UPC PNC Activities
University Presbyterian Church is seeking its next Head of Staff or Clergy Couple who will inspire and encourage us in our faith!
Selection of our next Pastor/Head of Staff is of major importance to the future of UPC. To carry out this process, the congregation elected us to serve as the nine-member Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) at the Congregational Meeting on Sunday, July 22, 2018. We are filled with a sense of humility and gratitude for your entrusting us to serve UPC and the larger Church in this way. We are working to select and place in nomination to the congregation a candidate for the installed Pastor/Head of Staff of UPC.
During our training, we were reminded of the ancient wisdom of Isaiah 43:19. In the coming months – before the arrival of our next Pastor/Head of Staff – our committed program and administrative staff will remain in place, our faithful Session will continue to lead us in ministry, and our congregation will continue to be the church together. We are confident that God will provide a way through this time of wilderness even as a new season in UPC’s life commences before our eyes!
As we journey together, we ask for your prayers of support for faithful service, wise judgement and shared discernment. We also ask you to honor our strict practice of confidentiality. Most importantly, we ask you to share any thoughts or suggestions with us. Please use the button below to share any questions, suggestions, or concerns about UPC’s search for our next pastor:
Thank you for your participation, prayers, and support!
Note – sections with recently updated information are noted in bold and with an asterisk (*). The last updates were made on April 12, 2019.
What is the latest from the Pastor Nominating Committee?
To this point in early March, we have reviewed the applications of over 90 pastors. We described the process that we’re using in the February edition of The Chimes and Patty Haydon provided an update at our Congregational Meeting on Sunday, February 24. You may find the text of those reports by clicking on the Prior Updates tab above.
After period of deep discussion and prayerful discernment, our evaluation process enabled us to prioritize a select number of pastors for further conversation. We’ve already had wonderfully enthusiastic and informative video teleconferences with pastors who have developed amazing ministries and spiritual programs — and we have a strong sense that each of the individuals has the gifts needed to lead and serve with University Church. We are continuing our conversations with high-priority candidates. We will soon begin the process of meeting our leading candidates for face-to-face conversations. These conversations will be the focus of our efforts for much of March.
Even though we are moving into a phase along the journey where we must keep the confidences of those we are considering, we are happy and excited to share other specifics with you about our work and we invite you to engage with us. We encourage you to contact the committee via email (email@example.com) or to start up a conversation with any PNC member!
Who is serving on the Pastor Nominating Committee?
Brief biographies of eight individuals serving on the PNC can be found in the following 3-page document:
(Our ninth member represents UPC’s youth and we have omitted this youth member’s information.) You are welcome to contact any individual on the team, or send a single email to the entire team.
According to UPC’s call for nominations: All members of the PNC must exhibit the following qualities:
- a willingness to listen and a desire to discern God’s leading
- active participation in the worship and work of UPC
- the ability to work as part of a team
- a track record of following through on commitments
- the ability to honor a confidential process
- the ability to put congregational needs above personal preferences
- a willingness to speak up in a group
In addition, the following qualities/skills should be represented somewhere on the PNC (not everyone needs to possess these qualities/skills):
- comfort in working online
- organizational skills
- interviewing skills
- writing skills
What are their Job Descriptions?
According to UPC’s call for nominations: Service on the PNC will require an enormous commitment of both time and energy. Members of the PNC should expect to meet as frequently as once a week for the duration of the search process, which could last for a year or more. Members of this committee must be prepared and willing to work as a team, putting congregational needs above personal preferences. Members of the PNC must honor the confidentiality of the search process.
During the selection process, the duties of the committee will include, but are not be limited to:
- completion of a Mission Information Form (MIF), a multipage document to be submitted to the Session and the Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry (COM);
- reading and evaluating Personal Information Forms (PIFs) submitted by potential candidates;
- conducting reference checking on candidates of interest;
- developing a short list of prospective pastors;
- interviewing potential pastors (potentially away from the local area) and during their visits to the church community (travel expenses will be reimbursed by the church);
- selecting a candidate to be placed in nomination before the congregation;
- negotiating terms of call for the candidate;
- arranging with the Presbytery for appropriate examinations and approvals;
- maintaining ongoing communication with the congregation, Session, and COM;
- actively praying to discern God’s leading throughout the selection process;
- introducing the candidate to the congregation.
The PNC began its work on August 29, 2018, and continues to meet for 2–3 hours each week The work of the PNC will end with the installation of the new pastor.
What is a Ministry Information Form (MIF)?
We were charged and trained by Ted Churn, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of New Hope, on August 29, 2018. Following that training, one of our first tasks was to develop a concise description of UPC’s vision of ministry and hopes for its next Pastor/Head of Staff. This document is our Ministry Information Form, or MIF.
