The Grace Church Team
Every staff member at Grace brings a passion for excellence to their work and a desire to see God's kingdom grow in Peoria and around the world.
Click HERE to see a list of our Session Elders and Diaconate members.
Dr. Sandy Willson
Interim Senior Pastor
Sanders L. (Sandy) Willson is Interim Senior Pastor at Grace Presbyterian. He was named Pastor Emeritus at Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tennessee, after serving as senior minister for twenty-two years. He also pastored Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee and Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee and recently served as interim senior pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, AL. Sandy received a B.S. from the University of Virginia, an MDiv. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a D.D. from Capital Seminary & Graduate School. Sandy and his wife, Allison, are deeply grateful for their five children, three daughters-in-law, two sons-in-law, and fourteen grandchildren.
Dr. Paul Utnage
Paul joined Grace’s staff in April 2018, having served in churches of all sizes—small, medium, large, and megachurch—in regions as diverse as Alaska, Arizona, Texas, Ohio, and Montana. His church roles have taken him to international settings in Russia, Vietnam, and China. After graduating with a Master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, he later focused upon executive church leadership in his doctoral degree.
Paul has been an Executive Pastor for almost two decades, having been involved in national associations for executive church leaders since 2002. He genuinely adores the multi-faceted role. He has a zeal for missional engagement, coaching leaders, strategic planning, and consulting with churches to bring about health and growth in creative and enthusiastic ways. His personal passion is for “healthy leaders, healthy teams, healthy churches, and healthy impact for Christ.”
Paul and his wife, Brenda, have been married since August 1981. They enjoy life-long learning and outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, and sitting under the stars with friends. Their daughter and son-in-law live in Jackson, Mississippi.
One of the Bible’s promises remains powerful and stimulating for Paul’s ministry. He has found that Christian leaders need the constant reminder, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12).
Adult Ministry Pastor
Greg joined the staff team at Grace in the spring of 2009. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Greg first worked in industry and then served with the United States Air Force in South Carolina (where he met his wife Cecilia), Germany, and Hawaii.
He received his Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1998. After serving as a pastor in southern Illinois, he came to Grace to lead the ministry to children and families. In September 2011, Greg became the Executive Pastor. In 2018, Greg took on new responsibilities as the Pastor of Assimilation and Mobilization.
Greg and Cecilia have four children: Breanna, Isaac, Joshua, and Rachel. Greg’s desire is for the church and family to partner in shepherding God’s people toward mature faith in Christ.
Greg’s life verse reminds him that we become what we behold: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Adult Ministry Pastor
Kerry joined the staff team at Grace in the summer of 2007. Raised in the western suburbs of Chicago, he received his training for ministry at Wheaton College Graduate School (M.A.) and Trinity Divinity School (M.Div.)
Before coming to Grace, Kerry served three churches in central Illinois over the last 35 years. He and his wife, Nancy (native of Tinley Park, IL) have nine children (Cassie, Nathan, Bethany, Victoria, Brittany, Andrew, Andre, Elijah, and Donte) and enjoy 11 grandchildren. Kerry enjoys watching, playing, and coaching sports of all kinds.
He seeks to train believers of all ages to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. His desire is to make Christ known and equip believers to serve as mature disciples of Christ in the Lord’s vineyard.
A verse that has impacted his life is, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Adult Ministry Pastor
John has been part of the Grace team since the summer of 2015. He grew up in Miami, Florida where he stayed through his college years. He received his training for ministry at Reformed Theological Seminary (M.C.E.) and Erskine Theological Seminary (M. Div).
In his early years of ministry, John served as a Youth Director and as a Christian Education Director. He would go on to serve three churches in Florida as pastor.
He and his wife, Grace, have a daughter who lives in Woodstock, Georgia, with her husband and two children.
John seeks in his ministry at Grace to have the heart of a compassionate servant who encourages those in the midst of trials. A verse that has profoundly impacted his life is, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
Adult Ministry Pastor
John Cherne joined the pastoral staff at Grace in 2022. He was raised primarily in the Chicago suburbs along with some time in the Phoenix area.
John completed his Bachelor of Arts at Moody Bible Institute (2014) in Chicago and his Master of Divinity at Covenant Theological Seminary (2020) in St. Louis. He was licensed to preached and lawfully ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America (2020) in the Northern California Presbytery before transferring to the Presbytery of Northern Illinois (2022). John has previously served at several other PCA churches in Illinois, Missouri, and California.
