Retirement brings close of ministry for district superintendents Watson, Bakely, Livingston

David Burke


A trio of district superintendents with more than 80 years combined in the ministry have announced their retirements from the Great Plains Conference. 

The Rev. David Watson, DS of the Five Rivers and Parsons districts, is stepping down after 38 years in the ministry. The Rev. Dennis Livingston, DS of the Hutchinson District and a portion of the Hays District, will retire after 29 years. And the Rev. Claudia Bakely, Flint Hills DS, is retiring after 17 years. 

The retirements, as well as the conclusion of the eight-year term of the Rev. Kay Scarbrough, Topeka District superintendent with 26 years in the ministry, will make way for several changes in the appointive cabinet for the 2020-21 year. 

“I have benefitted and learned much from the outgoing superintendents,” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said. “Their collective wisdom, years of ministry experience, their knowledge of their respective contexts, their discernment of the gifts and graces of our clergy and the pastoral needs of their congregations, their commitment to Jesus Christ and the mission of the church, their presence around the cabinet table, their courage, their willful spirits, their inspiring and thought-provoking devotions, and their collegial friendship will be greatly missed.” 

Watson served Kansas churches in Fairway Old Mission (as associate), Wamego, Osage City, Bonner Springs, Baldwin First, Fort Scott First, Topeka Susanna Wesley and Salina First from 1983 to 2015 before becoming the Five Rivers DS. The Parsons District was added in 2017. (Watson served the Parsons District as its DS for a year in 2005.) 

He said he and his wife are ready to enter “a new chapter of our lives which will allow us more time with family.” 

Watson said the highlights of his time were “helping to launch the network initiative (and) helping the conference navigate the challenges of finding a way forward.” 

Livingston served former Kansas West churches in Hunter-Pleasantview, Washington-Linn, St. Francis, Ulysses and Valley Center before being appointed Hutchinson DS in 2012. A portion of the Hays District was added in 2017. 

A former machinist, Livingston said he had long planned for 2020 to be his retirement year, which coincides with the conclusion of his eight-year term as a district superintendent. 

“Everything came together, and I just feel like it’s time to move on,” he said. 

Livingston said that working with new pastors and getting them started in their service has been a highlight of his time as a district superintendent. 

“I hope I’ve had some sort of positive influence on pastors as they do their work,” he said. “Every so often I see a hint of that.” 

Bakely was associate pastor at Emporia First UMC and pastor at Basehor before being named as Flint Hills DS in 2013. A former nurse — “everything from neonatal intensive care and pediatrics to ending my career as a home health nurse” — Bakely is moving to Kansas City, Kansas, to take care of her 90-year-old mother. 

“She spent her entire life taking care of everyone else, so I’m going over there to take care of her,” Bakely said. 

Bakely said a highlight of her time as district superintendent is the inspirational clergy and lay people she has found in her district. 

“They’re wonderful people doing amazing things. They’re smart and creative,” she said. “It’s very inspiring to just be involved with people like that.” 

Contact David Burke, communications content specialist, at

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