At The Threshold


About Ashlee and Shelly

Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford — Rev. Ashlee Alley-Crawford is the Clergy Recruitment and Development Coordinator for the Great Plains Conference of the UMC, calling Lincoln her (most recent) home. She works with people as they are discerning a call to ministry and helps them through the credentialing process in The United Methodist Church. She also directs a young clergy leadership program. Prior to her current position, she served for 12 years in campus ministry, the last nine at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas.
Rev. Dr. Shelly Petz — The Rev. Shelly Petz is an elder in The United Methodist Church. She works with the Great Plains Conference on topics of clergy faith and wellness. She earned a bachelor's of science in psychology from Kansas State University and a master's of divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology. She earned a doctorate of ministry from Drew Theological Seminary, with an emphasis in worship, preaching, and spirituality.  She has served rural, county seat, and suburban congregations in Kansas, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. 


"At the Threshold" is a podcast for ministry leaders during this new, unsettled season in the life of the Church.

Join hosts the Revs. Ashlee Alley Crawford and Shelly Petz as they host conversation with and for clergy in order to describe what’s happening, ask questions to help us get “unstuck," and encourage the heart of pastors and leaders in this liminal time in which we find ourselves.

Liminal may be a new word. But a new season calls for a new word. Liminal means a threshold from what we’ve always know to … well, we don’t know just yet what life and ministry is becoming. The hosts' goal is to find a little light at the threshold.

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Proclaiming Great Joy

This has been a hard year, hasn’t it? Between the “typical” challenges of pastoral leadership, the last few years have brought a great deal of conflict and pressure in the lives of clergy. We do not want to gloss over or minimize the challenges, and yet, our theology compels us forward. Psalm 126:5 is our banner: “Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy!” The opportunity for tears has been plentiful. Is it possible for a harvest of joy to be on the horizon?

For Summer 2021, At the Threshold will be “Proclaiming Great Joy.” Instead of providing interviews with people who can help us navigate the liminal season of the pandemic, we are collecting stories of joy that clergy are experiencing. Starting the week of June 21 and continuing over the course of the summer, we will release episodes in video and podcast form. As a way of connecting for conversation (and hopefully exhortation of one another), we invite pastors to gather via Zoom once in June, July, and August so that we might encourage one another to continue on in this hard and important work of pastoring God’s people in the Great Plains. Those who join at least two of the three sessions will receive a “Joy Box” full of some resources and items that help pastors plant—and harvest—seeds of joy in their lives and communities.  

  • This first episode in our series sets the tone by sharing why we’re talking about joy right now and introduces you to the stories of three clergy: Cathy Holley of New Covenant UMC in Wichita and Norwich UMC in Norwich, Kansas; Jim Reed, retired elder living in Manhattan; and Susan Murithi, serving St. Paul UMC in St. Paul, Nebraska. We invite you to watch and share these stories, and consider where joy might be growing in your own life and community as well! Listen to the podcast.
  • This second episode continues the conversation about how pastors are finding joy in this season. Hear the stories of: Ever Mudambanuki of First UMC of Nebraska City, NE; Amy Lippoldt of St. Paul UMC of Papillion, NE; and Kathy Symes of Wellsville and Clearfield UMC’s in Wellsville and Clearfield, KS. Listen to the podcast.
  • Episode Three is a delightful conversation about joy in which you can hear the stories of: Eduardo Bousson, University Minister at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, NE; Kirstie Engel of First United Methodist Church in Lincoln, NE; and Velma Tim, of LaCygne and New Lancaster UMCs in Kansas. Listen to the podcast (coming soon). Listen to the podcast.
  • Episode Four invites you to consider the connection between gratitude and joy. Take a look to hear the stories of Jeff Goetzinger of Little River and Mitchell Chapel UMC’s in KS; Juan Carlos Veloso of Grace UMC in Omaha, NE; and Changsu Kim of Shawnee UMC, in Shawnee, KS. Listen to the podcast.
  • Episode Five includes two more testimonies and a reflection on some of what we heard throughout these five episodes. The guests are Rev. Karla Sheffy of First UMC in Emporia and Rev. Eric Meyer of Trinity UMC in Salina. Listen to the podcast. 
  • August 26, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Register here

For questions, reach out to Ashlee or Shelly.


