Concert to be a celebration for the Wichita area
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The Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church is reaching out into the community on Friday, July 15, during its time as host of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.
During what has typically been a night for delegates only at the quadrennial conference – which encompasses United Methodists from 12 regions within eight states, Nebraska to Texas and New Mexico to Louisiana – organizers of the 2016 event wanted to reach out beyond the convention hall in Wichita.
“We wanted to do something that would not be an internal focus, but would reach out to the community of Wichita and increase the visibility of The United Methodist Church and share God’s love with people,” said the Rev. Evelyn Fisher, director of congregational excellence for the Great Plains Conference.
The result is an Area Night concert, a Gospel celebration dubbed “God’s Love is Greater Than …” at Century II Convention Center, 225 W. Douglas Ave., Wichita. Century II is next door to the Hyatt Regency, where the South Central Jurisdiction is meeting.
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“Martin’s a really creative individual who’s done a lot of productions,” Fisher said. “The idea of a concert with a nationally known artist and a mass choir didn’t need to be ‘sold.’”
The nationally known artist is William McDowell, a Grammy Award nominee for best gospel album for his third release, 2013’s “Withholding Nothing.”
His performance was secured by Carla Williams, a member of Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita and a former gospel music manager and producer.
McDowell’s most recent album, “Sounds of Revival,” was released in January and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart.
A native of Cincinnati who turns 40 this summer, McDowell also is pastor of Deeper Fellowship Church, a congregation in Orlando, Florida, that he founded 18 years ago.
“In 1998, while riding in the back seat of a car from Cleveland back to Cincinnati, I had an open vision about a place where people were discipled and trained in life, in worship, and the arts,” McDowell says on his church’s website. “However, at the time I did not know what it meant.
“It was a vivid vision, the kind that you remember for the rest of your life. I asked the Lord, ‘Where is this place to be?’ and He clearly said, ‘Orlando, Florida – and I'm going to use you to build it,’” he continued. “That was quite a large task for a young man who had never lived away from home except for in a college dorm room, 40 minutes away.”
McDowell will be backed by a mass choir of singers from throughout Kansas, who have been practicing weekly since early June. Fisher said the choir, which includes singers from as far away as Topeka and Dodge City, is expected to number about 200.
Admission to the concert is $5, and proceeds benefit two Great Plains-supported agencies: United Methodist Open Door, which provides food, clothing and shelter to the disadvantaged in the Wichita area; and GraceMed, a medical, dental, vision and psychological service provider based in Wichita that on July 1 expanded to Topeka and, by late 2016 or early 2017, into McPherson.
Fisher said that although the Great Plains will not likely host the South Central Jurisdictional Conference for a few years, the tradition of a community-outreach concert could continue.
“There are other wonderful mission agencies in the conference that we could benefit with such an event in the future,” she said.