Get to know the First Pres Church staff

Rev. Dr. Brian R. Paulson

Pastor/Head of Staff

Brian enjoys the “call of a lifetime” with our congregation in Libertyville at the heart of Lake County. He joyfully claims Libertyville as the place he has called home longer than anywhere else as an adult. Brian was raised in Southern California on bluffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean at a place called, Palos Verdes. He studied at Georgetown University and received degrees from U.C.L.A., Princeton Theological Seminary, and Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Paulson continues to write and to research connections between worship and daily life. Brian fell in love with his wife Jill, also a Presbyterian pastor, while studying at Princeton. Jill and Brian started their marriage in Michigan, bringing two beautiful children into a world of strong Midwestern values. Their children, Annie and Ben, enjoyed a childhood of sun while Brian served eleven years as Pastor at Orangewood Presbyterian Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Annie is now a teacher who is happily married and mother of a cheerful boy. Ben launched a career in music, the environment and service in North Carolina. Their family shares a love of music. Every now and then Brian will play the French horn and piano for enjoyment. In his youth, he performed and directed music in a variety of settings. Brian speaks Italian and Spanish with some fluency and maintains many Christian friendships across the seas. In his free time, he loves to paint, photograph and bike on trails and beside our lakes. Brian likes to hunker down with a good book in winter and loves taking a nap in the summer breezes of a day off in Lake County. You can learn more about Brian (his background, social media, and various interests) 

Rev. Amy Heinrich

Associate Pastor, Congregational Life

Pastor Amy received her Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and served as Chaplain at Colorado College and Austin College, and as Campus Pastor at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Before coming to First Pres Libertyville, she served as Associate for Campus Ministry at First Presbyterian Church, Ann Arbor and the Ecumenical Center and International Residence. Her ministry focus at First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville  is discipleship building through Andrew Ministry and classes for prospective new members; fellowship and growth through small groups; and compassion and care through hospital visits, prayer and Stephen Ministry.

Amy's husband and soul mate, Rob, is in private practice in Clinical Psychology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Lake Forest. They live in Prairie Crossing, a conservation community in Grayslake. Hiking the trails there, with her Irish Terriers is one of Amy's best sources of prayer, renewal and fitness. Amy loves to exercise, cook, entertain, travel and "verbally process" with her therapist husband by the fire after a busy day. Rob and Amy have three young adult children: fraternal twin sons, Ian and Max, who live in New York and North Carolina; and a daughter, Emma, who attends Elon University.

Rev. Kara Smith-Laubenstein

Associate Pastor, Youth Ministry

Kara feels greatly blessed to serve as the Associate Pastor for Youth Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville. She is a beloved daughter of this congregation, having been confirmed and baptized here in 1996 and participated in all levels of the church during her youth. Kara attended Indiana University in Bloomington, IN and received an honors degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy in 2004. She graduated with her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ in 2008. Kara then served as an inner-city school teacher, teaching third grade in the Cherry Hill neighborhood in Baltimore, MD. Kara's journey toward ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament was renewed in 2010 as she moved to Wisconsin from Maryland and began working with the youth at Trinity Lutheran Church. She started her ministry in Libertyville and was ordained in 2015. Kara now lives in Libertyville with her Lutheran pastor husband, Matthew, and their young daughters, Amelia Joy and Charlotte Jean.

Rev. Ryan Wallace

Associate Pastor, Faith Formation

Rev. Ryan’s ministry has led him to serve both churches and faith-based community organizations, including the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, Protestants for the Common Good, Community Renewal Society, Interfaith Worker Justice, The Inclusive Collective, Park Ridge Presbyterian Church, and First Presbyterian Church of Deerfield. Ryan is an alum of Vanderbilt University (Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Spanish) and McCormick Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity), and he completed his clinical pastoral education at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Ryan grew up in Deerfield (IL) and met his wife, Amanda, in Nashville (TN) in 2009. They were married in 2011, and after living in the city for nearly a decade (Hyde Park, South Loop, and Rogers Park), they were excited to be called to Libertyville in 2018.  Ryan and Amanda have two children, Mae (b. 2015) and Silas (b. 2018). They love to cook, play board games with friends, watch historical dramas, and travel—with recent trips to France, Italy, and Croatia. Some of Ryan’s favorite pastimes include brewing beer, building furniture, and reading—especially theology, science, politics, and history.