We welcome David O'Dowd as UPC's Interim Pastor!

9/2: A message from David:

  1. Pastoral changes are different and more complex and nuanced than any other institutional leadership change.
  2. The descriptor "intentional" interim is not unique to me, but it is the best one for what I have done and how I desire to serve, serve with, and lead UPC, her officers, and her staff, through this significant transition. How people and elders come to see and proactively respond wisely to this season as a gift of God's caring Providence for UPC will have a great impact on your seeking and choosing the next Senior Pastor.
  3. In addition to the crucial work of doing a major portion of preaching God's Word on Sundays, praying with and for you, moderating the Session, and participating in other pastoral duties, I will have open ears and heart as I get to know many of you and listen to and learn from you. Having an "outsider" who hears with more neutral ears and sees with fresh eyes can help both elders and people prepare themselves in strengthened ways to co-labor alongside the next pastor.
  4. I will care for you deeply — that's already happening as I prepare to join you. But I also have no personal interest in and come pledging not to entertain a call as your pastor, thus, I am able to speak very directily but I hope tenderly to what I'm observing and guide elders and congregation towards applying core implications of "the Gospel of God" to how pastors, officers, staff, and people relate to each another to the glory of God and his Christ.
  5. It is an incredible privilege to be God's people, and an even more overwhelming privilege to be called to serve and shepherd among a congregation. Christ Jesus is our needed and only adequacy.

I, and my wife, Mary Nell, so look forward to joining you soon.

David O'Dowd

8/21: The Session and staff of UPC are pleased and excited to introduce to you our new Interim Pastor, David O’Dowd.

What is an Interim Pastor? Simply put, David will be our Lead Pastor while UPC prepares to search for and call a new Senior Pastor. The position is defined and intended to be short in duration and — like Matt, Mike, and Mark were — is under the authority of the Central Florida Presbytery. David will not only preach regularly, but will also moderate the Session. He will guide the Elders and the church in this transition and in readying the congregation for the election of a pastor search committee, and the selection and calling of our next Senior Pastor. David will be starting in mid-September.

David comes to us with rich experience as an Interim Pastor. He was the Interim Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee which is a multi-staff church of 600 in Sunday attendance and 900 in membership. Further he was Interim Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia with more than 800 in Sunday attendance, 900 members, and six staff pastors.

He was the staff Senior Pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma for 11 years and Seminole Presbyterian Church in Tampa, Florida for nine years. Prior to that he was an Associate Pastor/Chief of Staff at Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church in Key Biscayne, Florida for six years. He served as full-time faculty at Reformed Theological Seminary and began his ministry on Cru staff in Boston/Cambridge for seven years.

David has been married to Mary Nell for 41 years, and together they have 3 children: Michael, Daniel and Erin. They currently live in Tampa, Florida and are looking for rental housing here in East Orlando where they will stay for the duration of the interim role.

Please join us in joy and thanksgiving as we welcome David and Mary Nell to UPC as he leads us and guides us in the Word and work of the church.

Other Updates...

8/21: As you know, on August 6, the elders emailed a staffing update on the progress of our searches for the interim pastor, the senior pastor and the youth director. You can read the complete text here. What follows below are excerpts from the full text.
     The Session continues to meet weekly in its goal to help get UPC to a healthy place while we wait for God to provide both a senior and a youth pastor.

Q. Interim Pastor: David O'Dowd
A. 8/21: On Tuesday, August 17, David O'Dowd was approved by the Central Florida Presbytery to be our interim pastor. As you can read above, David is very experienced both as a Senior Pastor and as an Interim. The Session is very pleased that God has brought him to us. We believe that, with God’s grace, he will help strengthen UPC and prepare us for our next Senior Pastor.

