David Burke

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


‘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, ...


Omaha confirmation class chooses to delay becoming members of United Methodist Church

April 30, 2019

After eight months of confirmation classes as an introduction to United Methodism, a group of eight junior-high students at an Omaha church said they don’t want to join the denomination until people of all sexual orientations have the right to marry in the local church and serve as pastors. The ...


Reffner reflects on experience at ecumenical institute

April 08, 2019

For Daniel Reffner, it was the experience of a lifetime.  The Wichita native, in his second year at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, was chosen to attend the prestigious Ecumenical Institute at Chautau de Bossey, located in Switzerland.  Daniel Reffner, foreground, with ...


‘Idol’ time helped singer boost his ministry; Stacey in concert at Beloit rally

April 03, 2019

A dozen years after his experience on “American Idol,” Phil Stacey thanks the talent contest for advancing his ministry. “I love doing this. I love going to churches and partnering in ministry,” said Stacey, who will perform Sunday night, April 7, at the North Central Kansas Men’s and Boys’ Rally in...


UMCOR executive impressed by workers in Great Plains Conference

April 03, 2019

A two-day trip to the Great Plains Conference has left a United Methodist Committee on Relief official saddened by the flood damage in Nebraska but impressed with the people working to get others’ lives back in order. “The conference has done a really good job of getting ahead of it,” Cathy Earl, ...


Great Plains disaster response crews begin work in Columbus, Fremont

March 28, 2019

Great Plains Conference early response teams began the long, long road to recovery for Nebraska flood victims on Thursday morning, March 28. “It’s just devastating, totally devastating,” the Rev. Hollie Tapley, conference disaster response coordinator, said at midday Thursday from Columbus. “It’s ...


Wahoo women lead effort to meet post-flooding needs; Fremont ready to rebuild

March 27, 2019

Members of the Wahoo Emergency Relief Team pose for a photo in the warehouse that has become the base for relief efforts for those impacted by Nebraska's flooding. Submitted photo   It started with an idea, and a Facebook page. Two days after historic floods swamped Nebraska, Rachel Stone and...


Nebraska church reaches out with supplies, shoulder to flooded community

March 26, 2019

Volunteers help sort items in the St. Edward UMC fellowship hall. Photo by David Burke   Vern Olson calls the fellowship hall of St. Edward United Methodist Church “our own little Walmart.” Cleaning supplies take up one corner, paper towels and toilet paper are stacked in the lobby. Fresh ...


Cleaning, hygiene kits needed; NE governor surveys damage

March 19, 2019

Deployment began today for Great Plains Disaster Response volunteers, headed for Valley County in central Nebraska. Valley County Roads Superintendent Jay Meyer reported that more than 150 sites are damaged, ranging from minor to major damage. The Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator, ...


Saint Paul celebrates removal of sanctions, probation

March 19, 2019

With sanctions from accrediting agencies from the Higher Learning Commission behind it, Saint Paul School of Theology can keep looking forward, its president said.  “We’re just breathing a good bit easier,” the Rev. Neil Blair said. “We continue to be the seminary, hopefully, of choice in the ...


First flooding response crews ready to hit the ground

March 18, 2019

Members of Fremont First United Methodist Church join others from their community to fill sand bags as waters rose. The city has become a temporary island after waters swallowed all roads leading in and out of town. Photo by Rev. Bill Gepford   As damage assessment from ongoing flooding begins ...


Donations sought to help victims; NE governor urges caution

March 15, 2019

UPDATE — 12:45 p.m. Saturday, March 16 As the video featuring Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. above suggests, please consider giving to the Great Plains Disaster Response Fund. This is advance number 975/410101. Financial donations can either be from yourself privately or as a special offering from your ...


Bishop Saenz leads discussion about future of UMC at first regional gathering

March 11, 2019

The last time Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. led a gathering in Salina, the largest crowd of his town hall tours – 375 people – became contentious at times in October when discussing the special session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church regarding human sexuality issues. But in the ...


Women reflect on changing roles in United Methodist leadership

March 07, 2019

Friday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, and we are taking this opportunity to salute the female pastors in the Great Plains Conference.  The Methodist Episcopal Church first licensed and ordained women as pastors in the early 1920s, but that position had to change in 1939 at the time of the ...