Featured Episodes

Pastoral Transitions

Ending Well — July 1 brings a change for a number of pastors and churches in the United Methodist Church every year and this year is no different. But what is different are some of the challenges of getting to know the congregation or appointment year. Ending a season of ministry is always hard — but really important. This episode kicks off the first of three conversations about Pastoral Transitions. Rev. Nancy Lambert, the retiring Director of Clergy Excellence and Assistant to the Bishop, is joined Rev. Dee Williamston, who will assume that role in July and has served for the last seven years as the District Superintendent, to discuss essential practices and spiritual intentionality during transition.

Download the episode | Watch a Video Presentation


Starting Well —  This is the second of three conversations that we’re hosting about Pastoral Transitions. Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff and Rev. Stefanie Hayes both made transitions to different congregations in the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic. They both share some of the challenges in a move and the tangible steps for starting well. This episode debuted April 22, 2021.

Download the episode | Watch a Video Presentation



Going with God in Change — This is the third of three conversations that we’re hosting about Pastoral Transitions. Rev. Charles Nyamakope is a “Pandemic Pastor,” having made a transition last year and Rev. Berniece Ludlum is preparing for a move this year. They both share from their experiences about walking with God in the midst of transition.

Download the episode | Watch a Video Presentation


Hindsight 2020: A Conversation with Great Plains Leaders

When 2020 started, we anticipated that the cataclysmic event for us in the Great Plains UMC would be the General Conference of the UMC. No one expected that we would navigate a global pandemic. As 2020 comes to a close, we’ve invited six Conference Leaders to reflect a bit on this historic year and are calling our conversation Hindsight 2020. We ask them questions like: What have you learned from this season? What has surprised you? Where is your hope? We also discover some guilty pleasures and travel plans in the year ahead. Join Bishop Saenz, Directors Nancy Lambert, Nathan Stanton, Todd Seifert, and Scott Brewer, and Dean of the Cabinet, Mitch Reece as we ask them to stop, take a look around and even within. We invite you to do the same. These episodes debuted Dec. 17, 2020.

  • Part 1 introduces all of our guests and goes deeper with Bishop Saenz, Nancy Lambert and Scott Brewer.
  • Part 2 goes deeper with Nathan Stanton, Todd Seifert and Mitch Reece and includes a Lightning Round and a pep talk.

Health, Habits and Hibernation

This year has been a challenging year and has taken a physical toll on many of us. We will be talking with three brave pastors about ways that they connect their physical health with discipleship and spiritual leadership. Join Ashlee and Shelly as they talk with the Rev. Cindy Watson, the Rev. Dr. Lisa Wiens Thompson, and the recently retired Rev. Dennis Livingston. Our aim is to invite all to identify at least one way to help build resiliency as we approach winter. This episode debuted Nov. 18, 2020.


Bridging the Divide: Ministry in Divisive Times

Our unity — or lack of it — is a witness to Jesus’ work in the world. As the Church we send confusing messages to those who are watching because of how Christians are representing diverse viewpoints. Today’s conversation invites us to consider how we can engage in difficult conversations in our local churches. Rev. Nancy Lambert, director of Clergy Excellence and assistant to the bishop for the Great Plains Conference, joins Shelly and Ashlee to share about the invitation offered to Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, to join the clergy in the upcoming Orders and Fellowship event. Schade is the assistant professor of preaching and worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky, and is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Her book, Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide, which came out in 2019, explores how clergy and churches can address controversial social issues using nonpartisan, biblically centered approaches and deliberative dialogue. Find more resources on this subject. This episode debuted Oct. 29, 2020.

Theology 101 — Three-Part Series

Part 1: Theological Foundations in an Unsettled Season — The first in a 3-part series, this conversation names some of the questions that are facing Christians in these unsettling times. The local church has been brought into the headlines of the pandemic in several notable ways—namely, whether churches should/can be restricted from meeting and even the role of churches in the earliest spread of the virus through funerals, weddings, and worship. These scenarios reveal something about our theology of the church, and of God. In this conversation, we invite Dr. Jackson Lashier and Rev. Dr. Jonathan Redding to help us tease out some of the theological foundations that point toward a faithful witness of God in these turbulent times. Download the podcast. Watch the YouTube video.