John married his wife, Kristina, in 2017. Together they have one son, Walter. As a family they enjoy reading, hiking, and playing board games.
Adult Ministry Pastor
Pastor Aaron Walters is one of our Adult Ministry Pastors focused on Middle Adults. Aaron served in Youth and Adult Ministry in Metro-Detroit for 17 years. Aaron and his wife Amy have two children, Sophie and Elijah. Aaron grew up in Florida, but stayed in the Midwest after graduating from Moody Bible Institute in 2003. He received his Masters of Divinity from Moody Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. In addition to shepherding a number of Adult Ministry Sunday School classes, he provides ongoing leadership and vision for discipleship and evangelism throughout the church.
Director of Worship
A south Florida native, Kevin King joined the staff at Grace as the Director of Worship in June 2015. Amazed by the beauty of God, Kevin finds joy in turning the hearts of a congregation to the word of God through powerful melodies and solid text.
In all areas of worship Kevin desires that the Gospel be uplifted and made known. Kevin enjoys maturing the gifts of artists to offer them for God’s glory and incorporate that in worship, allowing unique individuals to aid in leading worship.
Kevin believes worship is a response to an eternal, relentlessly-pursuing God, so he desires to unite people in worship from different cultures, generations, and backgrounds, and have the mighty name of Jesus be praised and celebrated.
Kevin received his master's degree in music at the University of Texas at Austin. While studying in Austin, Kevin had the honor to lead worship under Pastor Randy Phillips from recording group Phillips, Craig, and Dean at LifeAustin Church. He then was the Director of Worship & Creative Arts at Pinewood Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida, from 2010 until 2015.
With a passion to advance God’s kingdom on earth, Kevin uses corporate worship as the outlet to inspire believers to action for God’s name, creating a culture that is for the city and for the nations.
Director of Student and Family Ministries
John grew up going to Grace and joined the Grace staff in May 2006 after graduating college. He later obtained his Masters in Biblical Studies through Moody Theological Seminary (2014).
In 2009, John married Beth, who is a licensed clinical professional counselor. They love having three kids who add joy, humor, and craziness to most situations along with their chocolate lab, Roxie. They also love spending time outside, going for bike rides, and exploring nature.
Since his teens, John has striven to embrace a Proverbs 3:5-6 mentality: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
Director of Children and Family Ministries
Julie was born and raised in the Peoria area and has attended Grace all her life. She has served in many leadership roles, including VBS Director, KIDventure Coordinator, Kidz Klub leader and was the Interim Director of Children’s Ministry from Summer 2008 to Spring 2009. She has been serving in her current role since August 2016.
Julie was an Education Major at Covenant College, graduating in 1992. In 2020 she received a Certification in Children’s Ministry from the Discipleship Ministries of the PCA. She married her high school sweetheart, Stephen, and they have three children: Kara (and Philip), Timothy (and Michaela), and Jonathan (and Anna). She has one grandson with more grandchildren to come.
While she first professed faith in Christ as her personal Savior at age 6 in Sunday school at Grace, it wasn’t until Youth Summer Camp her sophomore year of high school that Julie felt God calling her for more of her life. There, she committed to living her life for Christ and has been striving to live fully for Him ever since.
Julie has been a part of Children’s Ministry her entire life, first as a child and then as a leader. She loves children and longs for every child to know Jesus personally. The best sound to her ears is when a child is singing or talking about Jesus.
Director of Women's Ministries
Brenda Garrison joined the Grace staff in April 2021. For almost thirty years, she has been ministering to women through Bible studies, speaking, and writing. Her heart is for women to know God and how much He loves them. She is passionate about equipping women to use their gifts in the body of Christ for God’s glory. Brenda is the author of four books including Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With (Thomas Nelson Publishers), Queen Mom: A Royal Plan for Restoring Order in Your Home, and Princess Unaware: Finding the Fabulous in Every Day. Brenda has spoken to audiences in Eastern Asia and throughout the United States. She has been a guest on Family Life Today, Focus on the Family, and Moody Radio's Midday Connection with Anita Lustrea. Brenda attended Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, love spending time with their three grown daughters, three sons-in-law, and their three adorable grandsons.
