News


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


Brady to be appointed as KC District superintendent

Brady to be appointed as KC District superintendent

4/7/2021
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 churches to be vital, and he has a lot of experience that helps him offer pragmatic counsel and resources that he has used to help churches move forward.”  Brady’s pastoral experience includes a decade ...

David Burke


Professor on drive to bring books to prisons across Kansas

Professor on drive to bring books to prisons across Kansas

4/5/2021
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, assistant professor of teacher education. “If they do, they’re usually a law library of some sort —and by law library I mean a few books.”  Dr. Sarah Broman Miller stands in a storage room at Hays ...

David Burke


45 years go by swiftly for conference accounts payable specialist

45 years go by swiftly for conference accounts payable specialist

3/23/2021
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 receivable specialist.  “Four of us applied, I think,” Swift recalled. “The only reason I was offered the position is that back then, we didn’t have computers and you had to type up your resume. Our teacher ...

David Burke


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

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

3/23/2021
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 session.  Introducing the summit, Warta said he wanted the goal was for laity to be “affirmed, challenged, and edified in your walk with Jesus.”  The Rev. Dr. Scott Hughes delivers the keynote ...

David Burke


Bishops reconsider May 8 special session

Bishops reconsider May 8 special session

3/22/2021
The United Methodist Council of Bishops has canceled its call for a special virtual General Conference on May 8. The bishops made the decision to cancel during a March 22 online meeting that was closed to the public. The bishops also announced that they plan to use their regularly scheduled April meeting to have conversations based on results of listening sessions and discern a possible new timeline. “Much has been learned over the past few weeks and the extended timeline will allow for even ...

United Methodist News Service


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

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

3/22/2021
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 of God.”  Rev. Dr. Anne Gatobu celebrates her appointment as Kansas City District superintendent with Bishop Saenz in 2018. File photos Gatobu, who has served as superintendent of the Kansas City ...

David Burke


Bishop urges support for Asian pastors in the Great Plains

Bishop urges support for Asian pastors in the Great Plains

3/21/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. has issued the following statement regarding the shooting deaths of spa workers in Atlanta. Download a printable version of the statement. Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference, Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who by the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection gave birth to the church and opened it up to people of all ages, nations, and races. Our Great Plains Conference counts a total of 41 Asian clergy — 36 from ...

Iowa native, lifelong camp leader selected as Fontanelle director

Iowa native, lifelong camp leader selected as Fontanelle director

3/17/2021
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 Aldersgate in southwest Iowa, and knew he made the right decision by his first summer. “One of the kids had a hard time adjusting and getting along with the group,” Siver recalled. “Late one night, toward ...

David Burke


Communications staff wins 6 UMAC awards

Communications staff wins 6 UMAC awards

3/11/2021
The Great Plains Conference communications team won six awards in the annual United Methodist Association of Communicators awards gala, held virtually March 10. David Burke, conference content specialist, was the conference’s lone first-place winner. He won in the article series category for stories he wrote about ministry amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference website, spearheaded by Jayna McFarland, social media and website specialist, took second place in the website category. Todd ...

Conference helping as churches see spikes in insurance premiums

Conference helping as churches see spikes in insurance premiums

3/9/2021
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 right now is kind of a perfect storm in terms of insurance,” Scott Brewer, conference treasurer and director of administrative services, said. “It’s not exclusive to any of our churches or programs, ...

David Burke


Justice ministries gaining momentum in conference, KCK area

Justice ministries gaining momentum in conference, KCK area

3/8/2021
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 more on the former than the latter.  “We do a great job with mercy ministry,” said Campbell, pastor of Overland Park Heritage UMC. “But we really don’t address the broader-based issues that are the ...

David Burke


Dotson remembered for leadership, how he connected people

Dotson remembered for leadership, how he connected people

2/25/2021
The Rev. Junius B. Dotson, the top executive of Discipleship Ministries, died late Feb. 24, less than a month after announcing his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 55. His unexpected death brought together United Methodists of varied theological views in an outpouring of grief and love for a leader whose ministry touched lives across the denomination. “He had an indelible way of pulling leaders to their full potential,” said longtime friend Toska Medlock Lee, who has known him since ...

United Methodist News Service


General Conference postponed until 2022

General Conference postponed until 2022

2/25/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. provides a few words of encouragement after the announced postponement of the General Conference to August 2022.   General Conference organizers announced that the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly — long postponed by the pandemic — must wait to meet another year. The global gathering is now scheduled for Aug. 29 to Sept. 6, 2022, in Minneapolis. With the slow rollout of vaccines, continued travel restrictions and limitations of virtual technology, the commission ...

United Methodist News Service


Black pastor finds harmony in small, all-white Nebraska communities

Black pastor finds harmony in small, all-white Nebraska communities

2/24/2021
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 Superintendent Bill Ritter telling him at the time.  But introducing a Black pastor to an all-white church proved to be anticlimactic, Patterson quickly discovered.  Hollis Patterson “When we walked in, ...

David Burke


Online LEAF session features treasury, health, education officials

Online LEAF session features treasury, health, education officials

2/24/2021
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 LEAF session, including keynote speaker, panel and workshops, is available for free online, premiering Feb. 22. More than five hours of video is available.  Lynn Rogers The keynote speaker, Lynn ...

