Life On Loan – Wildwood This Fall

Here we are at the end of September!  The weather is cooling down reminding us the crisp, cool days of Fall are upon us.  The leaves are just beginning to change color and miracle of miracles the Cubs are preparing for the postseason!  What a great time of year this is.  As we enjoy the change of seasons we are also in the midst of a sermon series at Wildwood PC – Life on Loan!  Here is a refresher to remind us what it is all about.

“A life on loan- like every loan- is given with the expectation of a return.  We are to return more than we are given.  One day we will be held accountable for how we spent or invested our lives.”  So begins their book, Living a Life On Loan, written by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson.  They continue, “Life begins with- and is accountable to- God.  Though we often speak of life and all it comprises as gifts from God, they are unique ‘gifts’ in that, technically, they still belong to him.  It begins when we think of our life as ‘on loan’ rather than as a life ‘you own.’

We began our series two weeks ago passing out puzzle pieces.  Each one of us is a piece of God’s redemptive work in the world.  Our piece is integral to the overall puzzle, our story, our lives matter.  Hold on to that puzzle piece – we’ll bring them back in November and assemble the whole puzzle!

This past Sunday I challenged us all to the 4 x 1 challenge.  In short, we are invited to spend four hours a week choosing intentional Christian practices that shape and transform us into the people who experience “Abundant Life” as Jesus spoke of it in John 10:10.

1 Hour of Worship

1 Hour of Study/Devotion

1 Hour of Community/Fellowship

1 Hour of Service

It adds up to only 2.5% of our week and yet if we commit to these practices it will change who we are for the best!  What will you choose to do with your time?

I look forward to hearing how the 4 x 1 challenge impacts our lives in the days to come!


Pastor Erik

September Shavings Letter


Hello Wildwood Presbyterian Church Friends – I know we don’t truly know each other
yet but I certainly consider you, the congregation of WPC, as the new community of
friends that my family and I can’t wait to meet! We are excited to move to Illinois which
brings us significantly closer to Karleen’s extended family in Michigan. Thank you for
the warm welcome and generous hospitality you have already displayed as true
Midwesterners. To help us get acquainted I want to share with you a little about
myself as we begin this season of life and ministry together.

First, a few words about who I am:
•Born and raised in California and lived three years in Caracas, Venezuela
•Came to faith as a sophomore in high school at a Presbyterian church youth group
•Enjoyed undergraduate studies in Psychology at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA
•Married my college sweetheart, Karleen Dekleine (100% Dutch) a year after college
•Attended seminary in New Jersey at Princeton Theological Seminary
•Served 15 years as Associate Pastor at New Hope Presbyterian Church
•Finished a Doctorate of Ministry in 2014 at Fuller Theological Seminary
•Parent of three amazing daughters – Karis (1st year at William Woods University
in Fulton, MO), Abby (Junior at Grayslake North High School), Anneke (6th
grader at William L Thomson School)
•Love a good movie, trying new foods and exploring the great outdoors
•Avid baseball fan supporting the San Francisco Giants since the days of
Candlestick Park
•Favorite season of the year is March Madness
•Favorite week of the year is serving with youth and families on annual mission trip
•Play sports of many kinds including basketball, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, golf, etc.
•Marvel often at the paradox that is displayed in the cross and have a collection
hanging in my office to remind me of the powerful mystery and mercy of God
that is displayed in the empty cross!

While that is a brief synopsis of who I am, hopefully it gives you some sense of my
history and personality. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch so we can
share a meal, enjoy a cup of coffee or play a round of golf.

Now, a few words about life at Wildwood this Fall. As we move into a new season
together as a congregation my first priority is to meet you and hear your stories.
To that end a team is working right now organizing what we are calling “listening
sessions.” A session will take place at a home with 10 – 15 people in attendance. My
goal is to have several different sessions all around the area so that everyone has
a chance to participate. The agenda for each gathering is simple. Each person will
be invited to share a favorite memory or two of life connected to Wildwood and then
express a hope or dream for the future. This is a simplified form of a strategic process
called Appreciative Inquiry. Would you like to host a session at your home? If so,
contact Barb Hunt so we can add you to the list. I hope you will join us for a session
to share your history and your hopes for Wildwood Presbyterian Church. Together, we
have an exciting future ahead as we follow in the footsteps of the risen Christ!


