Who We Are!

Our behavioral covenant forms the middle section of our mission statement. Part one is what we discern we are called to DO….this second section is who we discern God’s Spirit is calling us to BE. And the third section is a welcome to all.

This middle section is critical for us just now, in these days of challenges and tensions.

We hold grace as our highest value. We practice honest, open, direct communication. We speak the truth in love and listen in love. We believe the best about each other, valuing others above ourselves as Christ does. We allow room for mistakes, acknowledging that mistakes are part of the growth process.

Our human tendency is to move away from these values in times of tension and stress. Don’t we all know that well! What we need to do (with the Spirit’s help!) is live into these values even more deeply as the geography of our shared journey becomes tougher for a season. Whether we are talking about masks and vaccines, or political points of view, or ministry ideas, or trying to wrestle with the theological idea of inclusion, we must root our spirits — our thoughts and reflections, our words and actions– in these deeply Christ-centered and unifying values.

It is possible for us to move together through this time without our love for each other diminishing. We can, if we so stubbornly choose, root our hard conversations in grace, and believe the best for each other. Our truth is important! yes, but it must be held and shared all wrapped up in love, and a listening ear. Honest, open and direct communication can also be careful, gentle and kind.

Let’s keep going with these values that bring us together and keep us together and help us all to grow. Here’s a good word to meditate on from the early Church, which weathered many similar seasons, from The Message translation:

So chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ–the Message– have run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives– words, actions, whatever– be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

Praying with you and sending all love!

Peter Hawkinson

My Pastor

Among the many holy clergy characters of my childhood and youth, I am remembering Glen V. Wiberg (1925-2017) today. Glen was a teacher, translator, author, leader in the development of worship books and hymnals, and wrote confirmation materials. More than anything else, though, he was a pastor who preached with deep passion and love for Christ and the Church. During my growing years, I experienced the love of Jesus through the love Glen had for Jesus and for me.

In these challenging times, as always before, the church has its struggles. Tension fills the air as we wrestle with ideas about this Holy love. As always, the threat of what divides us threatens to undo us. Many are disenchanted with the Church for all kinds of reasons, some of which make sense, we must confess. We must not be blind to our many failures. Yet through the stresses, strains, and sorrows of each generation of its existence, the Church endures, and with it the Good News of God’s love for us all.

These words of pastor Wiberg come back to me, and ground me in hope yet again:

The church, with the pail and dipper, is still the bearer of God’s invitation–good news for the thirsty. There is a meeting place with an address where you are not only welcome but where your thirst can be quenched. There is a word. There is a font of life. There is a table. There is broken bread. There is a water pail and dipper. “In, with, and under” these earthy things is the presence of the Living Christ, God’s Chosen One, the Bright and Morning Star, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The One who offers the gift of eternal life freely to all who thirst says, “Come, the gift is yours, without money and without price.” There is no better menu any place. The source of life is not a concept, nor a theology, nor a ritual, nor an organization, nor even an experience how ecstatic. The source of life is a Person–Jesus, the living One who speaks and with outstretched hand says to you, “Welcome!” (This Side of the River, 1995).

I am left to reflect on the blessing of the church, and wonder if you’d join me. The song goes on.

Peter Hawkinson

On Covid and Serenity

Last night, I went with friends to the Ravinia festival up in Highland Park, to have a picnic and listen to the CSO play Tchaikovsky.

It was beautiful weather, with good company, and delicious food…but we were late getting there. And the main parking lot was full. We had to drive to the park-and-ride shuttle lot, which took longer than I’d expected. Then there was a line to get on the bus, and another drive back to the festival. And another line to get in, which stalled when the ticket scanner didn’t operate correctly.

By the time my sister and I got to our place in the park, and met our friends, and sat down with a drink, my shoulders were up by my ears. My forehead felt permanently scrunched, and I had to work hard not to glare at the group next to us, who were talking so loud I couldn’t hear the strains of the symphony.

Everything about my body language, my mood, my general attitude were the exact opposite of the relaxed, convivial atmosphere of the day. I was in total opposition to the fun happening around me, to the intent of the trip.

As many of you know, I’m a 6 on the enneagram, which means I’m always on the lookout for trouble ahead. I make plans, and remake them, and double and triple-check them, to be sure I’m ready for any surprise or problem. And it means that when surprises do happen, and I’m not ready, I can crumple inside. My stress level skyrockets, my blood pressure goes up, and the tension starts shooting down my neck. How could I not have anticipated this? Why didn’t I prepare for this? What’s wrong with me?

COVID, of course, has not helped this tendency of mine. Even though I recognize that we’ve been living in unprecedented times, my brain has still been going on overdrive for the last 18 months, trying to anticipate and plan and prepare. And since I can’t do that well in a situation that changes all the time, I get worn out. Exhausted. Stressed. Even angry.

Kind of like last night, at Ravinia.

I got real wound up before some part of my brain kicked in and reminded me: there are things I can control, and things I can’t. And all of this, right now: the lines, the wait, the traffic…I can’t. I can’t will it to move faster, or will other cars off the road. I can keep feeling terrible about it, or I can accept it.

I realized this morning that it was my own very specific version of the serenity prayer, attributed to 20th-century theologian Reinhold Neibuhr. Many of us probably know the short version, but here is the full and original text:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


I realize now, that in the midst of so much I still cannot control – regarding COVID, or the break-in at church, or any number of other things – that I might need to say this prayer every single day.