Q. Senior Pastor Search Update
A. 8/21: Until David is actually in place in mid-September, we have been counseled to delay the formation of the Senior Pastor Search Committee. Since he will be working with the Search Committee as an advisor, time is needed for him to get acclimated and to gain more knowledge about UPC. The Search Committee formation is scheduled for later in the fall. We will provide more details regarding the search committee in the coming weeks.
     The elders have engaged McGowan Global Institute (MGI) as a partner in our search for a senior pastor. MGI has been involved in over 150 successful pastor searches and has worked with over 100 churches in our denomination. They will assist us through the entire process.
     MGI will also advise us on how to put together a Pastor Search Committee, which will be made up of UPC members.

Q. Youth Director Update
A. 9/2: We continue to sift through and interview candidates for the youth pastor position. Things are happening, and we will keep you posted as the process continues.
      We are continuing the search process with our consultant, Christian Teams (CT). CT will screen each candidate to ensure that there is a reasonable match with our needs and the candidate’s qualifications and career goals. We have no leads to share right now.
     We are committed to hiring a Youth Ministries director now ... and not wait for a new senior pastor to arrive.

The three remaining positions — Connect Ministries, Grow Ministries and Serve Ministries — will not be filled until we get a senior pastor.

Q. Who are the elders?
A. There are six of us right now: Tim Maguire, John Webb, Harvey Spears, Vic Godlewski, Brent Larson and Chris Akers. Some in UPC have expressed confusion as to who we are, and we definitely want the church to know the elders are engaged in the challenges facing the church right now. As a result, we are taking more opportunities to increase our visibility (such as leading the intercessory prayer on Sundays) and to strengthen our connection with our members and attenders.

The elders’ contact information is at the bottom of this page — please reach out with any questions, and we will get you the answers you need in a timely manner.


Message From the Elders About Matt's New Call

On June 6, Harvey Spears, one of our elders, read a statement addressing Matt's call to a new church plant in the Minneapolis area. Here is the message Harvey read.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Matt’s Departure

Q. Why is Matt leaving UPC?
A. Matt is leaving to plant a church in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, MN. He and Hana believe God is leading him to this new venture. It is their desire to be obedient and to follow Jesus Christ, even though that means leaving UPC.

Q. Why did Matt cast vision for a new shepherding plan and staff structure just a couple weeks before announcing he was leaving?
A. Matt and Hana were asked to consider planting a church in Minneapolis back in December, but did not feel God was calling them to pursue it. Thus Matt continued to lead the church as usual, including implementing plans he had been working on with the session for many months previously. It was only after Matt laid out the plans to the congregation on May 16 that he and Hana began to sense God was calling them to move.

Q. What is the future of the shepherding plan?
A. The Elders are going to proceed with the shepherding plan as it has been laid out. If you are in a Community Group, the elder assigned to you should already be in contact with your leader. The shepherding plan was designed to provide for knowing, feeding, leading and protecting the members of UPC, and that hasn’t changed regardless of our lack of a pastor right now. Therefore, the elders will continue to pursue plans for shepherding the church.

Q. How do the Elders feel about Matt’s decision to leave UPC?
A. The elders are united in their support of Matt’s decision. Although they do not want Matt to leave, they want Matt to follow the leading the Holy Spirit. 

Q. How can I give a special love offering to Matt and Hana?
A. Click here!

Q. Will Matt’s departure hurt UPC’s ministry?
A. We will only be able to answer this question as time passes. However, we are confident that God has great plans for UPC in His mission to extend His Kingdom and to create life change in East Orlando. We believe UPC is well situated to continue the work God has given to us and for the ministry to grow.

Q. Who will be preaching on Sundays after Matt leaves?
A. Fortunately, we have a "deep bench" in our own congregation and in our Presbytery.
     Also, we are looking for an interim pastor. We have already had several leads, and contacts have been made.

This is an excellent opportunity for all of us to pull together as a community of faith and to exercise our faith as we continue our ministries with the knowledge that we serve a loving God who cares deeply about UPC and her future.


Contact an Elder...