Workshops show how to leave legacy through financial plans

March 06, 2019

Planned giving, the Rev. Dr. Dustin Petz says, means more than just “remembering” the church in your last will and testament.  That’s why Petz, the president and CEO of the Kansas Area United Methodist Foundation, is hosting three workshops, Leaving a Lasting Legacy, in the state this spring.  The ...


Council of Bishops president: Methodists should refocus on mission

February 26, 2019

After the special session of a General Conference that saw delegates favor a Traditional Plan, the leader of the Council of Bishops said United Methodists should focus on their similarities rather than their differences. “Our work now is to help the church refocus on its mission,” Bishop Ken Carter...


Alternates reflect on sitting on conference sidelines

February 26, 2019

They hung on every word of the special session of the General Conference and sat at the ready in case they were called into duty. Great Plans Conference members — including some delegate reserves — watch proceedings at General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Todd Seifert But unlike the 2016 ...


Youngest delegate urges unity among General Conference

February 26, 2019

Young adult delegates embrace Shayla Jordan, a Great Plains lay delegate, after she delivered a speech against the Traditional Plan during day four of the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS. With dozens of her contemporaries around her and the ...


Great Plains delegation down after One Church Plan loses vote

February 25, 2019

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. addresses and prays with the Great Plains Conference delegation after the special session of General Conference adjourned for the day Monday. Photo by Todd Seifert   An emotionally drained delegation from the Great Plains Conference is thinking about what is ahead after ...


Resurrection staffer on center stage with special session praise band

February 25, 2019

When planning for the special session of the General Conference began, the Rev. Ashley Morgan Kirk didn’t think she would be on stage in St. Louis. Kirk was local host and worship liaison, just as she had been for the past three years in the Missouri Annual Conference sessions. Rev. Ashley Morgan...


Wesley KU students intently watching special session

February 25, 2019

A junior at the University of Kansas, Grace Woods is preparing to go to the seminary to become a pastor. Nicole Guthrie, a member of Great Plains Conference staff in the Clergy Excellence department, poses with visitors to General Conference from the KU Wesley campus ministry at the University of ...


Great Plains clergy, laity make their way to General Conference in St. Louis

February 24, 2019

Members of the Great Plains Conference interact with people around them during the special session of General Conference on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Dozens of people from Kansas and Nebraska have traveled to St. Louis for the special session. Photo by Jayna McFarland Some of ...


Delegates welcome opening special session with prayer, praise

February 23, 2019

  Starting the special session of General Conference on Saturday with a day of praise and worship was just what the Rev. Cheryl Jefferson Bell needed. “It was preparing us spiritually to focus on God, and why we’re here – not to look at the issues immediately, but to get our spirits connected ...


LEAF organizers see 'new day' in Kansas government

February 20, 2019

A change in the governor’s office fueled optimism among participants in this year’s Legislative Event for Advocacy and Faith. “It’s a new day in Kansas,” said Becky Plate, Eudora, one of the organizers of the 45th annual LEAF day. “We have a new secretary of state and a new governor.” Former ...


Bishop applauds day of prayer to open special session

February 18, 2019

The special session of the General Conference, Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, will begin with an entire day of praise and worship.  “This will be a wonderful act, signifying and recognizing our dependence on God to lead us forward as a United Methodist Church,” said a statement from the Praying Our Way ...


Churches get inspiration for Fresh Expressions during Vision Day

February 12, 2019

If you want to see where old-fashioned thinking will lead you, leaders of the Fresh Expressions movement say, look no further than Blockbuster Video. But you can’t – there is only one brick-and-mortar outlet left for the once-behemoth movie rental chain. It fell to Netflix, which harnessed the new, ...


Melissa Collier Gepford named as conference intergenerational ministries coordinator

January 24, 2019

A Great Plains pastor devoted to research and curriculum, as well as applying them to real-world situations, is the conference’s new intergenerational ministries coordinator. “I have a passion for helping people find the resources they need and building systems for discipleship, so their lives can ...