Part 2: Psalms and Lament — The second in a 3-part series, “Back to School: Theology 101” where we are looking at theological concerns during this season of pandemic. Grief is a part of the human experience, but typically the entire world isn’t grieving all at once. Our guest today acknowledges this grief and the soul shaping aspects of this season by pointing us to the worship book of the ancients, the Psalms. Dr. Kris Kvam, professor of Theology at Saint Paul School of Theology in Greater Kansas City and Oklahoma City, guides us through some painful and healing words of scripture that point toward a faithful witness of God in these turbulent times. This episode debuted Sept. 22, 2020. Download the podcast. Watch the webinar video. 

Part 3: Theological Foundations in an Unsettled Season — This third episode in a three-part series, “Back to School: Theology 101,” focuses on the Church, with a “big C.” By that, we mean the Body of Christ, the believers across the world and in our own congregations. Our individual churches — little “c” — are experiencing disruption as we can’t gather in ways that we’re used to gathering. We’ve invited two early church scholars, Dr. Amy Oden and Rev. Austin Rivera to join us to help us look behind us in order to look ahead to a future with hope. This episode debuted Oct. 7, 2020. Download the podcast.

Discerning Spiritual Direction in a Season of Uncertainty

This episode's topic is "Discerning Spiritual Direction in a Season of Uncertainty." The practice of spiritual direction is an act of paying attention to God in an intentional way. It’s always a good idea to cultivate a relationship with a spiritual director, but if ever there was a time to do so, this season of uncertainty and possibility is it! Some may call it spiritual companioning or spiritual friendship, but the key elements in spiritual direction are attending to the presence, the activity, and the Voice of God in one’s life through the gentle direction of another. We hear from three trained spiritual directors (above, from left, Rev. Steve Griffith, Rev. Dr. Connie Wilson, and Matthew Johnson) — who speak to the power of attending to God’s presence, leaning into the solitude and vulnerability of this season, and find partners who can hold safe space for us as we navigate new possibilities.

This episode debuted Aug. 27, 2020.

For more resources on this subject, check links on this page.

Material Poverty in the Midst of a Pandemic

This episode's topic invites us to dig beneath the surface on those who are experiencing poverty of material resources in this season of economic and health insecurity in which people with little financial insulation are finding themselves struggling for material resources. Those who are experiencing this are our neighbors. They are our family and friends. They are us. We hear from two people who can help us see those who may be invisible and discuss ways that we might be able to share hope in tangible ways: Rev. Kalaba Chali, the Conference Mercy and Justice Coordinator and Rev. Marcee Binder, the newly appointed Mission Outreach and Justice Ministries Coordinator for the Missouri River District. 

This episode debuted on Aug. 13, 2020.

For more resources on this subject, check out links on this page.

The Church as an Educational Partner

This conversation is the second of a two part series about education. As we shared previously, the Founder of the Methodist Movement, John Wesley, thought that one of the ways that society could be re-formed was through education for all (Listen to our last conversation here). Because of Wesley’s emphasis on instructing children both at home and in formal schools, hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities were founded and the influence of Sunday School in the US and England took root. We are privileged today to have National Teacher of the Year, Tabatha Rosproy, Early Childhood Educator who directs a preschool in a nursing home in Winfield, KS and Dr. Tawana Grover, superintendent of schools at Grand Island (NE) Public Schools. Since March, they have navigated the educational challenges that have emerged during the Coronavirus. They share about their experiences in this challenging season and identify ways that churches can partner to support this important work on behalf of our children.

This episode debuted on July 31, 2020.

For more resources on this subject, check out links on this page


Children's Ministry in Liminal Time

In recent years, Christian Education has often been left in the hands of church leaders.  In the disrupted season in which we now find ourselves, churches and families are trying to figure out how to partner together to spiritually form their children in ways that are new and different than before the stress of a pandemic, economic difficulties, social injustices, and uncertainty shifted the day-to-day of “normal” life.

