Sabbatical: Information & FAQs for PCJH


for Rev. Ben Pascal
and the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole
April 29, 2019 – August 7, 2019


“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
-Genesis 2:1-3

*Frequently Asked Questions*

What is a sabbatical?
The word sabbatical has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbath keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy.

Sabbatical leave is a time for our pastor to shift gears in order to rest, disengage, study, reflect, and travel in order to return to minister among us refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. (It is not a time for routine work, mid-career assessment, job search, or retirement planning.)

Sabbatical is more than a vacation from meetings, budgets, sermons, and people in need. It is a time for Ben to receive spiritual nourishment and a change in perspective, to deepen his relationship with God, himself, and his family – a season of spiritual growth. This special time will also be a season of growth for the entire congregation.

Why is Ben taking a sabbatical now?
Ben’s terms of call agreement with PCJH specifies that he will be eligible to take a sabbatical every seven years. The year 2019 will be Ben’s ninth year with us as a pastor and his first sabbatical.

Pastor Ben has faithfully served as a pastor at PCJH since 2010, leading the congregation through a time of significant transition through a uniquely planned succession model after our beloved founding pastor, Rev. Dr. Paul Hayden, resigned and Ben moved into the senior pastor role. Ben and his young family have also experienced significant transition as they have grown from a family of three to a family of five through a premature birth and an overseas adoption.

Ben has shown great leadership throughout as evidenced by a seamless transition, spiritual and numerical growth, and stability. Our congregation has recently chartered an exciting course for our future together with a new vision and mission statement, as well as a strategic plan for the next several years. This season of transition and growth has required a lot of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy from Ben, the congregation, and his family. It has proven to be a fruitful time for all, but a period of renewal would be beneficial to prepare Ben to lead us into a new season of ministry and mission.

Do other clergy go on sabbatical?
A growing number of clergy are taking sabbaticals. The Presbytery of Wyoming Committee on Ministry has strongly encouraged congregations in our judicatory to provide our pastors with regular sabbatical leaves. For example, the Rev. Dr. Steve Shive, General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Wyoming, just returned from his sabbatical this past summer. Rev. Jimmy Bartz of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson also experienced a sabbatical several years ago. Rev. Tammy Mitchell will be taking a sabbatical in 2020 as part of her terms of call agreement with PCJH. When a pastor goes on sabbatical, they return refreshed and revitalized, and the congregation moves into new phases of ministry with renewed energy.

How long will Ben be gone?
Ben will be gone for a little over three months. We will have a formal send off ceremony for Ben the Sunday after Easter on April 28, 2019 with a fellowship event following worship. Ben will begin the sabbatical the next day on Monday April 29 and will return to the office on Wednesday August 7, 2019. His first Sunday back will be August 11, 2019.

What will Ben be doing on his sabbatical?
The overall character and purpose of this renewal program can be summed up in the following statement: At Home in the World: Explore, Learn, Play and Rest. As a dynamic congregation we value being inspired and informed about the world beyond the confines of our little town. We see travel as a tool for spiritual formation to explore and learn about history, other cultures, and God’s activity in the world today. This renewal program will allow our pastor and his family to not only explore and learn about the world together through international travel, but to also bring back what they learn to help our congregation be at home in the world as engaged global citizens living in a remote community. This renewal program will also allow the Pascals to play and rest together in order to cultivate their family life.

To fulfill the clergy renewal purpose of being at home in the world as they explore, learn, play and rest, the Pascal family will visit four different countries together by focusing on one of the four different aspects of the renewal statement in each country. 1) They will travel to Ethiopia to explore their adoptive daughter’s roots in Ethiopia as well as the rich history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church through an extensive tour of the country’s remote and ancient churches and monasteries. 2) They will travel to The Center for the Secret of Peace in Rwanda to learn from Roman Catholic priest, Father Ubald Rugirangoga, who has been a transformational leader through his work on forgiveness and reconciliation after the genocide. 3) They will travel to Croatia to play in its natural wonders. 4) They will travel to Greece to rest on one of its quiet and secluded islands after a biblical tour of Athens and Corinth. The hope is that the Pascal family will be renewed spiritually as they engage with the world in these unique and meaningful ways.

In addition to traveling overseas, the renewal program will also consist of silent solitude for Ben at a Benedictine monastery at the beginning and end of the sabbatical in order to prepare and process the renewal experience. There will also be time set aside for Ben and Addie to be together without their kids before and after their international travel in order to prepare and process as a couple.

