Not only do our members come from a wide range of faith backgrounds—so does our staff.
The Rev. Jeffrey D. Braun
The Rev. Jeffrey D. Braun was called as our new Senior Pastor on September 13, 2015. Before responding to God’s Call to Winnetka Congregational Church, Jeff served as the senior minister of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, a 900-member church in Cheshire, Connecticut (2009-2015); and, before that, as associate minister at The First Church of Christ, Congregational, UCC, in Redding, Connecticut (2004-2009).
Jeff grew up with his parents and two siblings about an hour outside New York City in Westport, Connecticut. After graduating from Bates College in 1990 with honors in Rhetoric, Jeff pursued a marketing career, first in advertising (at DMB&B) and, then, in marketing consulting, serving a host of Fortune 500 companies. While Jeff loved marketing’s strategic and creative challenges, the impassioned teamwork, and the chance to build his clients’ businesses, ultimately, that work did not feed his soul.
Recognizing his lifelong love of church and sensing that God might be calling him to ministry, Jeff followed his heart – and God’s numerous and less-than-subtle nudges! – to Yale Divinity School. It was there, while working in a summer chaplaincy/clinical pastoral education program, that Jeff discerned his call to ordained ministry.
Upon graduating from Yale Divinity School in 2004, Jeff was awarded YDS’ highest and most treasured award, the Henry Hallam Tweedy Prize, which recognizes the graduating senior who shows exceptional promise for pastoral leadership.
From 2005 through 2015, Jeff helped to teach the Introduction to Pastoral Care Class at Yale Divinity School as an adjunct member of the faculty. He continues to serve on Yale Divinity School’s Dean’s Advisory Council, which he joined in 2005.
Jeff resides in Winnetka with his wife, Lori, of 18 years, and their three daughters, who are excited to be part of the area’s wonderful school system.
Jeff looks forward to where the Spirit will lead in this new Call here in the greater Winnetka area.
The Rev. Sarah Walker Cleaveland
Sarah’s background is spiritual formation and Christian Education. She is a trained Spiritual Director with a Master of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. Before starting at WCC, she was working on a Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality, but she stopped when she realized that she’d rather being doing ministry than writing a dissertation. Sarah has worked at multiple Presbyterian churches doing Christian Education, pastoral care, and spiritual formation, and she has interned as a chaplain with a hospice organization as well as with a Veteran’s hospital. In addition to her ministry at WCC, Sarah also writes confirmation and church school curriculum for Augsburg Press and offers spiritual direction.
Sarah is part of a clergy-couple—her husband Adam is also an ordained minister. Sarah and Adam have a son, Caleb, who was born in 2011 and has the distinct pleasure of bouncing between both churches. Sarah, Adam, and Caleb live in Wilmette with their dog Sadie. When not parenting or working, Sarah spends most of her time woodworking and reading novels.
Director of Music / Choirmaster
Bob has served as Director of Music and Choirmaster at WCC since the fall of 2006.
Key Roles and Responsibilities
Robert directs the selection of music for Sunday worship and conducts the performance of the Chancel Choir, soloists, and musicians.
Experience and Education
In addition to his role at WCC, Robert is currently Professor Emeritus of the Bienen School of Music of Northwestern University. Prior to his retirement in 2012, Robert served as Professor of Conducting at Northwestern for 35 years. He has served as guest professor at Wayne State University, the University of Texas (Austin) and the University of South Africa in Pretoria. He has also served as guest conductor and choral clinician throughout the U.S., Europe, South Korea, the Republic of China, Hong Kong, South Africa and Argentina. He received his undergraduate degree in choral music education, and his master’s degree in musicology from Wayne State University, and his Doctorate degree in composition and theory from Michigan State University.
Robert was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. It was at the Tabernacle Baptist Church where his father was one of the lead tenors in the choir, that Robert first heard and came to appreciate anthems, spirituals, cantatas, and oratorios – choral music that became and continues to be a central part of his music endeavors.
Director of Children’s Music / Organist
Key Roles and Responsibilities
Not only does Elaine serves as WCC organist, she directs our two children’s choirs, the WCC Bell Choir, and the WCC Singers.
Experience and Education
Elaine majored in Music Education at George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. After college, she moved to Evanston and served as assistant organist-choir director at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. She then served as organist-choir director at First Congregational Church in Wilmette and organist and children’s choir director at Trinity Methodist Church in Wilmette, where she teamed up with Dr. Robert Harris of Northwestern University. More recently, Elaine received her Master’s Degree in School Leadership from Concordia University.
Raised in West Palm Beach,Florida, Elaine and her family were very active in the Methodist Church. Her music has always served as a very personal expression of her strong faith. Elaine loves being a part of the WCC family and getting know members of the congregation.
Dawn Huntsman, Administrative Assistant
Waldek A. Ziolkowski, Publisher
Lloyd H. Culbertson, Director of Operations
Doug Coulter, Accountant
Ray Koch, Chief Sexton
Mark Dudek, Sexton
Paul S. Allen
Joseph A. Shank