David Burke


2021 annual conference to be online only

2021 annual conference to be online only

2/21/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. released the following letter today — Feb. 22, 2021 — regarding the way the Great Plains Conference will conduct this year's annual conference session. Download a printable version of the letter. Dear Clergy and Lay Members to the Annual Conference,   Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our wellspring of life and hope. I am writing today to inform you that we will conduct the coming 2021 annual conference session entirely online. The theme for this ...

Virtual version of Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day draws 100

Virtual version of Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day draws 100

2/17/2021
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 could stay in the warmth of their homes, the Rev. Ron Roemmich, a retired United Methodist pastor said. Rev. Carol Windrum discusses expected legislation in the Nebraska unicameral. Screen grab More ...

David Burke


Three new superintendents joining Great Plains cabinet

Three new superintendents joining Great Plains cabinet

2/15/2021
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 District; and Rev. Karen Rice Ratzlaff, Hutchinson and Salina districts — will begin their new positions July 1. “I’m very excited about the skill sets, perspectives, and diversity of the group — ...

David Burke


Churches encouraged to resume in-person worship

Churches encouraged to resume in-person worship

2/11/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter today — Feb. 11, 2021 — regarding the reopening of United Methodist churches in Kansas and Nebraska for the fast-approaching Lenten season. Download or print the full letter. Dear Clergy and Laity of the Great Plains Conference,   The peace of Jesus Christ be with your spirit.   I am writing to encourage our United Methodist churches in Kansas and Nebraska to resume in-person worship — while continuing to exercise an abundance of caution — ...

Churches have first week of COVID testing; second round this week

Churches have first week of COVID testing; second round this week

2/10/2021
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 churches in the state to conduct testing, in a pilot program between the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Great Plains Conference. Rev. Jill Sander-Chali receives a completed ...

David Burke


KC/Tampa rivalry benefits food distribution

KC/Tampa rivalry benefits food distribution

2/9/2021
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 decided to do a friendly competition between Tampa United Methodist churches and ours,” said the Rev. Debbie Hull, a deacon and pastor of children’s and missions ministry at Fairway Old Mission UMC. ...

David Burke


Williamston selected as clergy excellence director, assistant to bishop

Williamston selected as clergy excellence director, assistant to bishop

1/31/2021
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 the bishop, effective July 1. The Rev. Dee Williamston, appointed as the director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop effective July 1, preaches at a conference event in 2018. “I’...

David Burke


Three Kansas churches to host COVID-19 testing beginning this week

Three Kansas churches to host COVID-19 testing beginning this week

1/30/2021
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. Feb. 3 and 10  Wichita College Hill UMC, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 4 and 11  Liberal UMC, 3-7 p.m. Feb. 5 and 12  The Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator, said to her knowledge this is the ...

David Burke


Orders & Fellowship speaker challenges pastors to think purple

Orders & Fellowship speaker challenges pastors to think purple

1/27/2021
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 how we find that sweet spot in the middle,” said Schade, author of the book “Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide,” published in 2019, and keynote speaker for the Orders & ...

David Burke


Lenexa UMC plans online hymn singalong

Lenexa UMC plans online hymn singalong

1/26/2021
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 business administrator. “I’ll be singing at home, but it’s not like it’s through Zoom. It’s not realistic, but we’re having fun.”  The singalong is from 7-8 p.m. CT Sunday, Jan. 31 on Facebook Live.  ...

David Burke


Camps Fontanelle, Lakeside seeking new directors

Camps Fontanelle, Lakeside seeking new directors

1/20/2021
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 a resume, cover letter and statement of faith and send it to her at sshaw@greatplainsumc.org. The deadline for applications for Camp Fontanelle is Jan. 31 and for Lakeside is Feb. 1.  “Both site ...

David Burke


Clergy excellence director Nancy Lambert to retire in June

Clergy excellence director Nancy Lambert to retire in June

1/13/2021
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 spend some time traveling while we are both still healthy,” said Lambert, 65, who has been director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop of the conference since 2013.  The Rev. Nancy ...

David Burke


Bishop calls Christians to action after Capitol riot

Bishop calls Christians to action after Capitol riot

1/8/2021
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following statement Jan, 8, 2021, regarding the riot at the U.S. Capitol Building the previous Wednesday. Download a printable copy. Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference,   Like many of you, I was shocked Wednesday by the television images of our U.S. Capitol being overrun by protesters who do not accept the voting process and results of the recent 2020 presidential election. The protesters sieged and broke through the Capitol’s doors and ...

Coffeyville pastor succumbs to COVID

Coffeyville pastor succumbs to COVID

1/8/2021
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 to COVID-19, two days after receiving a positive test result. He was 61. Diann Demas said her husband, who suffered from hypertension and was a Type-2 diabetic, refused hospitalization the previous ...

David Burke


Commission on General Conference establishes timeline for next steps

Commission on General Conference establishes timeline for next steps

1/4/2021
The Commission on the General Conference held a two-day virtual gathering Dec.11-12 to discuss complex matters concerning the postponed 2020 General Conference session that is currently set for Aug. 29 to Sept. 7, 2021. It was decided that the Technology Study Team, must submit their report to the Commission by January 31, 2021. This team is exploring the implications of options for accommodating full participation at General Conference including, but not limited to, the possibility of utilizing...