During the first half of this year, UPC was led by our Mission Study Team through the process of mission study that allowed us to consider who we are, who God is calling us to be, and what we’ll need in our next season of leadership from a new pastor. We drew from the resultant Mission Study Report to produce our MIF.
Our MIF was approved by the session on October 18, 2018, and then by the presbytery’s Commission on Ministry on October 22, 2018.
Find our Ministry Information Form on the Church Leadership Connection site or download a PDF copy here:
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. And if you’re interested in serving alongside a vibrant congregation and talented staff in the heart of Chapel Hill, NC, we’d love to hear from you!
As our MIF circulates, we developed a detailed process to use in selecting our next pastor. As part of that work, we established criteria for prioritizing candidates. Throughout the mission study process you provided hundreds of answers to the following question:
“What skills, experience and personal characteristics in our new pastor would be most supportive of UPC’s work in response to God’s call?”
The MST shared your responses with us. The combination of our mission study work, our MIF, a formalized selection process, and specific candidate criteria will enable us to reach a deep, honest, and mutual sense of call with a new head of staff when the time is right.
In November, we began to receive Pastor Information Forms (PIFs) from potential candidates. PIFs will continue to arrive through various channels, including self-referral, through PC(USA)’s computerized matching system, and by request as we reach out to potential candidates suggested by you or by other respected members of the larger Church.
Please reach out to email@example.com with any suggestions – whether they be specific names or broader ideas. And if you’re interested in serving alongside a vibrant congregation and talented staff in the heart of Chapel Hill, NC, we’d love to hear from you!
Our working plan is to solicit, review, and evaluate PIFs through the end of the 2018 calendar year. We will then begin the deeper process of discernment in early January and hope to begin substantive conversations with potential candidates no later than mid-February.
While much of our work will seem quiet due to the strict confidential nature of a search, we are committed to offering updates as we are able. To help with this, there is a large timeline in the church office that will visibly track our progress through these activities and milestones. We invite you to visit as you are able!
From the April 12 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Reflection from Karen Vandersea (PNC Member) —
“I am very much enjoying my experience on the PNC, and one unexpected benefit of this process has been some much-needed positivity! In our divided culture filled with constant negative news stories, I find my service in the PNC to be a refreshing contrast to the outside world. When I’m reading pastors’ applications, listening to their sermons, and learning about the ministries of each individual, I’m reminded of how much good is also happening each day in our country. These pastors are living out God’s call to serve – not only in their own congregations, but also in their communities and beyond. Witnessing all that good, in so many regions around the country, has been incredibly affirming to my faith and beliefs. Best of all, one of these amazing pastors will likely become our next head of staff – and I am definitely looking forward to seeing his or her ministry to us, to our congregation, to our community and to our world!”
From the April 5 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Reflection from Scott Singleton (PNC Clerk) —
“I will always remember the night that we first discussed the six interviews that we’d conducted over the previous nine days. We had engaged in our first ‘face to face’ conversations with our leading candidates for our Head of Staff position, and had agreed to hold any discussion of the candidates until after all six interviews had been completed. Of course, one reason that I’ll remember that night’s conversation is that we were talking about the individual who would likely serve as our next called pastor. But I’ll remember that night’s important lessons, too. Hank Waters led our devotion using the familiar words of 1 Corinthians 13. And he concluded with, ‘I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it. So there.’ I’ll also remember Eleanor Wilson reminding us how to work selflessly toward our goal of nominating the next leader to inspire and encourage all of us in our faith. She said, ‘If I were choosing the pastor that I’d want to listen to preach every week, [this candidate] would be the one. But I don’t think [he or she] is the best fit for all the people in our congregation.’ Wow! And thanks be to God for these amazing people!”
From the March 29 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Reflection from Bill Whisenant (PNC Member) —
“As several other members of the Pastor Nominating Committee have mentioned in their bulletin messages, I too, have spent more time in prayer over the past seven months than in the last many years. Author, Anne Lamott, has said that two of the best prayers are ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you’ and ‘Help me, help me, help me’. I have said the ‘thank you’ prayer numerous times for our wonderful church, for the excellent candidates interested in our senior pastor and head of staff position, and for the commitment of my fellow PNC members to discern the right choice to lead University Presbyterian into the next chapter of its ministry. The ‘help me’ prayer has been reserved (primarily) for those times when I struggle to hear God’s voice leading our collective decision-making. Anna Blythe’s words in her meditation on Youth Sunday a few weeks back ‘helped me’ with that struggle. She said, ‘…even when we question God, it’s reassuring to know that he can see the bigger picture. I know that whatever pastor our church calls, God will be with us.’”
