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Lifelong minister takes on interim role at St. James

The Rev. Riley Short and his son will preach at the Methodist church on Sunday.

By Sheryl Kay, Times Correspondent
Published February 22, 2008


Like his father before him, Riley Short served in the Methodist ministry his entire professional career.

Even beyond.

After he retired in 2003, Short went on to serve as interim pastor for three churches: one in Palm Harbor, one in Jacksonville, and now at St. James United Methodist in Tampa Palms.

Short, 73, replaces the Rev. Brian James, 45, who stepped down from the pulpit in December after admitting to 1,400 congregants that he had an online pornography addiction.

Serving in an interim capacity is a bit different from being assigned to a full-time pulpit, Short said. Interim assignments can run from just a few months to possibly a year.

"The big difference is you really don't have time to settle in," said Short, who commutes from Lakeland. "You don't really get to visit with folks and spend a lot of time with them, so the focus becomes the relationship you establish by your preaching."

If that's the case, it's no wonder the members of St. James already are feeling close to Short.

Member Gwen Zierke points to Short's humble preaching style, which uses real-life experiences that are both simple and powerful in their religious significance.

"He doesn't get excited or raise his voice, but you listen with all your heart because you don't want to miss a single word," said Zierke, 66, a Hunter's Green real estate agent who has been a member of St. James for the past 12 years.

"Then he comes to the end of his sermon and you think: Oh no, it can't be that time already."

Short's role is particularly important now because of the turmoil felt when James resigned.

"He knows how to heal a church, and an individual, and we needed that," Zierke said.

The church's treatment of James reflects the compassion it preaches. James has been allowed to retain his home at the parsonage until school lets out in June so his children can finish the year. He was given three months of salary, and the church picked up the tab for his counseling.

"I see a lot of forgiveness here," said Short, who has known James for years and calls him a friend.

Still, some members feel hurt, confused and even angry.

"I endeavor to reach out to them, the ones that do come and tell me and the ones I hear about from others," Short said, "and they've all responded, not reacted, in a positive way."

Short will stay through June, when a newly appointed, full-time pastor will take over. Until then, Short is available at the church Tuesdays and Wednesdays and delivers three sermons Sunday mornings. He's particularly looking forward to this Sunday, when he will deliver two sermons and his son, also a Methodist minister, will give one homily.

Short's mother, who is 102 years old, will fly in from Nashville for the occasion.

Contact reporter Sheryl Kay with any religion news at or call 813 230-8788.

To learn more

Visit or call

For more information about St. James United Methodist Church at 16202 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., call (813) 971-4790.

[Last modified February 21, 2008, 22:53:54]

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