David Burke

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


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 ...


Great Plains churches adjust to keep VBS alive during pandemic

June 10, 2020

If everything had gone according to plan, about 50 children from 3 years old through fourth grade would have gathered at Prairie Village Asbury UMC for Vacation Bible School next week. But, like nearly everything else in 2020, nothing has gone according to plan. Instead, the Johnson County, Kansas, ...


Churches cautiously return to worship in Great Plains

June 03, 2020

With prayer, caution and proper sanitization, a handful of churches in the Great Plains Conference have returned to in-person services. The churches, all in western Kansas and western Nebraska, began in-person worship throughout May. Although those we talked to were apprehensive before opening their...


Condensed conference concludes with call to ‘Catch Fire’

June 02, 2020

Concluding an abbreviated and revised Annual Conference session conducted by telephone, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. told the Great Plains it needed to continue to “Catch Fire” — the unofficial title given to the one-day meeting.  “I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us in this new season of our church’s...


In opening sermon, Bishop Saenz thanks Great Plains for work during pandemic

June 02, 2020

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. saluted the churches, clergy and laity of the Great Plains for their work during the coronavirus pandemic during the annual conference session’s opening worship service May 29. Because of the pandemic and with a revised, condensed conference call with essential business ...


Revised conference session approves Comeca sale, church disaffiliations

June 01, 2020

With the assistance of, from left, the Rev. Nathan Stanton, Scott Brewer and the Rev. Nancy Lambert, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. opens the revised Annual Conference session from the Great Plains office in Topeka. Photos by David Burke   Calling it an unprecedented move for “unprecedented times,” ...


Parking lot services bring new energy to six-point Riley County churches

May 12, 2020

Revs. Sandy and Bruce Ferguson were already no slouches when it came to Sunday mornings.  They’ve been pastors of the Leonardville, Swede Creek, Randolph and Fancy Creek Zion UMCs in northern Riley County, Kansas – called the Jerusalem Road Parish – since 2014 and added the two-church charge in ...


Mainstream UMC calls for continued moratoriums until 2021 GC

May 06, 2020

On what was supposed to be the first day of the 2020 General Conference, the leaders of the Mainstream UMC movement urged fellow centrists and progressives to not let their guard down for LGBTQ equality.  “Their hopes and dreams were waiting in the balance, and now they have to wait another year and...


Bishop Saenz elected as chair of congregational vitality leadership team by Council of Bishops

May 05, 2020

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. is looking forward to his tenure as chair of the congregational vitality team of the Council of Bishops. The Great Plains Conference’s episcopal leader since 2016 was elected during a video conference during the final few days of April. Bishop Saenz will lead a group of about ...


Health, social service organizations adapting during pandemic

April 29, 2020

Three Kansas-based health and social service organizations have made adjustments because of the COVID-19 pandemic as they have all seen an increased need for their services.  All three — Genesis Family Health, with clinics in Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal and Ulysses; GraceMed, with clinics in ...


Chaplain from Great Plains on front lines vs. COVID-19 in Florida

April 21, 2020

The Rev. Denise Sawyer has seen nothing like it in her nearly nine years as a chaplain at a southwest Florida hospital. The Rev. Denise Sawyer, right, prays with a staff member at Florida's Cape Coral Hospital. Contributed photos “The leadership team was watching for it, but it still felt like ...


Nebraska women among singers in Discipleship Ministries Easter video

April 15, 2020

E Brenda Cochran, circled, is among the singers. Editor's note: This story was updated on April 20. When Brenda Cochran recorded herself singing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” for an internet project, she didn’t know she’d be part of a global video.  “I didn’t realize it was a worldwide ...


Ministry amid coronavirus: stories from across the Great Plains

April 08, 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 ...


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 ...


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 ...