Giving Log In

Join Us for our Sunday Morning Worship Services at 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.

Visitor Info


“For everything, there is a season…”

In the life of any organization, change is certain. UPC is no different. While we know change is ultimately healthy, it will challenge us all by evoking a range of deep thoughts and feelings. We acknowledge and embrace the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”

With the upcoming transition from the ministry of Bob Dunham, the session has appointed a team of members to lead and support the congregation. The members are Jim Baxley, Kathy Clemmons, Betsy Edwards, Dave Moreau (chair), Mary Ellen Olson, Sarah Owen, Elizabeth Michael (staff), Scott Singleton, and Brian Vandersea. This Transition Team is charged to:

  • Coordinate celebrations of Bob and Marla’s ministry
  • Recommend to Session a candidate for the interim pastor position
  • Establish and execute a plan for communication with congregation about the transition
  • Support the staff through the transition period
  • Work with other committees and councils of the church as needed

Most of all, we will live into this time to love, and many of you will be asked to assist the transition team in a variety of ways. Your engagement, your input, and your participation in the transition process are important and encouraged! We are honored to work together on behalf of this great congregation.

Questions and Answers

As we work through the transition process brought on by Bob Dunham’s retirement, there are likely to be many questions. The list below begins to help us frame our understanding of what is coming and ways we can process it together.

Note – sections with recently updated information are noted in bold and with an asterisk (*). The last updates were made on April 21, 2017.


What is changing?

Bob Dunham will be retiring as Head of Staff and Pastor from UPC.

When is Bob leaving?

His last sermon and Sunday in worship will be on May 21, 2017.

How will we handle this change?

A Transition Team has been established to help organize the process of Bob’s retirement.

What is the timeline for all this to happen?

A rough timeline is below, and will be refined as we move through the next few months.


Transition Team

Who is on the Transition Team?

Jim Baxley, Kathy Clemmons, Betsy Edwards, Dave Moreau (chair), Mary Ellen Olson, Sarah Owen, Elizabeth Michael (staff), Scott Singleton, Brian Vandersea

How were they chosen and asked to serve?

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

What is their charge?

Transition Team Responsibilities

  • Coordinate celebrations of Bob and Marla’s ministry
  • Recommend to Session a candidate for the interim pastor position
  • Establish and execute a plan for communication with congregation about the transition
  • Support the staff through the transition period
  • Work with other committees and councils of the church as needed

When do they meet?

Meetings have been scheduled for the following dates at this point; others will be scheduled and added to this list.

  • 1/5 7:00pm (completed)
  • 1/25 6:00pm (completed)
  • 2/6  6:30pm
  • 2/20 6:30pm with Ted Churn – New Hope Presbytery Executive Presbyter
  • 3/8 6:00pm
  • 3/21 6:00pm
  • 4/10 6:00pm
  • 4/24 6:00pm

In addition, we have begun to meet with program staff and administrative staff, and have already had many good conversations with members. Transition Team members will continue to listen and will be available during the Coffee on the Landing time before Sunday School each Sunday.

How can I help?

This effort will require the service of many in the congregation. Transition Team members will keep the congregation informed about ways to participate, but if you are interested in participating, please contact a team member to offer your help!

Bob and UPC

After Bob leaves, will he still be coming to worship?

No. Bob’s last worship with us will be on Sunday, May 21. He will not attend worship after that day.

Can Bob still officiate my child’s wedding? Will he attend funerals? Baptize my children?

No. Bob will be ending his pastoral duties to this congregation, and will not be a part of weddings, funerals, or baptisms for members of University Church.

Why not?

The larger church offers important guidance in helping pastors and churches think through pastoral separations, and the changes described in the “Covenant of Understanding Between The Session of University Presbyterian Church and Robert E. Dunham” are based on Presbyterian polity as described in The Book of Order, pastoral ethics defined in part by the “Separation Ethics” document provided by The Presbytery of New Hope Manual for Commission on Ministry, and wise practice. Specifically, the larger church has long seen it fit to help both the retiring pastor and the church negotiate a separation by formally terminating “pastoral services” of any departing pastor.

Such stepping away does not indicate in any way Bob’s lack of interest in or fondness for the congregation, but rather underscores the importance of letting the relationship lie fallow, so that a new relationship may form. The program staff, and Bob in particular, have spent considerable time listening to the wisdom of others who have navigated such transitions and learning from the experiences of exemplary churches. While acknowledging the grief that Bob knows in his heart around the document, Bob and the Session are convicted in offering it to the congregation and in living into the covenant.

It is the intention of both Bob and the Session to prevent members of UPC from feeling torn between old and new pastoral relationships, thereby avoiding pressures on the retiring pastor, the interim pastor, and the new pastor during the interim period and after a new pastor is called.


Are we going to have a party?

Yes! We will celebrate Bob and Marla’s ministry to the church and community.

Party: Who/where/when?

The confirmed date for a large gathering is Saturday, May 20 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.  We will celebrate at the Great Hall of the Carolina Union on UNC’s campus.

How much will this cost? Where will the money come from?

Funds for this modest celebration will be drawn from certain designated sources that are not part of the annual operating budget.

Will we be giving Bob and Marla gifts?

Yes! In concert with The Legacy Campaign, this congregation will have a special opportunity to honor Bob and Marla’s ministry in ways that are meaningful to all. In addition to the three priority items of the Legacy Campaign, the Team is planning for several smaller tokens of appreciation and love that we want to yet keep a surprise from Bob and Marla. Please ask a member of the Team if you are curious or have a suggestion!


An invitation has been mailed to UPC members and friends of the church (see below). Please RSVP by Friday, May 5. Send an email to or call Mary Ellen Olson at 919-942-1940. We hope you’ll join us for this joyous occasion!