A Coronavirus Christmas brings new methods to Great Plains churches

A Coronavirus Christmas brings new methods to Great Plains churches

12/16/2020
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 the holiday season:   At Edgerton UMC, Christmas bags were distributed to its members.   “Inside each bag were a book of liturgies for the four Sundays of Advent, plus Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and...

David Burke


Neighboring Movement receives nearly $1 million grant to further mission

Neighboring Movement receives nearly $1 million grant to further mission

11/18/2020
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 Lilly Endowment.  Rev. Adam Barlow-Thompson, executive director of the Neighboring Movement, speaks at the 2020 Orders & Fellowship. File photo “This is a bigger grant than we’ve ever received by ...

David Burke


Plans made to bolster children’s, youth ministry in conference

Plans made to bolster children’s, youth ministry in conference

11/18/2020
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,” said Gepford, intergenerational discipleship coordinator for the Great Plains Conference. “I think that’s a common feeling for a lot of ministry leaders right now, probably everyone in general.”  ...

David Burke


World AIDS Day worship service scheduled for Dec. 1

World AIDS Day worship service scheduled for Dec. 1

11/18/2020
The United Methodist Global AIDS Committee has announced plans for a special service to commemorate World AIDS Day at 1 p.m. CT Tuesday, Dec. 1. The worship service – held virtually – will be free and available to all online at www.Facebook.com/UMCglobalaidsfund and https://www.umc.org/en/content/world-aids-day-2020-worship. The theme of the service will revolve around the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day ­– Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility – and will feature a message from Bishop ...

Bishop encourages suspension of in-person worship in many cases

Bishop encourages suspension of in-person worship in many cases

11/12/2020
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter today regarding in-person worship amid rising cases of COVID-19 in both Kansas and Nebraska. Download a printable version of the letter here. Dear Clergy and Laity of the Great Plains Conference,   Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.   Out of an abundance of caution I am strongly encouraging that in-person worship services for congregations located in counties identified as being in critical or dangerous ...

Big Garden branches out with orchard planting in Kansas

Big Garden branches out with orchard planting in Kansas

11/11/2020
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 outside Abundant Harvest in Emporia. Photos by David Burke “It’s going to produce a lot of fruit, ready-to-eat fruit,” said Lee Alderman, executive director of the mission. The volunteers, from ...

David Burke


Kathy Williams chosen for new role of clergy leadership coordinator

Kathy Williams chosen for new role of clergy leadership coordinator

11/4/2020
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 is always beneficial,” said Williams, who begins her new role Jan. 1. “I appreciate all of what the conference has offered so far with clergy excellence. It’s been great during this time period now” ...

David Burke


At storefront Wichita UMC, food distribution comes with many extras

At storefront Wichita UMC, food distribution comes with many extras

11/3/2020
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 as the families wait for their food, which is transferred into a large recyclable cloth grocery bag.  Nancy Reeves instructs a volunteer at Wichita Covenant UMC's food distribution. Photos by David...

David Burke


Miracle of Innocence takes appeal online in virtual gala

Miracle of Innocence takes appeal online in virtual gala

11/2/2020
The man whose organization helped set the Rev. Darryl Burton free after 24 years in prison for a crime Burton didn’t commit praised the work of Burton’s group during Miracle of Innocence’s “Turning Dreams into Reality” virtual gala.  The gala premiered with a 45-minute video on Oct. 28.  Centurion founder Jim McCloskey speaks at the virtual gala. Screen shot Burton, wrongly imprisoned for murder in the St. Louis area, is now an associate pastor at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection....

Wichita Chapel Hill turns 25, celebrating its diversity, inclusion

Wichita Chapel Hill turns 25, celebrating its diversity, inclusion

10/28/2020
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. Even a scheduled return to on-site worship on Nov. 1 was delayed in an announcement made six days previously with COVID-19 rates rising in Sedgwick County and the illnesses of several staff members. ...

David Burke


'I want to be Pastor Nick before I'm Coach Talbott'

'I want to be Pastor Nick before I'm Coach Talbott'

10/21/2020
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 the Coyotes’ opponents, on this day undefeated Southwestern College.  Nick Talbott confers with a referee before the Kansas Wesleyan-Southwestern game in Salina. Photo by David Burke Talbott is in...

David Burke


Newest generation of Wilkes respects family name while blazing new trail

Newest generation of Wilkes respects family name while blazing new trail

10/14/2020
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 service, and forced it to abbreviate to 40 minutes.  Still, Pastor Matthew Wilke said, shaking his head in disbelief after the service, the 50-plus people who attended thought it was one of his best services...

David Burke


‘Steeple to Street’ webinar focuses on Fresh Expressions after pandemic

‘Steeple to Street’ webinar focuses on Fresh Expressions after pandemic

10/13/2020
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 Williamsport, Pennsylvania. “We’ve heard repeatedly from pastors and congregations feeling overwhelmed at so many levels that they don’t know what to do to be able to take a step forward.”  Lake and ...

David Burke


Congresswoman Davids visits Roeland Park UMC’s food distribution

Congresswoman Davids visits Roeland Park UMC’s food distribution

10/12/2020
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 feel like the faith community is really stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s heartwarming and something I think we all wish we were on the other side of.”  U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids ...