August Shavings Letter

“Continuing the Journey”

With the election to call your new pastor (this article is being written during the
time when we still cannot publicly release his name) on Sunday, July 17, Wildwood
Presbyterian Church prepares to begin a new chapter in its journey of faith. What a
wonderful day July 17 was in WPC’s life! It is obvious that you, the congregation, are
eager to continue to follow our Lord Jesus Christ with new called and installed pastoral
leadership. Please know I am excited for you! It is good to see you not simply grateful
for WPC’s past but also looking forward as a congregation to a God-filled future.

My journey of faith will continue as well. “The only constant in life is change,” declares
a popular truism. An Interim Pastor soon learns this. In fact, the most frequent
question I’ve been asked in the weeks before the congregational meeting, and even
more so now that it has occurred is, “What will you do next, Bill?” The short answer is,
sooner or later, God willing, I will do another interim pastorate. One can never be too
sure, though, about the timing of another such opportunity.

For the time being, I will remain at WPC through the Sunday before Labor Day,
September 4. I will be in touch with your newly elected pastor and will continue to
work with the session, WPC committees, Gregg, Jill, Kathy, and Barb to ensure that
the transition is as smooth as possible. Upon leaving, I will sign the Presbytery of
Chicago’s Covenant of Closure that will officially end my relationship as a pastor with
you. However, since I live in Grayslake, I am sure I will be running into some of you
from time to time in the community. But I can only speak to you if you are wearing a
WPC nametag and have signed the pew pad the Sunday before!!

More seriously, in the midst of my journey together with you I have been inspired by
your faithfulness and impressed by the leadership skills that are prevalent among you.
WPC is a vital and vibrant church. As I contemplate the future of WPC, I am filled
with hope. Your gifts and talents are many and they will be enriched by the pastoral
leadership that your newly elected pastor will bring. He will begin his work at WPC on
Tuesday, September 6, while his first Sunday in the pulpit as WPC’s new pastor will be
September 11. Blessings on him, his family, and all of you! I am deeply grateful for the
myriad ways you have been “church” to me and to so many others!

Grace and peace,


July Shavings Letter

Summer Sermon Series
Welcoming and Supporting Wildwood Presbyterian’s New Pastor!

Let me begin with the disclaimers. No, you were not asleep during some
congregational meeting when a new Pastor was called! (Maybe you slept during a
sermon, but not a congregational meeting!) A new Pastor has not been called. No, I
don’t have special insider information as to when a new Pastor will be called. Interim
Pastors are ethically bound not to be a part of that process. But I am guessing that with
the Pastor Nominating Committee having publicized that they are now interviewing
candidates and with Wildwood Presbyterian Church being the vital and vibrant church I
know it to be, the day a new Pastor is coming cannot be too, too far off.

With that in mind, let me say the final “developmental task” of the five “developmental
tasks” in the interim process is called: “Preparing for New Pastoral Leadership and a
New Future.” We are there now. By the way, the other four steps which I wrote about
in my April, 2015, “From the Interim Pastor’s Study” article (I’m sure you remember it
well!) are as follows:

• Coming to Terms with the Congregation’s History
• Renewing the Congregation’s Identity
• Facilitating Shifts in Congregational Leadership
• Rethinking and Renewing Denominational Linkages

We worked a lot on those first two steps during our WildFuture meetings last summer.
Those meetings also were designed to collect helpful information for the Pastor
Nominating Committee which was yet to be elected. But primarily they were designed
to help us through those first two developmental tasks. Tasks three and four above
have been ongoing throughout much of the interim process.

So here we are, ready to begin to prepare for new pastoral leadership and a new
future. How do we begin to do that? Being a preacher means that one way I want to
come at this is through preaching! Specifically, off and on for much of this summer
we will be having a sermon series entitled “Welcoming and Supporting WPC’s New
Pastor!” We will specify and publicize this more as the summer schedule becomes
more apparent.

But for now we know that there will be sermons on practicing Christian hospitality as
Jesus exemplified it, speaking and hearing the truth in love when facing differences
of opinion, cultivating a culture of generosity in the church, and doing mission as a
great end of the church. These sermons and perhaps others will help us focus on
welcoming and supporting WPC’s new Pastor. If you’d like to be at your best in this
upcoming, exciting time, please join us in worship when you’re in town this summer!