For more information (and details on the free parking!) visit


Food, fun, and fellowship in celebration of Bob and Marla. A program celebrating the Dunhams will happen around 3:00 or 3:30.

Interim Pastor*

Why do we need an interim pastor – can’t we just skip that step?

Interim times between pastoral calls are now the norm in Presbyterian churches. Especially in the case of a long-tenured, beloved pastor, a congregation needs space and time to grieve, to adjust, and to be thoughtful about its desires for its next season of pastoral leadership. Interim pastors are trained especially for this important work. They offer leadership to a congregation in transition, help the church consider its identity and mission as it moves forward, and then move on to a new call when the congregation calls a new installed pastor. A church that neglects this important transition stage may well find that the new pastor becomes a functional interim, leaving more quickly than he/she might have done had the important groundwork been laid first.

After we find an interim pastor, do we have to do another search for a permanent senior pastor? How long will that take? When does that start? Who gets to pick that pastor?

Yes – The Transition Team is focused solely on the interim pastor. After an interim pastor arrives, the congregation’s Nominating Committee will nominate a Pastor Nominating Committee, to be voted on by the congregation. Some time in 2018, the PNC will begin a search, ultimately making a recommendation of a final candidate to the whole congregation, who will then vote on an installed pastor.

Who is really in charge after Bob leaves?

In the period between Bob’s departure and the arrival of an interim, Elizabeth Michael will serve as acting head of staff. UPC will continue to be guided by the wise leadership of Session, a gifted program staff and administrative staff, and the participation of its committed membership.

What happens to the interim associate pastor position? To other staff?

Elizabeth Michael, who is currently serving as our interim associate pastor, has a one-year contract that can be renewed at the end of each year. Her intention is to stay through the transition in senior pastors, provided UPC continues to be happy with that arrangement. An installed pastor can then determine, alongside the church, what kind of staffing model best suits the congregation, and from there UPC can fill the vacant associate position.

Other members of the staff have calls and contracts independent of Bob’s. This means that they may remain in place as long as they and UPC feel a mutual sense of call.

What criteria will we use to select an interim pastor?

The Transition Team, using guidance from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to develop those criteria in consultation with Presbytery, congregation, Session, and staff, crafted a Ministry Information Form (MIF). This form has now been posted and shared with the nationwide community of Presbyterians who may be interested in the position.

How are potential candidates identified?

Potential candidates formally express their interest by submitting a Pastor Information Form (PIF). The team can learn of a pastor’s interest through three main channels: direct self-referral by the pastor to the Transition Team, recommendations from staff and their professional colleagues, and through the PC (USA) online portal known as Church Leadership Connection (CLC). Once a PIF is received, each member of the Transition Team reviews it and shares her or his impression of the suitability of the individual for our interim pastor position.

Who gets to interview the candidates?

The Transition Team will conduct initial interviews and, when the field is narrowed, invite program staff into the process.

Has our interim pastor position and MIF received any interest?

Yes! As of April 18, our MIF had been viewed by 207 individuals on the CLC. The Transition Team has received 21 PIFs directly from interested pastors, either via CLC or email. Another 15 PIFs have been reported as potential “leadership matches” in CLC. In addition, there are several individuals who have been recommended by staff or their professional connections. Thus, the Team is currently reviewing information from 40 individuals.

How long will an interim pastor serve?

We hope to have an interim pastor in place by the beginning of the program year, in mid-September. We may get lucky and have someone in place before then!

The call of an interim pastor will be for one year, with the option to renew in 6 month increments. It is likely that we will have an interim for at least 18 months, and possibly longer depending on the progress of the Pastor Nominating Committee.

What will the interim pastor do?

The Interim Pastor will have the following responsibilities:

  • Preach regularly. Although the frequency is subject to negotiation with existing pastoral staff, he/she should expect to lead services about three times each month.
  • Manage, encourage, and support the existing pastoral and administrative staffs. This will be considered a high priority during this time of transition.
  • Share pastoral care with other members of the staff, nurturing and caring for the members of the congregation.
    Administer the sacraments and conduct funerals and weddings.
  • Moderate Session and, along with other members of staff, resource the church’s committees
  • Help the Session and congregation to organize and conduct a Mission Study using guidelines published by the Presbytery of New Hope.
  • Subject to his or her time and interest, take on a teaching role within the congregation.

What is a Mission Study?

The Mission Study is a process of gathering facts about the community we serve, identifying UPC’s core values and sense of mission going forward, and soliciting feedback from the congregation in preparation for the search for an installed pastor. Presbytery asks each church in a pastoral transition to complete a mission study. The interim pastor will offer leadership for this study as UPC prepares to articulate its sense of identity and mission to the wider community and potential pastoral candidates.

When will a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) be elected?

The exact timing has not yet been decided, but will be dependent on completing the Mission Study. We can anticipate that a PNC will be in place in the first half of 2018.

Can the Interim pastor become the Installed pastor?

In short, no. For a discussion of the factors that influence this Presbytery-wide policy, please seek out Elizabeth Michael.

What if I want to help/comment/question or don’t like what I see from this process?

Please feel free to contact any of the Transition Team members. The team is expecting to have input from and collaboration with everyone. On Sunday, March 5th, The Transition Team hosted a Live Q&A session for all members of the church family in Fellowship Hall following the 11:00 worship service.

I know a pastor who would be fantastic as an interim at UPC–what do I do?

Please feel free to contact any of the Transition Team members. While we already have several suggested pastors, we welcome other ideas! (If you have a suggestion for an installed pastor, please hold those until the Pastor Nominating Committee begins its work in 2018.)