In 1954, two residents of Winnetka sought something more for their life and faith. Elliott and Virginia Foltz had fallen away from church, because something was missing in the experiences available, and they both yearned for a place where they could develop a deeper connection with God. They missed the intellectual challenge and spiritual leadership they grew accustomed to growing up, and did something about it.
They approached the Presbytery of Chicago about building such a church in Winnetka, and found support that the time and place were right for such an adventure. The Foltzes found other area Presbyterians interested in joining such a project, and their first step was to go door to door and solicit interest in being part of a new community of faith in the area. As they canvassed the area, they asked whether homeowners were satisfied with their church experience, and would they be interested in a church development that would focus on nurturing both the intellectual understanding of and spiritual relationship with God. Ninety families said "yes." And so a new church development began.
The Chicago Presbytery appointed D. Clarence Spaulding to be the organizing pastor and interim minister of a new church in Winnetka,IL. Thirty-five families gathered and began services on January 22, 1956 at Skokie Junior High School. At the end of that first year, the 26-year-old Lloyd Ogilvie became the pastor, who asked the congregation for three things, "faith, prayer, and sacrifice." Under inspired worship and leadership, and through the development of small group bible studies, the church grew rapidly, and tapped into a great yearning in the area for community, deep relationship, and commitment to serve and follow Jesus Christ.
The church building that stands today was dedicated at the corner of Willow and Hibbard in January 1961. Dr. Harold de Vries, a neighboring pastor, penned a poem in honor of this dedication, which ends, "Nothing moved me more [about this dedication ceremony] than the prominence given to the Word of God. For it is the message of God from the Word of God that meets the heart need of a hungry community, whose cry is, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
Winnetka Presbyterians, from the beginning, have been engaged in a shared faith journey using its minds, hearts, and strengths. The Academy of Faith and Life, a partnership with McCormick Seminary in Chicago, offered intellectual and spiritual training for future church leaders that would prove impactful for years. That spirit of learning and exploring faith, scriptures, history, tradition, and the world has pervaded the life story of this church, and remains an active part of our identity today.
Our church's story now spans over 50 years, and includes the work of six senior pastors and several associate pastors. In that time the church has always listened for God's prompting as we labor to keep scripture, and the beliefs and values of Winnetka Presbyterian Church, at the heart and center of our fast-changing, turbulent world.
You can tell a great deal about a church from its story of origin. At its foundation, Winnetka Presbyterian Church was a place created out of yearning for understanding of and relationship with God.
From its beginning, members have taken the development of Christian faith and practice seriously. That lasting legacy of striving to live faithfully, authentically, and with conviction remains at work in the WPC community of faith today.