News


Conference purchases new offices in downtown Topeka

Conference purchases new offices in downtown Topeka

5/11/2022
A downtown Topeka building constructed as a factory in the 1940s and renovated in the mid-2010s will be the new home of the Great Plains Conference.  The conference entered into a purchase contract for the building at 100 S. Kansas Ave., on May 5. Scott Brewer, conference treasurer and director of administrative services, says staff should be able to move into the new facility by May 2023.  The cost of the purchase is $2.6 million, all from the conference’s reserve funds.  Conference staff ...

David Burke


Connecting Council hears of progress in justice ministries

Connecting Council hears of progress in justice ministries

5/11/2022
Three years after hearing the first proposals regarding justice ministry improvements in the Great Plains Conference, the Connecting Council received progress reports on them during its May 6-7 meetings in Topeka.  The Rev. Sarah Marsh, mercy and justice coordinator, introduces Ben MacConnell, Plains State coordinator for Direct Action & Research Training Center, at Connecting Council. Photos by David Burke The council is comprised of about 50 people who make timely decisions between annual ...

David Burke


Church court: Conferences can't exit unilaterally

Church court: Conferences can't exit unilaterally

5/10/2022
Key Points: The Judicial Council, The United Methodist Church’s top court, ruled that current church law doesn’t allow U.S. annual conferences to leave the denomination.  The church court said that annual conferences have a right to vote on disaffiliation, but only General Conference can set the process for doing so.  The ruling answers questions from the United Methodist bishops, who are dealing with the ramifications of a splintering in the denomination. U.S. annual conferences have no ...

United Methodist News Service


Topeka JUMP moves forward on mental health, affordable housing

Topeka JUMP moves forward on mental health, affordable housing

5/10/2022
At its Nehemiah Action Assembly on May 9, Topeka JUMP members received a commitment from a representative of a local mental health association to implement crisis stabilization units in Shawnee County.  It fell short, however, of receiving a commitment from the mayor of Topeka to add $5 million to a trust fund meant to implement more affordable housing in the city. Mayor Mike Padilla did agree to consider a $1 million addition.  Topeka JUMP, the Justice Unity & Ministry Project, is a mission of...

David Burke


Good Faith Network gets commitments from officials at first Nehemiah Assembly

Good Faith Network gets commitments from officials at first Nehemiah Assembly

5/4/2022
The first Nehemiah Assembly for the Johnson County-based Good Faith Network included commitments for improved mental health services and decreased homelessness by county officials, with some efforts already underway.  A product of the Direct Action & Resource Training network, or DART, the Good Faith Network consists of 20 congregations in Johnson County, including nine United Methodist Churches. It began as a part of the conference’s Doing Justice Initiative.  Ali Haynes, pastor of ...

David Burke


Bishop announces special session of annual conference

Bishop announces special session of annual conference

4/18/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. released a letter this morning to all clergy and lay members to annual conference explaining the need for a special session of annual conference, which will be conducted online via Zoom on Sept. 10. This session will be in addition to the regularly scheduled session June 8-11 in La Vista, Nebraska. Download a printable copy. Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference,   Grace and peace to you in the name of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. I am writing today ...

K-State Wesley dedicates its campus home

K-State Wesley dedicates its campus home

4/12/2022
Many of the 100 people gathered to celebrate the building dedication for Wesley House at Kansas State University were asked to stand if they had been involved in the facility’s governing boards.  One by one they introduced themselves as they stood around the perimeter of the room and passed along a reproduction of a page with the word “mortgage” in large type.  The last in line was Dr. Dirk Hutchinson, immediate president of the Wesley Foundation, who took a lighter to the parchment and tossed ...

David Burke


United Women in Faith leaders reflect on name change

United Women in Faith leaders reflect on name change

4/6/2022
It’s more than just a name change, say leaders of United Women in Faith. The former United Methodist Women, whose change in name and adjustment in focus were announced last month, are set to cast a broader net and especially try to reach new generations, according to Lisa Maupin of Lincoln, chair of the organization’s nominations committee for the South Central Jurisdiction. “It’s a response to the change and the growing needs of women, not just in our congregations but in our communities,” said...

David Burke


GP communications team wins 4 first places from UMAC

GP communications team wins 4 first places from UMAC

4/1/2022
   The Great Plains Conference Memorial Tribute to Rev. Junius B. Dotson, produced by Eugenio Hernandez, won first place for best visual news story.     The Great Plains Conference’s communications team won eight awards, including four first-place honors, during the United Methodist Association of Communicators awards gala, conducted online March 31.  McFarland Awards were presented from McKendree United Methodist Church in Nashville.  Winning first place among all ...

Assistant promoted to director of Camp Norwesca

Assistant promoted to director of Camp Norwesca

3/25/2022
Brandi May, here with her husband, Josh, is the new director of Camp Norwesca. Contributed photo Brandi May has gone from stumbling onto Camp Norwesca to leading the Great Plains Conference camp near Chadron, Nebraska. Her husband, Josh, was hired as one of the superintendents at Chadron State Park in 2017. “We didn’t even know Chadron existed until he came up here for his interview,” said May, a native of Axtell, Nebraska, south of Kearney. “We didn’t realize there were so many trees that ...

