Staff & Leadership

WCC Staff

  • Peter Hawkinson

    Senior Pastor

    Peter is a lifelong Covenant member with a passion for helping people of all faith backgrounds and walks of life forge a closer relationship with God. He grew up on Chicago’s North Side, attending North Park Covenant church. His dad was a pastor and editor of The Covenant Companion. After earning degrees from Covenant Bible College, the University of North Dakota and North Park Theological Seminary, Peter joined Winnetka Covenant in 1989 as youth pastor, and went on to pastor Covenant churches in Seattle and Minneapolis. Peter rejoined Winnetka Covenant as associate pastor in 2001, and has served as lead pastor since 2005. An avid reader (especially historical fiction), Peter likes music, sports and coffee. He and his wife Bonnie—new empty-nesters—have three daughters who, he says, “fill our lives with laughter.”


    What you wish people driving or biking by our church—who don’t worship anywhere—knew.

    "That, despite what the church has often witnessed to, God is profoundly FOR you, full of love. That God’s people deeply care and want to support and share your journey. And that our Wednesday night dinners are the best deal on the North Shore!"


    Read our full interview with Peter.


    circleemail   Email Peter

  • Jen Christianson

    Associate Pastor

    Jen loves to connect with and nurture people in their walk with God, bringing her vibrant faith and intellectual curiosity to each encounter. She grew up in Attleboro, Mass., attending the local Covenant church. She earned her B.A. degree in history from Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., and her Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. Prior to coming to Winnetka Covenant in 2018, Jen was a three-year Pastoral Resident at Covenant Presbyterian Church In Charlotte, North Carolina. In her new post, she is focusing on pastoral care, adult Sunday school, Wednesday night group discussions and older adults at Covenant Village. “I fell in love with Winnetka Covenant,” Jen says. “You have a deep heart for the gospel, and a deep love for each other.”


    You just joined us at Winnetka Covenant. Why our church?

    "I get to do all the things here that I love! I’m passionate about education and bringing people together to explore and learn. I also have this heart for pastoral care and our senior members. And I get to preach. It felt like a gift from God to have a call that offered all these things. I’m also impressed with Winnetka Covenant’s heart. You don’t shy away from tough conversations—but I see such grace and compassion framing the way you speak to each other. That’s something I want to be part of."


    Read our full interview with Jen.


    circleemail Email Jen


  • Art Nelson

    Pastor Emeritus

    Art’s Covenant ministry spans more than 50 years. He grew up in the greater Chicago area, attending North Park Academy, University and Seminary. He was WCC’s senior pastor from 1967 to 1986, overseeing the fundraising and construction of our current facility and sanctuary. Prior to joining WCC, Art held pastorates in Chicago; Long Island, New York; Waltham, Mass.; and Seattle, Wash. He also served as acting president and dean of North Park Seminary, and taught pastoral studies there. Twice he served as chair of North Park University’s board of trustees, and was also interim president from 1979-80. Currently, he is a board member of Ministry Mentors, which he also chaired, coaching ministers around the country. Art has been married to his wife Laurel for more than 60 years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Art is the author of Prayers: Public and Personal, which guides pastors as they minister in special situations ranging from pain and grief to celebration.


    You’ve helped lead our church for more than 50 years. A highlight memory?

    "It was Mother’s Day, 1973—the first time our members gathered to worship in our current sanctuary. After years of prayerful, spirit-charged anticipation, I can remember kneeling on the steps below the communion table and cross, tears in my eyes. I was so filled with amazement and gratitude to God. We were transforming our place of witness in the community. That moment was—and remains today—a holy time in my life, matched rarely before or since as pastor."


    circleemail  Email Art


  • Judi Geake

    Spiritual Direction and Small Group Ministries

    Judi is well-known for her success planning programs that address the special needs of women. She spent 20 years as executive director of the Women’s Exchange, a Winnetka nonprofit organization serving women across the North Shore, retiring in 2011. Judi was born in Canada and grew up Lutheran. Her family moved to Chicago in 1962. She married Howard in 1968, and they have three sons and eight grandchildren. Her family joined Winnetka Covenant in 1983. Judi earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Valparaiso University; got her master’s in counseling from National Louis University; and in 2014, received her Certificate in Spiritual Direction from North Park University. “Maintaining and deepening our relationship with God can be daunting during the best of times,” Judi says. “But making God a priority in our stress-ridden, time-challenged world can sometimes feel impossible. I want to create opportunities for people to deepen their spiritual growth through small groups and discussion. Spirit-filled people can’t help but spill out that fullness to their families, their work places, their communities and, most important, their church.”


    Any new ministries you’re thinking about where you see a real area of need?

    "I’ve been asked to launch a group for women who are living as singles for the first time. I’m also starting a group called 'Come Play With Me,' for women who just want to have fun in the company of other women. I also want to launch a monthly discussion group that delves into short articles or book chapters by people of faith who inspire us to ask questions and explore. I’m busy growing these ideas!"


    circleemail  Email Judi

  • Melissa Nelson

    Children's Ministry Associate

    Melissa has devoted her life to teaching kids, serving for 30 years with the Wilmette school district, where she primarily taught kindergarten. She grew up in Northern Colorado, attending a Presbyterian Church, and came to Chicago to study at North Park University, majoring in education. She married Pete Nelson in 1984, and they have three kids. Her family joined Winnetka Covenant in 1999 because of its wide-ranging offerings for children. In 2016, after retiring, Melissa was named WCC’s children’s ministry associate. In addition to planning Wednesday night kid’s activities, along with intergenerational programs, she plans Sunday morning worship programs for kids who take part in the first half of worship, then leave before the sermon. “On Wednesday nights, I want people from different generations to truly get to know each other,” she said. “On Sundays, I want our kids to feel loved and safe and nurtured, learning how God can truly be a part of their lives.”