David Burke


Bishop encourages United Methodists to vote

Bishop encourages United Methodists to vote

10/9/2020
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, to the people of the Great Plains Conference urging them to vote and to do what was within their power to ensure all who are eligible have the ability to exercise their right to vote. Download a printable version of the letter. Dear Great Plains clergy and laity,   Voting matters. It matters both to the health of our American political system and to the people who participate in it. Voting creates powerful impacts on ...

Genesis Family Health is prevailing through pandemic, leaders say

Genesis Family Health is prevailing through pandemic, leaders say

10/7/2020
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 clinics, behavioral health care, social services, emergency assistance, immunization, health education and outreach to residents of southwest Kansas. “The pandemic season has been very challenging for our ...

David Burke


Resurrection celebrates 30th anniversary, reopening with ‘Love Your Neighbor’ campaign

Resurrection celebrates 30th anniversary, reopening with ‘Love Your Neighbor’ campaign

10/7/2020
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 Resurrection, which has become the highest-attended church in the denomination. And it was a kickoff of a “Love Your Neighbor” campaign to confront the hostilities brought on by the 2020 political climate.  ...

David Burke


In delayed ceremonies, 29 clergy commissioned, ordained

In delayed ceremonies, 29 clergy commissioned, ordained

10/6/2020
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:  Provisional elders: Kim Andrews, Marcee Binder, Leandra Esler, Rebekah Flores, Grace Gichuru (transfer), Maddie Johnson, Young Je Kim (transfer), Soonil Park, Greg Reffner, Alex Rossow, Tony Serbousek, ...

David Burke


In three online events, laity of Great Plains connect virtually

In three online events, laity of Great Plains connect virtually

10/6/2020
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 beginning of the official laity session Oct. 1. “This is a labor of love, a true labor of love – we love the laity of the Great Plains.”  Conference lay leader Lisa Maupin participates in the "...

David Burke


Bishop commends work during pandemic, challenges conference to grow in faith, love

Bishop commends work during pandemic, challenges conference to grow in faith, love

9/30/2020
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 our loved ones and people near and far in our world are hurting. The existential threat of viral infection and possibility of death has opened people to ask deeper questions about the meaning and ...

David Burke


After 16 years as site director, Trent Meyer leaving Camp Fontanelle

After 16 years as site director, Trent Meyer leaving Camp Fontanelle

9/29/2020
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 the decision through counseling that maybe it’s time for a change.” Trent Meyer, right, and Camp Fontanelle staff prepare for a parade in Fremont in 2013. Photos courtesy Jane Van Horn, Camp ...

David Burke


Bishop, Cabinet issue anti-racism statement

Bishop, Cabinet issue anti-racism statement

9/28/2020
The Great Plains Conference Cabinet and Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. have issued the following statement regarding racism in the United States and efforts to encourage anti-racism behavior among the people of Kansas and Nebraska. Download a printable PDF.   Ongoing racial unrest because of the overuse of force by police against black and brown bodies, African American people in particular, has compelled us as the Great Plains Bishop and Cabinet to stand with and seek to offer prophetic pastoral care ...

During pandemic, Garden City relies on longstanding outdoor worship service

During pandemic, Garden City relies on longstanding outdoor worship service

9/22/2020
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 church has been having outdoor services – first in Lee Richardson Zoo, then in neighboring Finnup Park – since the late 1990s, began by the Rev. Dr. Bob Cousins. Other years the church has outdoor ...

David Burke


ERTs needed in Alabama, Florida after Hurricane Sally

ERTs needed in Alabama, Florida after Hurricane Sally

9/18/2020
Early Response Teams from the Great Plains Conference are needed in mid-October in Alabama and Florida for work in the wake of Hurricane Sally. Hurricane Sally has caused damaged throughout the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Photo by the Rev. Bobbie Lassiter, AWFC. The Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, said workers are needed there from Oct. 19-23, with two days of travel before and two days of travel after. An Alabama native, Tapley ...

David Burke


Lenexa church continues support group it created for adults with autism

Lenexa church continues support group it created for adults with autism

9/9/2020
It wasn’t the intention of Lenexa St. Paul’s UMC to create what it believes is the only support group in the Kansas City area for adults with autism.  The group grew out of St. Paul’s presence ministry, which provides dialogue in a relaxed setting rather than the sometimes-overwhelming world of a church service.  About half of the dozen-plus persons attending those services were on the autism spectrum.  “What we accidentally did was create an environment where a lot of people who were on the ...

David Burke


Church plants retain momentum, but not numbers, UMC expert says

Church plants retain momentum, but not numbers, UMC expert says

9/1/2020
Like seemingly everything else in 2020, new church starts have stalled because of the pandemic. In fact, the Rev. Paul Nixon, a new church strategist for The United Methodist Church, says fewer conferences have planted this year than at any other time in his ministry. Nixon spoke to eight pastors in various stages of new church development Aug. 27-28 — two attending online and six in person at Topeka First UMC. One of the in-person attendees was from the Oklahoma Conference, the rest were from ...

