David Burke

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


Black pastor finds harmony in small, all-white Nebraska communities

February 24, 2021

The congregations in Hollis Patterson’s first pastoral assignment didn’t know anything about him until he was introduced to the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee in Ellis and Odell UMCs nearly four years ago.  “I just want to see their reaction,” Patterson recalls then-Blue River District ...


Online LEAF session features treasury, health, education officials

February 24, 2021

The last time the Kansas Legislative Event for Advocacy in Faith, or LEAF, met, the coronavirus pandemic was happening continents away and seemed far beyond the horizon.  But this year, much of LEAF reflects the changes that have had to be made in gathering as well as in its content.  The entire ...


Virtual version of Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day draws 100

February 17, 2021

The co-chair of the Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day wanted the approximately 100 attendees to look on the bright side of having the annual issues forum online instead of in-person on Feb. 13. Participants didn’t have to deal with a subzero windchill, nor drive in the snow, and they ...


Three new superintendents joining Great Plains cabinet

February 15, 2021

Three new district superintendents will broaden the skill sets, perspectives and diversity of the Great Plains Conference cabinet, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said. The three — Rev. Zach Anderson, Dodge City and Hays districts; Rev. Dr. Charles Murithi, Prairie Rivers and a portion of the Elkhorn Valley...


Churches have first week of COVID testing; second round this week

February 10, 2021

In front of her fellow members of Wichita College Hill UMC, Ann Reed wondered aloud if she’d have enough spit to take a test for COVID-19. The retired hospital human resources employee was one of 30 people who took COVID tests Feb. 4 at the church. College Hill was one of three United Methodist ...


KC/Tampa rivalry benefits food distribution

February 09, 2021

For decades, sports fans whose teams are in championship games have seen additional competition via a rivalry between the two cities represented. So when the Chiefs faced the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, there was also a competition between United Methodist churches in Kansas City and Tampa. “We ...


Williamston selected as clergy excellence director, assistant to bishop

January 31, 2021

A 22-year veteran of the Kansas Army National Guard is bringing her self-described “boots-on-the-ground” philosophy to a director’s office in the Great Plains Conference. The Rev. Delores “Dee” Williamston has been named by Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. as director of clergy excellence and assistant to ...


Three Kansas churches to host COVID-19 testing beginning this week

January 30, 2021

UPDATED -- 3:40 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2 Three Kansas churches in the Great Plains Conference will host testing for coronavirus in a pilot program beginning this week, the conference and Kansas Department of Health and Environment have announced.  The sites and hours:  Dighton UMC, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ...


Orders & Fellowship speaker challenges pastors to think purple

January 27, 2021

Ever since the 2016 presidential election, the Rev. Dr. Leah Schade has been wondering how to effectively preach to and challenge the “Red” Republicans and “Blue” Democrats.  Rev. Dr. Leah Schade leads the opening sessions of Orders & Fellowship on Jan. 27. Screen grab “I’ve been interested in ...


Lenexa UMC plans online hymn singalong

January 26, 2021

The name, Linda Stokes says, may be misleading.  Lenexa UMC’s first “Favorite Hymns Singalong at Home” won’t have the sounds of folks following their favorite tunes.  Linda Stokes “We call it a singalong, but it strictly one person singing and doing it at Facebook Live,” said Stokes, the church ...


Camps Fontanelle, Lakeside seeking new directors

January 20, 2021

Two of the five camps in the Great Plains Conference are looking for new leadership.  Camp Fontanelle, near Nickerson, Nebraska, and Camp Lakeside, near Scott City, Kansas, are both looking for new directors.  Sara Shaw, camping ministry coordinator, said that all interested applicants must include ...


Clergy excellence director Nancy Lambert to retire in June

January 13, 2021

With dreams of joining her husband on months-long, cross-country trips, the Rev. Nancy Lambert will retire from the Great Plains Conference at the end of June.  “We’ve always talked about traveling across the United States, getting to see places we haven’t been able to drive to. We’re hoping to ...


Coffeyville pastor succumbs to COVID

January 08, 2021

Mark Demas became a pastor, his wife said, because he loved leading people to the Lord. Pastor Mark Demas “That was always a thing,” Diann Demas said. “Any time he could help, as he would say, ignite a flame or a spark, it made him happy.” Demas died Wednesday, Jan. 6, of complications related ...