Who will cover Ben’s responsibilities during his absence?
Pastor Tammy Mitchell will provide worship services and pastoral care, and will also serve as head of staff and moderator of Session while Ben is away. Tammy will be supported by our wonderful staff, elders, deacons and other faithful volunteers and teams to carry out the ministry and mission of PCJH as outlined in the Book of Order.

Who will preach and lead worship?
Pastor Tammy will be the primary preacher and will lead worship alongside Kenny and our many volunteers most Sundays. The congregation will use this time to be “at home in the world” while Ben is away. As part of the renewal program, we have invited several preachers with global experience to fill the pulpit. This will enable the congregation to embark on their own journey to explore and learn about God’s kingdom work in other parts of the world.

In May we will have the opportunity to hear from Rev. Vil Marie from Puerto Rico, the current co-moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination. In June, Immaculee Ilibagiza from Rwanda, a genocide survivor and popular speaker will share her story and also lead a weekend retreat for the Jackson Hole community. In July we will have the privilege to learn from Rev. Steve Haas, an ordained Presbyterian minister and currently the Chief Strategist at World Vision. Steve will share about his work in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis. In August we will welcome Andre Moubarak, our PCJH Holy Land Pilgrimage tour guide and a gifted teacher. Andre is an Israeli Palestinian Christian who was born and raised in the Old City of Jerusalem and continues to bear witness to Christ in the midst of a conflict zone. Our prayer is that our congregation will deepen their faith in Christ and their compassion for the world through this renewal experience.

Who will I call to plan a special service?
The church office will be open during its usual hours, staffed by our wonderful employees and other volunteers. They and Pastor Tammy will arrange for weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other special services.

Who should I contact for special prayer requests?
You may contact our office or send a request directly through our website to have prayer requests shared through our prayer chain group. Pastor Tammy and our deacons will also be available to pray for and with people in need.

Who do I call if I have a family or personal crisis?
For pastoral concerns, contact Pastor Tammy or one of our Deacons. Together they will share responsibility to visit newcomers, provide pastoral care, visit those who are home bound or in the hospital, and refer congregants as appropriate to qualified professionals in the wider community.

Who will pay for the sabbatical activities?
Pastor Ben formed a sabbatical team in 2017 and together we applied for the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Grant ( We are thrilled to announce that PCJH was one of several congregations in the United States to receive this very generous grant that pays for all of the sabbatical activities for Ben and his family in addition to all of the sabbatical activities at PCJH while he is away.

Will the PCJH operating budget need to be increased as a result of the sabbatical?
No. The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Grant covers all of the expenses for the sabbatical activities at PCJH and for Ben and his family. Pursuant to Ben’s terms of call approved by the congregation when we called him to be our senior pastor, and as outlined in the Presbytery of Wyoming sabbatical policy and Lilly Grant agreement, we will continue Ben’s terms of call throughout the sabbatical and thus we will not see a change in the operating budget.

Will the church just be in a “holding pattern” while Ben is away?
We are confident that all of our ministries will continue to flourish while Ben is away. It is important to remember that the sabbatical is a two-way process: while Ben and his family are on their journey of renewal, refreshment, and reflection, we will embark on a journey as well – to learn and experience what God is doing around the world, to renew ourselves, and to continue living out our vision to see lives being transformed in Jesus Christ as a community rooted in Christ, reaching out in love.

Will Ben be in contact with PCJH during the sabbatical?
An important part of a sabbatical is to make a complete break from things. The only people who will be in direct contact with Ben while he is away will be his family and a few close friends. Ben’s wife, Addie, will be blogging about their sabbatical as a way to informally share what they are experiencing through her website at In the unlikely event that some extraordinary news absolutely must be communicated to Ben, Pastor Tammy will notify him.

How will we welcome Ben back when he returns?
Ben’s first Sunday back (August 11, 2019) will include a “welcome home” liturgy during worship and a special reception following worship with food and an opportunity for the sharing of experiences (both Ben’s and PCJH’s). Ben will also teach a six-week class on Sunday mornings at 9:00am starting in September as a way to share what he experienced on the sabbatical.

How can I learn more about the sabbatical?
Please feel free to speak to Ben directly or a member of the sabbatical team: Caryn Haman, Alan Lund, Nancy Dunlap, Gregg Ward, and Tammy Mitchell. We will also keep people informed of important news through our regular PCJH communications.


The book that inspired the Pascal’s sabbatical plan: At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe, by Tsh Oxenreider

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel.”
-Philippians 1:3-5

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20-21

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