News


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


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


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