David Burke

David Burke serves as the content specialist for the Great Plains Conference.


Amid pandemic, Lydia Patterson faces difficulties due to border closing

March 31, 2020

The good news for Lydia Patterson Institute is that the school was already technologically equipped for the coronavirus-related shutdown of all schools in El Paso, Texas, that began March 16. “We were prepared to finish online,” school President Socorro de Anda said in a phone interview. “We’ve ...


Ministry amid coronavirus: stories from across the Great Plains

March 30, 2020

  The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the creativity, compassion and caring of churches and clergy in the Great Plains Conference.  In the past few weeks, new ideas have been tried and longtime staples have been adjusted because of the limits of crowd sizes and the dangers of infecting some ...


Via livestream, conference’s first Laity Summit rolls on

March 23, 2020

Like many other events scheduled for the month of March, the Great Plains Conference’s first Laity Summit did not go according to plan. Media producer Eugenio Hernandez, left, instructs Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and Shane Warta, lay leadership coordinator, before the beginning of the Laity Summit ...


Legislator, Resurrection ‘force’ Nancy Brown dies at 77

March 12, 2020

Those who knew her best remember Nancy Brown as someone who cared deeply for her church and her community. Brown, who died of complications from cancer March 9 at age 77, served from 1984-1994 in the Kansas House of Representatives from the 27th District. She was also one of the founding members ...


Great Plains delegation votes to endorse protocol

March 11, 2020

In their meeting on Feb. 28, the Great Plains Conference delegation approved these actions: The Great Plains Delegation formally endorses the items presented by Wespath to safeguard pensions during this turbulent time. The Great Plains Delegation formally endorses the Protocol of Reconciliation ...


Some worship elements in Great Plains change thanks to coronavirus scare

March 11, 2020

Handshakes, for now, are out. The Passing of the Peace during many worship services in the Great Plains Conference replaced the handshakes with fist bumps, elbow touches, waves, toe taps, peace signs, bows and even a Vulcan salute a la “Star Trek.” The Rev. Chris Jorgensen, pastor of Omaha ...


'Breaking Chains' theme of 2020 LEAF sessions

February 18, 2020

Kansas Secretary of Labor Delia Garcia, Secretary of Labor Randy Watson and Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman participate in a panel discussion at LEAF. Photos by David Burke More than 90 people focused on stopping what they see as oppression during a ...


Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day becomes a tribute to its longtime leader

February 12, 2020

The 45th annual Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day included a tribute to its longtime leader. Ruby Thelander from Lincoln, who was among the founders of the event co-sponsored by United Methodist Women, is stepping down as its chair. “I’m going to stay on the committee, but I’m not ...


Prairie Rivers wins inaugural ‘Kansaska Cup’ for mission shares payout

February 05, 2020

The Prairie Rivers District is the first home for the Kansaska Cup, a new traveling trophy presented to the district with the highest mission share payout for a calendar year. The district, covering south-central Nebraska, finished 2019 with a 97.9% payout. The Rev. Lance Clay, Prairie Rivers ...


Topeka churches beefing up security after series of break-ins

February 05, 2020

Two Topeka United Methodist churches are surveying damage, estimating loss, and considering new security measures after each suffered several burglaries over the past few months. Topeka First United Methodist Church Topeka First UMC suffered burglaries Dec. 2, 19 and 24, as well as Jan. 9. “The ...


Retirement brings close of ministry for district superintendents Watson, Bakely, Livingston

January 28, 2020

A trio of district superintendents with more than 80 years combined in the ministry have announced their retirements from the Great Plains Conference.  The Rev. David Watson, DS of the Five Rivers and Parsons districts, is stepping down after 38 years in the ministry. The Rev. Dennis Livingston, DS ...


Clergy get lowdown on ABCD at Orders & Fellowship

January 22, 2020

Presenters during the 2020 Orders & Fellowship gathering asked clergy to adhere to one unofficial rule.  Any time the words “need” or “needy” were uttered, the clergy in the sanctuary at Lincoln St. Mark’s United Methodist Church on Jan. 14-15 were encouraged to boo.  Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. ...