Director of Communications and Community Impact
Shawn joined the staff at Grace in July 2019 as Director of Communications and Community Impact. However, he has been involved in the music ministry at Grace Presbyterian Church since 1997. He served as the Assistant Director of Communications from 2000-2002, and then Music Associate from 2002-2004. In 2004, Shawn and his wife, Anne, joined Hands of Love Ministry where they served with the Kramers for 5 years before forming GospelFest Ministries as its own non-profit ministry. From 2007-2012, he served as Music Director at Grace Evangelical Church in Morton, IL, before returning to Grace Pres in 2013. From 2016 to 2019, he was the executive producer of Dr. Bryan Chapell’s “Unlimited Grace” radio broadcasts.
GospelFest Ministries produces the annual Summertime & Christmastime GospelFest concerts, the weekly GospelFest Hour radio program, and the GospelFest Singers travel throughout the area presenting various concerts and Hymn Sings at churches, nursing homes, and other community events. Shawn also does a lot of musical theatre, music directing, arranging and engraving work for companies in Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles.
Shawn graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in Music History and Theory/Composition and a master’s in Choral Conducting. He and Anne have been married since 2001, and have four girls: Clara, Eliza, Greta and Audra. He is excited to be serving as Director of Communications and help equip the staff to share the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the many various ministries at Grace. His favorite verses are Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast,” because it is a great reminder that it is only by God’s grace that we have been saved.
Director of Media Ministry and I.T.
Christopher Summers joined the Grace Presbyterian staff in September 2002 and directs the Media Ministry and Information Technology of the church. He has general oversight of the technical needs of the church, from sanctuary sound and lighting to computer technology. He produces and edits the television and radio broadcast of our Sunday morning worship service (Grace Alive!), our annual Grace Family Christmas concert, and numerous ministry and testimony videos.
Chris graduated from Bradley University with a bachelor's degree in Communications/TV Arts. He has been married to Amy since 1994, and they have three children: Jacqueline, Margaret, and James.
Director of Hospitality and Assimilation
Jonathan joined the Grace staff as the Director of Hospitality and Assimilation in February 2015. Born and raised in New England, Jonathan's first taste of Illinois was while attending Trinity International University, where he graduated with a BA in Christian Ministries (2005).
Jonathan married his college sweetheart Katie, a Peoria and Grace Native, in 2006 and they have 2 children: David and Addison. Jonathan has served as a youth pastor in Wisconsin, a Program Director at Palomar Christian Conference Center (CA) and most recently as a counselor parent for troubled teens in Indiana. In all these roles one theme has been a common factor: Jonathan's desire to build, unite, and foster the Christian Community. Jonathan brings to Grace this love and a passion for community “so that we may mutually be encouraged by each others faith.” (Rom 1:12)
Director of Facilities
Randy joined the Grace staff as Director of Facilities in February of 2015. He was raised in nearby Lewistown, where his parents and siblings still reside. He attended Western Illinois University, and after being led to the Lord by college roommates his senior year, was shortly thereafter challenged to give his life as an overseas tribal missionary/church planter. In pursuit of that ministry, he earned his BA of Intercultural Ministry through New Tribes Mission.
Along with his wife Carla of 28 years and 5 children: Spencer, Madalyn (Whitman) Anderson, Meredith, Morgan, and Mitchell, he served nearly 3 decades in full-time Missionary Service. During that time, Randy and his family served both in stateside ministry as Facility Manager and teaching staff at multiple missionary training facilities, and also in the country of Papua New Guinea with the Regional Leadership Teams, Field Board of Directors, and as tribal church planters. During that time, an added blessing was that Randy & Carla were able to serve alongside each of Carla’s 3 siblings and 12 nieces and nephews! They are eternally grateful for the great exposure to the needs of the world their family has been able to experience during our career which has been life changing and motivating. Spending time with family and friends, being outdoors in God’s creation, sports involvement on all levels, and working with his hands are special activities he enjoys.
Romans 5:8 has always been a capturing verse: “But God showed his great love to us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” With that great revelation, comes the great responsibility to make known the incredible love of God through Jesus Christ, so it is a special blessing to continue to serve in ministry through the local church who seek to make the name of Jesus Christ known throughout all the world!
Glory Christian started as the Missions Coordinator in June 2022. She organizes and coordinates the annual missions conferences as well as the monthly needs of the missionary families supported by Grace.
Glory is married to Amit Christian who works at Caterpillar and they have a daughter named Manna. They believe she is their “manna” (bread from heaven) given to them in “their wilderness” just as God gave to the Israelites.
Glory was born and raised in a Christian home in India. She moved to USA as a spouse of an international student in 2003. Only then, she began to understand God’s amazing grace, being away from loved ones, living in a new culture and being newly married. They have been attending Grace since the end of 2013.
