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Mission Study

How is God working in this place using our hands?

In the life of any organization, change is certain. UPC is no different. We travel this interim season together in hope, holding fast to the one who always holds fast to us. We do so in confidence, acknowledging and embracing the words of Paul in  Philippians 2:12, “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” As the University Church family, we seek to open our hearts to God’s love, to open our minds to God’s will, and to transform our prayers into deeds that forever glorify God.

During these next few months, our church will engage in the process of “mission study,” which is aimed at discerning God’s voice and leading for our church. Although the process is unfamiliar to many of us, the larger church offers important guidance in helping churches thrive during pastoral transitions. Both Presbyterian polity and wise practice endorse such a mission study, especially after a church loses the leadership of a long-serving and much-loved pastor. Our mission study will help us to consider our identity and mission as we move forward as a church, thereby enabling us to reach a deep, honest, and mutual sense of call with a new head of staff when the time is right.

To lead us during our mission study, Session has ap­pointed a team of members to support the congregation. This Mission Study Team is charged to engage with the congregation and the larger community to discern God’s voice and leading for our church. Together with the congregation, the team will carefully and prayerfully listen for who we are – and who God is calling us to be. You can find the team members’ names and contact information below.

One of the MST’s most visible products will be a Mission Study Report, which it hopes to produce later this spring. The report is submitted for consideration and approval by both our Session as well as the Commission on Ministry of the Presbytery of New Hope. Only after the Mission Study Report is approved by Presbytery will the search for our new pastor officially commence with the election of a Pastor Nominating Committee, or PNC. Our Mission Study Team has already met several times to develop a process for the mission study, and our timeline was designed so that our PNC can begin its work as early as June.

The MST asks that you anticipate engaging in our mission study by participating in small-group meetings and larger town hall gatherings, as well as in a forthcoming congregational survey. Your participation is needed and you can read more below. You will see specific invitations to participate highlighted for you in the weekly Bulletin Insert and E-news, on this webpage, and even in our building. Although your MST is charged with creating the final report, its content and style will be driven and shaped by contributions from all of you who lend your voices, opinions, suggestions, and concerns.

As we work through the mission study process, there are likely to be many questions, suggestions, and thoughts about UPC’s future. Please use the buttons below to share them with the team!

Suggestion Box Email the Team

Note – sections with recently updated information are noted in bold and with an asterisk (*). The last updates were made on March 23, 2018.

Mission Study Team

Who is on the Mission Study Team?

Mac Gilliland, Nancy Jones, Carolyn Karpinos, Vicki Lotz, Madi Marvin, Gordon Merklein, Thad Monroe, Katie Sanford, Lee Scott, Scott Singleton (chair), and Margaret LaMotte Torrence (staff). You are welcome to contact any individual on the team, or send a single email to the entire team.

How were they chosen and asked to serve?

Session appointed these members to serve in this capacity at the recommendation of UPC staff.

What is their charge?

This Mission Study Team (MST) is charged to engage with the congregation and the larger community to discern God’s voice and leading for our church. Together the MST and congregation will carefully and prayerfully consider of who we are, and who God is calling us to be. The MST will submit a Mission Study Report, first to UPC’s Session and then to New Hope Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry. Prior to the completion of the report, the congregation will be provided an opportunity to respond to preliminary findings in April.

When do they meet?

Meetings have been held on the following dates at this point. Through May, the MST will meet weekly on Tuesdays from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

  • Tuesday, January 8 (completed)
  • Tuesday, January 30 (completed)
  • Tuesday, February 13 (completed)
  • Tuesday, February 27 (completed)
  • Tuesday, March 6 (completed)
  • Tuesday, March 13 (completed)
  • Tuesday, March 27

The team gratefully welcomes your comments, questions, and suggestions via this webpage, email (, or conversation with any team member. The team knows that your contributions are central to the value of the Mission Study Report, and they hope you will share your thoughts and opinions!

Congregational Survey*

What is the purpose of the survey?

Our mission study process will require the participation of everyone in the congregation. The survey  provides every participant at UPC a tangible way to engage in the mission study process by providing direct input on UPC’s identity and calling. The survey also allows us to gather information that supplements the demographic data collected automatically by PC(USA) as part of UPC’s reporting. Your individual responses will be anonymous, while results in the aggregate will be reported at the conclusion of the mission study. We believe that the congregation’s answers will supply important information to us and to our new pastor.

How can I take the survey?

We encourage every member of the congregation to participate online if possible using the following link:

Take the Survey

Please complete the survey before 11:45 PM on Sunday, April 15. If you would like a printed copy of the survey to fill out by hand, please let us know by contacting Ginny Horne in the church office.

What can I expect in the survey?

The survey should take roughly 20-30 minutes to complete, and includes both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. Because the survey is one of the most important ways by which we can discern God’s call to UPC, the Mission Study Team encourages you to respond thoughtfully and prayerfully to as many questions as you feel comfortable answering. If you do not have a response, or do not wish to respond, to any particular question, you are welcome to leave it blank and move on to other questions. 

To facilitate your thoughtful and prayerful consideration of the survey questions prior to completing the survey online, we have provided a PDF version of the survey below. However, please note that we prefer that you use the online survey form to submit your responses.

Preview the Survey

Congregational Gatherings*

When will small-group conversations occur?

The Mission Study Team invites you to participate in our mission study process. Sunday, March 11, marks the start of the most critical part of this process: conversation with our congregation. Over the next few weeks, your participation and input will form the shape of our Mission Study Report. Please make note of the following dates, and plan to join us for ONE of the small-group conversations occurring during Sunday School hour in Dunham Hall:

  • Sunday, March 11 (completed)
  • Sunday, March 18 (completed)
  • Sunday, March 25 (last chance – please join us!)

Who is invited?

The team is seeking to include everyone’s  voice in the process! Any member of the UPC family should plan to attend any ONE of the above gatherings in Dunham Hall. Additional conversations with standing groups of the church are currently being scheduled, including: Presbyterian Youth Connection, the Deacons, Carol Woods and Carolina Meadows residents, Presbyterian Campus Ministry, and Young Adults. If you regularly participate with one of these groups, you do not need to join a conversation during the Sunday School hour.

What will we be talking about?

In preparation for thoughtful participation in the small-group conversations, please consider the following questions:

  1. Why do you participate in the life of University Presbyterian Church?
  2. What do you think God is calling UPC to do and be?
  3. How can we strengthen the congregation to respond to God’s call?

Our Mission Study Team has designed this process to engage you in helping to discern God’s voice and leading for our church. Our process will involve careful and prayerful consideration of who we are and who God is calling us to be, as well as the identification of our collective experiences, gifts, passions, perspectives, and the strengths and needs of our community. Come join us as we set off down this path together!

How to Participate

How can I participate?

Our mission study process will require the participation of everyone in the congregation. The Mission Study Team members will keep the congregation informed about ways to participate, but if you are interested in participating, please contact the team via email ( or by speaking with any team member!

What else is happening?

In addition to the meetings noted above, the team is also planning for a congregational survey as well as a some large-group events. These events would welcome every member of the congregation, and may be held as part of both worship services on April 8 as well as two other events after each worship service on April 22. The team will post more information here as soon as plans are finalized. Watch for more opportunities to engage in this process over the coming weeks!