David Burke


Laity Summit introduces Learning Lab

Laity Summit introduces Learning Lab

3/23/2022
The third annual Laity Summit followed the lead of its two predecessors with an entirely online gathering.  “We hope to be in person one of these years,” Shane Warta, lay leadership coordinator, said at the onset of the laity showcase, March 19.  Mary K. Feit, director of Lay Servant Ministries for the conference, dedicated the Laity Summit to the memories of Scott Barnum, Colby, the Hays District director of lay servant ministries, who died Nov. 17; and the Rev. Nathan Stanton, director of ...

David Burke


Stanton’s dedication to family, mission, colleagues recalled

Stanton’s dedication to family, mission, colleagues recalled

3/19/2022
Family, friends and colleagues remembered the encouragement, humility and sly sense of humor of the Rev. Nathan Stanton during a celebration of his life March 18 at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina.  “He never stopped doing what he did or being who he was,” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said in eulogizing Stanton, Great Plains Conference congregational excellence director, who died March 12 at age 52 of complications from ALS.  When Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. asked the audience at the funeral who ...

David Burke


Bishops discern ways for churches choosing to separate from UMC

Bishops discern ways for churches choosing to separate from UMC

3/16/2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The Bishops of The United Methodist Church in their March 15 called meeting discerned pathways for churches choosing disaffiliation and separation. The bishops have met two consecutive weeks to discern pathways forward in these changing times.   The bishops affirmed by an overwhelming majority that paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline would be the primary paragraph used for disaffiliation and separation. It is understood that different contexts may require utilization of ...

Maidstone Mulenga


Nebraska City couple funds NUMF grants for mission work

Nebraska City couple funds NUMF grants for mission work

3/16/2022
Dr. Dean and Keitha Thomson want others to get the satisfaction that they receive from mission work.  So much so that they’ve established a grant through the Nebraska United Methodist Foundation to fund mission work by individuals and organizations throughout the Great Plains Conference.  Keitha and Dr. Dean Thomson are benefactors of a new mission fund from Nebraska United Methodist Foundation. Contributed photo “We consider it a brand-new program,” NUMF Executive Director Jackie Urkoski ...

David Burke


Stanton remembered for encouragement, humility, supporting ministries

Stanton remembered for encouragement, humility, supporting ministries

3/15/2022
  Celebration of Life The Rev. Nathan Stanton's Celebration of Life was held Friday, March 18 at Kansas Wesleyan University. Watch the recording here. Read coverage from the Celebration of Life here. Read the obituary of Nathan Stanton. View photos of Nathan Stanton here. Tell us your remembrances of Nathan here (please keep entries to about 200 words). The Rev. Nathan Stanton was determined to make his final months count, a longtime friend and colleague says, despite a diagnosis of ALS. ...

David Burke


Stanton dies after battle with ALS

Stanton dies after battle with ALS

3/12/2022
The Rev. Nathan Stanton, director of congregational excellence for the Great Plains Conference, died Saturday morning, March 12, 2022.   Stanton, 52, was diagnosed in August 2020 with bulbar-onset ALS, which began limiting his speech and swallowing while also causing the loss of use of extremities. He suffered from respiratory ailments in recent days but worked to fulfill his conference duties until just days before his death.   Rev. Nathan Stanton “I am deeply saddened by the passing of ...

Bishops seek ruling on whether an annual conference can exit UMC

Bishops seek ruling on whether an annual conference can exit UMC

3/8/2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church is requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on whether an annual conference can separate from the denomination under the provision of the Book of Discipline.  During a special meeting COB held via Zoom and through electronic balloting, the bishops approved a request to ask the church’s top court to address six questions: Question 1: May an annual conference of the United Methodist Church (“UMC”) within ...

Maidstone Mulenga


Texas man puts bishop's prayer to music

Texas man puts bishop's prayer to music

3/8/2022
It only took about 90 minutes, Tom Lough said, for him to turn Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s “Prayer for Peace” into a hymn.  Lough, a retired high school and college educator, saw the prayer in the newsletter of his church, Round Rock First UMC, located north of Austin in the Central Texas Conference, where Bishop Saenz started serving in addition to the Great Plains on Jan. 1.  Tom Lough “I just clicked on it and started reading it, and something came over me,” said Lough, who turns 80 in July. “...

David Burke


Bishop urges focus on mission amid postponement of General Conference

Bishop urges focus on mission amid postponement of General Conference

3/3/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter Thursday, March 3, 2022, in response to the announcement by the Commission on General Conference to postpone the August 2022 worldwide gathering of United Methodist delegates. Download a printable version of the letter. Read the press release from United Methodist Communications. Dear Faithful Sisters & Brothers of the Great Plains Conference:   The grace of Jesus Christ be with your spirits.   The Commission on General Conference ...

General Conference further postponed to 2024

General Conference further postponed to 2024

3/3/2022
NASHVILLE — As the pandemic continues and the wait time for visas stretches to over two years in some countries, the Commission on the General Conference announced today that the 2020 General Conference cannot be held in 2022 due to COVID-related and governmental policies/constraints.   Commission members received a report based on conversations with multiple officials of the U. S. Department of State outlining the massive backlog of visa applications in some areas. This backlog has led to wait ...