David Burke


Bishop Hearn remembered for faith, focus, fairness

Bishop Hearn remembered for faith, focus, fairness

8/31/2020
Colleagues of Bishop J. Woodrow Hearn remember the focus, adventurousness, and faith of the former Nebraska Conference leader, who died Aug. 31 at age 89. A Louisiana native, Bishop Hearn led the Nebraska Conference from 1984 to 1992, before being assigned to the Houston area until his retirement in 2000. The bishop served on the General Council of Ministries from 1976 to 1984, and the General Board of Global Ministries from 1984 to 1992, serving as its president in the final four years. “...

David Burke


Conference working to improve children's, youth ministries

Conference working to improve children's, youth ministries

8/19/2020
The Great Plains Conference is in the midst of a two-year renovation of its children’s and youth ministry programs and is offering smaller churches the chance to improve their work with young attendees.  Since late last year, the conference has been working with Tennessee-based Ministry Architects for a status report on kids and youth ministry in the conference and what can be improved.  “They’re working on laying the foundation – and they use a lot of architectural terms – for bolstering youth ...

David Burke


Connecting Council discusses adjustment amid pandemic

Connecting Council discusses adjustment amid pandemic

8/19/2020
The Great Plains Conference Connecting Council heard reports about how the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause adjustments in how ministry is practiced in Kansas and Nebraska during the group’s Aug. 15 meeting, conducted via Zoom video-conferencing software.   The council brings together conference staff, district superintendents, and clergy and lay committee leaders at least twice a year to make recommendations to the annual conference session and to handle business that cannot be delayed ...

Todd Seifert


Three new district superintendents installed in online service

Three new district superintendents installed in online service

8/18/2020
View the entire appointment celebration video here. In a heartfelt ceremony, three new district superintendents were installed during a virtual gathering on Aug. 16.  The Rev. Dr. Tom Brady was installed as Five Rivers and Parsons districts superintendent; the Rev. Jenny Collins was installed as superintendent of the Topeka and Flint Hills districts; and the Rev. Dee Williamston formally added the Hutchinson District to her duties as Salina District superintendent.  Rev. Dr. Tom Brady “This ...

David Burke


Bishop, pastors discuss personal cases of racism during webinar

Bishop, pastors discuss personal cases of racism during webinar

8/12/2020
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. can look back at it now and chuckle.  In 2016, the newly elected ecumenical leader of the Great Plains Conference was moving into his new residence in Wichita. He was dressed informally, in shorts, when the boss of the moving crew began ordering him around.  “I played along,” the bishop recalled.  Finally, someone addressed him as “Bishop,” and the boss began to apologize.  “Why do you have to know who I am, so you treat me like a person of dignity?” Bishop Saenz asked. “...

David Burke


David City's Louise Niemann elected to national UMW board of directors

David City's Louise Niemann elected to national UMW board of directors

8/12/2020
In an ideal 2020, Louise Niemann would have been told that she was elected to the national United Methodist Women board of directors at the group’s South Central Jurisdiction meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, with friends and colleagues gathering around to congratulate her.  Instead, she got a phone call at her David City, Nebraska, home in mid-July to tell her that she gained enough votes – 50%, plus one, of the delegates – to be elected to the national position.  “There wasn’t anyone there to ...

David Burke


Virtual Spirit Week

Virtual Spirit Week

8/10/2020
School is starting back up, and that means the church is gearing up for fall programming. Though most ministry settings will look vastly different this year, we can still celebrate special milestones for kids and teens. This week, check out this space on our website and/or watch our social media to participate in our Virtual Spirit Week. Each day features a special theme and video. You're invited to dress up for the theme, take a picture, and post it to social media — Facebook, Twitter or ...

During webinar, school leaders ask for partnerships with churches

During webinar, school leaders ask for partnerships with churches

8/5/2020
There’s never been a better time for churches and schools to work together, two educators told an audience of clergy during a recent webinar and podcast.  “We are all in this together, and the way we will get through is with the faith we will have with each other and the support we will give to one another,” Tawana Grover, Grand Island Public Schools superintendent, said during “At the Threshold: Ministry in Liminal Time,” which has focused on the Great Plains Conference during the pandemic.  ...

David Burke


Foreign-born pastors share their views, frustrations during 2nd 'Time to Listen' webinar

Foreign-born pastors share their views, frustrations during 2nd 'Time to Listen' webinar

7/29/2020
Four foreign-born clergy from the Great Plains Conference shared their perspectives — and their frustrations — in the second in the series of “A Time to Listen” webinars on July 25.  All said they were bothered by the civil unrest that has taken place in throughout the country this summer.  “I feel anything can happen, and I have no powers to stop it,” said the Rev. Dr. Charles Murithi, a native of Kenya and pastor of Nebraska City UMC. “This goes against the spirit of this country. The spirit ...

David Burke


Conference, district ask Nebraska for greater coronavirus protection for meatpacking plants

Conference, district ask Nebraska for greater coronavirus protection for meatpacking plants

7/28/2020
The Great Plains Conference and the Gateway District are among 25 organizations calling for greater coronavirus protection for workers in Nebraska meat and poultry plants.  “We have seen more than three months of slow and insufficient action by meat and poultry plants to proactively institute COVID-19 safety protections,” the letter, dated July 23, reads. “As cases continue to rise, we can't afford to navigate the next six months without clear protections.”  Image courtesy CDC The letter, ...

