Sojourner is a growing, intergenerational gathering of people following the way of Jesus Christ through creating community, fostering faith, and pursuing peace and justice in our selves, our neighborhoods and our world.
As a congregation, we live out our mission by enjoying God and each other through service and worship while exploring real questions of faith and life through storytelling and art.
We are discovering how to be a church that matters. Community is real to us - not just a buzzword. We love Jesus Christ and his life-changing ways so we spend a lot of our time building lives that reflect his teachings, his presence and his love. We believe everyone is on a journey of faith and every journey matters. Doubt is welcome. Love is necessary. Hope is constant. We hope you'll travel with us.
Sojo gathers on Sunday evenings at 5 pm for worship. We sing songs, learn from scripture and storytelling, and sometimes make things together. There is Sunday School for children grades 6 and under during the second half of the worship service.
We are led by co-pastors Mandi Cherico and Andy Hayes.
We are led by a Leadership Team of five church members, who are elected by voting members in the church.
Sojo is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. For Covenant people, our beliefs are summed up in what we call Covenant Affirmations:
We affirm the centrality of the word of God
We affirm the necessity of new birth
We affirm a commitment to the whole mission of the church
We affirm the church as a fellowship of believers
We affirm a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit
We affirm the reality of freedom in Christ
Join us at our new gathering time, Sundays at 5 pm, at 1101 Church Street in Evanston.
Our Sunday Gatherings are the one time each week where we come together as a whole community to worship God, learn from scripture and pray with each other. Whether you have never been to church before, or have been going to church your entire life, our services will have something for you.
The preaching at Sojo is mostly done by our co-pastors, Mandi Cherico and Andy Hayes. We aim for sermons that are interesting and relevant to our lives. Our sermons always connect to the text because we see the Bible as the most compelling story and the inspired word of God that teaches, challenges and trains us in faith.
At Sojo, we desire for our world to know the peace and justice of God's Kingdom and we think our gatherings have something to do with that. So, our worship sometimes includes preaching and prayer in response to various justice issues in our community, our country, and our world. Real human connection is a main value for us.
Our gatherings include a blend of current worship songs and hymns with rotating volunteer musicians. We value simplicity over showmanship.
Jesus welcomed and valued children, so we do as well. Children ages four through 6th grade are invited to begin in worship in the sanctuary and to participate in an age-appropriate lesson downstairs during the latter part of the service.
We believe God wants us to enjoy each other in community. At Sojo, we have two dinner groups that meet weekly over a home cooked meal. It's a time for enjoying great food and real conversation and it provides space to get to know Sojo people on a more personal level than Sunday morning gatherings.
At their best, dinner groups are places where everyone feels safe and becomes known. They are places where we can be honest about our doubts, fears, questions, hopes, and joys. They are places where you can find people who love and accept you exactly as you are, as they help you move closer to Jesus.
We currently have two dinner groups meeting in Evanston on Mondays and Wednesdays. Email Pastor Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Church & Oak
As a community of people changed by the story of Jesus, we believe sharing stories helps us cross divides, leads to true connection, and breeds authentic living. We think stories matter - and we'd love to hear yours.
CHURCH & OAK is our free monthly storytelling event inspired by the NPR radio show 'The Moth.' The event features Sojo members and other local people sharing 5-minute true, personal stories centered on the theme of the night. There's no notes - just the storyteller and a mic - which always makes these nights interesting, fun, and unpredictable. We hope you'll join us at the next one.
Church & Oak happens on the last Saturday of the month (usually). Follow us on Facebook for updates and event details.
Serving Our Community
At Sojo, we value justice and compassion for people on the edges of society. We want to be known in Evanston as a church that actively cares and practices radical hospitality. We see this work as wholly Biblical, expressed in Micah 6:8: "Do Justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God."
Every year from November - March, Sojo volunteers host a warming center on Friday evenings from 6-9 pm. Here we serve people in the Evanston area who are experiencing homelessness or other significant need. We open our church to provide a refuge from the cold, watch a movie, eat popcorn, play board games, and drink coffee and hot chocolate together.
We make a point of getting out in Evanston to show people we love them. You might find us giving out coffee or lemonade at the soccer fields this summer, or handing out candy on our church steps on Halloween. No matter where we are, we love hearing people's stories and building relationships in our city.
The Beginning: 1891
In 1891, 22 Swedish immigrants founded the Swedish Christian Mission Church in Evanston, Illinois. Most of them were domestic workers for the wealthy citizens of the city. They adopted this simple statement of faith:
"This church confesses its faith in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and life. The purpose of the church shall be to practice and awaken love and good works, and to labor by the grace of God for the salvation of souls."
A Church Building: 1910s
They met for several years in a union hall on Davis Street and then in a club house on Benson Avenue. Then, in 1908, they purchased land on the corner of Church and Oak. The congregation saved for months and eventually pooled enough money to break ground. The building was finished by 1911. Further remodeling was done in the 1930s. In 1951, the exterior was updated to reflect its current colonial style. During the 1960’s, the congregation had grown to 190 members.
