by Ray Delcourt
At 8:50 P.M. on a balmy late summer Louisiana evening, ironically much like here in Orland, Pastor Paul Ernewein pulled into his driveway after completing another 13 hour-plus day serving the parishioners of Village Church Lutheran in Lacomb, Louisiana. His evenings are filled with fellowship meals, classes, and bible study. His 8 years at this congregation have left him more spiritual and hopeful than ever about our Lutheran faith in America. Somehow we were able to pry him away from his wonderful bride Peggy, and we spent some time catching up and finding out how his faith has grown since leaving CLC.
Paul describes his church as positioned somewhere like New Lenox, and they pull 30% from Joliet area and 30% from Orland Park. “It makes it a challenge for having children’s classes during the week”, he said. Paul Ernewein was CLC’s Vicar during 2005-2006 and was affectionately known as “Vicar Paul 2” (a previous Vicar was also named Paul). After completing his studies, he was called to Village Church where he now serves as the Senior Pastor.
Pastor Paul sees challenges on the horizon for basic freedom of churches and the government. “The government is becoming more and more involved in our basic freedom of religion and we need to be very careful how this affects the church moving forward”. He also wants to see his flock get more involved at church on a different level. “I see the same 30 to 40 people helping around church, doing the busy but important work and I want to challenge them to deepen their relationship with the LORD. Jesus told his disciples this, and it would serve us all well.”
As we spoke more about the people in both churches he talked about “Balance”. “I believe that people need time to break away from service from time to time. That’s why in the summer we slow down our pace and give our congregation volunteers a break. Some people kid me about slacking off, but I feel it’s important to recharge their batteries mentally as well as spiritually. Pastor Ray taught me a lot about how to do that as a Pastor in my home life. To make sure I always found time for family, and to protect my family life. I’ll never forget that gift he gave me.”
I asked him what else he retained in his human flash drive from CLC. He didn’t pause for a moment, “Pastor Ray’s passion for home and hospital visits. That is a lost art today. I’ve tried to emulate that in my Pastoral duties here because it makes a difference in people’s lives and worship.” He remembered with great admiration the building and its upkeep, ” I was impressed by the cleanliness of the CLC facility. I learned that the first impression of a crack can mean to a lot to someone. I work hard at having everything clean like the folks back there.”
The conversation drifted to what from CLC he as incorporated into his church. “The Men’s Club, (their version of Saturday Men’s Bible Study) has been an influential part of our church. They fix most of the meals when needed, paid for the kitchen, and actually have taken the role normally reserved for the ladies’ club. We meet at night and cook a meal, have devotion, and play cards or – taking another note from you guys- formed a Dart League. We also do day trips with our older members like the OWLS; so many things have found their way to Louisiana via Christ Lutheran.”
As our late evening conversation was coming to a close I had to ask what he missed most about Christ Lutheran. “I miss the ladies in the office. They were so great, so much fun and just wonderful! I also miss the MUSIC! Sandy teaching me to sing was a wonderful experience I will never forget. I think I miss that most, she was great.” He did have one more thought for CLC members, “It’s a shame you don’t still have Vicars, because what you do there at Christ Lutheran is special and it’s important for other people to experience that. I hope one day it starts again!”
We talked for a few more minutes about his family: Peg with Southwest now for almost 15 years; oldest son Thad expecting 3rd child and working for IBM; Seth, who recently graduated with an engineering degree; and daughter Holly, an RN working for the VA and a mother to her family of 4 kids. Peg’s brother recently had a stroke and they are helping him recover at their home. As for the future, Paul and Peg have recently purchased property on the Mississippi, just three minutes from the beach, 45 minutes from the church, and only seconds from paradise.
Memories can flood our brains at the oddest times; a song can trigger a first date or family event. I decided to trigger that myself with a closing question to Pastor, asking about his favorite memory of Christ Lutheran Church. He didn’t skip a beat. His voice raised an octave as he spoke with great passion of his time at CLC. “I’ll never forget being welcomed as an outsider by the people of Chicago and Christ Lutheran. I’ll NEVER forget that. I felt more welcome then a Cubs fan on the Southside! I was loved by the OWLS and the Voyagers alike. It’s a good church when you feel welcome like that, it’s a BLESSING!.” And with that we said goodnight….but not goodbye.