Western Kansas churches raise money to erase school lunch debt

January 22, 2020

Before Christmas last year, the Rev. Patrick Broz was asked by his wife, the Rev. Abby Caseman, what he wanted for a present.  “I don’t need anything — which is what she got me,” recalled Broz, pastor of Colby United Methodist Church. “So, I said what I’d like to be able to do is pay off all the ...


Barlow-Thompson preaches on the power of neighboring

January 21, 2020

When he started discussing Asset-Based Community Development with people a decade ago, the Rev. Adam Barlow-Thompson said, “their eyes would glaze over.”  Rev. Adam Barlow-Thompson, co-founder of The Neighboring Movement, delivers the opening sermon at Orders & Fellowship. Photo by David Burke ...


Bishop discusses protocol plan with Great Plains clergy

January 21, 2020

The Jan. 3 announcement of the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation came as a surprise to many United Methodists, including Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.  “Everyone was caught off guard, including many on the Council of Bishops,” the Great Plains Conference episcopal leader told clergy ...


More than 250 gather for Resist Harm rallies in Topeka, Omaha

January 06, 2020

A day after the announcement of a proposal for a way forward for The United Methodist Church by letting more traditional congregations form a new denomination, clergy and laity in the Great Plains Conference gathered to support their LGBTQ siblings in two rallies. The Resist Harm gatherings Jan. 4 ...


Pastor pleased with protocol announcement, but says work is still to come

January 06, 2020

A Great Plains Conference pastor who was among those consulted in the first steps of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation said he’s pleased with the outcome of the document released Jan. 3, but there is still work ahead. “I think it’s a huge step forward. It’s an ...


Year ahead to include monumental decisions, new events and changes to existing ones

December 18, 2019

As with the brink of any new year, there’s anticipation of what may lie ahead in the next 12 months. But 2020 could likely be a monumental year in The United Methodist Church. It is the end of a quadrennium, meaning both General and Jurisdictional conferences will take place, and the former is ...


Churches will see increases in property insurance premiums for 2020

December 17, 2019

Some churches in the Great Plains Conference could see their property insurance premiums increase by at least 25% in 2020.  The churches were part of a mandatory insurance program implemented by the former Kansas East Conference in 1999. About 50 churches that were formerly in the Kansas West and ...


Rev. Cecil Bliss, pastor during Lincoln St. Mark's move, is remembered

December 11, 2019

The pastor at the helm of Lincoln St. Mark’s United Methodist Church when the denomination’s largest congregation in the state decided to move to a new, larger location is remembered by those throughout Nebraska. The Rev. Cecil Bliss died Nov. 29 in Lincoln at age 86. Rev. Cecil Bliss died Nov. 29...


Great Plains delegates vote to endorse Williamston

November 19, 2019

Members of the Great Plains delegation to the General and Jurisdictional conferences say a prayer of blessing over the Rev. Dee Williamston after their decision to endorse her for the episcopacy. Photo by Scott Brewer   A 22-year veteran of the military and current Hays and Salina district ...


Bishop Saenz looks forward to work with General Board of Global Ministries

November 13, 2019

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. says he’s excited about the possibilities in the next quadrennium in his appointment to the General Board of Global Ministries. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. confers with fellow bishops at the special session of the General Conference in February in St. Louis. File photos by Todd ...


Bishop Saenz chosen to deliver sermon during 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis

November 12, 2019

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. will get his largest congregation yet during the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis. The episcopal leader of the Great Plains Conference has been chosen to give the sermon on the morning of May 8. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. delivers a sermon at the Great Plains Annual ...


Great Plains internships for 2020 will help local churches grow leaders

October 30, 2019

The summer internship program for the Great Plains Conference in 2020 will be calling on local churches to help identify potential leaders. Applications have opened for the 10-week internships in youth ministry, kids ministry and pastoral ministry, as well as the Micah Corps program. For 2020, ...


New webpage, materials celebrate 'Great Start' in the Great Plains

October 23, 2019

A new webpage and promotional materials are out in hopes of convincing potential clergy that they can have a great start in the Great Plains Conference. The Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford, clergy recruitment and development coordinator, said the Great Start project began as a way to recruit seminary ...


