi Valley Parish from 2004 to 2007 before stepping out of the pastorship for a few years.
Now that she is back in the ministry, she hopes and plans to stay.
“The longer I was here, the more certain I was that I wanted to be here,” she said. “I hope I’m here for a long while.”
While she lives in Iowa City, she said she likes West Branch because it is small like her hometown.
“I’m very glad to be serving West Branch Friends Church and honored to be their pastor,” she said. “They are a wonderful bunch of people.”
Treloar wants to find new ways for the church to serve in West Branch.
“We’re doing our best to find community needs West Branch Friends Church can fill,” she said. “We need to be more visible, more active. Quakers are not comfortable with drawing attention to what they are doing.”
The food bank, the crisis center in Iowa City, the Domestic Violence Intervention Project and more after-school programs all interest the church, she said.
“They are all works in progress,” she said. “But we have a commitment to the community.”
Sharon and husband Joe have two children: Jason, 26, a University of Iowa student studying history; and Zeb, 24, a graduate student at Candler School of Theology.
Treloar points out that Zeb’s plan ... is to be an Episcopal priest.