David Burke


Intern brings world of experience to Omaha Hanscom Park UMC

Intern brings world of experience to Omaha Hanscom Park UMC

7/23/2020
Peter Karanja will never forget how welcome he felt the first time he entered a United Methodist Church.  With his parents and four siblings, Peter, a high-schooler at the time, moved from their hometown in Kenya to Naivasha, a city of about 200,000, after unrest broke out following a general election in 2007-2008.  “That place was not safe,” recalls Karanja, now 32.  In the process of looking for a place to worship in Naivasha, the family visited a United Methodist Church.  “It was just so ...

David Burke


K-State Wesley pays off $1 million mortgage

K-State Wesley pays off $1 million mortgage

7/22/2020
Eleven years after it has moved into its current home, K-State Wesley has paid off its $1 million debt.  “We had some very nice, really wonderful gifts to help us be able to do that,” said the Rev. Jim Reed, development director for the Manhattan ministry. “But we also had lots and lots of people who supported it. It turned out really well.”  The “Finish the Dream” campaign, which began in January 2017, completed the final half of retiring the debt, Reed said.  K-State Wesley is located at ...

David Burke


Adapting to coronavirus is latest challenge overcome by EmberHope Youthville

Adapting to coronavirus is latest challenge overcome by EmberHope Youthville

7/21/2020
Like everything else in the world in 2020, EmberHope Youthville has had to make changes because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nickaila Sandate, president/CEO On March 13, all non-essential staff at the United Methodist-supported facility in Newton, Kansas – which serves at-risk children and teens through foster care, adoption, residential programs and counseling for individuals and families -- were instructed to work from home, with no outside visitors, including parents and vendors, allowed on...

David Burke


Responding to racism: What the Great Plains is doing to make a difference

Responding to racism: What the Great Plains is doing to make a difference

7/7/2020
Tragic events of the spring and summer of 2020 have brought to the forefront something that Black Americans have known for some time: The struggle for equality is still very real.  With a mission for mercy and justice in Nebraska and Kansas, the Great Plains Conference is committed to non-violent expressions against racism and bigotry, as well as educating our communities about a Christian commitment to equality.  In this space, which we will update as warranted, we will focus on the work that ...

David Burke


Black pastors share their sadness, anger over racism in webinar

Black pastors share their sadness, anger over racism in webinar

7/1/2020
Participating in the June 27 webinar are, clockwise from left, Rev. Dee Williamston, Rev. Dr. Rose Booker-Jones, Rev. Dr. Wayne Reynolds, Rev. Dr. Charlotte Abram, Rev. Cynthia Smart, Rev. Darryl Burton, Pastor Ronda Kingwood, and center, the Rev. Harry Christian. Watch the entire June 27 webinar here. Black pastors in the Great Plains Conference expressed a mix of sadness and anger, only heightened by events of the previous month, in a June 27 webinar regarding race relations in ...

David Burke


Pastors moving in 2020 say they miss closure with congregations

Pastors moving in 2020 say they miss closure with congregations

6/29/2020
United Methodist pastors and their congregations know the drill all too well. Every few years, a pastor may be moved from one charge to another. The month of June is filled with trucks being packed and goodbyes said, while open arms wait at that pastor’s next destination. That is, until 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has changed that routine for the hundreds of pastors moving from one church to another in the Great Plains Conference. For the Rev. Susan Murithi, the move from Mentor and Gypsum, ...

David Burke


Despite pandemic, Great Plains camps find ways to connect with youth

Despite pandemic, Great Plains camps find ways to connect with youth

6/24/2020
2020 CAMP CHIPPEWA DURING COVID-19 from Great Plains UMC on Vimeo. The coronavirus pandemic-forced cancellation of summer camps in the Great Plains Conference this summer left hundreds of children and youth without a destination to explore nature and deepen their faith.  “We were all very disappointed about not having summer camp this year, but we tried to do as best we could,” said Courtney Troyer, program coordinator for Camp Chippewa. “But we don’t want to be the reason why someone gets ...

David Burke


UMC leaders launch denominationwide effort against racism

UMC leaders launch denominationwide effort against racism

6/17/2020
United Methodist Church leaders will launch a plan of action to galvanize church members and others to actively stand against racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd and protests across the United States.  The “Dismantling Racism: Pressing on to Freedom” initiative is a multi-level effort throughout the denomination to initiate a sustained and coordinated effort to dismantle racism and promote collective action to work toward racial justice. The church-wide effort will kick off this ...

Pastors facing additional stress, depression, anxiety during pandemic

Pastors facing additional stress, depression, anxiety during pandemic

6/16/2020
A survey by the Duke University Clergy Health Initiative in 2019 has shown that 11% of pastors reported symptoms consistent with having moderate or severe depression.  And that was before the coronavirus pandemic.  Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford “Those numbers are higher normally than the average population,” said the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford, clergy recruitment and development coordinator for the Great Plains Conference. “My sense is that clergy are feeling a greater sense of responsibility, a ...

David Burke


Great Plains churches adjust to keep VBS alive during pandemic

Great Plains churches adjust to keep VBS alive during pandemic

6/10/2020
If everything had gone according to plan, about 50 children from 3 years old through fourth grade would have gathered at Prairie Village Asbury UMC for Vacation Bible School next week. But, like nearly everything else in 2020, nothing has gone according to plan. Instead, the Johnson County, Kansas, church is making plans for a July virtual VBS, using Illustrated Ministry’s “Compassion Camp” material. “I liked that it was designed to be at home and done virtually, and that we didn’t have to adapt...