After special session, Church of the Resurrection changes its Leadership Institute plans

October 01, 2019

Just like it had done for the previous 20 years, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection began planning its annual Leadership Institute a week after the close of the 2018 gathering.  “It is a year-round process,” said Kari Burgess, program director of ShareChurch. “We start combing through ...


Great Plains attendees feel energized after Leadership Institute

October 01, 2019

With the 2019 Leadership Institute in its backyard at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, better than one in 10 attendees were from the Great Plains Conference.  More than 260 pastors and laity from Kansas and Nebraska attended the Institute, Sept. 25-27. Nearly 2,500, ...


Leaders begin to form ideas for new church plants in Great Plains Conference

September 25, 2019

Strategies for starting new United Methodist churches have changed over the past several years, a pastor who helps guide church starts told a group of clergy in a recent training session.  Rev. Dr. Iosmar Alvarez, Lexington District superintendent from the Kentucky Conference, discusses church ...


Scammers targeting churchgoers with fake text messages from pastors

September 23, 2019

The Rev. David Livingston was stunned to learn over the weekend that someone claiming to be him was texting members of Fairway Old Mission United Methodist Church, asking for gift cards to benefit cancer patients.  “There’s so much legitimate need in the world, and for legitimate need and people’s ...


Dotson kicks off 'Soul Reset' book tour with leaders summit in Wichita

August 28, 2019

The Rev. Junius Dotson believes that churches, their pastors and leaders need to hit the “Reset” button.  Dotson, general secretary and CEO of Discipleship Ministries, returned to Wichita — where he served as senior pastor of Saint Mark United Methodist Church from 2002 to 2016 — for a leadership ...


Topeka First UMC learns about civil discourse over difficult issues

August 27, 2019

With growing ideological rifts everywhere, from the nation’s political landscape to The United Methodist Church, David Procter says proper discourse is becoming endangered.  “Civility is not doing well — and it’s getting worse,” said Procter, director of Kansas State University’s Institute for ...


Garden project at Omaha church grows with fellowship, interaction

August 21, 2019

When the Rev. Chris Jorgensen was looking at ways that Omaha Hanscom Park United Methodist Church could reach out into the community, the answer was right outside her door.  It was a garden the church had started about 10 years earlier, with the assistance of the Big Garden mission in Omaha.  A ...


Lay Academy for Rural Church Ministries celebrates 20th anniversary, plans expansion

August 07, 2019

For more than three decades, the Rev. Dr. Carl Ellis has seen rural churches increasingly struggle to find effective leadership and adapt to changing times.  Twenty years ago, preceding The United Methodist Church’s development of a certified lay minister program, Ellis began the Lay Academy for ...


‘Reimagined’ OneEvent moves to Omaha, Lincoln in summer of 2020

July 31, 2019

After six years as an early-January gathering of youth from across the Great Plains Conference, the OneEvent is changing its focus, its location and its calendar for 2020. The “OneEvent Reimagined” is scheduled for June 14-18 in Lincoln and Omaha. “We’re moving to a mission trip model,” said the ...


Great Plains among those represented on YOUTH2019 stage

July 17, 2019

Two young adults from the Great Plains Conference took center stage at YOUTH2019, July 10-13 in Kansas City, Missouri. Erynn (Dahlke) Kuehl from the Great Plains Conference was the emcee for YOUTH2019. YOUTH2019 video grab Erynn (Dahlke) Kuehl was the emcee of the quadrennial event, and Abigail ...


KCK church combines three different cultures for its VBS

July 15, 2019

The Vacation Bible School program at Kansas City Bristol Hill United Methodist Church on July 14 was like many VBS wrap-ups, with youngsters hamming it up during the songs, kids waving to their parents in the congregation and older siblings watching out for their little brothers and sisters in the...


Wamego, Seward churches get involved in community for Fourth of July

July 03, 2019

When the Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff began at First United Methodist Church in Wamego six years ago, he was told the Kansas community loved its fireworks on the Fourth of July. “I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’” he recalled. “I grew up in St. Louis watching the fireworks at The Arch, which were amazing. And I...


Administrative assistant-turned-pastor looking forward to new role

July 02, 2019

Just as she had done for the past four years as administrative assistant in the Blue River District, Pam Savery filled out forms this spring that officially put pastors in their new assignments. But unlike previous years, Savery entered her own name as a three-quarter time pastor in the three-point ...


