Area night puts focus on worship


A mass choir comprised of United Methodists from Kansas and Nebraska take part in the area night concert July 15 as part of the
South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Kylie Stamper

A night of worship and celebration highlighted the South Central Jurisdictional Conference on July 15. The 2016 Area Night concert, with a fitting theme of God’s Love is >, featured Grammy award-nominated gospel musician William McDowell and his band along with a 182-voice mass choir comprised of United Methodists from across Kansas and Nebraska.

The event was organized and produced by Carla Williams of Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita and Martin Rude, director of outreach ministries at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas.

During the planning process, Rude said, the pair focused on the task of unifying conference attendees and the city of Wichita and “engaging the culture and community.”
Grammy award-nominated singer William McDowell was the
headline singer for the area night concert July 15 in Wichita.
Photo by Kylie Stamper

Rude said the big question they wanted to answer was how they could bring the people in the community and jurisdiction together in such a way that would focus not on debate and troubles, but on God and realizing what He is doing.

“Music has a wonderful way of unifying people,” Williams said. “So when you think of the music and how it can bring people together, it’s one of those things that crosses boundaries, across ethnicities, and generations. Music has a way of bringing people together.”

Offerings from the event benefited two Wichita-based charities, GraceMed, which provides medical, dental and other services, and United Methodist Open Door, which provides a food pantry and homeless shelter.

“I think it underscores Christ’s heart when you come together and you worship and then you go out and you serve,” Williams said, “It’s such a powerful way of honoring God.”

Jurisdictional Conference is full of voting for new bishops, reports, and church politics. And Williams and Rude agreed that the concert offered relief in the midst of somewhat stressful negotiations. Williams said the celebration gave delegates an opportunity to see the bigger picture and a possible chance to realize why they are doing what they do.

“I think it gives meaning and purpose, and I think they feel refreshed and rejuvenated,” she said.

Phyllis Hasty, wife of Dodge City District Superintendent Don Hasty, was one of more than 1,000 people who attended the celebration.

“It was a wonderful time of worship,” Hasty said. “We’ve done a lot of business, and I just thought it was wonderful that we could focus our hearts and our minds as one to worship and praise God and Jesus. I think it brings a spirit of unity because we all worship the same God and Jesus Christ, and we were able to do that together in song.”

McDowell and two members of his band offered a meet-and-greet time after the concert that provided the opportunity for guests to ask questions and take pictures. Questions ranged from vocal health and tour experiences to faith-led ponderings.

In one answer, McDowell said, “You either represent Him or you can represent you, but you can’t represent both,” as a reminder of the main purpose and motivation for worshiping God.

The next step, said Rude, is to listen to what God is going to do next within the Great Plains, the jurisdiction, and across the world and how new relationships will be fostered within the church and in local communities.

Williams said the concert was an opportunity to come together and leave all of the worldly problems behind.

“With what’s happening right now across America with the racial divide, I think it’s a big deal when multiple ethnicities can come together and just worship God,” Williams said. “That’s huge. That means we put down all of the little things that keep us separated, and we come together for one purpose.

“We have got to continue to do that because I believe it honors God.”

Contact Kylie Stamper, communications intern, at

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