College and Student Ministries Coordinator
Cara Schuck joined the Grace Pres Team in August 2019 as a summer intern in the Student Ministry department. She has since become a part-time intern and now full-time staff as the College and Student Ministries Coordinator. She grew up near Chicago and moved to Peoria in 2018. She has a degree in Kinesiology from Northern Illinois University and worked as a high school athletic trainer prior to moving to Peoria.
Cara is excited to further her professional life into ministry. She has a passion to disciple students and equip leaders to do the same. Since beginning her work at Grace, she has only grown in her desire for exploring God’s Word and making His truth known. She is so grateful for the work God has done and is doing in her journey with Him.
Ellyn started working at Grace in the fall of 2015. Prior to joining the Grace staff she had the privilege of serving as an administrative assistant and marketing director for 10 years with a senior living community in Peoria. She loves children and has also had the opportunity to serve as children’s ministry director in two previous churches. Spending time and serving in ministry with her husband Jim is second only to spending time with Jesus. She is passionate about helping others experience a vibrant relationship with Jesus and His Presence in their lives daily. Ellyn is blessed with two sons, one daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. She treasures the joy they bring to her life.
Children's Ministry Assistant
Amy English became the Children’s Ministry Assistant in June 2022. Amy is married to Paul who works at Caterpillar. They have four children: Emily, Russell, Joy and Grace.
Amy taught middle school mathematics in Peoria, East Peoria and Washington schools before staying at home with a growing family. She returned to teach preschool once her children attended school. Amy loves sharing the love of Jesus with children and seeing them grow in their understanding of His Word.
Grace Connect Master Administrator
Cecilia was born in California and moved to Oregon when she was 9. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Atmospheric Science from Oregon State University, and a Master of Science degree in Tropical Meteorology from University of Hawaii. She was an Air Force Officer in South Carolina (where she met her husband Greg), Germany, Hawaii, and Illinois. She served on active duty for 14½ years and retired as a reserve officer.
Greg and Cecilia have four children (Breanna, Isaac, Joshua, and Rachel) and one grandchild (Blaire).
Cecilia became a Christian in college where she met other young people who loved the Lord and shared what it meant to follow Christ. Cecilia enjoys helping ministry leaders and members of the congregation to connect through her management of Grace Connect, our church management software.
Allison Ritchie joined the administrative team in October 2019. She grew up in Central Illinois before receiving her bachelor’s degree in Bible with a missions emphasis. After college, she spent a year in Israel before moving to California. There, she worked at a private school for eight years as librarian, fundraiser coordinator, and music teacher. In 2018, she completed her graduate degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Reading, traveling, and baking are some of her interests.
Allison counts herself fortunate to have grown up in a Christian home as well as the missions opportunities she has experienced in Panama and Germany. Some guiding verses in her life are Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Amy Wallace joined the staff at Grace in 2022 as the Adult Ministry Team's administrative assistant. Amy and her family moved from Atlanta, Georgia, where they were members at Perimeter Church. Amy is an Army brat having grown up all over the world from Berlin, Germany, to Texas, but home is Louisville, Kentucky. Amy is a traditionally published Christian Fiction novelist and former English and Composition teacher. She is the proud mom of three home school graduates with one in grad school working on her PhD in cancer research in South Carolina. Her youngest two daughters who moved with her are Hannah, who is a recent college graduate of Anderson University, and Sarah, who is a recent home school graduate planning to attend Toccoa Falls College online.
Amy and her daughters love to hike, write, read, and bake gluten free goodies. Amy, Hannah, and Sarah are looking forward to connecting with the Grace Presbyterian Church Family and serving the Lord together.
Women's Ministry Child Care Coordinator
Kristine joined the Grace team in August of 2019 as the Women's Ministry Child Care Coordinator. She was born and raised in the Peoria area and is a graduate of Peoria Christian High School where she met her husband Steven. They have two young children, Lincoln and Aubrey.
Kristine first become involved at Grace in junior high, attending youth group, retreats and summer camps. She continued to be involved at Grace throughout her adult life both volunteering for VBS and attending MOPS.
"I've always had a huge heart for children and care deeply about our Women's Ministry program as it is equipping women to lead Christ centered lives.
"I'm so grateful for God's grace, mercy and His gift of Salvation!"
Children’s Sunday Superintendent
Children’s Special Needs Coordinator
Children’s Wednesday Superintendent