Bishop asks for prayer, financial help for Ukraine

Bishop asks for prayer, financial help for Ukraine

3/2/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. has written a prayer and encourages United Methodists to print it out and to say it daily until armed conflict ceases in Ukraine. Download it here. Print out a two-per sheet prayer for bulletins. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. has made a plea to United Methodists in the Great Plains Conference to provide financial assistance for refugees fleeing Ukraine because of the Russian invasion into the country. The letter below shares the details of how to donate money to help refugees. ...

Conference introducing new leadership model for youth

Conference introducing new leadership model for youth

3/2/2022
A new model for youth leadership in the Great Plains Conference is being launched this year.  Leadership Lab is a successor to the Conference Council on Youth Ministries, which included representatives from each district in the conference. The Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, intergenerational discipleship coordinator, said that between graduations, the pandemic and a lack of recruitment for CCYM, only four students were active at the conference level.  “Over the past three years, we’ve seen a ...

David Burke


GPARCS event to look at effect of past two years

GPARCS event to look at effect of past two years

3/2/2022
The first meeting of the Great Plains Association of Retired Clergy and Spouses in three years will attempt to bring some discernment about the past 24 months.  “Journeys of the Soul” will be online March 21-22, and the keynote speaker will be Dr. Lallene Rector, president emerita and associate professor of psychology and pastoral psychotherapy at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Watch Todd Seifert’s video interview with Rector.  Switching to an online webinar made the most sense ...

David Burke


Bishop Saenz asks for prayers for Ukraine

Bishop Saenz asks for prayers for Ukraine

2/24/2022
Today, Russia launched an unprovoked military invasion against the people of Ukraine. United Methodist Church Bishop Christian Alsted - of the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area - is asking for United Methodists to stand with the United Methodists in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in intercessory prayer for protection, reconciliation and peace. We pray especially for Bishop Eduard Khegay, bishop of Russia and Ukraine, for wisdom and grace as he shepherds congregations on both sides of ...

Bishop announces annual conference to be hybrid event

Bishop announces annual conference to be hybrid event

2/21/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, to all clergy and lay members to annual conference informing them that this year's session will be a hybrid event. Many logistical details are being worked out, so please watch your email and the weekly GPconnect email newsletter for details as they become available. Download a printable PDF of the letter. Dear Clergy and Lay Members to the Great Plains Annual Conference: Grace and peace to you in the name of ...

New Wichita church start is unintentionally multicultural

New Wichita church start is unintentionally multicultural

2/16/2022
Sunday morning services at Wichita House of Liberty United Methodist Church have all the fervency of a Black church experience, with a congregation that’s mixed race.  “We may be smaller in numbers, but we are mighty in the kingdom,” worship leader Claire Jobe told about 30 people at the beginning of the service.  House of Liberty, 1140 E. 47th St. S, opened at the beginning of the year as a multicultural church — albeit unintentionally.  Joseph Moore is the pastor of Wichita House of Liberty...

David Burke


Clinger selected to lead congregational excellence team

Clinger selected to lead congregational excellence team

2/9/2022
The Rev. Jeff Clinger says that getting the call to become the Great Plains Conference’s director of congregational excellence was “absolutely unexpected” and that he was “incredibly humbled” to receive the appointment from Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. Rev. Jeff Clinger Clinger, who turned 42 on Valentine's Day, has been the senior pastor at Topeka First United Methodist Church since 2015. He succeeds the Rev. Nathan Stanton, who is stepping aside from the position after a diagnosis of ALS in ...

David Burke


Stanton to step down from congregational excellence role July 1

Stanton to step down from congregational excellence role July 1

2/7/2022
Rev. Nathan Stanton, right, eats with Great Plains Conference pastors while attending a church planter conference. Submitted Photo After five years as director of congregational excellence for the Great Plains Conference, the Rev. Nathan Stanton will step back from the position at the beginning of the appointive year July 1. Stanton, 52, was diagnosed in August 2020 with bulbar-onset ALS, which began limiting his speech and swallowing. In an email interview for this article, Stanton ...

David Burke


Justice group gets jump-start from Topeka church

Justice group gets jump-start from Topeka church

2/2/2022
Topeka Asbury Mount Olive UMC has had strong connections with Topeka Justice Unity & Ministry Project, or JUMP, for as long as the Rev. Harry Christian has been pastor at the church. “Asbury Mount Olive has always been involved in social justice,” said Christian, who began as pastor of the Topeka church in 2013. “They’ve always been involved with seeing how they can improve our community. I don’t think there’s a day in our lives when we don’t think about justice.”   First in a series This is ...

David Burke


Topeka native among 10 selected for worldwide ecumenical group

Topeka native among 10 selected for worldwide ecumenical group

2/1/2022
A Great Plains Conference native is one of 10 young people worldwide selected for a cohort to study ecumenism and interreligious movements. Luke Miltz, 27, said he was pleasantly surprised to hear that he was named to the United Methodist Ecumenical and Interreligious Training: Young Adult Network, or UMEIT: YAN. “There’s no telling how many people they’re going to pick or how many are going to apply,” Miltz said. “It’s definitely exciting to be selected.” A native of Topeka who attended Shawnee...

