Retired pastor returns to serve at First United Methodist

NILES — The Rev. Barry French, who served as the pastor of Niles First United Methodist Church in the early 2000s, recently was reappointed to come back to the same church,

French said it is unusual for a minister who retired from a church to then be reappointed to the same church.

French was first appointed to the Niles church in July 2001 and served until August 2006. He was reappointed part time in July 2019.

“When I was here before, it was a very positive experience. This is my third time out of retirement. I wanted to do this and make myself available to the Methodist Cabinet,” he said.

French said he and his wife, Sharon, moved back to Niles, and he wanted to find something part time. He worked at a small church for five years in Akron, retiring in 2013.

“We moved closer to our daughter and grandson who live in Parkman,” he said.

“The position became available at the Niles church.”

He said he told the Methodist Cabinet he would be available to serve where he was needed.

“At the time, there were five or six churches that were open. They asked me to serve at the Niles Methodist Church, which surprised me and also surprised the congregation,” he said.

French replaces the Rev. Paula Marbury, who left for another position.

He said when he came back to the church, he saw many members who attended when he served previously.

“There are some new people and families. I have spent the last couple of months getting acquainted with the congregation and the ministers at the other area churches,” he said.

French said there is also change within the Methodist churches as more and more churches are facing a shortage of ministers and pastors. Methodist churches average between 35 to 40 minister retirements annually, but only 10 to 12 new ministers are appointed.

“Fewer and fewer people are going into the ministry,” he said.

French said he and Sharon were warmly welcomed back to the church. Sharon was welcomed back to the choir.

June Braun of Niles, a member of the church, said, “It’s “great to have them here. I was initially surprised when we were told he would be our minister again. My daughter and I are very happy.”

Nancy Malone of Niles, a church member, said she was pleased to hear French would be back, as well as Sharon, who has done a lot at the church.