From the March 22 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Reflection from Mary Ellen Olson (PNC Member) —
“I have been traveling this month, along with other PNC members, to visit some of our leading candidates at their home churches and hear them preach in person. These trips are a continuation of a journey that we began last August with our training as a PNC. We have become a close-knit group and it will be a loss for me when we end our Tuesday evening meetings. Along this journey, we have met some amazing ministers. Some of these folks have been “traveling” with us for a while now, all of us praying and listening for the Spirit. As the discernment process continues toward its inevitable finish, I am becoming more aware that even as I begin to embrace the hope and reality of a new head pastor for UPC, I will also be saying goodbye to some of these wonderful traveling companions. That will not be easy.”
From the March 15 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Reflection from Patty Haydon (PNC Chair) —
“Rev. Dean E. Foose writes in the book Searching for a Pastor the Presbyterian Way that many who serve on a pastor nominating committee say it changes their relationship with God. I am finding that I am no exception. I have prayed more in the last six months than I have in the last six years. Before serving on this committee I could count the number of times on one hand that I think I’ve truly felt God’s presence. Now, I would need the hands of everyone on this committee to count the number of times I’ve felt God in the room with us as we debate, laugh, question, and pray. God is sharing signs with us and talking with us as we go along this journey, and I sense that as we listen to God, He is leading us to our next Pastor/Head of Staff.”
From the March 8 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Though we are entrusted to keep the confidences of those whom we are considering, we want the congregation to be well informed, and we invite you to engage with us. We are happy and excited to share specifics with you about our work, and we want you to know that there is a unanimous sense among the PNC that the process is going well.
After reading background information, listening to many sermons, and engaging in teleconferences, we are beginning to focus our attention on a handful of candidates. We have a strong sense that each of these pastors has the gifts and experiences needed to lead and serve with University Church. We are at the point in our process where delegations from the committee are beginning to attend worship services in those candidates’ home churches. In the weeks to come, we will be inviting top candidates for extended face-to-face interviews with the whole committee.
If the way be made clear, we hope to request that our session call a congregational meeting to elect our new pastor before the end of the school year. If all goes well, then our new head of staff could join us before the beginning of our program year in September. It’s important to emphasize that our timeline is highly elastic and that we’re quite pre- pared to shift it as needed. Our focus is on calling the right pastor for UPC rather than fulfilling an idealized timeline.
We welcome your prayers as we continue in this exciting and important work. We encourage you to contact the committee via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to start up a conversation with any PNC member!
From the March 1 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Reflection from Hank Waters (PNC Member) —
“I am excited to have the chance to serve our church in this way. I was acquainted with all of those who accepted the call to join our PNC but now I know them in much greater depth. Put simply, we have grown to know and trust one another completely. We have engaged in challenging, lively and thoughtful discussions but you may rest assured that at the end of the day, we are completely unified in our effort to select our new Head of Staff. I had originally thought that we may have a difficult time determining who could be our next Head of Staff. In a way, I was wrong. We have had the pleasure of examining the careers and life work of so many gifted ministers and I am now more certain than ever that our collective and continuous prayers for new, thoughtful and competent leadership will be answered.”
Update at UPC Congregational Meeting on Sunday, February 24:
The sense that the work is going well is unanimous among the PNC members!
It is important to remember that the Presbyterian way is one of discerning a mutual sense of call. Therefore, we have to keep in our hearts and minds that these amazing pastors with whom we’ve entered into a process of conversation and mutual discernment may not feel the Spirit’s call to leave their current ministries and congregations to join us.
With that caveat in mind, we’ve read over 90 applications. You may be interested to know that around 20% of our applicants are female and 5% are clergy couples. Geographically, most of our applicants are from the southeast or mid-Atlantic, but we’ve had international applications as well as applications from as far as Florida, Michigan, Texas, and California among other states.
From those applications, we selected candidates for deeper consideration. Our next phase of evaluation includes further reading of the candidates’ published or posted writings and listening to or watching more sermons available online. The evaluation seeks to put each candidate’s strengths and opportunities for growth in the specific context of our customs, needs, and expectations here at UPC.
Our evaluation process enabled us to prioritize applications for further conversation. We’ve already had wonderfully enthusiastic and informative video teleconferences with pastors who have developed amazing ministries and spiritual programs — and we have a strong sense that each of the individuals has the gifts needed to lead and serve with University Church.
We are continuing our conversations with high-priority candidates. And, we will be beginning the process of meeting our leading candidates for face-to-face conversations.
