The Rev. Cheryl Galan’s first career took her to several churches in the Presbytery of Carlisle. Her second career will allow her to become better acquainted with many more of them.
Cheryl is the presbytery’s new interim executive presbyter, a position she took over at the start of the new year. She fills a void left behind by the Rev. Mark Englund-Krieger, who stepped down as Carlisle’s executive director in March after 13 years in the position. He left to become the transitional pastor at Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church in Gettysburg, PA.
“Mid council work has become a passion of mine,” Cheryl said. “I enjoy working with a variety of congregations and a presbytery as a whole. I like to think about ways God is leading us forward in fresh expressions of the gospel, in making new connections with our communities. It’s calling forth some ability to be both innovative and grounded in tradition. I think when we’re moving forward in new ways we really need the support of each other, and that’s why mid council work is so exciting to me. It links us up and helps us to find new ways together, to do some experimentation and build relationships.”
Cheryl is a second-career pastor, having originally been a Christian educator in three congregations in the Presbytery of Carlisle from 1979-94. She then felt a call to be a minister, attended and graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1997, and took her first call in Ontario Center, NY, where she was a solo pastor for 14 years. She would move to Topeka, KS, as an associate pastor, then head back east to be a transitional leader for the Presbytery of Elizabeth in New Jersey before taking a transitional pastor position in Mequon, WI.
Those experiences set the foundation for Cheryl’s latest call, who was eager to return to Pennsylvania where she grew up and went on to begin her career as a Christian educator in Hershey (Derry PC) and Harrisburg (Faith PC, Market Square PC). Later ordained by the Presbytery of Carlisle, Cheryl would begin her journey around the eastern half of the country.
When she learned of the opening at the Presbytery of Carlisle, Cheryl’s ties and history to the region made the opportunity to return an easy one.
“It was a really intriguing draw to understand what has transpired here since I left this region, and also in some ways to come back to a place that feels like home,” Cheryl said. “It’s really interesting to come new to a place where you already have some sense of the geography and familiarity with the culture. Lots have changed, of course.”
Creating a vision statement for the presbytery that will “describe soul and substance” of the region in 2025 is among the tasks assigned to Cheryl that she will aim to complete during her two-year tenure in Carlisle. She has a few other objectives on her own goal list that she will attempt to finish before the end of 2020 comes around.
“I want to help the presbytery shift from – and this is happening all over the denomination – understanding its role as a regulatory agency of the denomination to functioning as more of a relational network and learning community,” Cheryl said. “I think presbyteries need to help churches link with each other, discover common passion, common mission, and discover how to support and resource each other along the way.
“How do we imagine and experiment with new ways of reaching the community around us? To do that, we need to be willing to learn. Reading, talking and trying new things helps us discover where God might be leading.”
Cheryl stressed the importance of congregations knowing the gifts and passions of the people sitting in the pews as well as the needs and opportunities of the communities the churches serve.
“How do we reach beyond the walls of our churches effectively to connect with people who wouldn’t think to walk through the doors of a Presbyterian church?” Cheryl added.
One thing on her side are the resources and history that the Presbytery of Carlisle already has going for it. Cheryl hopes to use those two attributes to help the presbytery remain on solid ground.
“My sense is that this is a strong presbytery and a presbytery where relationships are valued,” she said. “I think both of those things are good material to work with in these next pieces. It’s a presbytery that’s deeply historically rooted and has a strong attachment to traditional ways of being Presbyterian. I think those are strengths, and I think that there’s also going to have to be some loosening of some of that in order to navigate differently.
“One of the challenges is going to be building the bridges across the variety of congregations,” she said, “helping the small and struggling congregations understand what their future might look like as a piece of this work. I think there is a lot to work with here, and that’s one of the reasons why I was really drawn to a place like this.
“I want them to see more than one model. Sometimes churches think the way we’ve always been is what we have to get back to. I think the future may look very, very different from anything we’ve been able to imagine.”
It all adds up to a tenure for Cheryl that will be both rewarding and hard-working, and one that will hopefully benefit the Presbytery of Carlisle and its congregations in the end.
“From my very first conversation with the search team of the Presbytery of Carlisle, I found my energy rising and my passion engaged,” she said. “There’s a sense of excitement about the opportunity here that I would call God’s hand leading me. It was very clear in all of the conversations that this was a place that would call on my gifts and offer opportunity for me to work with a group of people who are deeply invested in discovering fresh expressions of the gospel in this part of the world.”