David Burke

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


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...


Justice ministries gaining momentum in conference, KCK area

March 08, 2021

The Rev. Maria Campbell and the Rev. Bruce Draper point to a quote attributed to Bishop Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”  Mercy and justice efforts, they say, have concentrated ...


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 ...