David Burke

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


Korean-born pastor’s arrival spurs church growth in Chanute

November 17, 2021

Two times during the early service at Chanute First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Michael Park asked the congregation to look amongst themselves, spot someone they’re familiar with, and repeat what’s become his slogan for ministry:  “Hey, I know you!”  Rev. Michael Park gives ...


Community Market builds on mission at The Hub Argentine

November 10, 2021

Don’t call The Hub Argentine’s new Community Market a food pantry. The term food pantry may conjure a vision of a hodgepodge of disorganized donations, but the Community Market — which opened Oct. 19 at The Hub Argentine in Kansas City, Kansas — has items crisply and clearly arranged that shows ...


With a quick turnaround, former church becomes town daycare

November 02, 2021

Kenesaw United Methodist Church didn’t stay dormant for long.  In early November 2020, with its membership dwindling to eight to 12 attendees, the church council voted to take steps to close the church during a Sunday afternoon meeting.  “Nobody wanted to do it. Nobody ever wants to close a church,...


Diversity, Equality, Inclusivity Task Force begins work in conference

October 27, 2021

Fulfilling a promise he made during his annual conference episcopal address this year, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. convened the first Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity Task Force on Oct. 21 at the conference office in Topeka.  Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. speaks with members of the Diversity, Equality, ...


UNDER ONE ROOF: Kansas church a proud 'melting pot'

October 27, 2021

The 20 members of the congregation at the United Church of Bennington were settled into their pews minutes before the start of a recent 9:30 a.m. Sunday service when a question came up.  “Who rings the bell?”  The bell sits on a metal frame outside the central Kansas church, which has dual ...


Buesing to leave conference after more than 11 years

October 20, 2021

After 11 ½ years as second-in-command of the administrative services department, Niki Buesing is leaving the Great Plains Conference.  Buesing, assistant treasurer and controller, will leave the conference in mid-November to become the chief financial officer for Nemaha Valley Community Hospital in ...


UNDER ONE ROOF: SW Kansas church keeps chin up with few members

October 20, 2021

It’s 8:58 a.m. Sunday, and Holcomb Community Church is without its pastor. “Hope Gordon didn’t forget about us,” church member Connie Gross wondered aloud. Gordon Gillock delivers the sermon at Holcomb Community Church. Photos by David Burke Within a minute, Gordon Gillock’s vehicle is spotted ...


UNDER ONE ROOF: From three denominations to two

October 13, 2021

United Faith Community Church has entered into a rare state of flux.  Its pastor of 20-plus years, Carl Ratcliff, retired in midsummer, and the Sept. 12 service was its first without him.  “When a church doesn’t have a senior pastor, it can be an unsettling thing,” Pastor Jeff Peterson, the first of...


UNDER ONE ROOF: Central Nebraska church stays community-focused

October 06, 2021

If a multitude of announcements are an indication of a healthy congregation, Sutton Federated Church qualifies. Pastor Mary Scott gives the announcements at the opening of services of Sutton Federated Church in Nebraska. Photos by David Burke There’s the upcoming tai chi class — which Pastor ...


Making comeback after COVID tops Leadership Institute discussion

October 05, 2021

The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s 23rd annual Leadership Institute spoke to churches who were bruised but not broken by the pandemic, ready for a restart and seeking encouragement to return and revitalize their missions.  Because of COVID concerns, a 500-person cap was made on ...


Panel discusses future of UMC during Leadership Institute

October 05, 2021

The Rev. Adam Hamilton has been to five General Conferences, and any discussion of issues concerning LGBTQ persons —including the ordination of gay or lesbian individuals or whether clergy can perform same-sex marriages — has “sucked the air out of every General Conference I’ve been to.”  The issues...


United Methodist pastor running for U.S. Senate

October 04, 2021

The Rev. Dr. Mark Holland speaks on the floor of The United Methodist Church's special session of General Conference in 2019 in St. Louis. File photo A United Methodist pastor and former mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, says he wants to put “faith over fear” in his run for ...


