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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.