Beliefs and Practices


We believe in one God, known to us especially through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, yet known to other traditions by different names. We seek to challenge injustice, discrimination, and inequality wherever it exists, and to transform the world through the inclusive love of God. Beginning with ourselves and looking beyond our congregation, we celebrate the image of God in every person. When we gather in the presence of God, actively inviting and welcoming all into an inclusive community of love, a sacred space is created.

We are called by God to welcome and fully value all persons. We pray you sense the Spirit of Christ here. We welcome all who are seeking. This is a place for inquiry. We welcome people of every shape and size, color and culture, age and ability, sexual orientation and family type. We are a diverse family of faith. We seek to make UPC a safe place to be.



UPC is a part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — or PC(USA) for short. We are followers in the Way of Jesus, as understood through Christian and Hebrew scriptures. We believe our holy scriptures are expressions of people’s experiences of God’s presence through the ages and are inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. We are but one small part of the global witness of Christians.

We seek to live out our faith in Jesus through a commitment to the spiritual practices of:
● loving God;
● loving neighbor as “self”;
● giving witness to the light of Christ in the world;
● calling others to become followers of Jesus; and
● working for the well-being of the whole creation and all its peoples.

We trace our roots to the Scottish Reformation in the 1500s under the leadership of John Knox, who was a student of John Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland. Knox, who was a Catholic priest prior to meeting Calvin, moved back to his native Edinburgh, Scotland, and brought Calvin’s teachings and the Reformation spirit. Presbyterianism hit the shores of the Americas as early as 1640. Several Presbyterian clergy were integrally involved in the shaping of what became the United States of America. The Rev. John Witherspoon, president of Princeton University, was the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, and the moderator of the first Presbyterian general assembly on this continent.

We’ve come a long way since the days of Knox and Witherspoon. The shape and function of Presbyterianism has adjusted to meet the ever-changing needs of the generations.


University Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) is an open, dynamic Christian community that invites all seekers to join with us in glorifying God and discovering God’s will as expressed in Jesus Christ. We celebrate God’s love in joyful worship and learning, demonstrate Christ’s compassion in generous service to others, and experience Christ’s love in supportive fellowship.


Our vision is that UPC is called to glorify God and to take the light of God out into the world. We believe that Jesus calls us to have an open and inclusive worship with a spirit of faith that welcomes all. We seek to actively listen for God and the Holy Spirit among us by nurturing one another’s faith, by teaching through thought and deed, and by praying as individuals and as a community. We believe that God has commissioned us to seek justice for all who feel hunger, hurt and pain. We seek to demonstrate our love in Christ by generously offering our human and material resources to helping others.


The word “Presbyterian” comes from a Greek word meaning “elder.” We are a group of Christians led by elders, both Teaching Elders (ministers of Word and Sacrament) and Ruling Elders (members of congregations ordained for the purposes of helping lead their congregation in the ways of Christian faith).

Elders are elected to serve at every level of our denomination: the local congregation elects elders to serve on the local council, which we call the session. Sessions elect elders to serve the next level which is the presbytery. Presbyteries elect elders to serve at the next level, which is the synod, and at the General Assembly which is our national council. Each level discerns the leading of God’s Holy Spirit to lead the church.

In our system of governance, no one person ever holds all the power. We have no bishops. We do have moderators whose job is to help guide the conversations of each council, ensuring fairness and to ensure that minority positions are heard and protected, even though the will of the majority stands. There are always checks and balances. In fact, the government of the United States and the relationship between the federal, state, county, and local governments is based on Presbyterian principles.

In common vernacular, we believe we are better when we make decisions together. We believe that God speaks through the tension we hold in groups, especially diverse groups.