Pastors use renewal leave as time to regroup, reflect

September 15, 2021

“Paper cuts,” the Rev. Jacob Cloud says, can take their toll.  Cloud has been a United Methodist pastor since 2009, serving a variety of churches as well as serving as campus minister at the University of Kansas. He has been the senior pastor at Waverly UMC in Nebraska since 2018.  And he felt like ...


Murithi installed as Prairie Rivers, Elkhorn Valley DS

August 31, 2021

The Rev. Dr. Charles Murithi served up food for thought as he was installed as superintendent of the Prairie Rivers District and a portion of the Elkhorn Valley District on the weekend of Aug. 28-29.  His sermon on Sunday afternoon, he said at the Prairie Rivers installation ceremonies at Aurora ...


Great Plains part of reflective supervision pilot program

August 25, 2021

Holding a figurative mirror up to a clergy person to help them evaluate their own accountability is the mission of reflective supervision, a pilot program that will begin this fall in the Great Plains Conference.  “Reflective supervision is a one-on-one relationship with a trained supervisor who ...


Group rallying for Medicaid expansion in Kansas

August 25, 2021

A retired United Methodist pastor and a retired social worker are seeking to rally people from across Kansas to help support Medicaid expansion in the state.  Rev. Jack Gregory and Cathy Matlack, both members of the Lenexa St. Paul’s UMC peace and justice committee, have founded Faith Voices for ...


Topeka’s Café Quetzal off to a caffeinated start

August 24, 2021

Wielding a pair of what she called “comically oversized scissors,” the Rev. Christine Potter was ready to cut the red ribbon that officially opened Café Quetzal on Aug. 21 in Topeka.  Rev. Christine Potter and Barb Muench attempt to cut the ribbon at the opening of Cafe Quetzal in Topeka on ...


Karen Rice Ratzlaff installed as Salina, Hutchinson DS

August 17, 2021

When the Rev. Karen Rice Ratzlaff was in third grade, she gathered all of her stuffed animals and one doll, lined them up on the side of her bed, and delivered her first sermon. “Because God can do anything, God became a little tiny baby,” she recalled of her bedroom homily. She left the room, ...


In his former church, Brady installed as Kansas City District superintendent

August 10, 2021

The Rev. Dr. Tom Brady returned to Overland Park Heritage UMC on Aug. 8 to be formally installed as the Kansas City District superintendent. Brady served as senior pastor at the church from July 1996 to February 2006 — “For almost 10 years, this was home,” he said. The Rev. Tom Brady is ...


Binder adds new duties at conference level

August 04, 2021

The Rev. Marcee Binder is expanding on her work in mission outreach and justice ministries for the Missouri River District by adding responsibilities at the conference level.  As of last month, Binder has become the liaison for the Missouri River and Elkhorn Valley districts to the Congregational ...


Anderson installed as Hays, Dodge City district superintendent

July 27, 2021

The youngest district superintendent in the Great Plains Conference was installed in ceremonies July 24, with Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. calling the Rev. Zach Anderson a voice of the next generation.  “Isn’t it wise to have someone is a position of decision making to lead the church that we leave ...


Wichita Saint Mark proposes housing complex for released convicts

July 14, 2021

Wichita Saint Mark UMC sits in the corner of the 67214 ZIP code, which Rev. Robert Johnson calls the “No. 1 landing ZIP” in the city for released prisoners.  Johnson said 1,300 to 1,400 former convicted felons live in that area of central Wichita, and most, he says, are released into the community ...


Cross-cultural pastors given advice on clergy life in Great Plains

July 12, 2021

The importance of foreign-born pastors to the ministry and mission of the Great Plains Conference was reinforced July 10 during the first of two Cross-Cultural Workshops. “You have so much to teach us as far as spiritual fervor and spiritual community,” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. told the three dozen ...


De Anda looks back on her legacy at Lydia Patterson

June 30, 2021

Thirty-seven years ago, Socorro Brito de Anda agreed to temporarily help out Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Texas, agreeing to work three months in the business office of the United Methodist private school.  And she’s never left.  Retiring this summer, longtime Lydia Patterson president ...


NUMB gets ready to saddle up for its final ride

June 23, 2021

Usually at this time of year, the Rev. Bill Ritter says, he has his bags packed and is ready to hit the road for the Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger, better known as NUMB. But this year, his wife noticed, his luggage was empty. “I said if I don’t start packing, it doesn’t happen,” ...