    Your best moment on Sunday mornings with the kids?

    "Listening to them pray. I have this “prayer pail,” and kids can pull out topics to help them get started. Getting to hear them pray is the high point of my day."


    circleemail Email Melissa

  • Judy Isaacson

    Administrative Assistant

    Judy has spent almost four decades providing administrative support to the Covenant church, both locally and nationally. Her deep experience and knowledge helps our church office run smoothly. Judy grew up in Michigan attending a Catholic church, and she became a member of Winnetka Covenant in 1982. She spent 17 years working for the Covenant church’s denominational offices, and joined our church office staff in 1999. Judy has two grown daughters. In her spare time, she likes to garden. “This church attracts such a mix of people from all backgrounds and walks of life,” Judy says. “That’s why I love it here—I love the people.”


    You perform hundreds of different tasks to keep our church running smoothly. Your favorite?

    "Each year right before Easter I get to drive our church van to the florist to pick up the flowers for our big service. Oh, the colors and smells of those hydrangeas, begonias and lilies! We’ve just made it through winter, and I’m a gardener. It’s always a highlight."


    circleemail  Email Judy

  • Mary Barnes Gingrich

    Interim Director of Music

    Type the content for this list item here. This is just example text to show you what it will look like when you enter text content into this list item. Your unique, authentic, and appropriate text will be filled into this section.

  • Peter Strom

    Facilities Manager

    Type the content for this list item here. This is just example text to show you what it will look like when you enter text content into this list item. Your unique, authentic, and appropriate text will be filled into this section.

Leadership

Our talented members are also very active volunteers who help lead our church with a wide array of ministries. They include:


2022 Officers

Chairperson: John Lindahl

Vice-Chairperson: Val Hausman

Secretary: Joan Wallgren

Treasurer: Tom Sharp

Financial Secretary: 


2022 Boards and Committees


Board of Trustees: Oversees the organizational governance of our church. Trustees ensure we operate ethically, show fiscal responsibility, and remain true to our mission and values. Also oversee the church pledges, tithes and offerings, and maintain Winnetka Covenant’s property and facilities.

Rob Thomas, chair

Denise Johnson, Steve Kanda, Luke Knotts, Bill Milbratz, Peter A. Nelson, Peter C. Nelson, Susan Schmitt, Tom Sharp


Board of Deacons: Helps the pastoral staff with the spiritual nurture and care of our members. This includes serving communion; interviewing, recommending and welcoming new members; making sure members are informed about major church events; hosting and providing refreshments for special services like funerals and memorials; visiting shut-ins; and organizing card, flower and church greeter ministries.

Jan Annes, co-chair

Steve Sudhoff, co-chair

Gary Isaacson, Sandi Hotchkiss, Terese Hunt, Andrea Johnson, Joan Johnson, Ruth Johnson, Kurt Kovacic,  Deb O’Donovan, C. Norman Peterson, Marlyce Peterson, Mary Rhodes, Jane Rivi, Rebecca Young


Board of Christian Formation: Supports the pastoral staff in planning adult and children’s Sunday school, as well as other educational opportunities that encourage Christian growth.

Karen Bowen, co-chair

Eric Fogel, co-chair

Carmela Heintzelman, Sue Kelly, Kari Lindahl,  


Missions Committee: Allocates financial support to a dozen local, national and international missions, and also supports 19 missionaries who serve on five continents.

Rick Schultz, chair

Julie Hextell-Ryan, Mary Beth Kovacic


Outreach Committee: Creates opportunities to connect Winnetka Covenant with our local community. Encourages members to invite and welcome newcomers, and find ways to share our faith with our surrounding neighbors.

Rene Nelson, co-chair

Dave Johnson, Barbara Kazanjian, Robin Magnusson, Roger Schmitt, Kim Steiner


Worship Resource Committee: Supports the pastors in keeping Winnetka Covenant’s worship experience fresh and meaningful, drawing on creative outlets like music, art and writing to help connect our hearts with God.

chair

Cindy Buettgen, Jae Jang, Marilynn Nelson, Darlene Murphy


Nominating Committee: Prepares a slate of candidates each year who will serve in areas of their giftedness and interests to help lead and support our church boards and committees.

Claire Macfarland, co-chair

Lisa Magnuson, co-chair

Inger Eiesland-Schultz, Judy Isaacson, Cam Johnson, Meg Madvig, Kim Steiner


Special Purpose Committee #1:  Personnel Committee

Carl Balsam, Karla Fogel, Andrea Johnson, Sam Rivi


Special Purpose Committee #2:  Mutual Ministry Committee

Barb Balsam, Chris Christenson, Mollie Sudhoff, Melanie Tornquist