David Burke


Bishops: Act now to end racism and white supremacy

Bishops: Act now to end racism and white supremacy

6/8/2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the aftermath of police killings of unarmed Black people, the bishops of The United Methodist Church today called on all United Methodists to act now by using their voices, pens, feet and hearts to end racism. In a statement released by Council of Bishops President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, the bishops are urging every United Methodist to reclaim their baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. “We ask every ...

Maidstone Mulenga


A Discipleship Response to Racism and Injustice

A Discipleship Response to Racism and Injustice

6/5/2020
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. released the following letter June 5, 2020, regarding a plan for the Great Plains Conference and its churches to take a leadership role in responding as disciples of Jesus Christ to systemic racism and injustice in the United States. Download a PDF of the letter. A Discipleship Response to Racism and Injustice My God! Not again! And again! This was my sickening reaction when I heard the news and saw social media video recordings of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and ...

Churches cautiously return to worship in Great Plains

Churches cautiously return to worship in Great Plains

6/3/2020
With prayer, caution and proper sanitization, a handful of churches in the Great Plains Conference have returned to in-person services. The churches, all in western Kansas and western Nebraska, began in-person worship throughout May. Although those we talked to were apprehensive before opening their doors, all followed the list of precautions and recommendations from Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and the conference staff before returning to live worship. Here’s a look at some of the churches in the ...

David Burke


Condensed conference concludes with call to ‘Catch Fire’

Condensed conference concludes with call to ‘Catch Fire’

6/2/2020
Concluding an abbreviated and revised Annual Conference session conducted by telephone, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. told the Great Plains it needed to continue to “Catch Fire” — the unofficial title given to the one-day meeting.  “I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us in this new season of our church’s life to Catch Fire for a Spirit of justice, for mercy, and the truth of God’s love in Christ for all people. I believe that the Holy Spirit is calling us to catch fire to be the voices for the ...

David Burke


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

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

6/2/2020
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. saluted the churches, clergy and laity of the Great Plains for their work during the coronavirus pandemic during the annual conference session’s opening worship service May 29. Because of the pandemic and with a revised, condensed conference call with essential business taking place the next day, the bishop’s recorded sermon was broadcast on Facebook Live and the conference’s website. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. preaches the opening sermon of the abbreviated annual ...

David Burke


Revised conference session approves Comeca sale, church disaffiliations

Revised conference session approves Comeca sale, church disaffiliations

6/1/2020
With the assistance of, from left, the Rev. Nathan Stanton, Scott Brewer and the Rev. Nancy Lambert, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. opens the revised Annual Conference session from the Great Plains office in Topeka. Photos by David Burke   Calling it an unprecedented move for “unprecedented times,” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. opened an abbreviated, condensed Great Plains Annual Conference session the morning of May 30.  The three-plus hour session was conducted via a phone conference call that had early ...

David Burke


Bishop shares thoughts on reopening buildings

Bishop shares thoughts on reopening buildings

5/27/2020
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. has issued the following letter for churches sharing some of his thoughts about reopening church buildings as Kansas and Nebraska move into new phases of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference is urging caution in reopening to ensure, as best each congregation can, the health and safety of parishioners and the communities our churches serve. Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference,                                                               ...

Commission sets dates for postponed General Conference

Commission sets dates for postponed General Conference

5/26/2020
The Commission on the General Conference has announced new 2021 dates for General Conference following the postponement of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The quadrennial legislative event will take place on August 29 - September 7, 2021, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minn.  "We're grateful that we were able to secure new dates while keeping the site of General Conference in Minneapolis. Nearly seven years of pre-planning and preparations by the host team have gone...

Great Plains communications team wins 7 top awards

Great Plains communications team wins 7 top awards

5/21/2020
The Great Plains Conference communications team won seven first-place awards and one best-of-class award Thursday, May 21, in the annual United Methodist Association of Communicators awards. The Great Plains won in the website, mobile app, news series, streaming, advertisement promotion, media presentation and podcast categories during a virtual gala on the organization’s website — www.umcommunicators.org — and on its Facebook page. The annual meeting and awards banquet scheduled in March was ...

Great Plains Camps suspend traditional summer programs

Great Plains Camps suspend traditional summer programs

5/19/2020
Great Plains Camping Inc. has decided to suspend traditional summer camping programs for the foreseeable future at all five member camps due to the public-health risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Programming at Camp Fontanelle and Camp Norwesca in Nebraska and Camps Chippewa, Horizon and Lakeside in Kansas may resume later in the summer or fall, depending on a number of factors associated with the pandemic. Some forms of online or alternative camping programs will be considered. ...

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

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

5/12/2020
Revs. Sandy and Bruce Ferguson were already no slouches when it came to Sunday mornings.  They’ve been pastors of the Leonardville, Swede Creek, Randolph and Fancy Creek Zion UMCs in northern Riley County, Kansas – called the Jerusalem Road Parish – since 2014 and added the two-church charge in Keats-Riley in December.  Each Sunday meant three services in three locations, with churches alternating between the two married pastors each week.  Rev. Bruce Ferguson adjusts the camera during the ...