Shifting Identity: 1980s and 1990s
The 1980s and 90s saw the Evangelical Covenant Church of Evanston struggling to find its identity. It became clear that it could no longer remain a primarily white, Swedish congregation. As numbers dwindled, the congregation began to reach out to the surrounding community. It began sharing its sanctuary with a Haitian congregation and started an outreach to international students from China studying in Evanston and Chicago.
In 1984 the Evangelical Covenant Church of Evanston also hired its first woman pastor, Rev. Isolde Anderson, just four years after the first women were ordained in our denomination. Rev. Anderson laid a foundation for strong women leaders in the congregation that would continue with Rev. Kristin Devine (2006-2010), Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Deasy (2010-2014), Rev. Jen Gillan (2014-2015) and Co-Pastor Mandi Cherico (2016-present).
A New Name and A New Vision: 2004
The shifts that took place in the congregation during the 1980's and 1990's culminated in a significant process of revitalization that began in 2004. The congregation entered into a partnership with the denomination (the Evangelical Covenant Church) under the leadership of Rev. Nils Peterson. A new name was born: Sojourner Covenant Church.
Looking forward: 2016 and beyond
Sojourner continued through transitions and changes in leadership in the new millennium. In 2016, Mandi Cherico and Andy Hayes were hired as co-pastors with the goals of growing the congregation and increasing community impact in Evanston. Still meeting on the corner of Church and Oak, in a church built by the faithfulness of an immigrant community, Sojourner is poised for a new era in Evanston. Sojourner remains fixed on the goodness and relevance of Jesus Christ, as we proclaim to a new generation of seekers: "Your journey matters."
Mandi Cherico - Co-Pastor
Mandi cares most about telling compelling stories and creating safe spaces that allow for the dirt and glory of life. Born in New York and raised in suburban Minneapolis, Mandi realized her love for theology in a college course where a professor posed the question “Is God male?” This solidified her interest in the intersection of God, the Gospel and gender. After earning a degree in public relations, Mandi began a career in nonprofit media relations. She soon felt a call to seminary and relocated to Chicago to attend North Park Theological Seminary where she relished opportunities to engage issues of race and gender in and out of the classroom. Mandi enjoys pop culture, reading, podcasts, creative acts, and music.
Andy Hayes - Co-Pastor
Andy loves exploring questions of faith that don’t offer easy answers. As a pastor he cares deeply about helping people find God in the midst of everything. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, he earned his undergraduate degree in biblical and theological studies and youth ministry at North Park University in Chicago. Later, he earned his Master of Divinity and Master of Nonprofit Administration degrees from North Park Theological Seminary. He enjoys both making and listening to podcasts, watching interesting TV shows and movies, playing golf and following NBA basketball. Andy has been married to Jenny for 3 years and together they have a cockapoo puppy named Frances.
Matt Hulstein - Chair/Treasurer
Originally from rural Iowa, Matt lives in Skokie and works in Chicago as a legal aid attorney at CVLS. Matt and his wife Tracey started attending Sojo shortly after they moved to Evanston in 2013. They were immediately drawn to Sojo's community and its culture of faith and service. He loves Chicago in the summer: the Botanic Gardens, open air music and food festivals, and beaches. It almost makes the winter bearable.
Ken Oliver - Congregational Representative
Ken is the executive director of the Chicago Bible Society and is married to Ida-Regina. They live in Skokie. Ken and Ida have been attending Sojourner since 2009. Ken occasionally preaches and teaches at church. He has a passion for church history and loves the intergenerational fellowship at Sojo. Ken also serves as the church’s volunteer bookkeeper.
Curt Peterson - Vice Chair
Curt is executive minister emeritus for Serve Globally, a ministry priority of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Currently, he works in advancement for the ECC. Curt is married to Marty and together they have nine grandchildren who he loves spending time with. Curt is an avid golfer and enjoys fly fishing, movies and gardening. He and Marty have attended Sojo since May 2005. Curt appreciates Sojo’s heart for the good news of Christ touching the real lives and real needs of people in the city.
Talent Theparee - Congregational Representative
Like most Thai people, Talent enjoys eating and sharing pictures of food on social media. also, like many other Thais, he has a weird name. Talent currently works at Evanston Hospital as a pathology resident and started attending Sojourner in 2015. He likes the mix of contemporary and classic hymns at church, the blend of traditional and radical faithfulness, the aim of service and justice, and, above all, the love people have for others and for God.
Elise Walker - Secretary
Elise recently graduated from Northwestern University with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. Right now, she is experimenting with living in intentional community with her husband, Ben, and a small group of friends. Elise loves being outdoors, hiking, running, and yoga. When she has to be indoors, she prefers reading, board games, or getting artsy with paint and paper. Elise and Ben have attended Sojo since 2011. They appreciate the close-knit community and welcoming atmosphere of this church, and have met so many wonderful people here. Elise loves that at Sojo, it feels like everyone is pitching in to really BE the church, not just go to church.