Grace and peace,

June Shavings Letter from Pastor Gregg

Leaving Home

At the last Session meeting, I informed the Elders of my plan to conclude my ministry
at WPC. August 28th will be my last Sunday. So it is time to start the process of
preparing to leave this wonderful church which has been a spiritual home for me and
my family for 21 years.

Why? My wife Anne finished her interim pastorate at the LaGrange Presbyterian
Church on April 30th. At the end of the summer she will be looking for her next
opportunity for ministry, and after all the years of long commutes, we are committed to
the idea that we will live within walking distance of her next church. We are getting our
home ready to sell, and we expect to move in the fall.

Where will we go? As I write this, we don’t have the answer to that question. Anne
regularly receives calls from all over the country inviting her to talk with churches
that need an interim pastor. She will seek to discern God’s call from a congregation
that will benefit from her skills and experience, in a community that will offer us
an interesting life. I will be open to opportunities to support Anne in her church, or
perhaps to use my skills in the Presbytery or denomination’s programs.

It is challenging for me to describe clearly what a blessing it has been for me to be a
member of the WPC church family. We moved to Chicagoland when I took a job as
a mental health counselor at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. I felt deeply
uncertain about how I would live out my calling to be a Presbyterian minister. It was
a profound gift for me and my family to find WPC just a few miles from our home and
to be welcomed warmly by the Bostroms and the whole congregation. Through the
years, my identity as one of the pastors of WPC became stronger, until I was invited
to join the church staff as a Parish Associate pastor. It has been a particular privilege
to work with Jill and Bill as we have led the church through the interim process since
Greg and Kathy left.

The end of August will be my time to leave as well. I will sign the Covenant of Closure
that will officially end my relationships with all of you as a pastor. I am glad that there
are no secrets about my plans, so this summer we can all figure out together how to
conclude my work and say “God be with you” as we move forward into the future of
blessing that is God’s will for me and for WPC.

With gratitude,

May Shavings Letter

Confirmation Class Was Received April 24th

“Christians are made, not born,” said the third century theologian Tertullian. Following
Jesus Christ is not something that comes naturally, without faith, commitment, and
training. Confirmation is an historic means of helping to shape Christians. Today,
making Christians has become challenging work for the church. So many factors in
modern life seem to conspire against the church in its efforts to make disciples.

Confirmation in our church began last October for eighth grade students who chose
to participate. A gifted leadership team consisting of WPC Pastor Jill Paulson and
members Juli Beucher, Rob Nordeen, and Anthony Szot taught and guided the
process, with input from Christian Educator Kathy Gillmore and an adult WPC faith
partner for each confirmation class member.

I thought it would be helpful to share some information about the Presbyterian
understanding of this process. Confirmation has as its goal discipleship, helping form
people who more closely resemble disciples of Jesus Christ in their lifestyle, beliefs,
and values. Thus, we are more interested in our youth (and adults!) knowing and
following Christ than we are in them knowing “about” Christ.

On the one hand, “the life of the mind in the service of God” is important to
Presbyterian Christians. It is important to know what we believe and why we believe it.
A person who knows what he or she believes has a strength which others lack. On the
other hand, the Christian faith is much more than a mere “head trip.” It is a way of life
together. It is loving God with all our being – heart, soul, mind and strength – and loving
our neighbors as we love ourselves. The Christian faith involves the total person. It is
a personal experience and a relational experience.

Confirmation does not begin or end our growth as Christians. Our youth are already
“children of the covenant.” Confirmation is a major step but not the only step in one’s
life-long faith journey. Our prayer is that each of us, no matter how young or old, is
continuing to grow in the faith.

Those in this year’s confirmation class who professed their faith in Jesus Christ and
became active members of WPC on April 24 are:

Ruthie Baldwin
Augustus Bankson
Riley Bishop
Emily Beucher
John Beucher
Delaney Carolan
Erin Custod
Grace Goodrich
Reese Goodrich
Hannah Hunt
Emma Johnson
Daniel Karl
Brooke Moeller
Jack Murrie
Cameron Newton
Daniel Ota
Heather Sealander
Matthew Snavely
Brody Solbrig
Jordan Twadell
Meghan Williams

Please keep them in your prayers as they and all of us seek to follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,


April Shavings Letter

Eastertide at WPC

At Wildwood Presbyterian Church, we invite you to make Easter and the Sundays that
follow a time of special joy. On Easter Day we discover for ourselves the wonder of
the empty tomb and feel the joy that comes from knowing that God conquers death
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But Easter is more than just one Sunday. For centuries, the church has celebrated the
season of Eastertide, which consists of 50 days and seven Sundays, including Easter
Day, and ending with the Day of Pentecost. At WPC, during the seven Sundays of
Eastertide we hear the stories of Jesus’ appearances following his resurrection. We
experience the astonishment and joy that his followers felt when he appeared among
them to show them the reality of his new life and to teach them how to live as followers
of a resurrected Lord.