A Coronavirus Christmas brings new methods to Great Plains churches

December 16, 2020

The pandemic has forced many United Methodist Churches in the Great Plains to call off or reinvent some Advent and Christmas traditions.   But it has also sparked what may be the beginnings of new traditions, reaching out in new ways.   There are some examples of churches that have made changes for ...


Neighboring Movement receives nearly $1 million grant to further mission

November 18, 2020

A five-year grant of nearly $1 million to The Neighboring Movement will help boost its mission in churches across the country, its executive director says.  The Wichita-based nonprofit, which began in 2015 as SoCe Life, has received a $999,058 Thriving Congregations Initiative 2020 grant from the ...


Plans made to bolster children’s, youth ministry in conference

November 18, 2020

Especially during the time of pandemic, the Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford says, those who work with children and youth feel like they’re by themselves in their mission.  “A thing that I’m hearing over and over again from kids and youth workers is that they’re just feeling kind of alone and isolated,”...


Big Garden branches out with orchard planting in Kansas

November 11, 2020

Volunteers were working hard in early November 2020 in Emporia, but their thoughts were on 2023. That’s when the Asian pear trees that they were planting outside Abundant Harvest, part of the Emporia Rescue Mission, are supposed to start bearing fruit. Volunteers learn about planting trees ...


Kathy Williams chosen for new role of clergy leadership coordinator

November 04, 2020

The Rev. Kathy Williams was already appreciative of the Great Plains Conference for adding the position of clergy leadership coordinator.  But it took the persuasion of others to convince her she would be the right person for the job.  “Anything that we can offer that helps to strengthen our clergy ...


At storefront Wichita UMC, food distribution comes with many extras

November 03, 2020

For the past few months, as many as 25 families have been receiving a box of food staples, a few out-of-the-ordinary items and recipe cards from Wichita New Covenant United Methodist Church.  They also get a question.  “What have you done to help someone else this month?” volunteer Nancy Reeves asks...


Wichita Chapel Hill turns 25, celebrating its diversity, inclusion

October 28, 2020

Although Wichita Chapel Hill United Methodist Church would have welcomed a chance to celebrate its 25th anniversary this October, the coronavirus pandemic has delayed those plans.  Chapel Hill consecrates its 766-seat sanctuary at services on Easter Sunday, 2014. Photos courtesy Chapel Hill UMC. ...


'I want to be Pastor Nick before I'm Coach Talbott'

October 21, 2020

As the clock ticks down the minutes until kickoff for Kansas Wesleyan University football, Nick Talbott strides the field of the Graves Family Sports Complex.  He claps his hands and encourages players through warmup drills one minute, stops and chats with the refs the next, and even greets one of ...


Newest generation of Wilkes respects family name while blazing new trail

October 14, 2020

It sounded like a great idea. After 2 ½ months of worshipping inside their sanctuary, members of the Tonganoxie United Methodist Church would have an outdoor service at the town’s VFW Park on Sunday morning, Sept. 27.  But rain, anywhere from a drizzle to a downpour, dominated the outdoor ...


‘Steeple to Street’ webinar focuses on Fresh Expressions after pandemic

October 13, 2020

The pandemic has left too many churches in a state of limbo, said a presenter from Fresh Expressions who will be working with the Great Plains Conference in a webinar later this month.  “There’s such a state of overwhelm right now,” said the Rev. Matt Lake, pastor of First United Methodist Church in...


Congresswoman Davids visits Roeland Park UMC’s food distribution

October 12, 2020

The food distribution service by Roeland Park UMC caught the eye of U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids during the congresswoman’s visit on Oct. 9.  “The food insecurity issue is just so huge, and we’ve seen a real explosion of need,” Davids, who lives in Roeland Park, said after meeting the volunteers. “I ...


Genesis Family Health is prevailing through pandemic, leaders say

October 07, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has strengthened Genesis Family Health, its leaders say. Genesis, with locations in Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal and Ulysses, receives part of its funding from the Great Plains Conference and Garden City First United Methodist Church. It provides medical and dental ...