Conference developing low-cost, high-definition video platform for local churches

June 16, 2021

Eugenio Hernandez envisions a new online video platform for the Great Plains Conference as a modern-day version of the circuit rider. “This is a new way we can look at the church, at the new quote-unquote cyber church,” said Hernandez, multimedia production specialist for the conference. The Great ...


Grace is there for you to receive, Bishop Bledsoe tells ordinands

June 15, 2021

The world needs to know that God’s grace is available to anyone who asks for it, Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe says.  To make his point during his sermon at the Service of Recognition, Commissioning and Ordination, Bishop Bledsoe talked about when he was a pastor giving a sermon and inviting youngsters ...


Ordinands celebrate completion of next steps into ministry

June 15, 2021

Revs. Mike and Allison Marcus have been taking their steps in ministry together and were side-by-side June 12 as they both became provisional deacons.  “Getting to go through ordination together as a married clergy couple was really special,” Mike said.  Revs. Allison and Mike Marcus pose for ...


Pastor mourns loss of son, granddaughter in traffic accident

June 04, 2021

A Great Plains Conference elder is mourning the deaths of his son and granddaughter in a Memorial Day weekend head-on crash south of Salina.  The Rev. Phillip Hett, 39, and his 10-year-old daughter Abigail were killed in the May 30 crash, and 13-year-old Jillian Hett is recovering at Wesley Medical ...


Bishop Saenz to add coverage of Central Texas Conference

June 03, 2021

Great Plains Conference Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. will add coverage of the episcopal duties for the Central Texas Conference beginning Jan. 1. Bishop Saenz was selected by the South Central Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops to cover the Central Texas Conference until new elections are conducted and ...


Virtual annual conference brimming with celebrations, challenges

June 01, 2021

The eighth Great Plains Annual Conference session, and its second in a distanced format forced by the coronavirus pandemic, took place Friday-Saturday, May 28-29..  “This is another way of meeting together,” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said at the opening of the session, from a studio at Church of the ...


Churches finding new connections with online-only services

May 26, 2021

As the coronavirus pandemic became widespread in March 2020, churches including those in the Great Plains Conference knew they had to keep connections with their congregations.  Some re-created their church service in front of a video camera and empty pews, while others tailored their message ...


Summer camps return for ’21 in several different forms

May 12, 2021

After a year of virtual camping, outreach efforts, and no camping at all, the five camps of the Great Plains Conference are making a comeback for the summer of 2021.  Several of the camps are making big changes to their operations, guided by COVID restrictions and cleanliness guidelines. Others are ...


Three fill roles as regional kid, youth coordinators; 7 openings remain

May 12, 2021

Three spots have been filled, with seven more remaining, to serve as regional coordinators for youth and children’s ministries in the Great Plains Conference.  The Rev. Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson, director of outreach at Wichita Calvary UMC, will serve as the South Central Regional kids ...


Lifelong camp advocate is new director of Lakeside

May 11, 2021

Alysia Downs wasn’t born into United Methodist camping, but she came pretty close.  Her mother, an ordained elder in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, was dean of camps.  “She started me in camping when I was very, very young — probably 2 years old or so,” Downs recalled. “Way back when you could take ...


Sarah Marsh to lead Mercy & Justice ministries for conference

May 10, 2021

After eight years on the Great Plains Conference’s Mercy & Justice team, five as its chair, the Rev. Sarah Marsh will lead the conference’s ministry beginning July 1.  Marsh will become the Great Plains’ Mercy & Justice coordinator, succeeding the Rev. Dr. Kalaba Chali, who has been appointed to ...


Lenexa UMC marks 35th anniversary of outdoor worship services

May 04, 2021

For 35 years, members of Lenexa United Methodist Church have grabbed their lawn chairs and made their way to Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park for an early-Sunday morning worship.  While the outdoor worship was previously limited to a few weeks, beginning on Father’s Day, recovery from the pandemic has the ...


Connecting Council hears about progress in conference justice ministries

April 28, 2021

Justice ministries, especially in Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas, have grown greatly and are expected to flourish even further before the year is over, the Great Plains Conference Connecting Council learned at its April 24 meeting.  The council brings together conference staff, district ...


