Dr. Sandy Willson
Interim Senior Pastor
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
Our Interim Senior Pastor is Dr. Sandy Willson.
Sanders L. (Sandy) Willson was previously the senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tennessee. In Memphis, Sandy is a co-founder of Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies; a co-founder and chair of Nexus (leadership mentoring program for emerging adult professional leaders; co-founder and chair of the Memphis Shalom Project (a unified evangelical church ministry strategy for the city); a founder of Reformed Ministries Network (a regional church planting ministry); and a co-founder and board member of the Second Presbyterian Church Foundation for missions. He serves on The Gospel Coalition board and on the Board of Reference for Union University and Reformed Theological Seminary.
Internationally, Sandy ministers with partners in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East and speaks regularly in North American churches on the topic of world missions. He serves on the Board of Directors for World Relief.
Sandy received a B.S. from the University of Virginia(1973), an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary(1982), and a D.D. from Crichton College in Memphis, Tennessee (2001). He previously pastored Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee (1981-86) and Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee(1986-95).
Sandy and his wife, Allison, were married in 1972 and are grateful for five children, three daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, and eight grandchildren.
Upon the departure of our former Senior Pastor, Dr. Bryan Chapell, Dr. Willson was Pastor Bryan's first choice to be our interim pastor while we look for a new, permanent senior pastor.
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).
Pastor of Assimilation and Mobilization
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).
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 20 years. He and his wife, Nancy (native of Tinley Park, IL) have seven children, Cassie Mahan (married), Nathan (recently married), Bethany, Victoria, Brittany, Andrew, and Andre. 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).
Pastor of Congregational Care
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 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband. John's hobbies are guitar playing and fitness training.
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)
Director of Women's Ministries
Sarah Alkire joined the Grace staff in October 2012. She was born and raised in Peoria and has attended Grace since she was three years old. Sarah graduated from Bradley University in 2001 with a degree in elementary education. That same year she married her high school sweetheart Brett Alkire, and they have four children: Brock, Natalie, Bryce, and Brett. Sarah has a passion for women's ministry and desires to minister to women in all stages of life through encouragement, teaching, mentoring, and fellowship.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
Director of Disciple-Making
Greg joined the Grace staff in 2001 as the youth director and has had a couple other roles and responsibilities since then. He is currently The Director of Disciple-making. His personal mission is to make disciples and coach disciple-makers. Greg’s primary focus is on seeding a life-on-life disciple-making movement at Grace. He also partners with and coaches other staff and leaders of various ministries. Greg has a master’s degree in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship from Moody Theological Seminary, as well as, a bachelor’s degree in Youth Ministry. He is married to Trinity who is a professional counselor and the mother of their four children. Greg enjoys time home with T and the kids, the Cardinals, and a solid game of ultimate. Greg is passionate about equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12) and enjoys watching God use them for His glory.
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 at John R. Day Christian Psychological Associates. They love experiencing the joy of having three little kids who bring constant joy and life to any situation. They love spending time outside, going for bike rides, and exploring nature.
Since his teens, John has striven to live a Proverbs 3:5-6 life: “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 of her life. Grace is where she accepted Christ, met her husband, got married, baptized her children, and even married off her daughter. Julie became the VBS Director in 2007 and the KIDventure Coordinator in 2015. She has also been a teacher in Kidz Klub since 2001 and was the Interim Director of Children’s Ministry in Fall 2008 to Spring 2009.
Julie attended Covenant College where she received her Teaching Certificate in 1992. She married her high school sweetheart, Stephen, and they have 3 children: Kara (and Philip), Timothy, and Jonathan.
While she accepted Christ as her personal Savior at age 6 in Sunday school at Grace, it wasn’t until Summer Camp her sophomore year that Julie felt God calling her for more of her life. There, she rededicated her life to 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 teacher. 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 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!
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 work together for the truth.” (3 John 1:8)
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.