David Burke


Wise words to combat racism highlight O&F

Wise words to combat racism highlight O&F

1/26/2022
Recommended steps toward living in “The Beloved Community” were made Jan. 25 at the annual Orders & Fellowship clergy gathering.  Originally planned as a three-day, in-person event in Kearney, Orders & Fellowship was changed to a one-day, online-only format because of continuing COVID concerns. About 500 clergy attended online.  Author Tim Wise was the keynote speaker for the plenary session. Tim Wise, author of nine books, including “White Like Me, Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son”...

David Burke


Great Plains ready to support victims as part of BSA settlement

Great Plains ready to support victims as part of BSA settlement

1/13/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. wrote the following letter to clergy and laity of the Great Plains Conference regarding an agreement in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case. At the center of the case is a trust fund set up to compensate victims of child sexual abuse. Download the bishop's letter. Dear United Methodists of the Great Plains Conference, The grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with your spirit as we begin a new year. This letter serves to inform you that pending court approval of a ...

Foundation gets new name, logo, emphasis to educate public on its ministry

Foundation gets new name, logo, emphasis to educate public on its ministry

1/12/2022
The former Kansas Area United Methodist Foundation has a new name, new logo, and renewed effort to educate those in the state about what it does. “It’s taking an opportunity to clarify our purpose and how we serve,” said the Rev. Dr. Dustin Petz, president and CEO of what’s now the Kansas Methodist Foundation. “There’s not always been a good understanding of what we do or how we do it.” Founded in 1964, the word “Area” was included to indicate it served both the east and west conferences in ...

David Burke


Pastor spearheads effort to bring items to Afghan refugees

Pastor spearheads effort to bring items to Afghan refugees

1/11/2022
When an extended family of 19 Afghanistan refugees headed to Maize, Kansas, with just the clothes on their backs, Kane McEntire put his connections — especially his United Methodist Church connections — to use.  “I utilized the platform in the community that my position of my appointment at Maize UMC has in order to pull some strings in my network in The United Methodist Church and also to build relationships with school leaders that let me know in advance that some of these families were coming...

David Burke


Multiple generations of Stantons leave their legacy at Kansas Wesleyan

Multiple generations of Stantons leave their legacy at Kansas Wesleyan

1/10/2022
Commitment, partnership and collaboration are all critical parts of the Kansas Wesleyan culture, one that was built during the presidency of Dr. Marshall Stanton, which spanned from 1983-2002. When Stanton arrived on campus, however, words like bankrupt, overwhelming and bleak surrounded the university.  It was Stanton’s leadership that saved Kansas Wesleyan from closure, and, in the decades that followed, the family established a multi-generational legacy on campus.     From left, Isaac, ...

Christmas video devotions conclude with message from Bishop Saenz

Christmas video devotions conclude with message from Bishop Saenz

12/23/2021
The Great Plains Conference team wants to provide some uplifting messages as we count down the days to Christmas. Our video project — Titled "12 Days of Christmas" — features video devotions. All involve reading scripture, from the Old Testament prophecies to the gospel account of Christ's birth. Some involve short reflections as well. The series concludes on Christmas Day with a message from Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. that also can be used by churches for their Dec. 26 worship services, should ...

Bishop shares details on UMC settlement in Boy Scouts bankruptcy case

Bishop shares details on UMC settlement in Boy Scouts bankruptcy case

12/21/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter today in response to an announcement of a settlement reached in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case. Download his letter. Read more details from the settlement from United Methodist Communications. Members of the Great Plains Conference,   Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our redeemer and savior whose birth we are preparing to celebrate. I am writing to share news that you may already have heard or likely will hear...

United Methodists reach settlement in Boy Scouts bankruptcy case

United Methodists reach settlement in Boy Scouts bankruptcy case

12/21/2021
United Methodist leaders have reached a settlement in the matter of the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) pending bankruptcy proceedings. Upon final court approval, the settlement would absolve any claims of sexual abuse that may have occurred in congregation-sponsored Scouting programs. Under the terms of the settlement, United Methodists would raise and give $30 million over a three-year period into a fund that will be utilized to compensate survivors, and United Methodist congregations that ...

Wyandotte, Johnson county groups set justice ministry priorities

Wyandotte, Johnson county groups set justice ministry priorities

12/15/2021
A new justice ministry in Wyandotte County has a name, a lead organizer and a list of two top priorities.  Organized by Direct Action & Research Training, or DART, the group — which includes 13 churches, four of them United Methodist — conducted its first Community Problems Assembly on Dec. 9 and selected its permanent name as Churches United for Justice.  The group also selected its top two priorities: Affordable housing/homelessness and violent crime.  During its Zoom call, the group also met...

David Burke


Advent podcast series concludes with look at joy

Advent podcast series concludes with look at joy

12/14/2021
The “In Layman’s Terms” podcast begins a four-episode series for Advent using the story of Ebenezer Scrooge from the classic novel "A Christmas Carol" to teach about the redemption we all have available to us thanks to Jesus Christ. In the series throughout December, host Todd Seifert, conference communications director, explores the first Advent themes of hope, peace, love and joy. Episodes Hope (duration 26:08)— Ebenezer learns he has hope thanks to a visit from his deceased business ...

Lincoln church continues tradition of giving craft pieces to children

Lincoln church continues tradition of giving craft pieces to children

12/8/2021
Previous crafts for children have included a wooden Nativity set and an Advent wreath. Photo by David Burke In his fifth year as pastor of Lincoln St. Luke United Methodist Church, the Rev. Curt Magelky was almost ready to let his Advent tradition lapse. For three years, Magelky and members of the church had created small wooden keepsakes to distribute to children and youth in the congregation weekly during the season. The first year was a nativity set in plain wood, coated in varnish. The ...