Next OneEvent scheduled for Labor Day weekend at Great Plains camps

April 28, 2021

The newest edition of the OneEvent will take place on Labor Day weekend, scattered among the five camps in the Great Plains Conference.  It’s unofficially being called “OneEvent, many locations,” according to the Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, intergenerational discipleship coordinator.  For the ...


Kansas, Nebraska archives in search of church cookbooks from the past

April 21, 2021

Cookbooks in the archives from Kansas and Nebraska include, from left, Kansas City University; Omaha First UMC; Cozad, Nebraska; Winchester, Kansas; Filley, Nebraska; and Superior, Nebraska. Photo illustration by Todd Seifert   During her six years with the Kansas ...


Grinter Chapel members reflect on 165-year-old church closing

April 20, 2021

Carol Schierbaum first joined Grinter Chapel when she and her husband moved to Kansas City, Kansas, 60 years ago.  “We bought a home in the area of the church, and that was the closest Methodist church, so that’s where we started going,” she recalled.  Schierbaum and her husband both grew up in ...


McCorkle chosen as new district superintendent for Five Rivers, Parsons

April 19, 2021

The Rev. Micki McCorkle’s heart for small churches makes her an ideal choice to be the new Five Rivers and Parsons districts superintendent, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said.  “She has experience with small-church ministry and development,” the bishop said. “She has a lot of knowledge about rural and ...


Idea takes wing as Topeka coffeeshop ministry nears opening

April 13, 2021

The quetzal is an iridescent green-gold bird with a red belly found in forests and humid highlands.  A quetzal. Photo by Wikimedia Commons “It’s a really rare bird that most people don’t get a chance to see,” the Rev. Christine Scott-Potter explains. “People consider themselves fortunate to see ...


Brady to be appointed as KC District superintendent

April 07, 2021

After a year as superintendent of the Parsons and Five Rivers districts, the Rev. Dr. Tom Brady will shift on July 1 to lead the Kansas City District.  “I’m impressed with his relational work and his strategic work,” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said of Brady, 59. “He understands what it takes for ...


Professor on drive to bring books to prisons across Kansas

April 05, 2021

What began as a project linking Fort Hays State University education and criminal justice majors to prisoners across the state brought an even bigger revelation to Dr. Sarah Broman Miller.  “What I found out was that the county jails, most of them, don’t have their own library,” said Broman Miller, ...


45 years go by swiftly for conference accounts payable specialist

March 23, 2021

Perfection, Jan Swift says, got her hired by the former Kansas East Conference 45 years ago.  It was March 1976, and Paul Henson — the then-Kansas East treasurer — contacted Kaw Area Vocational Technical School (now Washburn Tech) to see if any business students could be hired as an accounts ...


Laypersons hear about ‘New Normal’ at 2nd Laity Summit

March 23, 2021

More than 200 people across the Great Plains Conference got a guide to “Building a New Normal” at the second-annual Laity Summit, conducted online March 20.  “We hope this was a launching point for lay ministry momentum,” Shane Warta, coordinator of lay leadership, said following the six-hour online...


KCK District Superintendent Gatobu to take new position at Church of the Resurrection

March 22, 2021

It took two weeks of discernment, including five days of fasting, for the Rev. Dr. Anne Kiome Gatobu to determine the next step in her ministerial calling.  “I really needed to listen to God’s voice, because I am very happy doing what I’m doing right now,” Gatobu said. “I needed to be sure this was ...


Iowa native, lifelong camp leader selected as Fontanelle director

March 17, 2021

Ryan Siver left his future to chance and hasn’t regretted a single moment.   Ryan Siver “My senior year of high school, I almost coin-flipped it,” the Iowa native recalled. “I was either going to be a missionary in Alaska for the summer or go work for a camp.” He ended up working for Camp ...


Conference helping as churches see spikes in insurance premiums

March 09, 2021

Weather-related natural disasters.  A once-in-a-century pandemic.  Civil unrest leading to property damage.  Scott Brewer Those and many other events in the past year have played havoc with insurance rates for churches both in the Great Plains Conference and nationwide.  “What we’re experiencing...