To remind myself that God is in control, especially when it becomes clear that I am not, and that there is still much joy, much love, and abundant goodness to be found in these complicated, surprising times.

I hope that it might serve as a reminder, and a help, to you too.

-Pastor Jen

A Unique Perspective

Each of our perspectives of this church has been affected by our own exposure and experience. What is yours? As a warmly welcomed church member for the last two years and, as of August 1st, the newest pastor at Winnetka Covenant Church, I recognize that I view the ministry of this church from a unique perspective.

In part, my perspective is limited because since moving to Wilmette 2-½ years ago, I’ve only attended perhaps a dozen in-person worship gatherings. Prior to serving here, my Sunday morning preaching commitment as an Associate University Chaplain at Northwestern University did not allow for me to attend as often as I would have liked.

Some Sundays, my perspective of the church was informed by the folded bulletin I sometimes found buried in my wife’s purse. When I was fortunate enough to track one down, I would often read through the liturgy on my own over my favorite cereal (Raisin Bran!) during our traditional Sunday night breakfast for dinner.

But that wasn’t my only exposure to the church. Once in a while, I would hear a verbal testimony from a family member about a particularly interesting sermon topic or service element. Sometimes my curiosity would be so peeked that I would seek out the recording of the service online, just to deepen my exposure and lessen my FOMO.

Yet, I haven’t felt significantly disconnected from WCC. Even with my family’s staggered attendance due to the pandemic and our career paths, my perspective has also been informed by Refuel and through the relationships formed with the people of this church. At a dinner table in the gym, on the front lawn of the church, or around a firepit in a backyard, we have shared and listened to each other’s stories, grieved our losses, and celebrated our milestones.

While I have a relatively limited exposure to this particular church, my own perspective has also been shaped by my past experiences with other churches, as a volunteer, a worship pastor in two churches, and a lead pastor in three other churches. All of these experiences with the Church universal contribute to my unique perspective, which I now bring to WCC in the role of Interim Youth Pastor and Facilities Manager.

Each of our perspectives is unique within the Church. Our perspectives are good to share, discuss, learn from, and challenge each other with! For example, not only do preaching pastors at WCC see the fire extinguisher that is stored behind the pulpit in the sanctuary (an ironic placement, just in case our preaching “sets the Church on fire”), we have a unique role—handling the Bible and extracting its wisdom, not just for ourselves, but for the whole congregation.

In a healthy environment, we see growth among God’s people. Our palettes are drawn to the sweetness of the Gospel, and we hunger to see the church bloom into all it can be in Christ. However, one doesn’t have to be a part of a church long to see the whole gamut of human behavior revealed, from extraordinary acts of hospitality to feats of hostility—exactly the kind of behavior that necessitated the creation of Church as a spiritual hospital in the first place.

As the proverb of American naturalist, John Muir instructs, “When the flower blossoms, the bee will come. Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it!” Like the bee when a flower is in bloom, a Christian’s delicate job is to extract the sweetness of God’s word without damaging the blossoming Church.   

As the Church, we should ask ourselves: Do we value the unique and diverse perspective that every person brings to this body? Are we willing to be honest and vulnerable so that past pitfalls can prevent future missteps? Are we leading with love and gentle guidance so that we ultimately draw others to Jesus Christ? Together with you, I’m embracing the delicate task of extracting the sweetness of the Book for the glory of God and the good of all of God’s people!

Pastor Jason

A Prayer for This Season


I love a liturgy book. A collection of well-written prayers, appropriate to their season, fitting to the circumstances, gives me so much delight – like poetry for my soul. I have a small collection of prayer books and worship books on my shelves for just this reason – to seek and find someone else’s perfect words for a day in Advent, for a communion Sunday, for a week in autumn or a day in the heat of summer. Words that make me feel seen, and understood, and held in God’s grasp.

But this past year, my books more often than not couldn’t answer my need. I was experiencing – we all were – uncharted territory for these liturgists and writers, world events which they could not have fathomed.

And so new prayers had to be written. Some of my favorite theologians started doing this work, sharing prayers for exhausted caretakers, for people overwhelmed by COVID, for those angry about politics or grieved by isolation. Today, I want to join them in their task, and offer a prayer for us: a church in transition, a church dealing with loss and uncertainty, hope and fear. It is a prayer for us.

Pastor Jen

A Prayer for This Season

Holy God,

Sometimes life is unfathomable.

Sometimes you go from trauma to trauma, from fear to anger to loss and right back again.

Sometimes from a worldwide pandemic, and cycles of lockdown and universal masking and widespread testing, to a glimpse of the end, and then a new variant and right back into it.

And it is exhausting.

We are exhausted.

Nothing, it seems, is untouched by this year.

We, who have been so long apart, who have made those first few steps back into life and fellowship together, find that we aren’t just coming back to what we left.

Our church is changing, and we have questions, and concerns; our feelings are hurt; we want to yell and cry and sometimes we don’t even know what. Some of us have great hope, and some of us deep pain.

Remind us, Lord, that you are in this too.

Help us find our way back to each other. Show us how to listen when we only want to speak. Help us to hear one another’s stories, and to treasure them, even when they challenge or disorient us.

Give us grace and open hands instead of balled-up fists and hard hearts.

Give us wisdom and tender care for each other.

Above all else, God, fill us with your love, so there is no room for anything less.

Strengthen us in faith and in hope and in love.

Surround us in your peace, even when there is tumult within.

Promise us that the sun will keep rising and you will meet us there.