Rev. Cathy C. Hoop


cathyGrace and Peace to You!

My name is Cathy Hoop and on August 13, 2013, I arrived in Tuscaloosa to begin serving this dynamic community of faith, University Presbyterian Church. You might call me a “second career” pastor, and that would be true, though I have served the church for 18 years as a director of children’s ministries at Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN. During those years I also wrote church school curriculum for children for Abingdon Press, We Believe, Feasting on the Word, and for The Thoughtful Christian (adult curriculum), as well as serving as a national and regional workshop leader for innovative designs for children’s ministries. Through those years, I was blessed to serve alongside progressive and visionary colleagues. I am so grateful to have found UPC, and look forward to the years we will share, “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.”

B.A., Vanderbilt University, 1983

M.Div., Vanderbilt Divinity School, 2012

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Dr. Leslie S. Poss, Director of Music and Office Administrator

Leslie at Shelton

An Alabama resident since 1984, Leslie Poss has filled multiple volunteer, part-time, and full-time church music posts including: Greensboro Baptist Church; Greensboro, AL and First United Methodist Church and First Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa, AL and, since January 2013, University Presbyterian Church.

Leslie earned a Master’s in Church Music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Choral Conducting from the University of Alabama. In addition to her work at University Presbyterian, Leslie also serves as Musical Director and Conductor of the Prentice Concert Chorale and recently completed her 11th season as Theatre Tuscaloosa’s resident music director.

Originally from Georgia, Leslie is the daughter of Chick and Elmira Poss; the fourth of five children. Family influences include: Tennessee Ernie Ford and The Gospel Jubilee, high school marching band, newspaper funnies, and a “spirit of contentment” with what I have.  “At the age of 49, I became a runner with the goal of running a 5k before my 50th birthday. Five years later I have now finished multiple 5k’s and 10k’s, two half-marathons, and one full marathon. These days, while I still run, you are more likely to find me at Sokol Park or the Arboretum walking Sally, my yellow Labrador.


Alex Benford, Organist

Alex Benford organistWe are proud to welcome Alex and his wife, Jennifer Holzman Benford, to UPC.  Alex Benford received his Master of Music degree in accompanying and coaching from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While there, he spent two years as an apprentice coach with Knoxville Opera and was privileged to work with numerous visiting clinicians, including Benton Hess (Eastman School of Music), George Darden (Metropolitan Opera), and composer Carlisle Floyd. In addition to being an active vocal coach and chamber musician, Alex is also an accomplished organist who has received awards from the University of Michigan and Westminster Choir College.

Alex began studying piano at the age of five with his home parish’s organist/choirmaster (a position he would later return to hold for seven years, himself), and eventually played the organ for a full worship service for the first time at the age of 10. He studied for two years at the University of Michigan under Robert Glasgow, and completed his undergraduate degree in organ performance under the tutelage of Albert Zabel at Marshall University in his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. For the past eight years, Alex has served as Staff Accompanist/Coach at Clayton State University where he performs regularly on the magnificent organ in Spivey Hall. He has coached on the staff of the Harrower Summer Opera Workshop at Georgia State University and has served as an assistant coach with the University of Miami School of Music in Salzburg, Austria.


Rev. Dr. Sandra Winter, Pastor Emeritus

Sandy Winter pastor emeritus

Sandy Winter was honorably retired on July 1, 2006. At a ceremony in her honor on June 25, 2006, Sandy was named Pastor Emerita. She is the first UPC minister to receive this honor.

Sandy served the Presbyterian community since 1962, when she worked as a church educator for Central Presbyterian in Chattanooga, TN.  Since then, she served as a minister in California and in Alabama.  She earned her Doctorate of Ministry from the San Francisco Theological Seminary, where she studied with a number of Korean women, leading to her spending five weeks in Seoul, Korea.  Her dissertation project, for which she earned an award for outstanding work, was titled, “An Unsung Lament:  The Suffering of Korean Women Taken for Military Sexual Slavery During World War II.”    Whether it be our neighbors who need food to survive from one day to the next, people living with HIV/AIDS, persons who are excluded from full welcome in the life of the church, or those suffering half a world away in Korea, Sandy, the students and members of the congregation show the love and justice of Jesus Christ.

Following her retirement, Sandy moved to Chattanooga, Tennesse, to be closer to her family. Her sons David and Ricky and daughter-in-law, Robin and grandchildren Richard, William, and Charlie live in Chattanooga. Sandy loves to read and teach about women in the Bible and feminist theology.