Michael places issues of justice and peace at the center of his ministry. He conducts research on church sanctuary movements and campaigns for the Living Wage. He has worked with food pantries, cooperated with community leaders to combat the heroin epidemic in Massachusetts, and protested recent U.S. immigration policies. He believes the church should play a vital role in the communities that it inhabits.
As an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA (a separate denomination from the fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention), Michael is a whole-hearted advocate of theological diversity. He trained alongside Buddhist monks, would-be rabbis and imams, spiritualists, mainline Protestants, and evangelicals, developing a deep respect for the Holy in all its forms.
Michael is also a firm believer that the Baptist principles of soul freedom, local church autonomy, and the priesthood of all believers can speak powerfully into our 21st century context.
Michael was born and raised in Alabama and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville with a BA in Religious Studies. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Harvard in 2014, and is now completing his Th.D. dissertation there.
When he is not involved with church activities, Michael likes to garden, listen to bluegrass music, and share laughter with his friends. He believes laughter is holy.
Michael lives in Evanston with his wife, Anna Piela, and daughter, Zofia. Anna, a native of Poland, holds a doctorate in Women’s Studies and writes about modesty and feminism in Islam.
The sermon Michael preached at Lake Street Church on January 13, 2019, “Holy Strength and Vulnerability,” is available here.
Fundamental to the richness of shared experience of our community is the music provided, led and coordinated by Diana Schmück. Participation in youth and adult choirs, along with keyboard contributions, were part of her musical and personal development. As an adult she took part in worship in churches and mentored young church musicians in her positions at Febias College in Manila, Philippines and at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. Heralded by the Chicago Sun-times as “one of the finest chamber pianists on the scene…playing with her ears as much as her gifted hands,” Schmück has appeared in concert throughout the United States and Canada, in Europe and in the Philippines. Diana is a founding member of the Orion Ensemble, a highly praised chamber group. She is a doctoral graduate of Northwestern University and holds degrees from DePaul University and Wheaton College.
Diana is kept busy leading Lake Street Church’s Chancel Choir, which provides the backbone of music for our Sunday worship services, the Concert Choir, and the Men’s Choir. In addition, she performs as the church organist and pianist. We’re blessed by her talent and leadership.
Jillian Westerfield is the Associate Pastor for Children’s & Family Programming. Jillian believes that all people are equally spiritually-abled, regardless of age, education, intellect, or any other factor. Based on this, Jillian’s goal for children’s programming is to nurture the children’s confidence in themselves as spiritual beings with valid experiences and to offer them tools for growing their individual and communal relationships with the Divine.
Before joining the staff at Lake Street, Jillian worked with a nonprofit dedicated to improving educational opportunities for children living in poverty during their first five years of life. Her past experience also includes serving as a Vietnamese interpreter in the Navy and working in systems improvement in both manufacturing and nonprofit settings. Her favorite job before she went into ministry was managing a comic book store, though.
Jillian has a degree in Organizational Leadership from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX and is currently pursuing a Masters in Divinity at Chicago Theological Seminary in Hyde Park. She and her wife live in Chicago with their fabulous daughter, two cats, and a dog. Jillian’s hobbies are house plants, fiber arts, and ukulele.
Amber Naylor uses the magic of theater and power of storytelling to spark social change and personal growth. She is the Associate Pastor for Youth Programming at Lake Street Church. Amber has a Masters of Divinity from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. Amber is also Executive Director of the nonprofit Acting Out Awareness, which uses theater to address stigmatized social issues.
In addition to serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama, she has stage and production management experience from First Stage (Washington DC), Nebraska Shakespeare, Belvoir Terrace (Massachusetts), and Santa Fe Opera (New Mexico). She is originally from Omaha, Nebraska and received her undergraduate degrees in theater production at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
There are many of us here with a long-time bond to Lake Street Church. For Pat, Lake Street Church has been a home for decades. Her parents helped to build the foundation of LSC where Pat attended Sunday School, joined the choir at the age of 15, and served on the General Board for 14 years.
In 2008 Pat joined our staff as the Administrative Assistant. Among the great variety of things that Pat does are greeting visitors, tracking the comings and goings of the many groups and organizations that use our facilities, fielding requests that flood the office, handling the weekly bulletin and coordinating other church communications, firing up the sound system and turning pages for the organist or pianist during those challenging pieces.
This is Scott Jackson’s second time working at Lake Street Church. He did maintenance work for us in the 1990’s before working at Lutheran Social Services as a Facilities Director for many years. We are very fortunate to have his knowledge of general maintenance and our building specifically. He has promised to lovingly care for our church home. His duties include being available for emergency calls and working closely with Kim Jefferson and the House Committee.
Scott is a long-time Evanstonian, having started his life at Evanston Hospital. He is a family man with four children, seven grandchildren, and one great grandchild. He is a man of faith and has attended First Church of God in Evanston for many years. He has a strong sense that God sent him to be here with us. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University.
Kim Jefferson, sexton, has been an invaluable part of the Lake Street Church community for 20 years. He ministers diligently to the church, church house and surrounding grounds. His steadfast efforts behind the scenes ensure that our worship and community spaces are clean and ready for use on Sunday mornings. He also prepares and disassembles meeting room seating arrangements for the dozens of groups that use Lake Street Church’s facilities throughout the week.
As the seasons change, he can be seen on the church grounds cutting grass, raking
leaves, or shoveling snow.
In order to fulfill all of his responsibilities, he is usually one of the first people to arrive in the morning and is often the last person to leave at night.