David Burke


Mainstream UMC calls for continued moratoriums until 2021 GC

Mainstream UMC calls for continued moratoriums until 2021 GC

5/6/2020
On what was supposed to be the first day of the 2020 General Conference, the leaders of the Mainstream UMC movement urged fellow centrists and progressives to not let their guard down for LGBTQ equality.  “Their hopes and dreams were waiting in the balance, and now they have to wait another year and a half,” said the Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, co-founder and executive director of Mainstream UMC.  The May 5 video town hall, “A Call for Grace,” came on the original date of the worldwide gathering in ...

David Burke


Bishop Harvey makes history as first Hispanic woman to be Council of Bishops president

Bishop Harvey makes history as first Hispanic woman to be Council of Bishops president

5/5/2020
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of the Louisiana Area has made history by becoming the first female Hispanic to be president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church.  She is also the first woman of color to lead the more than 128 active and retired bishops of the one of the largest denominations in the world.  Bishop Harvey assumed the mantle of office last week as the active and retired bishops from around the globe gathered in a virtual meeting April 29 to May 1 to celebrate new ...

Maidstone Mulenga


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

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

5/5/2020
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. is looking forward to his tenure as chair of the congregational vitality team of the Council of Bishops. The Great Plains Conference’s episcopal leader since 2016 was elected during a video conference during the final few days of April. Bishop Saenz will lead a group of about 10 episcopal leaders from around the world, including Europe, Asia and Africa. “It's an exciting group of people, because you kind of get a scan about what congregational vitality looks like around ...

David Burke


Health, social service organizations adapting during pandemic

Health, social service organizations adapting during pandemic

4/29/2020
Three Kansas-based health and social service organizations have made adjustments because of the COVID-19 pandemic as they have all seen an increased need for their services.  All three — Genesis Family Health, with clinics in Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal and Ulysses; GraceMed, with clinics in Wichita, Topeka, McPherson and Clearwater; and Wichita-based United Methodist Open Door Ministries — have ties to The United Methodist Church and the Great Plains Conference.  Genesis Family Health  ...

David Burke


25th, final NUMB ride postponed until 2021

25th, final NUMB ride postponed until 2021

4/24/2020
What was to be the 25th and final Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger – also known as NUMB – is being postponed. “Hunger is still our mission and we look forward to continuing that work with NUMB 25 in June of 2021,” ride organizers, including the Rev. Bill Ritter, director and co-founder as well as retired Blue River District superintendent, wrote to participants. NUMB will offer full refunds to participants, as well as giving them the option of putting the money toward the 2021 ...

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

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

4/21/2020
The Rev. Denise Sawyer has seen nothing like it in her nearly nine years as a chaplain at a southwest Florida hospital. The Rev. Denise Sawyer, right, prays with a staff member at Florida's Cape Coral Hospital. Contributed photos “The leadership team was watching for it, but it still felt like it was hitting us from out of nowhere,” Sawyer, an elder in the Great Plains Conference, said of the coronavirus pandemic. “One day we went into work and suddenly there were these rules, and the rules ...

David Burke


Connecting Council endorses changes to standing rules, clergy renewal leave policy

Connecting Council endorses changes to standing rules, clergy renewal leave policy

4/21/2020
The Great Plains Conference’s Connecting Council used Zoom video conferencing to conduct its spring meeting April 18 and endorsed a revision to the standing rules for the annual conference session to allow for a meeting during this time of sheltering in place. The council, which has authority to make decisions and forward recommendations between annual conference sessions, also listened to reports from Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., considered a recommendation regarding renewal leave for clergy and ...

Todd Seifert


Nebraska women among singers in Discipleship Ministries Easter video

Nebraska women among singers in Discipleship Ministries Easter video

4/15/2020
E Brenda Cochran, circled, is among the singers. Editor's note: This story was updated on April 20. When Brenda Cochran recorded herself singing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” for an internet project, she didn’t know she’d be part of a global video.  “I didn’t realize it was a worldwide Methodist group that was doing it,” the Grand Island woman said of the Discipleship Ministries video, released last week. “Initially I thought maybe it was our conference or something. When I realized ...

David Burke


Ideas for Festival of God's Creation Sunday

Ideas for Festival of God's Creation Sunday

4/13/2020
Sandhill cranes and other wildlife rely on the Platte River and other natural resources throughout Kansas and Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary   Each year, The United Methodist Church designates one Sunday as Festival of God’s Creation. The purpose of this festival is to recognize and celebrate God’s gracious work as Creator of the earth and all of its amazing biological life. The festival highlights God’s mandate that humans care for the rest of creation.  ...

In Easter message, bishops urge Christians not to despair in midst of global pandemic

In Easter message, bishops urge Christians not to despair in midst of global pandemic

4/9/2020
President of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church Bishop Kenneth H. Carter has urged Christians to rely on the power of Easter to overcome the forces of death, division, darkness, and despair in the amidst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. In the Easter message to The United Methodist Church, Bishop Carter noted that, “Easter is the moment when who we are, what we believe and what we do becomes clear. Easter is the power of the crucified and risen Jesus over the forces of death —...

Maidstone Mulenga


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