The sudden death of Pastor Alfonso Sherald in September stunned members of Morristown’s Bethel AME Church.
But following in the popular minister’s footsteps shouldn’t be too hard, said his successor, the Rev. Sidney Williams Jr., because he blazed a familiar trail.
“Rev. Sherald was an awesome pastor. His focus was trying to be meaningful, and crossing boundaries. That makes it somewhat easier to step into his shoes,” said Pastor Williams , 42, who spent the last 18 months trying to bridge cultural divides in Capetown, South Africa.
“There was a lot of economic and racial disparity…I learned a lot there. My experience in South Africa will help me promote diversity in Morristown,” said the pastor.
Pastor Williams was introduced at Tuesday’s council meeting and welcomed by town officials. Councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid invited everyone to a Jan. 23 service that will celebrate the pastor’s arrival.
The minister started at Bethel AME Church in November and his family joined him in Morristown last month.
He and his wife Theresa have four children–Nicole, 10; Sarah, 9; Hannah, 6; and Sidney III, 4.
The adjustment has gone well, the pastor said.
“I like it so far. It’s a great town, a very well knit community. The folks at the Walmart remember you,” he said.
Alfonso Sherald, who was 60, died of a heart attack, according to church members. He was a substitute teacher at Morristown High School who took a special interest in helping teens stay out of trouble.
Sidney Williams said he will shift the focus to kids between ages four and 12, and partner with the Teen Pride organization in programs for older youths. He also aims to ramp up collaborations with other Morristown houses of worship.
“Being intentional, being part of the community, crossing racial and economic lines” are his goals for the congregation in 2011.
A New Year’s Eve service was conducted in Spanish and English. This weekend, the pastor said, Bethel AME Church will team with the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer to worship on the Morristown Green. He said he intends to celebrate Passover with Temple B’Nai Or, work closely with the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship and partner with the local Methodist and Presbyterian churches in a vacation Bible school.
“Rev. Sherald made the path possible for a lot of this stuff to happen,” Pastor Williams said.