Missions Administrative Assistant
Karen Cordes joined the Grace Presbyterian staff in March 2014 and works as the Administrative Assistant to the Missions Committee of the church. She organizes and coordinates the annual missions conference as well as the monthly needs of the 74 missionary families supported by Grace. Having grown up in Venezuela as a missionary kid, and then served as a missionary in Indonesia with her husband and children, she has a deep passion and heart for missions and the people that our Lord has chosen to serve Him in full time ministry as missionaries.
Karen graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies. She has been married to Brian since 1989, and they have three children: Zach (who is married to Jordan), Janelle (who is married to Wes Learned), and Brad.
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.
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.”
Children’s Ministry Assistant
Britt Anderson joined the Grace Staff as the Children’s Ministry Assistant in March of 2020. She was raised and educated in Nebraska. She received her B.A. (psychology) and J.D. at the University of Nebraska. She is married to fellow Husker, Mathew, and they have two daughters, Riley and Clara. They moved to Peoria in 2005 and have attended Grace ever since (with the exception of 5 years spent in Nashville). Britt has been a volunteer in various roles within the Children’s Ministry throughout the years.
She has witnessed her daughters give their hearts to Jesus through VBS and watched them grow in their faith by participating in the activities offered through Grace’s Children’s Ministry. Now that her daughters are teenagers, she is excited for the opportunity to give back to the ministry that has meant so much to her family. She has a heart for volunteers and discipling the next generation.
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!"
Grace Connect Master Administrator and MWG Childcare Supervisor
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 loves young children and has a passion for helping young families connect in her role as Midweek Grace Childcare Superintendent. She also enjoys helping ministry leaders and members of the congregation to connect through her management of Grace Connect, our church management software.
Director of Campus Outreach College Ministries
Mike grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering. He is married to Stacey and they have two children, Knox and Katie-Beth. Mike enjoys playing with the family, playing basketball, hunting, and college football.
Mike is the Director of the Campus Outreach College Ministry. In Matthew 9, Jesus told His disciples that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. The vision of Campus Outreach is "Building Laborers on the Campus for the Lost World," which grows out of a conviction that laborers continue to be the need today.
Campus Outreach endeavors to develop college students into mature laborers through evangelism, life-on-life discipleship, discipleship groups, large group events, and International as well as domestic Summer Projects.
If you would like to know more about the Campus Outreach ministry, please don’t hesitate to contact Mike.
Chris grew up in Manchester, Tennessee, and graduated from Tennessee Tech University with a bachelors degree in Civil Engineering. He is married to Hannah and they have three children: Marigrace, Heath, and Jacob. Chris enjoys being with his family, carpentry, gardening, hunting, and fishing. Chris helps resource and manage administrative and technological needs for the Campus Outreach Central Illinois Ministry as well as ministers to students at Bradley University. The vision of Campus Outreach is "Glorifying God by Building Laborers on the Campus for the Lost World". Campus Outreach endeavors to develop college students into mature laborers through evangelism, life-on-life discipleship, discipleship groups, large group events, and International as well as domestic Summer Projects.
Jana serves as a resource staff member for Campus Outreach, the college ministry of Grace. Her role involves furthering the vision of 'building laborers on the campus for the lost world' by providing administrative support for campus staff and logistics for retreats, conferences, and training programs for students. In addition to her time in the office Jana is involved in the life-on-life discipleship of women at Bradley University. Jana grew up in Northeast Tennessee and graduated from Tennessee Tech with a bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering. She enjoys running, reading, sewing, and college football. A favorite passage of her's is Colossians 3:1-3: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Women's Ministry Assistant
Beth has enjoyed being an active volunteer at Grace for many years. In October of 2018, she officially began working as the Women’s Ministry Assistant. She has a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design that comes in handy only on rare occasions.
She has been ever-so-happily married to Mark for 20 years and is so thankful for his support, encouragement, and spiritual leadership. They are parents to Alex, Chloe, Josh, and Nathan (otherwise known as the hooligans.)
Beth is in the home stretch of her homeschool teaching career. She is very much looking forward to retirement.
She has a passion for making people feel special, welcome, and loved. She loves connecting with women and connecting them to each other.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)