Clergy get healthy talk at 2019 Orders & Fellowship

January 24, 2019

  Great Plains pastors got a healthy dose of information on self-care during the 2019 Orders & Fellowship gathering. “Living Water, Living Well” was the theme for the annual clergy gathering, Jan. 16-17 at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. The two-day sessions’ ...


Orders & Fellowship 2019 Notebook

January 24, 2019

Approximately 600 clergy from across Kansas and Nebraska gathered for our annual Orders & Fellowship clergy gathering. This year's event took place Jan. 16-17, 2019, at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection's Leawood campus. Here are some notes from the event. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. ...


Liberal UMC kicks off effort to prevent human trafficking

January 14, 2019

What started out as a church action team at Liberal First United Methodist Church has grown into a community-wide seminar on preventing and responding to human trafficking, called “Hidden in Plain Sight.”  Rev. Keith Anglemyer welcomes participants to the "Hidden in Plain Sight" seminar. Photos by...


WORD speaks to 900-plus youth, leaders at sixth-annual OneEvent

January 09, 2019

Click on the above picture for a gallery of more than 150 photos -- email jmcfarland@greatplainsumc.org to find out how to add yours! Whether they grooved to the music, learned from the message or enjoyed the fellowship and fun, more than 900 youth and their leaders spent a full weekend at the ...


OneEvent notebook: Speaker, bishop, relationships, DJ, comedian

January 09, 2019

Speaker asks, ‘What’s your mat?’ The Rev. Michelle Manuel knew how to make an entrance at The OneEvent. In each of the sessions in which Manuel, the keynote speaker, participated, she got what she called “hype music” from DJ Big Al Cherry, and threw T-shirts to the crowd in her three sessions. Rev....


Valley View UMC to become Overland Park campus of Church of the Resurrection

December 19, 2018

Editor's note: This article was updated on Friday, Dec. 21. On April 28, shortly after Valley View United Methodist Church celebrates its 60th anniversary, the Overland Park, Kansas, church will close. But it will re-emerge about four months later, as the new Overland Park campus of the United ...


Churches continue Way Forward discussion in advance of special session

December 11, 2018

The 98 days between Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s final town hall meeting and the opening of the special session of the General Conference focusing on human sexuality are becoming a time of study, debate and reflection for members of the Great Plains Conference.  More than 4,100 people attended the 18 ...


Internships in conference expand to include confirmation roles

December 05, 2018

The Great Plains Conference’s summer internship program is expanding in 2019 to include students helping to teach in confirmation camps. Applications are now being accepted for the four internship programs – Micah Corps, Network Intern, Pastoral Leadership and the new Confirmation interns – at grea...


More than 290 hear way forward plans in tour finale in Parsons, Lawrence

November 20, 2018

The final weekend of Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s 18 town-hall tour of the Great Plains Conference included the viewpoints of southeast Kansans and the assistance of the Wesley KU campus ministry.  Nine students from the University of Kansas ministry and one alumnus welcomed visitors to Lawrence First ...


Nearly 300 hear of proposals at Topeka District town hall

November 13, 2018

Ken Edmonds left the Topeka District town hall meeting Nov. 11 feeling “a little bit optimistic” about the future of The United Methodist Church, but “It needs to be more than we’ve seen today.”  The McLouth man, who identified himself as gay during a Q&A session with Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., has ...


Transformation event discusses gender bias, violence, discrimination

October 31, 2018

Retired Bishop Ann Sherer-Simpson vividly remembers her first charge, at age 33, as a pastor. “Honey, this is gonna be hard,” she was warned by her district superintendent as the church’s first female leader. She was instructed that she couldn’t wear slacks. Congregants crossed their arms rather ...


Church group gives new roof to man living in Paradise

October 30, 2018

Life in Paradise isn’t always perfect. But thanks to a service project by young adults in the Russell County, Kansas, town’s United Methodist Church, it got better for one of their neighbors. Just down the hill from the church in the town of about 50 people is the house of a man on disability after ...


Crowd at Hays town hall concerned over impact on local churches

October 29, 2018

In a sometimes-spirited town hall discussion Oct. 28, some members of the Hays District said they believed United Methodist leaders are trickling the decision over human sexuality issues down to individual congregations through the proposed One Church Plan. “That’s the whole issue, right?” asked Bob...