Former Nebraska Conference lay leader remembered

David Burke


Lavina Schwaninger, Lisa Maupin says, was her role model for a lay woman in leadership in The United Methodist Church.

“She was one of the people that I watched in leadership,” said Maupin, current Great Plains Conference lay leader. “As a woman, you’re always watching for other women in leadership … and I picked out pieces of her that I could emulate as I became a leader and how I wanted to be in the church.”

Schwaninger, lay leader and associate lay leader of the former Nebraska Conference for 16 years, died May 4 after an illness. She was 91. A celebration of life service will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, at Hallam UMC.

Lavina Schwaninger served in lay leadership positions in the former Nebraska Conference for 16 years.
“Lavina was a longtime member of the Hallam church and served as our local UMW president, church accompanist, and Nebraska Conference lay leader, among the many roles she played in the church and community,” Pam Savery, pastor of Hallam-Martell-Roca United Methodist churches, wrote in an email. “She and her family have been strong advocates for the United Methodist Church camps as well.”

Schwaninger, Maupin said, was one of the leaders of the Hallam UMC when a tornado destroyed it in 2004.

“Her heart was so full of love for her church,” Maupin said. “She really, truly had a heart for God and a heart for the church. She loved the church so much, but she loved the greater church.”

According to her obituary, Schwaninger was raised in Elmwood, Nebraska, and attended the former Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa, before transferring to Bryan School of Nursing in Lincoln to earn her diploma as a registered nurse. After marrying Loren Schwaninger in 1954, she became a “proud farm wife (and semi-truck driver).”

“She was so dedicated with her love of God, but at the same time she always had a smile. She was always so friendly and warm,” Maupin said. “That warmth and that smile and that part of her was something I watched and something I wanted to emulate.”

Deanna Holland served with Schwaninger for many years in United Methodist Women, now United Women in Faith, in the Nebraska Conference.

“Personally, she was a mentor to many of the women coming in when they were new,” Holland said. “She was always willing to take whatever leadership position they had for her.”

Schwaninger ran a tight ship at UMW meetings, Holland recalled with a laugh.

“She made rules that were good,” Holland said. “One of them was, ‘Be ready when it’s your turn.’”

Holland said Schwaninger encouraged social time with her fellow UMW committee members, including an annual picnic, sometimes at Schwaninger’s home, with spouses — “otherwise we didn’t know if anyone had husbands.”

Maupin said that as she continues to lead the Great Plains Conference laity, she thinks of predecessors such as Schwaninger.

“I get to be the way I am, leading in the way I am, because she came before me,” Maupin said.

Contact David Burke, content specialist, at

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