Pastor Eric’s Sabbatical Letter and FAQ

Eric Gale Sabbatical – Renewing & Recapturing the Joy of Ministry

Following the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem, Nehemiah knew that the spiritual life of the people also needed rebuilding. While the people were celebrating the rebuilding of the wall they are reminded in Nehemiah 8:10, “…the joy of the Lord is my strength.” The implication is that spiritual renewal brings strength and joy and is always needed among God’s people, both a congregation and its pastoral leadership.

Psalm 51:12 also speaks of the joy of belonging to God. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…” No follower of Jesus wants their faith to become stagnant, but the fact is it happens to the best of God’s people. But it is very possible to minimize and even grow through these times and call upon the Holy Spirit to use any number of ways to restore our joy in faith and ministry. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Ps. 85:6)

After 24 years of faithful service, the Clergy Renewal Program, funded by Lilly Endowment, will provide Pastor Eric Gale the opportunity to renew and recapture the joy that has always been at the heart of his ministry.  The purpose of this 4-month opportunity for Pastor Eric, “Renewing and Recapturing the Joy of Ministry” is fourfold:

  • First, it will allow him time for the joy of rest, reflection, refreshment, and re­connection…to rest while not having everyday responsibilities; to reflect on 28 years of ministry in preparation for 5-­10 more years in Noblesville; to refresh his mind and voice through travel, reading, golfing; to reconnect with his wife, Karen, children Aaron (wife Allison) and Elizabeth, with his aging parents, extended family, and spiritual mentors.
  • A second purpose: this special time will allow Eric to experience the delight of discovery through traveling to places he has only dreamed of visiting and worshipping in different congregations.
  • A third purpose, to develop a renewed voice in preparation for 5­-10 more years of what is already a long-term pastorate.
  • The fourth purpose is to pursue Eric’s passion for the game of golf.


On May 7, immediately following church, Eric and Karen will provide a short Q & A session discussing the purpose of the sabbatical.

How long will the Gales’ be gone?

The sabbatical period starts June 1; and Eric will return to the pulpit on Oct 1.

Who will be leading worship on Sunday Mornings?

We have invited several very exciting guest preachers to fill the pulpit along with Rev. David Layman who will serve as interim pastor during Eric’s absence.

  • Bob Moore, CRE
  • Glenn McDonald
  • Josephine Manns
  • Alan Thames, executive Presbyter of Whitewater Valley

Along with our guest preachers, we have two special workshops planned that we hope everyone will be able to attend.

  • On Saturday, August 5, Rev. David Jackson will lead a one day workshop based on the book, Twelve Keys to an Effective Church, by Kennon Callahan
  • Following Glenn McDonald’s message on August 27th there will be a light lunch provided. After lunch, Glenn will lead a workshop/seminar based on the life of King David.

Will we be able to communicate with Eric while he’s gone?

Generally, no.  He has been encouraged to totally unplug from life at First Presbyterian.  There is a leadership team to whom he will be accessible at all times – but has been instructed to limit contact to certain circumstances.

What do I do if I experience a “pastoral need” during Eric’s absence?

David Layman will be available for any pastoral needs of the congregation while Eric is gone; and Jim Story will be on call as needed.  Rev. Layman will be in the church office two mornings per week except for July 2-9.  But, we also want to use this occasion to elevate the importance and roles of our church leaders.  Our elders and deacons are highly capable, confidential, and committed spiritual leaders whom we hope you would feel comfortable reaching out to.

Jim’s contact info:                            317-501-0314

 Who will be serving Communion on the first Sunday of the month?

We will have an ordained pastor on those Communion Sundays.

How will we accommodate baptism requests?

You may request David Layman or wait until Pastor Eric is back.

Who’s in charge?

The session is ultimately in charge.  The secretary and staff will be doing their jobs as usual and David Layman will be in the office two mornings per week and will be available by phone or email.  David will be on vacation July 2-9.

David’s Contact Information:                     765-969-0291

 How does the Church benefit?

For FPC the renewal program will open great opportunities for developing new leadership in the church for worship, spiritual formation, administrative duties, and pastoral care. Church leaders and laity will have the opportunity to learn and apply key practices of effective churches. This time will also strengthen the joy of Christian service and fellowship without depending on the guidance of a full­time pastor.

 What is this costing the church?

Thanks to a Lilly grant, it costs the church nothing.  In fact, part of the grant provides money for the extra staffing costs and other needs of the Church during the Gales’ absence.

 Are we continuing to pay Eric during the Sabbatical?

Yes.  Life doesn’t stop for the Gales – and neither do their bills.  The Grant Application requires that the church commit to continuing his remuneration.

Does Eric still get his regular vacation for the year?

Yes.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Gales.  Recognizing the high burnout rate of pastors in our society, Lilly offers what would otherwise be completely out of reach for someone in Eric’s profession.  So, we believe it would be a mistake to “substitute” his regular pay or his regular vacation time with the sabbatical.  Two of his vacation weeks are already connected to the beginning and end of the sabbatical period.

Is there a chance Eric will leave the Church after his return?

Eric describes the sabbatical as a way for a healthy church – and a healthy pastor – to get healthier – and that’s exactly how everyone is approaching this opportunity.  This isn’t about burn-out or any other sense of another calling for Eric.  In fact, the grant requires repayment of all granted funds should Eric leave within a year of his return.  So, if he was considering leaving – it would be a reason NOT to have applied for this grant.

Don’t we risk losing momentum at First Presbyterian with Eric gone?

Yes – that is a risk.  But Lilly – in their wisdom, requires in the grant application, that the church detail how IT will benefit from this period as well as the Gales.  Grants are not awarded if there is not a clear congruence between the benefits to the Pastor as well as the Church.

Know that a broad-based team has been hard at work planning for the Church’s’ side of the deal so that we not only don’t lose momentum – but so that Eric discovers a different church – a more mature church on his return.  If we remain focused on our commitment to discipleship, we may miss Eric – but our work and our worship will carry on – and that is the commitment of your leadership team.

How did this all come about – who was involved in the decision?

Pastor Eric was encouraged by the Session to pursue this opportunity, and assisted by the Renewal Committee of Janie Emerson, Jennie Auble, Larry Grabb, and several others, the application process was completed.  Eric was also encouraged by several of his Presbyterian colleagues who have participated in this program in the past.  Only 29 grants are awarded each year.

Highlights of Eric’s Sabbatical Itinerary

 May 7  “A Conversation with Eric”, Q & A following Sunday service

May 21st Send Off Party for Eric, refreshments after church in Fellowship Hall
May 28th  Eric’s last Sunday at FPC
June 5 – 15 California Trip
July 12 – 22 Family Hawaii Trip
Aug. 26 – Sept. 4 Holy Land Trip
Oct. 1 Eric’s first Sunday back in the pulpit & Welcome Back Luncheon