David Burke


Congregations encouraged to vote no on BSA bankruptcy plan

Congregations encouraged to vote no on BSA bankruptcy plan

12/2/2021
A United Methodist Ad Hoc Committee is encouraging congregations to vote against a proposed Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reorganization plan following months of negotiations that have failed to yield a settlement thus far. United Methodist local churches that have chartered Scout troops or Cub packs where abuse may have occurred are vulnerable to lawsuits and claims because they are not receiving sufficient protection in the BSA bankruptcy plan.  The BSA filed bankruptcy to address sexual abuse ...

Maidstone Mulenga


Churches begin using conference’s video streaming platform

Churches begin using conference’s video streaming platform

12/1/2021
The Great Plains Conference’s video streaming platform is off and running.  The first church to use the platform — found at www.greatplainsumc.church — is Nebraska’s Dorchester UMC.  “It’s very user-friendly and very straight forward,” said Matthew Hoffman, audio-visual tech for the church, which began using the platform Nov. 21.   The Dorchester church had previously streamed its services through Facebook Live.  “It opened the door to many others who have an internet connection but not a ...

David Burke


Leaders thrilled over $1.78M grant from Kansas Health Foundation

Leaders thrilled over $1.78M grant from Kansas Health Foundation

12/1/2021
The Great Plains Conference’s Doing Justice Initiative is getting a kickstart thanks to a $1.78 million grant recently announced by the Kansas Health Foundation.  “It’s going to basically put the plan that the conference has put together on steroids in terms of getting started bigger and stronger than what was initially planned when we put together our proposal to the conference,” said Ben MacConnell, lead organizer for Direction Action & Research Training, or DART, in Kansas.  MacConnell said ...

David Burke


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

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

11/17/2021
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 announcements at First UMC in Chanute, Kansas. Photos by David Burke It’s that recognition of others, that sign of familiarity, and that reinforcement of their worth — both in person and on social media — that...

David Burke


Community Market builds on mission at The Hub Argentine

Community Market builds on mission at The Hub Argentine

11/10/2021
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 respect for its patrons while being cosmetically appealing. “At The Hub and so many of our local churches, we want to treat people as equals and in everything we do, with dignity and respect and ...

David Burke


Bishops offer framework for inclusive church

Bishops offer framework for inclusive church

11/8/2021
The Council of Bishops has cast a vision for a future United Methodist Church that transcends the labels many church members use to describe themselves. “We cannot be a traditional church or a progressive church or a centrist church. We cannot be a gay or straight church,” asserts what the bishops have titled “A Narrative for the Continuing United Methodist Church.” The bishops’ narrative, instead, envisions a denomination rooted in Scripture, centered in Christ and welcoming to all churchgoers ...

United Methodist News Service


With a quick turnaround, former church becomes town daycare

With a quick turnaround, former church becomes town daycare

11/2/2021
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,” Pastor Kathy Uldrich said.   Kathy Uldrich plays with a youngster at Kenesaw United Child Care. Photos by David Burke Within two days, Uldrich got a call from Angela Keiser, president of the ...

David Burke


Diversity, Equality, Inclusivity Task Force begins work in conference

Diversity, Equality, Inclusivity Task Force begins work in conference

10/27/2021
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, Inclusivity Task Force. Photos by David Burke The purpose of the advisory task force, the bishop said, is to provide the cabinet and conference leaders with findings and recommendations that counteract ...

David Burke


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

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

10/27/2021
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 denominations of United Methodist and Presbyterian, and signifies the start of worship services.  Once a bell ringer was found, services began with the Rev. Cynthia Smart listing a variety of activities, most ...

David Burke


Bishop shares what he learned during clergy meetings with Connecting Council

Bishop shares what he learned during clergy meetings with Connecting Council

10/26/2021
The Connecting Council heard details about what Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. learned during district meetings with clergy, updates on the conference’s justice initiative and more during its fall meeting Oct. 23 via Zoom video-conferencing software.   Bishop Saenz opened the meeting by sharing lessons churches have learned since the onset of the pandemic. Chief among those lessons: “Flexibility is not an option, it’s a must,” the bishop said. “And we learned we need to celebrate the church that we now ...

Todd Seifert


Buesing to leave conference after more than 11 years

Buesing to leave conference after more than 11 years

10/20/2021
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 Seneca. The position is contracted through Topeka-based Stormont-Vail Health, and Buesing said she will commute and maintain her current residence in Topeka.  “I want everybody to know I love my job ...

David Burke


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

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

10/20/2021
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 pulling up to a parking space in front of the church, amid five others outside the southwest Kansas church, a combination of United Methodist and Presbyterian parishioners. “Race you up to front,” he ...

David Burke


UNDER ONE ROOF: From three denominations to two

UNDER ONE ROOF: From three denominations to two

10/13/2021
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 several interim pastors, told the congregation of about 60 in Valley, Nebraska. “In the right time, God will bring the right person here.”  United Faith Community Church has spent its 70-year history...

