PRPC Church History
Park Ridge Presbyterian Church (PRPC) is in an exciting season! Pastor Josh Erickson is our senior pastor and he started his ministry in the beginning of April 2015. You can learn more about Josh and all of our staff here. PRPC believes that God is calling us to engage and inspire all people to Share God’s Love, Grow in Faith, and Serve as Disciples. The history of PRPC is a wonderful and robust one. It provides a great foundation and starting point for the future. A commitment to excellent worship, reaching the community both near and far, and faithful children and youth are some of the ministries that PRPC has championed since our founding and continue to be passionate about today.
In October 1947, a survey of Park Ridge residents determined the need for a Presbyterian Church in the city. A favorable response led to organizing a church in July 1948, with the Rev. Dr. Robert Lee Sawyer appointed as organizing minister. In September 1948, Sunday School met with 33 pupils. On October 10, 1948, Winslow Hall of Lincoln School became the first home of Park Ridge Presbyterian Church, following a worship service with communion. The congregation began with 77 members and elected 6 Elders and 6 Deacons.
1950’s and 1960’s
After the building of the manse in the fall of 1952, we called the Rev. Dr. John A. Bellingham as the installed pastor on February 1, 1953. On September 12, 1954, the congregation met for the final time at Winslow Hall and processed across the street to the newly completed chapel. In 1959, the parking lot was completed, and the Rev. Larrimore K. Wickett joined the growing staff as the first Associate Pastor. On September 10, 1962, the congregation dedicated the new sanctuary and church school building. In July 1968, the Rev. Donald Cooper joined the staff as the new Associate Pastor.
Many of our traditions such as the Advent Cantata, the Christmas Eve 11 p.m. candlelight service with a string section playing a 30-minute musical prelude and accompanying the chancel choir, the Summer Youth Mission Trip (which began as a Care-A-Van), and the rummage sale, date to the early years of the church. Mission was emphasized, including support for a missionary in Korea. Dr. Bellingham also helped to establish a Presbyterian Church in Japan during his sabbatical there. PRPC currently gives support to two “children” of the church, one in Peru and one in who has been serving the Bakwe people of the Ivory Coast since the 1980s.
In September 1973, the congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary of the church by finishing the Family Center and dedicating its use for the fellowship of the church. We called the Rev. Paul Mueller as Associate Pastor on February 18, 1973. The Rev. Brian Dill, as a second Associate Pastor, joined the pastoral staff in 1974. In October of 1976, Dr. Bellingham ended his service at PRPC. Dr. Bellingham was succeeded by new Senior Pastor Rev. Louis S. Lunardini on July 17, 1977. The Rev. David Kingsley was called as an Associate Pastor at this time. During his tenure at PRPC, Reverend Lunardini led members of the congregation on a tour of Athens, Rome, and the Holy Land.
1980’s and 1990’s
After the departure of Rev. Dr. Lunardini in 1982, we called the Rev. Gordon N. Butcher to be the third Senior Pastor on July 10, 1983. Mission-giving projects expanded local outreach through the Christmas Giving Tree and the monthly contributions to the Maine Township Food Pantry. When the city experienced overland flooding in 1986 and 1987, PRPC was the first to open its doors to displaced families, providing temporary housing and meals. In 1987 the purchase of a rebuilt 1956 Austin 3 manual 34 rank organ from the 43rd Avenue Presbyterian Church in Gary, IN was accomplished without a fundraising drive because of the congregation’s generous response to the opportunity.
The Rev. Dr. Andrew McDonald was called as the fourth Senior Pastor on July 9, 1995. Rev. Dr. McDonald lead the congregation to have an increased emphasis on adult Bible study as he led Sunday Morning Adult CE classes. The first men’s Seed Group, which developed under Rev. Dr. McDonald’s guidance, continues to meet today.
Rev. James P. McCracken, our fifth senior pastor, began his ministry with us on November 1, 2000. During his tenure, PRPC began hosting the Great Banquet, created a Wednesday Night Praise Service, Book Study, and Soup and Supper. He also led us into the technology of the 21st century as he and his wife Amy nurtured the development of our church website. The Acts 16:5 Initiative renewed our emphasis on prayer “with and for each other.” Moreover PRPC adopted the mission statement, “Share God’s Love, . . . Grow in Faith, . . . Serve as Disciples.”
Significant changes to the structure of the church organization took place. The Deacon and Deaconess boards were combined into one 22 member Board of Deacons early in Rev. McCracken’s tenure. The need to maintain the facilities with a variety of capital projects, led to the re-creation of the Board of Trustees in 2012. Simultaneously the session was reduced from 18 to 9 members, with the active elders serving as liaisons to two of the session committees and/or boards. A restructuring of staff responsibilities led to more opportunities for Bible study. Sunday School made the fourth Sunday of every month, “Service Sunday.”
Expansion of our hands-on ministry to groups like the Lincoln Park Shelter and the Night Ministry, is one of Reverend McCracken’s greatest legacies at PRPC. In his memory, the session has named PRPC’s “hands-on ministry,” the “Reverend James P. McCracken Memorial Ministry.”
On June 30, 2013, Rev. James McCracken retired and a season of transition began for PRPC. PRPC was led by seveal interim pastors. The Reverend Dr. Donald R. Dempsey served as our Interim Senior Pastor for most of 2014. Aaron Higashi, Director of Youth and Family Ministries, Amy Schaetzlein, Director of Sunday School, Dr. Roger Scanlan, Director of Music, Bert Adams, Organist, and Ms. Linda Thomas, Chancel Bell Choir Director, all provided wonderful leadership during this time of transition.
The search for a new senior pastor came to a formal conclusion when Rev. Josh Erickson accepted the call to be our 6th senior pastor in early February 2015. Rev. Erickson began serving as our senior pastor on Easter Sunday of 2015. In the last summer of 2015 we celebrated the retirement of Dr. Roger Scalan. In the Fall of 2015, Ms. Linda Thomas was promoted to the role of Director of Music and Bell Choir. In April of 2016, we welcome Anne Maffitt to the staff as our new Director of Youth, Missions, and Outreach Ministries.