The Rev. Ruben Saenz Jr.’s first day as bishop of the Great Plains Conference was a blend of the new and the familiar.
“It’s day one on one hand,” Saenz said after a cookout Sept. 1 with the Wichita staff, “but on the other hand I feel like I’ve had a good on-ramp and a good sense of integration and a continuance of the good work that’s already been started here.”
Saenz, who began as bishop of the Great Plains Conference on Sept. 1, was previously director of connectional ministries and missions vitality center leader for the Rio Texas Conference, based in San Antonio.
“It just feels natural to be here,” he said on his first day. “I knew a lot of people from the Great Plains before I was appointed here, so there are a lot of familiar faces.
“The culture of the building and the way people relate to each other says a lot about the sense of collegiality at work here,” he added. “It’s a culture that is supportive of each other, encouraging of others and attuned to be a servant of the annual conference and the local churches.”
Saenz said he was excited about being a part of the Great Plains and his colleagues at the conference.
“My first impression is that people know what their work is, they know how things work and that they work with a passion,” Saenz said. “The people are excited about being a part of the Great Plains Annual Conference.”
Saenz was joined at the cookout by his wife, Maye. The couple celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary last month.
The Rev. Evelyn Fisher, director of congregational excellence for the conference, said the staff was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new leader.
“Everybody’s really enthusiastic and ready to welcome Bishop Saenz,” she said. “We’re looking forward to the new perspective he’s going to bring.”
The Rev. Nathan Stanton, director of new church development a clergy delegate to the General Conference and the South Central Jurisdictional Conference, said the appointment of Saenz is a natural progression from the Great Plains’ former bishop, Scott Jones, who began Sept. 1 as bishop of the Texas Conference in the Houston area.
“It’s great to have a fresh start with new leadership to build on the leadership that was provided through the transition of three annual conferences into one,” Stanton said of the merger of the former Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska conferences in 2014. “It’s a great opportunity for new ministry and new momentum.”
Stanton said that Saenz was the top choice by all of the South Central Jurisdiction that had openings for a bishop, and that the Great Plains was fortunate to have Saenz.
“We knew he had the ability to bring new vision, fresh energy and a strategic mind. He’s done revitalization, new church development as both a pastor and a conference staff person,” Stanton said. “He just really embodied so many of the attributes that many annual conferences wish they had in an episcopal leader.”
Saenz said he plans to get acquainted with the clergy, laity and churches of the Great Plains as much as he can in his first few months in office.
“For me to finally be here and be on the ground and to see my calendar for the next four months is exciting,” he said. “It helps me just know what the next steps are.
“I’m ready to get to work,” Saenz added.
Contact David Burke, communications coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.