Different ‘calling’ brings minister, wife to Harrison
The call of the horse track led Ted Chalk most of his life, but now he and his wife, Gayle, have heeded a different calling that landed them in New Middletown.
Ted and Gayle, both 47, moved to Harrison County in July when Ted accepted the pastor’s position at the New Middletown United Methodist Church. He succeeds the Rev. Patrick Sinnott, who was reassigned to Orleans. This is Ted’s first church appointment.
‘I feel really blessed to have an appointment at a first church at this church,’ Ted said.
New Middletown United Methodist Church has about 119 members, with an average Sunday morning worship attendance of 73. A youth program on Wednesday evenings draws an average of 70 kids.
‘I expected a little church of about 30 to 40 people,’ Gayle said when they knew her husband might be assigned to a rural church.
‘The people have been wonderful here,’ Ted said. ‘They have been courteous and wonderful’ about Ted attending seminary.
‘That’s commendable because that’s not what they’ve been used to,’ he said.
No, the Batesville native isn’t your typical seminary student. He’s older than many of his peers (although that has changed over the years) and he’s spent most of his life hanging out at the race track.
Ted, who grew up in Osgood, watched his father train horses and eventually become a track steward.
‘I always wanted to be a jockey, but I was too big,’ said Ted. (He’s probably just a few inches taller and pounds heavier than most jockeys.)
Instead, Ted followed in his father’s footsteps and worked with thoroughbreds, training the race horses at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Ted said he often would spend seven days a week at the track, known for the Kentucky Derby, first leg in the Triple Crown. The only day the track might be empty is Dec. 25, for Christmas.
Ted said ‘it took a while to decide’ what he really wanted to do after graduating from high school.
‘Everybody was trying to convince me to go into the ministry,’ he said. He has an uncle who is a pastor at a United Methodist church.
‘I think I thought about it, but I had other ideas,’ he said.
In 1984 Ted moved across the Ohio River to live in Louisville. He began taking college courses in 1991, first at the University of Louisville, then Jefferson Community College and finally Indiana University Southeast, where he earned a degree in general studies. He now is taking classes at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
‘If everything goes well,’ Ted said, he will graduate in 2007.
Gayle was born in Louisville. She graduated from Ivy Tech State College and is employed as a medical assistant at University Surgical Associates in Louisville, where her duties include scheduling surgeries and seeing patients in the office.
The relocation from Clarksville to New Middletown has increased her drive time to work, but Gayle doesn’t seem to mind.
‘It’s a beautiful drive,’ she said. ‘I always wanted to live in the country.’
The couple, who have been married six years, met while Ted was coaching his son’s basketball team. Gayle’s son was playing on his team. And while the boys attended different schools, because of sporting events, the parents’ paths crossed frequently.
(Ted also has two grown daughters and Gayle has one grown daughter. Between them they have five grandchildren.)
Ted was considering doing substitute teaching when, in February 2003, he heard there might be a church with a parsonage that might be a good match for him. But three months passed before he heard any more. Then, he heard from the Methodist district superintendent that there might be a match.
The couple drove around the area, looking at churches that they thought might be ‘the one.’
New Middletown wasn’t one of them, they said.
At 9 p.m. on a Friday night, the Chalks received a telephone call about the New Middletown church. If they were interested, they were to meet with the congregation two evenings later. It seemed a good match, and Ted’s first Sunday in the pulpit as the new pastor was July 6.
‘We love the people here,’ Ted said, adding that he anticipates the church to grow under his guidance.
The Chalks love their new home and surroundings.
‘It’s a quiet setting out here,’ Ted said, but yet 30 minutes to the city or 10 or so minutes to Corydon, where the couple enjoy going to dinner or listening to concerts on the square.
Gayle’s sister, Cindy Sutherland, also lives nearby. ‘She’s been trying to get us here (to Harrison County) for a long time,’ Gayle said.
In her spare time, Gayle likes to work in the gardens and be with her grandchildren. She’s also considering trying a comeback with softball with the church’s women’s team, but a knee injury may prevent her from doing that.
Ted enjoys sporting events and traveling.
Does he miss the horse racing scene, especially when the Kentucky Derby rolls around?
Saturday was ‘the first year since 1964 that I was not on the backside,’ he said. ‘I don’t really miss it that much.’