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
The Rev. Sarah Walker Cleaveland joined the staff of Winnetka Congregational Church in the summer of 2014 as the Church School Coordinator. In January of 2015, she transitioned to the role of Acting Associate Pastor to help the church navigate the time of transition between pastors. In October of 2016, she was installed as Associate Pastor. Her primary responsibilities are Children and Youth, Mission Doing, Fellowship and Spiritual Life and Small Groups.
Sarah graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA in 2007. She then went on to earn a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2008 and did her PhD coursework and exams in Christian Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA from 2008-2014. At the same time, Sarah earned a Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary in California in 2011.
Sarah is married to the Rev. Adam Walker Cleaveland, who is the Founder and Illustrator of Illustrated Children’s Ministry. They have two children, Caleb, who just started kindergarten, and Hannah, who was born in December of 2016, and a dog, Sadie.
In her rare moments of free time, Sarah is teaching herself quilting and woodworking. But mostly, she loves spending time with her children and family.
The Rev. Jeffrey L. Phillips
The Rev. Jeffrey Phillips is thrilled to be returning to Winnetka Congregational Church where he served as interim associate pastor for education in 1999-2000. Raised in Decatur, Illinois, and educated at Illinois Wesleyan University (B.A., international relations) and Harvard Divinity School (M.Div.), Jeffrey was ordained a minister in the United Church of Christ in 1984. In addition to WCC, he has served ten other Illinois churches: Beecher, Chicago (two congregations), Arlington Hts. (two congregations), Wayne, Champaign, West Chicago (two congregations), and Lombard.
From 1988-1994, Jeffrey served as chaplain at four high schools related to the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe. In 2010, he enjoyed a three-month sabbatical in India where he was the guest of the Church of North India, and explored the many faiths found in that land. He is currently learning to be an “interfaith/interspiritual” spiritual guide with the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute. Jeffrey is passionate about global ministry, world religions, pastoral care, spiritual growth, faith development, and social justice. He and his partner Vince Summers have two adult children (a son and daughter) and three grandsons, and live in “rural” Lombard with their enthusiastic coonhound Storm. They enjoy travel, wine, and foreign and independent films.
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.
Associate Director of 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.
Church School Coordinator
After teaching the JK/K class for two years, Shelli has accepted a new role as Church School Coordinator at Winnetka Congregational Church. As an active member at Winnetka Congregational Church for over fifteen years she has found many ways to engage in the rich programming at Winnetka Congregational Church. Over the years, Shelli has worked with Servants, participated in Intergenerational Mission Trips and a Spiritual Life Group, helped with both the Christmas Pageant and Gift Fair, and served on the Design and Environment and Children and Youth committees. Shelli lives in Northbrook with her husband Adam, third grader Owen, and kindergartener Grace.
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