David Burke


UNDER ONE ROOF: Central Nebraska church stays community-focused

UNDER ONE ROOF: Central Nebraska church stays community-focused

10/6/2021
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 Mary Scott suggested would be a good salve to heal the wounds of the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ football loss in the season opener the day before; a take-out taco supper to pay for a new musical play area, ...

David Burke


Making comeback after COVID tops Leadership Institute discussion

Making comeback after COVID tops Leadership Institute discussion

10/5/2021
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 in-person attendance at the sanctuary in Leawood, while more than 2,000 registered to watch online. Those attending in person kept on masks throughout the institute except while eating or drinking.  The ...

David Burke


Panel discusses future of UMC during Leadership Institute

Panel discusses future of UMC during Leadership Institute

10/5/2021
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 will again be at the forefront of the next General Conference, postponed from 2020 to a tentative time frame in late August and early September 2022, and Hamilton is the lead clergy delegate from the...

David Burke


United Methodist pastor running for U.S. Senate

United Methodist pastor running for U.S. Senate

10/4/2021
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 the U.S. Senate. “My faith is key to this,” said the Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Senate on Oct. 5. “I’m very concerned about where the nation is ...

David Burke


Faith in the face of injustice

Faith in the face of injustice

9/29/2021
Southwestern College stood against racism during World War II By Richard McDonough © 2021 Yoshie and the Rev. Paul Hagiya. Photo courtesy of Christ United Methodist Church in Santa Maria, California Kindness and respect were the weapons used in the face of fear and prejudice in Cowley County, Kansas, during the 1940s. Opportunities were provided to those that others considered threats. Leadership took the form of pragmatism mixed with lofty goals — sometimes very publicly, sometimes very ...

Pastors use renewal leave as time to regroup, reflect

Pastors use renewal leave as time to regroup, reflect

9/15/2021
“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 he was nearing the end of his rope.  “We are vulnerable, and we are open so often that sometimes just the little paper cuts can add up that we receive,” Cloud said. “If we don’t take the time to ...

David Burke


Churches receive instructions on Boy Scouts bankruptcy

Churches receive instructions on Boy Scouts bankruptcy

9/7/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter Sept. 7, 2021, regarding the bankruptcy developments with the Boy Scouts of America. The bankruptcy settlement involves settling claims of abuse made by more than 84,000 people, and some of which date back as far as 80 years ago.   Based upon the recommendation of our Great Plains Conference Chancellors, all churches that currently support scouting units should not extend or renew any expiring charter. Instead, tell the local BSA Council that ...

Donate now to help people impacted by Hurricane Ida

Donate now to help people impacted by Hurricane Ida

8/31/2021
Hurricane Ida's impacts will be felt for a long time along the Gulf Coast. With torrential rains and wind speeds that topped 150 mph, damage ranges from destroyed homes to flooded streets and a crippled power grid. The storm made landfall Aug. 29, and its slow progression — often only at 8 to 10 mph — meant its high winds and heavy rains stayed over areas for long periods of time while advancing north and east into the continental United States. The United Methodist Committee on Relief ...

Murithi installed as Prairie Rivers, Elkhorn Valley DS

Murithi installed as Prairie Rivers, Elkhorn Valley DS

8/31/2021
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 UMC, was meant to complement what individual clergy preached about that morning.  Rev. Dr. Charles Murithi delivers his sermon at his installation service, Aug. 29 at Aurora UMC. Photo by David Burke...

David Burke


Bishop asks for prayer for Haiti, Afghanistan

Bishop asks for prayer for Haiti, Afghanistan

8/26/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter to the Great Plains Conference on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, regarding tragic situations in Haiti and Afghanistan. Download a printable version of the letter. Dear Clergy and Laity of the Great Plains Conference, Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, in whom our eternal hope rests. I am writing today to urge your congregations to pray during Sunday’s worship services — as well as before and ongoing — for the tragic circumstances...

Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy affects United Methodist congregations

Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy affects United Methodist congregations

8/26/2021
The United Methodist Church and its predecessor denominations have a relationship with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which dates back more than 100 years. In February 2020, the BSA announced the national organization would file for bankruptcy to allow it to continue carrying on its mission while also compensating sexual abuse victims who were harmed during their time in scouting. While the bankruptcy is ongoing, the BSA, along with its local councils, recently reached an agreement with ...

Great Plains part of reflective supervision pilot program

Great Plains part of reflective supervision pilot program

8/25/2021
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 works with a clergyperson to focus on their practice of ministry, so they are healthy and thriving and growing in their leadership,” said the Rev. Nancy Lambert, who is coordinating the program in the ...

David Burke


Group rallying for Medicaid expansion in Kansas

Group rallying for Medicaid expansion in Kansas

8/25/2021
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 Medicaid Expansion, which is working with groups such as Kansas Interfaith Action, the Kansas-based Voter Network, and the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund to promote passage of the extension.  ...

David Burke


Topeka’s Café Quetzal off to a caffeinated start

Topeka’s Café Quetzal off to a caffeinated start

8/24/2021
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 Aug. 21. Photos by David Burke But the big scissors didn’t do the job.  “Where’s that scripture, ‘I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me?’” she said with a laugh as the big pair proved ...

