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.

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  • 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.

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  • Lynnea Miller

    Youth Pastor

    Lynnea grew up in Batavia, IL attending Batavia Covenant Church. She went on to study at Michigan State University where she majored in sociology. Lynnea has since ministered at her home church as Pastoral Intern, Covenant Point Bible Camp, Hinsdale Covenant Church, and now joins us here at WCC as Youth Pastor. While she is serving at our church full time, she is also attending North Park Theological Seminary where she is working toward her Master of Divinity degree. When she’s not reading for her seminary classes or at youth group, Lynnea enjoys exploring new coffee shops in Chicago, watching the Chicago Bears, playing music, and baking. Lynnea loves spending time with the students of WCC and her main hope is that all students would feel welcomed, loved, and at home here at Winnetka Covenant.

    What is your favorite part of youth ministry?

    “Youth ministry is important, fun, and life-giving for so many reasons, but one of my favorite aspects of the job is showing kids and young adults, and by proxy the whole church, that play is an essential part of our faith and life-together! Playing dodgeball, singing silly songs, and being able to be ourselves in our faith community are all deeply formational things. I believe wholeheartedly that God desires for us to be able to be our whole selves, exactly who God created us to be. Engaging in play and fellowship allows us all to enter more fully into that vision together.”


  • 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."

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  • 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!"

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  • 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."

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  • Susie Lofton

    Administrative Assistant & Office Manager

  • Mary Barnes Gingrich

    Interim Director of Music

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  • Peter Strom

    Facilities Manager

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

2023 Officers

Chairperson: Rob Thomas

Vice-Chairperson: Val Hausman

Secretary: Lisa Magnusson

Treasurer: Roger Schmitt

Financial Secretary: Bill Milbratz

2023 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.

Steve Kanda, Chair

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

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.

Gary Isaacson, Sandi Hotchkiss, Terese Hunt,  Joan Johnson, Ruth Johnson, Kurt Kovacic,  Deb O’Donovan, Mary Rhodes, Jane Rivi.

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.

Carmela Heintzelman, Sue Kelly, Kari Lindahl, Eric Fogel, Judi Geake, Anne Bassett, Mike Magnusson, Misse Kaat.

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

Julie Hextell-Ryan, Linnea Johnson, Laura Werling, Aidan Jimenez.

Community Engagement: 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.

Dave Johnson, Meg Madvig, Bonnie Hawkinson, Jed Bassett, Lisa Magnuson.

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.

Inger Eiesland-Schultz, Kim Steiner, Brian Madvig, Mary Beth Kovacic, Kelly Quackenbush, Colette Quackenbush.

Special Purpose Committee #1:  Personnel Committee

Carl Balsam, Andrea Johnson, Jane Westerfield, Nadia Jimenez.

Special Purpose Committee #2:  Mutual Ministry Committee

Barb Balsam, Chris Christenson, Mollie Sudhoff, Melanie Tornquist.