United Methodist Youth Institute full of tradition, transformations

June 27, 2019

Amaya Harrison credits the United Methodist Youth Institute with saving her life — literally.  Amaya Harrison, Topeka, praises during worship services on visitors' night at United Methodist Youth Institute. Photos by David Burke The Topeka teenager, one of the youth care group coordinators at ...


‘God’s grace is shining’ at Camp Lakeside in Kansas

June 25, 2019

With a recent change in management, Camp Lakeside is “alive and doing well,” Sara Shaw said.  “We’ve had lots of God moments out here,” said Shaw, camping ministries coordinator for the Great Plains Conference. “I call it ‘God goosebumps’ that whenever you need a gentle reminder that God’s grace is ...


McCool Junction UMC celebrates pastor's retirement and a launch into ministry

June 18, 2019

Like about a hundred other churches in the Great Plains Conference, McCool Junction United Methodist bid farewell to its pastor during services on June 16.  But the central Nebraska church was not only celebrating the retiring Rev. Ralph Gaines, who helped the church triple its membership over his ...


Conference works to fill void left by record number of retirees

June 11, 2019

With a record number of retirees this year – more than 55 – the Great Plains Conference has worked to fill the vacancies in several ways.   A record number of clergy -- more than 55 -- are retiring this year from the Great Plains Conference. Photo by Todd Seifert Among them is a new influx of ...


Topeka Asbury Mount Olive UMC celebrates its 50th anniversary

June 10, 2019

The Rev. Harry Christian had simple instructions for his Topeka Asbury Mount Olive United Methodist Church to celebrate its golden anniversary. “Laugh, shout, jump, cry,” he told the congregation on June 9, “whatever you want to do to celebrate those 50 years.”   The Rev. Harry Christian ...


More ERTs needed to mobilize after latest round of spring storms

June 04, 2019

Damage from tornadoes that ripped through Douglas County, Kansas, last week have been added to the list of priorities for the Great Plains Disaster Response team, joining flooding in Kansas and Nebraska. Douglas County officials said the May 28 tornado injured 17 people, three of them seriously, and...


UMCNext organizers Dotson, Hamilton optimistic about annual conference

May 23, 2019

Two high-profile pastors from the Great Plains Conference, each a member of the UMCNext convening team, said they expect the momentum from their three-day gathering this week to extend into their own annual conference sessions next week. Rev. Junius Dotson, executive secretary of Discipleship ...


Nearing retirement, Ritter reflects on 42 years of ministry

May 21, 2019

Even after he announced his retirement, the Rev. Bill Ritter had second thoughts. “I wrestled with it,” the Blue River District superintendent said about concluding 42 years of ministry. “This has been my life, this is all I’ve ever been is a pastor. To think of myself as not being an active pastor...


Revs. Nan, Lew Kaye-Skinner reflect on careers in ministry as retirement nears

May 21, 2019

Two of the most visible clergy during the Great Plains Annual Conference sessions are among the 54 retirees from the conference this year. The Rev. Nan Kaye-Skinner and the Rev. Lew Kaye-Skinner are retiring from their appointive positions – she as senior pastor of Lincoln Trinity UMC and he as ...


Great Plains participants pleased with proposed updates of Social Principles

May 08, 2019

The Rev. Cindy Karges says that being a part of the team tasked with updating the United Methodist Social Principles has been monumental in her career. “It was probably one of the most meaningful experiences of my 30-some years of being in pastoral ministry and in my whole life of being a United ...


Thirteen kids in small, central Kansas church baptized

May 01, 2019

One by one, they stepped up to the small table where a pitcher and a bowl of water sat. Most of the 12 children — first- through eighth-graders — winced a bit in anticipation of the water that was sprinkled on their heads, but almost all of them walked away with contented smiles on their faces. ...


Ellsworth church celebrates 40 years of afterschool program

April 30, 2019

What started as the idea of a group of stay-at-home mothers four decades ago has grown into a weekly tradition at Ellsworth United Methodist Church. Kids of the Kingdom draws about half of the students of Ellsworth Elementary School, across the street from the church, for 100 minutes of music, ...