David Burke


Karen Rice Ratzlaff installed as Salina, Hutchinson DS

Karen Rice Ratzlaff installed as Salina, Hutchinson DS

8/17/2021
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, shut the door on her menagerie and imagined a “Toy Story”-like revival where they shared the good news. “I believe that Love Incarnate had the power to work miracles,” she said. “And I still do.” Rev. ...

David Burke


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

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

8/10/2021
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 installed on Aug. 8 as Kansas City District superintendent. Photo by David Burke Repeating the phrase “if these walls could talk” frequently, Brady reflected on the “good problems” Heritage had during his ...

David Burke


McCorkle installed as Five Rivers, Parsons DS

McCorkle installed as Five Rivers, Parsons DS

8/9/2021
The Rev. Micki McCorkle provides a sermon during her installation Aug. 7 as the new Five Rivers and Parsons districts superintendent.           Showing trust in God means being willing to take a step forward, even when you aren’t sure where exactly you are going. That was the message shared by the Rev. Micki McCorkle during a pair of installation services conducted for her Saturday, Aug. 7, as superintendent of the Five Rivers and Parsons districts. Garnett United Methodist ...

Todd Seifert


Binder adds new duties at conference level

Binder adds new duties at conference level

8/4/2021
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 Excellence team and will work with churches conference-wide to make them aware of available grants and help in the grant-writing process.  The Rev. Marcee Binder continues to be based in Omaha, ...

David Burke


Bishop issues statement on mask recommendation

Bishop issues statement on mask recommendation

7/28/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following statement today — July 28, 2021 — in response to a recommendation regarding masks from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Download a printable version of the letter. Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference,   Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Redeemer and the Great Physician. As many of you no doubt have noted, the infection rate from the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has surged in ...

Anderson installed as Hays, Dodge City district superintendent

Anderson installed as Hays, Dodge City district superintendent

7/27/2021
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 behind?” the bishop said of Anderson, 36.  Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. asks Rev. Zach Anderson to affirm his commitment to ministries as part of the district superintendent installation ceremony July 24 in ...

David Burke


Support, tutorials section added to Great Plains UM Network

Support, tutorials section added to Great Plains UM Network

7/23/2021
After weeks of research and development by the conference to suit budget constraints by churches, a new "Support and Tutorials" section has been added to the Great Plains United Methodist Network. The section encompasses turnkey solutions that usually, a third-party vendor will charge at least $10,000 to put together for churches.   Challenged with the task in need, Eugenio Hernandez, Multimedia Production Specialist for the Great Plains Conference, has created a DIY solution for churches to ...

Eugenio Hernandez


Wichita Saint Mark proposes housing complex for released convicts

Wichita Saint Mark proposes housing complex for released convicts

7/14/2021
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 with little choice but to commit another crime and enter back into the vicious circle of prison.  This artist's concept shows the street view of the proposed Nehemiah Village. But Saint Mark, the ...

David Burke


NUMB Ride completes 25th and final year, tops $1.1 million

NUMB Ride completes 25th and final year, tops $1.1 million

7/13/2021
Local food pantries will be better-stocked, Africa University better equipped, the Society of St. Andrew more able to glean and the Heifer Project can send a few more animal pairs to families in need.   This year’s Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger, June 26-30, raised more than $70,000 to support the above projects and raised more than $1.1 million to support food insecurity projects over its 25-year history.   Rev. Bill Ritter, NUMB co-founder and ride director, talks to ...

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

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

7/12/2021
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 attendees of the Zoom webinar, which also included members of those pastors’ Staff-Parish and Pastor-Parish relations committees. About three dozen pastors, as well as members of Staff-Parish and ...

David Burke


De Anda looks back on her legacy at Lydia Patterson

De Anda looks back on her legacy at Lydia Patterson

6/30/2021
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 de Anda talked to conference communications director Todd Seifert for an episode of his “In Layman’s Terms” podcast.  Founded in 1913, Lydia Patterson is located eight blocks from the bridge across the...

David Burke


NUMB gets ready to saddle up for its final ride

NUMB gets ready to saddle up for its final ride

6/23/2021
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,” Ritter, who co-founded NUMB 25 years ago, told her. Riders participate in the 2015 ride. File photo Ritter and co-founder Greg Bakewell announced after the 2019 ride that the next NUMB would be the ...

David Burke


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

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

6/16/2021
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 Plains United Methodist Television Network, at greatplainsumc.church, would provide a one-stop menu of churches in the conference, organized by districts and their assigned churches individually, with ...

David Burke


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

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

6/15/2021
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 to “come up and get it” and how some of them did – and in turn received a token from him.  The bishop made the same offer to those being ordained as elders, deacons and associate members June 12, as ...

David Burke


Ordinands celebrate completion of next steps into ministry

Ordinands celebrate completion of next steps into ministry

6/15/2021
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 pictures following the ordination. Photos by David Burke “It’s really powerful to do it together,” Allison added.  Both said they were swept up by the symbolism and the tradition of the Service of ...

David Burke


Pastor mourns loss of son, granddaughter in traffic accident

Pastor mourns loss of son, granddaughter in traffic accident

6/4/2021
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 Center in Wichita.  The Rev. Phil Hett with his daughters, Abigail and Jillian. Contributed photo The Kansas Highway Patrol says the driver of a pickup was headed the wrong way on I-135 south of ...

