Adam Walker Cleaveland, the new Associate Pastor at Winnetka Presbyterian Church, may have spent most of his life on the West Coast, but he’s already enjoying everything the North Shore has to offer.
“[Back in Oregon] It took four-and-a-half hours to get to the closest Apple Store,” he joked. “Here it only takes two minutes to get to Old Orchard!”
Walker Cleaveland, who recently moved to Wilmette from Ashland, Oregon with his wife Sarah and his one-and-a-half-year-old son Caleb, has also already deeply connected with the members of the church, despite only beginning his position on August 1.
“There’s amazing people [here],” he said. “They’re very generous. They help out with service and mission. … There’s some really wonderful people at this church.”
Walker Cleaveland discovered his calling to become a pastor in college, where he spent summers working at a Presbyterian camp. The experience especially made him interested in youth ministry, which he will also be in charge of at the Winnetka Presbyterian Church.
“The thing that drew me in [to youth ministry] was the chance to walk along with young people as they figure out who they are and figure out the big questions,” he said. “Not to be there to tell them what to do, but to think through those questions with them.”
"God was suffering with me"
Walker Cleaveland also maintains two blogs — pomomusings.com about his thoughts on technology, theology and ministry, and dazeddad.com that focuses on grief and loss, and how dads go through that. The blog originally began when he and his wife found out that they were expecting twins and the excitement that comes with that, and evolved to being about grief when his twin sons, Judah and Micah, died after being born prematurely.
“It was a traumatic event that formed who I am today and what I think about grief, and it formed me as a pastor and how I approach grief,” he said. “When I was in seminary, we questioned the problems of evil and where was God in tragedies and those were interesting debates and questions to think about. But when something like that happened to me, it was such a traumatic thing and, in a lot of ways, I could care less about how things work in the moment. All I knew was that somehow, in the midst of this horrible thing, God was suffering with me.”
Walker Cleaveland is looking forward to connecting with members of the community on many levels, whether it’s through counseling and pastoral care or through casual conversations in his upcoming Theology Pub events.
“It’s essentially an opportunity to create a space in a public setting — like a bar or a pub — to have an open conversation about important topics that matter,” he explained. “It’s open to anyone — those of different faiths, those of no faiths — and it’s a place to discuss issues that are affecting everyone, and to do so while we enjoy a beer.”
Theology Pub will be kicking off in January of 2014.
Walker Cleaveland wants the people in the community to know that everyone is welcome at the Winnetka Presbyterian Church.
“We’re very open and welcome anyone,” he said.