We celebrate this season in festive ways at WPC: by singing the Hallelujah Chorus
and hearing our brass band play, by renewing our baptismal vows, by displaying
special banners outside and in the sanctuary. It is the season we receive our
confirmation class as new members and are led in worship by our youth on Youth
Sunday. This year guest preacher Bryan Sirchio will return (see article in this
Shavings) to emphasize our mission to Haiti and we will sing each Sunday words from
the glorious Easter hymn, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.”

Here is the schedule for the weeks of Eastertide:

March 27 – Easter Day – John 20:1-10 (or perhaps Mark 16:1-8) – “He is risen!” – The
empty tomb – All who wish are invited to sing the Hallelujah Chorus

April 3 – 2nd Sunday of Easter – John 20:11-18 – “Woman, why are you weeping?” –
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene – Communion & WPC Renewal of Baptismal Vows

April 10 – 3rd Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31 – “Do not doubt, believe!” – Jesus
challenges Thomas – Guest clergy Bryan Sirchio preaching – Haiti mission emphasis

April 17 – 4th Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday – John 21:15-17 – “Feed my
” – Jesus speaks to Peter (perhaps paired with verses from John 10 – “I am the
good shepherd”)

April 24 – 5th Sunday of Easter – John 21:1-14 – “Come and be fed” – Jesus meets the
disciples on the seashore – WPC Confirmation Sunday

May 1 – 6th Sunday of Easter – Luke 24:13-35 – “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?” –
The road to Emmaus – Communion

May 8 – 7th Sunday of Easter – Matthew 28:16-20 – “I am with you always” – Jesus
gives his followers the Great Commission – WPC Youth Sunday/Mother’s Day

I hope you will join us in worship in this joyful Easter season!

Grace and peace,

March Shavings Letter

Easter- A Complete Transformation!

In an Easter sermon preached in Germany in 1940, just before he was arrested
by Hitler’s Gestapo, a pastor, Helmut Gollwitzer, said this: “On Easter, a complete
transformation took place…that which was certain has become doubtful, and that
which was doubtful has become very sure.” Notice this transformation that takes place
when the women visit Jesus’ tomb that first Easter. (Mark 16:1-8)

As they made their way along in the first light of dawn, what were their certainties?
The main one was that Jesus was dead. They had seen him crucified, watched him
die, seen his body taken down from the cross and buried. There could be no doubt
about that. And that led to another great certainty: here in this world, death is stronger
than God. For it was in Jesus that God’s own self was revealed to them. Yet death had
taken him as it takes us all. God may be almighty in heaven, but here on earth, death
is king. There could be no doubt about that.

And from those two certainties, came all those bitter, worldly-wise certainties that
people have lived by in every age. Let me mention only a few:

Nice guys finish last.
Might makes right.
Look out for number one.
Don’t get mad, get even.

Surely the women thought that these tough and disillusioned views of reality were the
only certainties that we have. Here they come around the bend with their certainties
and when they looked up, they saw a sight that turned everything upside down. The
stone was rolled back. The tomb was empty. There was a messenger there saying,
“He has risen!“ (Mark 16:6)

What was demanded of them was a radical transformation. As Gollwitzer says, “That
which was certain has become doubtful, and that which was doubtful has become
very sure.” They were certain Jesus was dead, but now it was doubtful. They were
certain death was stronger than God but now it is doubtful. They were certain “nice
guys finish last” and “might makes right”, but these and all those other worldly wise
views of reality are now doubtful.

And on the other side, their doubts became certainties. They doubted the stone could
be rolled away (Mark 16:3), but now they know it can be. They doubted there were
any cracks in the universal reign of death, but now they know the cracks are there.
They doubted God’s power on earth, but now they are sure of God’s power. Yes, a
remarkable transformation took place. Christian friends, we are to live in light of that
Easter transformation and in the power of that transformation!