This episode explores the spiritual needs of parents and children during this season of the coronavirus crisis, ways that families can engage in discipleship together, and what churches can do in terms of outreach, mission, evangelism, and discipleship during this season. Shelly and Ashlee are joined by Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford who serves as the Intergenerational Discipleship Coordinator of the Great Plains Conference, Mona Candea who currently serves as Children’s Ministry Coordinator at Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe, KS, and Madison Stumbough, who is the Family Ministries Director at Grace United Methodist Church in Winfield, KS.

This episode debuted July 16, 2020.

For more resources on this subject, check out links on this page.



Death in the time of COVID-19

Watch the video recording of the webinar on our YouTube page. Click the "CC" button on YouTube if you want/need the captions.

Most of us have a somewhat complicated relationship with death, but as Wesleyans, we’ve got an important heritage and witness in our founder, John Wesley’s relationship with death. He explored the depth of the realities and the art of dying throughout his life, to ultimately proclaim in his own death, “The best of all, God is with us.” God is indeed with us in our living and in our dying. This episode explores three different perspective on death during this COVID-19 season of our collective lives. Dr. Steve Short, a Manhattan, KS pulmonary specialist who went to Brooklyn, NY during the heart of the outbreak, shares about his experiences with patients and medical teams and shares how he’s leaning on his faith in this time. Rev. Shelly McNaughton-Lawrence was navigating being a pastor and a daughter in the first weeks of the pandemic as she grieved the loss of her mother’s life to COVID-19 and shares how she’s processing her own grief as well as grief within her community. Hospital Chaplain, Rev. Becky Johnson, shares some practical ways that churches and pastors can minister to the sick and dying and emphasizes the important ministry of prayer. 
This episode debuted July 2, 2020.

For more resources on this subject, check out links on this page.

Spiritual Leadership During This Challenging Season

The uncertainty and opportunity in this season invites us to look to our spiritual leaders for a sense of how to navigate it’s challenges and embrace what is emerging. Bishop Saenz is joined by retired bishops Ann Shearer Simpson and Bruce Blake to share how they themselves are navigating this season and offer their perspectives on Spiritual Leadership during this new and challenging season. 

This episode debuted June 19, 2020.

Download this episode.

Practical Questions for New Ways of Ministry

Several Great Plains pastors join Ashlee and Shelly to identify some of the questions — and opportunities — during this new season! (Above, from left) Pastors Maria Campbell, Craig Finnestad, Jeff Gannon and Berniece Ludlum share about some of their challenges in the first months of shifting ministry as well as ways that they’re experiencing being a part of the Church differently in this season and hope to continue to experience in the season ahead.

This episode debuted June 2, 2020.

Download this episode.

Mental Health Check-in

Seanne Larson Emmerton, a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed independent mental health provider who comes from a long line of United Methodists, including circuit riders has a special interest in spirituality and health. Her specialties are relationships, trauma and resilience using positive psychology and a strength-based model. This episode debuted May 21, 2020.

Download the episode.

For more resources on this subject, check out links on this page.


Creativity, Comparing and Coping

This first episode is a Zoom conversation that Ashlee and Shelly hosted with nearly 30 clergy from the Great Plains Conference. They asked four pastors to serve as a panel, sharing from their experiences leading churches in these first two months after the COVID-19 crisis. The Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede (above, left) serves as the senior pastor of St. Paul UMC in the Historic Benson Neighborhood in Omaha. The Rev. Isaac Chua (second from left) is the pastor of two churches, Laurel and Logan Center UMCs in Nebraska. The Rev. Cindi Stewart (second from right) serves as the lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in Columbus, Nebraska. And the Rev. Jeff Clinger (right) serves as the lead pastor at First United Methodist Church in Topeka, Kansas. The topic of this discussion was "Creativity, Comparing, and Coping" — three responses that we’ve seen in ourselves and in other pastoral leaders during this new time. This episode debuted May 7, 2020.

Download the episode.