David Burke


Bishop Saenz to add coverage of Central Texas Conference

Bishop Saenz to add coverage of Central Texas Conference

6/3/2021
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 bishop assignments are updated at the next jurisdictional conference. He will succeed Bishop Mike Lowry, who is retiring at the end of 2021. As part of the coverage assignments, Bishop James Nunn of ...

David Burke


Virtual annual conference brimming with celebrations, challenges

Virtual annual conference brimming with celebrations, challenges

6/1/2021
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 Resurrection in Leawood.  Most of the reports necessary by the Book of Discipline were presented in recorded videos, while the bishop; the Rev. Nan Kaye-Skinner, secretary; and Jesi Lipp, ...

David Burke


Churches finding new connections with online-only services

Churches finding new connections with online-only services

5/26/2021
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 specifically for an online audience.  With in-person church attendance now inching toward normalcy, some of those in the latter camp are keeping their online-only services alive with no indication of ...

David Burke


Summer camps return for ’21 in several different forms

Summer camps return for ’21 in several different forms

5/12/2021
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 returning to semi-traditional camp, with some new rules, regulations, and procedures.  “It’s going to look different at each camp,” Sara Shaw, coordinator of camping ministry, said. “We don’t know ...

David Burke


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

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

5/12/2021
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 coordinator. Matt Dumler, youth director at Hays First UMC, and Ed Ostlund, youth and community engagement minister at Waverly First UMC, will be youth coordinators in the Southwest and Northeast regions.  “...

David Burke


Lifelong camp advocate is new director of Lakeside

Lifelong camp advocate is new director of Lakeside

5/11/2021
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 your kids as dean.”  Alysia Downs is the new director of Camp Lakeside, near Scott City, Kansas. Contributed photo After more than 30 years of working with children and families, Downs has been ...

David Burke


Re-engaging after our pandemic-induced exiles

Re-engaging after our pandemic-induced exiles

5/11/2021
As we come nearer and nearer to being able to return to life from our in-home exiles, Todd Seifert, conference communications director, has embarked on a new series for the “In Layman’s Terms” podcast focused on rebuilding our society and our spiritual disciplines. Using the stories from the Old Testament history books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the goal is to share stories about how people and churches are preparing to re-engage with their congregations, their communities and with God through their ...

Todd Seifert


Sarah Marsh to lead Mercy & Justice ministries for conference

Sarah Marsh to lead Mercy & Justice ministries for conference

5/10/2021
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 Wichita Pleasant Valley UMC.  Rev. Sarah Marsh will lead the Mercy & Justice ministries for the Great Plains Conference beginning July 1. Contributed photo “Sarah Marsh will be an excellent addition ...

David Burke


Central Texas Bishop Mike Lowry to retire on Jan. 1

Central Texas Bishop Mike Lowry to retire on Jan. 1

5/7/2021
FORT WORTH, TEXAS -- Bishop Mike Lowry, episcopal leader of the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church has announced that he will retire from the episcopacy effective January 1, 2022. Bishop Lowry, who will enter into Vocational Retirement as defined in ¶408.2b in the 2016 UMC Book of Discipline, is the longest tenured episcopal leader in the history of the Fort Worth Episcopal Area having served as bishop of the Central Texas Conference since his election to the episcopacy in ...

Lenexa UMC marks 35th anniversary of outdoor worship services

Lenexa UMC marks 35th anniversary of outdoor worship services

5/4/2021
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 church expanding its schedule, beginning this year on May 2.  “Of course, during the pandemic everybody can scatter out and feel safe,” said the Rev. Jan Hayen, a retired pastor filling in for the Rev. ...

David Burke


Connecting Council hears about progress in conference justice ministries

Connecting Council hears about progress in conference justice ministries

4/28/2021
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 superintendents, and clergy and lay committee leaders, as well as a few at-large members, at least twice a year to make recommendations to the annual conference session and to handle business that ...

David Burke


Next OneEvent scheduled for Labor Day weekend at Great Plains camps

Next OneEvent scheduled for Labor Day weekend at Great Plains camps

4/28/2021
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 first six years of OneEvent, it gathered youth from across the conference for a rally and other activities, either in Salina or Grand Island. It was scheduled to be reimagined last year as a summertime ...

David Burke


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

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

4/21/2021
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 United Methodist Archives, Sara DeCaro noticed something lacking in the collection: Cookbooks.  “I was actually kind of surprised, because I guess I considered cookbooks to be a quintessential part of ...

David Burke


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

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

4/20/2021
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 small farming communities, she said, and Grinter Chapel was “more like those churches.”  “Even though it was in the city, it felt more like home,” she said. “I love the smallness of the church. I’m not a ...

David Burke


McCorkle chosen as new district superintendent for Five Rivers, Parsons

McCorkle chosen as new district superintendent for Five Rivers, Parsons

4/19/2021
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 county-seat life, and she has a passion for working with laity and developing their leadership.”  Rev. Micki McCorkle will be the new Five Rivers and Parsons districts superintendent. McCorkle, ...

David Burke


Idea takes wing as Topeka coffeeshop ministry nears opening

Idea takes wing as Topeka coffeeshop ministry nears opening

4/13/2021
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 two flying together. It’s kind of like a God moment to see a quetzal.”  Scott-Potter hopes to capture that spirit with the launch of Café Quetzal (pronounced KATE-zuhl), tentatively scheduled for ...

David Burke


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