Resurrection celebrates 30th anniversary, reopening with ‘Love Your Neighbor’ campaign

October 07, 2020

Services at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection the first Sunday of October warranted a triple celebration.  It was the first onsite Sunday services at the Leawood church since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. It was also the 30th anniversary of the first services at ...


In delayed ceremonies, 29 clergy commissioned, ordained

October 06, 2020

It was neither the usual time of year nor the place that 29 clergy were expecting to be commissioned and ordained in the Great Plains Conference, but there were nonetheless celebrations Oct. 3 at Omaha St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church.  Here are those celebrated in ceremonies on Oct. 2:  ...


In three online events, laity of Great Plains connect virtually

October 06, 2020

The in-person fellowship was missing, but the unity and encouragement were alive and well at the virtual laity session and other events of the Great Plains Conference.  “We hope you will live with us into this new moment,” conference lay leader Lisa Maupin told the 185-plus online attendees at the ...


Bishop commends work during pandemic, challenges conference to grow in faith, love

September 30, 2020

In a virtual message to the Great Plains Conference, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. thanked the clergy, laity and churches of Kansas and Nebraska for their hard work and cooperation during a tumultuous 2020 and challenged them to grow deeper in their faith, love and discipleship in the future.  “So many of ...


After 16 years as site director, Trent Meyer leaving Camp Fontanelle

September 29, 2020

Acknowledging that depression issues and his workaholic nature gave his job greater priority over his family, Trent Meyer will leave as site director at Camp Fontanelle before the end of the year. “I’ve come to realize I put the camp above family and a lot of other things,” Meyer said. “I came to ...


During pandemic, Garden City relies on longstanding outdoor worship service

September 22, 2020

While other churches have experimented with outdoor worship services during the coronavirus pandemic, it came as second nature to Garden City First United Methodist Church.  The Rev. Charles Nyamakope delivers a sermon at Finnup Park in Garden City. Photos by David Burke The southwest Kansas ...


ERTs needed in Alabama, Florida after Hurricane Sally

September 18, 2020

Early Response Teams from the Great Plains Conference are needed in mid-October in Alabama and Florida for work in the wake of Hurricane Sally. Hurricane Sally has caused damaged throughout the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Photo by the Rev. Bobbie Lassiter, AWFC. The Rev. Hollie Tapley, ...


Lenexa church continues support group it created for adults with autism

September 09, 2020

It wasn’t the intention of Lenexa St. Paul’s UMC to create what it believes is the only support group in the Kansas City area for adults with autism.  The group grew out of St. Paul’s presence ministry, which provides dialogue in a relaxed setting rather than the sometimes-overwhelming world of a ...


Church plants retain momentum, but not numbers, UMC expert says

September 01, 2020

Like seemingly everything else in 2020, new church starts have stalled because of the pandemic. In fact, the Rev. Paul Nixon, a new church strategist for The United Methodist Church, says fewer conferences have planted this year than at any other time in his ministry. Nixon spoke to eight pastors in...


Bishop Hearn remembered for faith, focus, fairness

August 31, 2020

Colleagues of Bishop J. Woodrow Hearn remember the focus, adventurousness, and faith of the former Nebraska Conference leader, who died Aug. 31 at age 89. A Louisiana native, Bishop Hearn led the Nebraska Conference from 1984 to 1992, before being assigned to the Houston area until his retirement...


Conference working to improve children's, youth ministries

August 19, 2020

The Great Plains Conference is in the midst of a two-year renovation of its children’s and youth ministry programs and is offering smaller churches the chance to improve their work with young attendees.  Since late last year, the conference has been working with Tennessee-based Ministry Architects ...


Three new district superintendents installed in online service

August 18, 2020

View the entire appointment celebration video here. In a heartfelt ceremony, three new district superintendents were installed during a virtual gathering on Aug. 16.  The Rev. Dr. Tom Brady was installed as Five Rivers and Parsons districts superintendent; the Rev. Jenny Collins was installed as ...


