To Muncie, Indiana, native Nick Swan, Mr. Dingledine was more than a Muncie Symphony Orchestra oboist and middle school band director with an alliterative surname.
“He taught me values in music, like the value of collaborating with other musicians in an ensemble and being a good colleague in a performance,” says Swan, the associate pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Winnetka and an oboist during his youth and in his first career. “It’s okay to love music—I learned that from him. I was one of three boys, growing up in a sports family, surrounded by rambunctiousness.
“Out of the blue,” adds the son of Dennis and Marilyn Swan, “I emerged as the brother who got into classical music. Steve Dingledine was a major influence in my middle school years. His main message to me, to all of us in the band, was, ‘Be passionate about what you love.’ ”
Love of humanity is but one of the themes that Easter celebrates annually; love, after all, is at the heart of everything good. Add joy to the list of Easter themes. And the resurrection. And hope.
“Hope for all mankind,” says the 42-year-old Swan, who was promoted from assistant pastor to associate pastor last October. “Jesus died for our sins. His death was victory over sin, and the resurrection gives us hope, daily. Our world today is broken. You have the pandemic, racial unrest and, just recently, mass killings in Atlanta and Boulder.
“We’re in a world that needs hope now more than ever. Easter offers hope.”
Swan, a Glencoe resident and member of Grace Presbyterian’s pastoral staff since 2019, plans to touch on 1 Thessalonians 4:13 in his Easter sermon this weekend. The Bible verse: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”
“What Paul is saying to the Thessalonians,” Swan says, “is, ‘Yes, we grieve, but we grieve with hope. Grieving with hope isn’t a bad thing. The resurrection is hope.
“Death,” he adds, “is not an ending.’ ”
Swan began his college years at Ball State University, located a hop, skip, and the length of a few oboes from his boyhood home. He earned a degree in music performance there and another one at none other than The Juilliard School in New York City. He met his future wife, violist and Wheaton native Rebecca, at Juilliard.
On a spring day in 2002, Nick and Rebecca were invited to join several others for a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. None of the others showed up. The pair of musicians checked out the largest art museum in the United States by themselves.
“It worked out for me,” Nick says.
They got married in 2004 and spent nearly 15 years in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Nick performed for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra for three years and, after heeding the call to the church, got his Master of Arts at Reformed Theological Seminary. Nick was a Baptist before becoming a Presbyterian, a decision he called “a hard one.” He served for a combined 12 years at parishes in Charlotte (Crossway Community Church) and Elgin before accepting the call from Grace Presbyterian Church to work with senior pastor Marshall Brown and help guide the church’s mission: “To welcome our neighbors, to grow together in Christ, and serve God in our community and world.”
Rebecca continues to perform as a freelance musician.
“She’s a wonderful musician, a loving and hardworking mother, and she loves God,” says Swan, who was born in downstate Decatur. “Rebecca is also the handy one in our household. Our kitchen table? She made it. She also redoes furniture. Rebecca has a great eye for things like that.
“It has turned out exceptionally well for both of us, coming to Grace Presbyterian,” he adds. “We’re now closer to her family, and she enjoys the opportunities to freelance in the Chicago area. I love how close we are to Northwestern University and its campus ministry. I couldn’t be happier at Grace, with its community of gifted and accomplished people. Every time I turn around, somebody is doing something unbelievable or something interesting.”
Nick and Rebecca have three children: Kathryn, 14; Daniel, 12; and Caroline, 9. Nick likes to take one child on a date each Saturday to strengthen each bond. Dates include a stop at a bagel shop, a walk near Lake Michigan, and a visit to Evanston.
“There are joys and trials,” Swan says of fatherhood. “These last few years with them, I’ve treasured immensely, and so has Rebecca. Our children are at such wonderful ages, and they’re delightful.”
Among Swan’s favorite pastimes is fly fishing. He gets hooked on books, too, particularly nonfiction and biographies. Walks along North Shore beaches invigorate him. He smokes pipes and sips whiskey occasionally.
The vision statement:
“To change the landscape of the North Shore with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To be a church where women and men, boys and girls are meeting Jesus for the first time and growing in love for God and other people. We want to see lives changed by the Gospel. We want to see the North Shore changed. And through the North Shore, contribute to the healing of Chicago. And through Chicago, have a Gospel impact on the world.”
Grace Presbyterian Church, 847-920-9517, is located at 440 Ridge Avenue in Winnetka. For more information and to register to attend in-person worship services, visit gracenorthshore.org.