Bishop continues tradition at Topeka First

David Burke


Bishop Wilson's first sermon

Bishop David Wilson continued a 50-plus year tradition Jan. 8, delivering the sermon at Topeka First United Methodist Church. 

From its days in the former Kansas East Conference through its time in the Great Plains Conference, the downtown Topeka church has traditionally hosted the new bishop for that person’s first sermon as episcopal leader. 

Bishop David Wilson delivers the Jan. 8 sermon at Topeka First UMC. Photos by David Burke

The tradition began in 1972, shortly after the Rev. Dr. E. Merris Brady was appointed senior pastor, and he invited newly elected Bishop Ernest T. Dixon Jr. (the first Black person elected to the episcopacy in the South Central Jurisdiction) to preach. 

“We want him before anybody else grabs him,” Brady, who continued as pastor until 1992, recalled with a laugh. 

Bishop Wilson told the congregation at Topeka First that the invitation from their church was delivered to him on the morning of his consecration service, Nov. 5 in Houston, and he immediately accepted. 

Based on Isaiah 11:2-9, Bishop Wilson preached on a theme of connectedness and “what it means for us to get along.” 

He told of his trips to Russia with fellow campus ministry leaders and to Norway with indigenous leaders from around the world, and how differences were slowly erased once they got to know and better understand each other. 

“We’re all so connected by the Creator God,” Bishop Wilson said. “We are so much more alike than we are different.” 

In his sermon, titled “Someday …,” the bishop said he hopes for a day when all persons are recognized as children of God, and that homelessness would be alleviated, and we are able to care for those unable to care for themselves. 

“We yearn for the ‘somedays’ when all things will be possible,” he said. 

Former Topeka First pastors, including Brady, Rev. Dr. Mike Chamberlin, Rev. Dr. Bruce Emmert, Rev. Jeff Clinger, Rev. Sandy Vogel and Rev. Debbie Olsson attended the last of the three services where the bishop spoke. 

Although he said all Sundays were special, the Rev. Brad Wheeler – pastor of Topeka First since July 1 – said the Jan. 8 service was “a little bit, OK, a whole lot, extra.” 

Contact David Burke, content specialist, at

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