Although there is much yet to be done, we are have been blessed by the bountiful evidence of God’s provision for our church. If the way be made clear, we hope to request that our session call a congregational meeting to elect our new pastor before the end of the school year. If all goes well, then our new head of staff could join us before the beginning of our program year in September. It’s important to emphasize that our timeline is highly elastic and that we’re quite prepared to shift it as needed. Our focus is on calling the right pastor for UPC rather than fulfilling an idealized timeline.
The PNC welcomes your prayers as we move into deeper conversation with potential candidates. Watch our weekly E-news and worship bulletin insert for weekly reflections from PNC members. Even though we are moving into a phase along the journey where we must keep the confidences of those we are considering, we are happy and excited to share other specifics with you about our work and we invite you to engage with us!
From the February 22 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Reflection from Eleanor Wilson (PNC Member) —
“Surrounded by eight UPC members whom I love, who love me, and who love our church, I have learned far more than I anticipated. I’ve learned simpler things like what the word “parish” means, how to give an “elevator pitch,” and the significance of typos. More broadly, I’ve recognized what we UPC members are most proud of and where we want to see our church go in the future. I am still in the early stages of my faith journey, and this incredible part of my path has shown me how deeply God’s love runs through the people of this church. The love that these PNC members have for one another, the congregation, and our staff, which will undoubtedly include our next Head of Staff, is extraordinary.”
From the February 15 Weekly E-Newsletter:
Reflection from Scott Singleton (PNC Clerk) —
“One aspect of our deliberations that has inspired me the most is the fact that our conversations include disagreements – about priorities of characteristics or excellence of a candidate’s preaching, for example – but never contention. In the early chapters of Ephesians, Paul offers some powerful guidelines for how to live in community. On a small scale, this group has modeled how to interact with one another in love – even with our various life experiences, our different ways of being in the world, our varied perspectives, preferences, and ideas. There is a shared feeling that the Holy Spirit is working through the collective body to reach decisions that will help UPC continue to be God’s church into the future.”
From the February 8 Weekly E-Newsletter
Reflection from Patty Haydon (PNC Chair) —
“When I was called to serve on your Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) I was both humbly honored and terribly nervous. I was excited to serve the church using a skill set I use regularly in my career, but I also walked into this eyes-wide-open: this is a tall order and, frankly, I feel the pressure. University Presbyterian Church has been my home for nearly 10 years and became a part of my life when I needed it most. This congregation is wonderfully unique and is made up of some of the most impressive yet down-to-earth people I have ever met. I have formed life-long friendships through the Young Adults group, have served the church through committees, have seen the church’s future in the eyes of the PCM students I have mentored, and got married here last summer. This community has challenged me and my faith in ways I didn’t think possible, but has also supported me so graciously on that journey. UPC feels like home. I can never repay this church for the ways it has changed my life–the ways you have changed my life. And so, I want to do right by every one of you as we do this work.
In the weeks to come you will see personal reflections from the committee members in the bulletin each week. The work we do is on the church’s behalf and we hope these reflections will offer more insight into who we are and how we are moving through the process. You may have noticed that there is now another check mark on the PNC timeline on the wall outside of Margaret’s office. We invite you to stop by to see the progress we have made and to visit our website where you can learn more: https://upcch.org/pnc/. Even though we are moving into a phase along the journey where we must keep the confidences of those we are considering, we are happy and excited to share other specifics with you about our work and I invite you to engage with us. As always, we remain grateful for your trust and your prayers. Peace be with you.”
From the February 2019 edition of The Chimes:
We bring you greetings in the name Jesus Christ from your Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC). We continue our entrusted work to select and place in nomination to the congregation a candidate for the installed Pastor/Head of Staff of UPC. We are excited to share this update with you on the progress that we’ve made and our road map for the coming months. We hope this will answer some questions you may have about exactly how we work – and that it might convey our deep sense of hope and optimism around the process!
During the fall, our first task was to use UPC’s Mission Study Report to develop a concise description of UPC’s vision of ministry and hopes for our next Pastor/Head of Staff. The resulting Ministry Information Form (MIF) was approved by session and the Commission on Ministry for the Presbytery of New Hope, and was posted on the PC(USA)’s Church Leadership Connection online system (CLC), where it is accessible to any interested pastors. In addition to making our MIF accessible, the CLC also allows an algorithm-based matching service to connect PNCs with pastors who are actively seeking or open to a call and have entered their information into the CLC. To date, our MIF has received well over 500 online views using CLC.