Bishop, pastors discuss personal cases of racism during webinar

August 12, 2020

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. can look back at it now and chuckle.  In 2016, the newly elected ecumenical leader of the Great Plains Conference was moving into his new residence in Wichita. He was dressed informally, in shorts, when the boss of the moving crew began ordering him around.  “I played along,” ...


David City's Louise Niemann elected to national UMW board of directors

August 12, 2020

In an ideal 2020, Louise Niemann would have been told that she was elected to the national United Methodist Women board of directors at the group’s South Central Jurisdiction meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, with friends and colleagues gathering around to congratulate her.  Instead, she got a phone...


During webinar, school leaders ask for partnerships with churches

August 05, 2020

There’s never been a better time for churches and schools to work together, two educators told an audience of clergy during a recent webinar and podcast.  “We are all in this together, and the way we will get through is with the faith we will have with each other and the support we will give to one ...


Foreign-born pastors share their views, frustrations during 2nd 'Time to Listen' webinar

July 29, 2020

Four foreign-born clergy from the Great Plains Conference shared their perspectives — and their frustrations — in the second in the series of “A Time to Listen” webinars on July 25.  All said they were bothered by the civil unrest that has taken place in throughout the country this summer.  “I feel ...


Conference, district ask Nebraska for greater coronavirus protection for meatpacking plants

July 28, 2020

The Great Plains Conference and the Gateway District are among 25 organizations calling for greater coronavirus protection for workers in Nebraska meat and poultry plants.  “We have seen more than three months of slow and insufficient action by meat and poultry plants to proactively institute ...


Intern brings world of experience to Omaha Hanscom Park UMC

July 23, 2020

Peter Karanja will never forget how welcome he felt the first time he entered a United Methodist Church.  With his parents and four siblings, Peter, a high-schooler at the time, moved from their hometown in Kenya to Naivasha, a city of about 200,000, after unrest broke out following a general ...


K-State Wesley pays off $1 million mortgage

July 22, 2020

Eleven years after it has moved into its current home, K-State Wesley has paid off its $1 million debt.  “We had some very nice, really wonderful gifts to help us be able to do that,” said the Rev. Jim Reed, development director for the Manhattan ministry. “But we also had lots and lots of people ...


Adapting to coronavirus is latest challenge overcome by EmberHope Youthville

July 21, 2020

Like everything else in the world in 2020, EmberHope Youthville has had to make changes because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nickaila Sandate, president/CEO On March 13, all non-essential staff at the United Methodist-supported facility in Newton, Kansas – which serves at-risk children and teens ...


Responding to racism: What the Great Plains is doing to make a difference

July 07, 2020

Tragic events of the spring and summer of 2020 have brought to the forefront something that Black Americans have known for some time: The struggle for equality is still very real.  With a mission for mercy and justice in Nebraska and Kansas, the Great Plains Conference is committed to non-violent ...


Black pastors share their sadness, anger over racism in webinar

July 01, 2020

Participating in the June 27 webinar are, clockwise from left, Rev. Dee Williamston, Rev. Dr. Rose Booker-Jones, Rev. Dr. Wayne Reynolds, Rev. Dr. Charlotte Abram, Rev. Cynthia Smart, Rev. Darryl Burton, Pastor Ronda Kingwood, and center, the Rev. Harry Christian. Watch the entire June 27 ...


Pastors moving in 2020 say they miss closure with congregations

June 29, 2020

United Methodist pastors and their congregations know the drill all too well. Every few years, a pastor may be moved from one charge to another. The month of June is filled with trucks being packed and goodbyes said, while open arms wait at that pastor’s next destination. That is, until 2020. The ...


Despite pandemic, Great Plains camps find ways to connect with youth

June 24, 2020

2020 CAMP CHIPPEWA DURING COVID-19 from Great Plains UMC on Vimeo. The coronavirus pandemic-forced cancellation of summer camps in the Great Plains Conference this summer left hundreds of children and youth without a destination to explore nature and deepen their faith.  “We were all very ...


Pastors facing additional stress, depression, anxiety during pandemic

June 16, 2020

A survey by the Duke University Clergy Health Initiative in 2019 has shown that 11% of pastors reported symptoms consistent with having moderate or severe depression.  And that was before the coronavirus pandemic.  Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford “Those numbers are higher normally than the average ...