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First Presbyterian of Libertyville a Large, Vibrant Church

Founded in 1869, the church has a lot to offer its members for educating themselves and caring for others.

Editor's note: This story is part of a faith series I'm working on that highlights our local places of worship. If you'd like to see your church featured in this series, contact me, editor Korrina Grom, at korrina.grom@patch.com.

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To say First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville is an active congregation might be an understatement.

In addition to the youth groups and adult Bible studies, there's a sizable music program for adults and children alike. There's the adult, Chancel, Motet, senior high youth, junior high youth and two children's choirs. There are also two adult, a youth and two children's bell choirs.

The church also offers its members a variety of ways to serve others, whether it's through the monthly Mobile Food Pantry, serving in the PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) program or volunteering at a soup kitchen in Waukegan.

"This is a very vibrant congregation," said Pastor Brian Paulson.

All of this activity, Paulson said, is tied directly to the Presbyterian church's core belief about the sovereignty of God.

"He cares for 'the least of these,' and so should we," said Paulson.

First Presbyterian is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Presbyterians trace their roots back to the Reformation and the writings of John Calvin. Paulson said Presbyterians started arriving in the United States around 1630.

The Libertyville church was founded in 1869, Paulson said, by farmers who had previously been traveling to the Ivanhoe Congregational Church.

"They decided to form a church here in Libertyville," he said. From 1882 until it burned down in 1923, the church was located on Church Street east of Milwaukee Avenue. The original chapel at the current location, 219 W. Maple Ave., was built in 1928 and still stands.

"We've been in this spot ever since," said Paulson. The larger building was constructed in 1986.

In the Presbyterian world, First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville ranks in the top 2 percent in terms of congregation size, Paulson said. The church lists 1,350 members, with an average of 500 people attending services on Sundays. The church holds two concurrent services at 10 a.m.: a traditional service with choirs in the sanctuary and a more contemporary service with a music team in the chapel.

Paulson said people drive from as far away as Antioch and Lincolnshire to attend worship.

The church has a lot to offer. Its large music program is led by seven part-time staffers and draws a lot of musicians, including people who play the harp, cello, flute and oboe. The talent of these skilled, trained musicians, Paulson said, is all part of the Presbyterian church's emphasis on education.

That emphasis on education is also apparent in the program offerings at First Presbyterian, including workshops, the Learning in Fellowship Together (L.I.F.T.) speaker series, Bible studies and retreats.

The church has very large junior and senior high youth groups, Paulson said, and an active Sunday School program.

Caregiving Focus

There is also an emphasis on caring for others. 

The Mobile Food Pantry, for example, serves about 250 families on the third Saturday of every month in the south church parking lot. The families come to be served by about 60 volunteers, who sort food from the Northern Illinois Food Bank and then distribute it.

"It's just an organized, amazing accomplishment," said Paulson. He said the Mobile Food Pantry allows the congregation to see what is going on in the community in terms of poverty.

People also volunteer for other organizations, like the Holy Family Soup Kitchen in Waukegan and Habitat for Humanity.

"We train our members to do caregiving in many ways," Paulson said. For example, the church has a Stephen Ministry program where people are trained and then help others during difficult times. There's also a Prayer Ministry and an Andrew Ministry. The latter helps people as they become members of the church.

What does Paulson love most about the First Presbyterian congregation? The people.

"I just think they're passionate and committed to demonstrating the love of God," he said. "I feel it. They're generous and kind."

He said the church as a whole is "on a spiritual adventure, and we understand at the end of the day, it's about following Jesus Christ."

Read other stories from our faith series:

  • Reaching Across Generations at United Methodist
  • Christianity, Culture Converge at Lakeview Presbyterian
  • Community the Focus at Libertyville Covenant Church
  • All Are Welcome at St. Lawrence Episcopal Church
  • Open Mic Night, Food Pantry Offered at St. Lawrence Episcopal
  • Faith and Fun the Focus at Christ Lutheran Church

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