At the same time, both UPC and presbytery staff members have spread the word and shared some recommendations with us. UPC’s website and social media outlets also had news of our pastor search process and a link to our MIF. We recognized that we are likely looking for a pastor who isn’t actively seeking a new call, but might respond to a nudge from the Holy Spirit. Thus, we’ve collected suggestions of prospective pastors from our staff and congregation, and we also gathered guidance on leading pastors, presbyters, seminary presidents, church thought leaders, and other respected members of the larger Church who might suggest prospective candidates. Based on that guidance, we contacted 15 senior individuals who commended a number of additional pastors to us for further conversation.
As our MIF circulated and garnered attention, we developed specific candidate criteria and a detailed process to use in selecting our next pastor. The Mission Study Team previously reached out to the congregation to ask for opinions as to the experiences and qualities sought in our next pastor. We are grateful for the time and effort you made in providing 278 individual written responses. Our multi-stage application review process has been laborious but thorough, and we are hopeful that our efforts will enable us to reach a deep, honest, and mutual sense of call with a new head of staff.
Through mid-January, we have already reviewed the applications of more than 80 pastors. Each PNC member independently reviewed applications based on her or his personal evaluation of how well the application met our specific candidate criteria. During the ensuing committee meetings, the applications were thoroughly discussed. As we read and discussed, we prayed continuously for God’s guidance, referring frequently to our MIF, while considering a number of distinctive qualifications and prior experiences. As we write this, we have over a dozen applications who have received our highest “grades” as their apparent strengths and opportunities for growth best match UPC’s customs, needs, and expectations.
As we progress through winter, we will continue reviewing applications and we will begin to conduct interviews with prioritized candidates by video teleconference. During early spring, we hope to visit face-to-face with the most outstanding candidates in their home churches. Finally, we will host a select few candidates in Chapel Hill to tour our church and community, share meals with all members of the PNC, and engage in various activities of particular interest to the candidates. Once we have reached a mutual decision with a preferred candidate, we will notify presbytery and, when the call has been approved, we will ask our session to call a congregational meeting to elect the new pastor. If the way be made clear, we hope to deliver this request by late spring.
Although we know that there is much more important work to be done, we are confident that it is going well. You elected a committee with diverse talents who are selflessly sharing their gifts with the team as we go through this period of discernment. We are so grateful for Brian Curran, Carolyn Karpinos, Mary Ellen Olson, Karen Vandersea, Hank Waters, Bill Whisenant, and Eleanor Wilson! With this group, each meeting is filled with laughter, support for one another, trust in God’s leading, and much hope. We have already reviewed some truly amazing applicants who have developed awe-inspiring ministries in their current work and who feel called to lead a congregation like ours. Truly, these are exciting times!
We ask for your continued prayers of support for faithful service, wise judgement, and shared discernment. We also ask you to honor our strict practice of confidentiality. As we proceed, we will continue to update the large timeline in the church office as well as our web page (upcch.org/pnc). We encourage you to share any questions or suggestions with us via email (email@example.com) or conversation with any PNC member.
From the October 2018 edition of The Chimes:
We bring you greetings in the name Jesus Christ from your Pastor Nominating Committee. We are filled with a sense of humility and gratitude for your entrusting us to serve UPC and the larger Church in this way.
We have been trained by Ted Churn, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of New Hope, and met together for an additional four hours to come together as a team. During our training, Ted reminded us of the ancient wisdom of Isaiah 43:19. We are confident that God will provide a way through this time of wilderness even as a new season in UPC’s life commences before our eyes. The PNC will continue meeting weekly.
Earlier this year, the Mission Study Team asked us to consider who we are, who God is calling us to be, and what we’ll need in our next season of leadership from a new pastor. Throughout that process you provided hundreds of answers to this question: “What skills, experience and personal characteristics in our new pastor would be most supportive of UPC’s work in response to God’s call?”
We are drawing on your words and the report to develop a description of UPC’s vision of ministry and hopes for its next Pastor/Head of Staff for our Ministry Information Form (MIF). Once our MIF has been approved by the session and the presbytery’s Commission on Ministry, it will be posted online and circulated nationwide.
We will receive Personal Information Forms (PIFs) from potential candidates through various channels, including self-referral, through PC(USA)’s computerized matching system, and by request as we reach out to potential candidates suggested by you or by other respected members of the larger Church.
While this work will be less visible due to the strict confidential nature of a search, we are committed to offering updates as we are able. To help with this, there is a large timeline in the church office that will visibly track our progress through these activities and milestones. We invite you to visit as you are able!
We welcome you to share thoughts or suggestions with us and to honor our practice of confidentiality. Above all, we ask for your prayers of support for faithful service, wise judgement and shared discernment.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
~ Isaiah 43:19