Grace and peace,

February Pastor’s Shavings Letter

On Ash Wednesday, February 10, we begin an important journey in the life
of the church.

We are on the road to Jerusalem, to an upper room in a house within the city, a
cross on Golgotha, just outside the city, a tomb in a garden near the city. This
forty-day journey that brings us to Jerusalem is called Lent. The journey is by no
means an easy one. To be sure, there is the joy of a Palm Sunday Parade, but
this is tempered by the realization of the cross that lies ahead. Yet, the journey is
a necessary one. The footsteps that lead us to the empty tomb on Easter Morning
have also followed our Lord on the dusty road to the city. The life-changing victory
of Easter is best realized in light of the Lenten preparation.

However, while we rightly think of Lent today as a season of preparation for Easter,
that function is primarily coincidental. For Lent began in baptism. The coincidence
arises from the fact that in the early Church baptism was administered only once
a year—at Easter. The “Forty Days” (Lent’s original title) was the final part of a
training period for new members which often lasted as long as three years. During
that period potential new members (called “catechumens”) received instruction in
the faith and life of the church. The conclusion of the instruction was a forty-day
intensive fast which tested the catechumens’ seriousness about being baptized.
The difficulty of this initiation shows the need of the church, surrounded by a hostile
society, to be certain about the sincerity of its new members.

The practice of the 40 days’ fast for the catechumens spread through the church
in the third and fourth centuries. It gradually became customary for the entire
congregation to join the catechumens in their fast as a sign of support. Thus Lent
also became a penitential preparation for the annual celebration of the death and
resurrection of Christ. So today Lent is a church-wide preparation for Easter, but it
was first a discipline to test discipleship.

There are clues in this season’s origins about how we might observe Lent in
2016. It stands in the church’s calendar as an annual insistence that preparation
is important to fully experience Easter’s joy. Ways to prepare might include self-
evaluation, intentional prayer times, concentrated study of scripture, probing
questions of our faith and life together, and serving others in God’s mission to the
world. A dominant theme might be not so much “giving up” something for Lent as
discovering anew what it means to belong to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,

January Pastor’s Shavings Letter

Officer Ordination and Installation

I want to invite you to a special service in the life of Wildwood Presbyterian Church. On
Sunday, January 10, 2016, we will have our annual officer ordination and installation
service. In this service, we will be ordaining and/or installing ruling elders and deacons.
The Presbyterian Church is one of the few denominations, if not the only denomination,
to ordain laypersons to office in the church. Ruling elders-elect and deacons-elect
to be ordained kneel and have hands placed upon their heads by pastors and ruling
elders just as pastors-elect have done at their ordination. Eight of the nine questions
the officers-elect are asked are identical to those asked of pastors at their ordination
and the ninth differs only slightly due to the nature of each office.

In short, officers in the Presbyterian Church are not elected simply to the “board” of a
church. They are not chosen simply to govern the church. It is much more than that.
Presbyterian Church officers are called by God, just as the clergy, to serve Christ in
and through the church. Like pastors, this call from God must be outwardly manifested
in the election of the congregation and the approval and examination of a church
council (for clergy, presbytery, and for elders and deacons, the Session). This call is
not just to lead the congregation, but more importantly, to serve and to follow our Lord
Jesus Christ, that is, to be servant-leaders. This understanding about our lay officers is
one of the great strengths of our denomination.

I hope you can join us January 10 as we set aside the following as officers in our
congregation (* denotes a second term):

Class of 2018
Joe Dimock
June Gleason
Kim Shimkus
Debbie Solbrig*
Mark Thomas

Class of 2016
Mark Taylor*

Class of 2018
Margie Ayers*
Arden Boersma*
Jay Hendrix*
Troy Iaconis*
Laura Strom
Cheryl Thomas

Class of 2016
Hope Hudgins

Also, I want to thank all the officers who are leaving active service for their faithful
leadership, especially in this time of transition, at WPC. They have truly stepped up and
met the challenge:

Deacons: Juli Beucher, Anne Roth, and Brian Snavely
Elders: Sue Ballinger, Paula Edwards, Vicki Erickson, and Lee Piekarz
We are grateful for the gifts each have shared with our church and for the energy,
intelligence, imagination, and love with which they served!

Grace and peace,