Download the printable version of the April 10 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Justice ministries may get boost from two proposals for conference
Great Plains kids receive $1 challenge to benefit flood relief
350 take part in regional gatherings last week; Manhattan is this Saturday
Daniel Reffner reflects on experience at ecumenical institute

Keynote speaker talks about diving deep into community
Youth can get involved at Annual Conference

Bishop Carter: Episcopal leaders committed to church unity
Global church wrestles with post-special session plan

'A Time Apart' offers sermon-planning at a spiritual retreat center in June
Clergy invited to attend second ‘For Your Life’ retreat this September

Applications for Conference Council on Youth Ministries are due Monday
EmberHope Youthville seeks volunteers for campus TLC
Micah Corps, pastoral leadership summer internships still available
Monday is deadline for United Methodist Men scholarship applications
Healthy Congregations Retreat is coming in two weeks
Camp Fontanelle needs volunteers for cleanup duty on May 4, 11
Summit Youth Academy is a week for youth to hear God's call 

Peace with Justice coordinators reflect on words by Martin Luther King Jr.

Groups approve plan to divvy up slashed budget

RESOURCES helps equip church leaders with information, tools
Pastor, leader’s kits available for Native American Sunday

Pittsburg UMC dedicates pipe organ, sanctuary on 140th anniversary
In other news
Blogs and opinion
The week ahead


Justice ministries may get boost
from two proposals for conference

The Connecting Council last weekend heard proposals during its April meeting in Topeka from two organizations that could help provide a boost to justice ministries throughout Kansas and Nebraska. 

Read more about the proposals, plus updates on General Conference, Annual Conference resolutions, Congregational and Clergy Excellence reports, communications updates and a book recommended about working through issues together.

Read more here.

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Great Plains kids receive $1
challenge to benefit flood relief

The children of the Great Plains Conference have been challenged to contribute a dollar each for the Kids Clean Up Fund.

Here is a video from the Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, intergenerational ministries coordinator, and Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., introducing the campaign.

“The good news our churches are going to be a big part of the cleanup crew,” Gepford says in the video.

This is a guide for pastors and children’s leaders about the fundraising concept, and ways to help.

Donate directly through the Kids Clean Up portal at the Great Plains website.

Early response teams will return to the affected areas of Nebraska on April 22, the day after Easter, said the Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator.

Six locations have been named for volunteer crews to return, with three more spots where water must go down or bridges must be fixed for work to begin.

But predicted storms – with everything from blizzards to more rain forecast for Nebraska this week – could change those plans.

“We’re waiting on the storms tonight and tomorrow,” Tapley said at midday Wednesday. “We’re in a holding pattern.”

Pastors who are in areas where homeowners or others are in need of assistance should contact Tapley if they have not already, she said. Phone 785-272-9111 or email

“I don’t want to miss anything,” Tapley said.

For now, she said, no more cleaning kits (aka “flood buckets”) or hygiene kits are needed in the area, and those donating should hold off.

Early Response Training continues this weekend at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, and on April 27 in Clay Center, Kansas, and Fremont.

More information is available at the flood relief page of our website.

You can now make a contribution to Great Plains Disaster Response with text! Give Text is one of the fastest, easiest ways to give.

To give to Great Plains Disaster Response, simply send a text message with the amount you want to contribute and the word “Help” to 785-333-3863 (example: 25 Help). Be sure to put a space between the amount and the word “Help".

Within a few minutes, you will be sent a text with a link to register.

To learn more about Give Text, visit our website.

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350 take part in regional gatherings
last week; Manhattan is this Saturday

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s regional gatherings continued last weekend, with nearly 150 people at the Lawrence First UMC west campus on Saturday, and about 200 at Wichita First UMC on Sunday.

Another is scheduled for this weekend, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Manhattan First UMC, 612 Poyntz Ave.

These gatherings will provide a time for the singing of hymns, reflecting on scripture, and communion. Following a brief presentation by the bishop on what transpired at General Conference, attendees will take part in small-group community building conversations that focus on our possibilities for the future of our mission in the Great Plains Conference.

These gatherings are related to the special session of General Conference, but they will not be a time to make speeches or to seek to sway others to any particular position regarding human sexuality.

Gatherings originally scheduled for mid-March in Nebraska have been rescheduled for May 4: 10 a.m. at Omaha St. Andrew’s, and 2 p.m. at the Columbus UMC Outreach Center.

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Daniel Reffner reflects on
experience at ecumenical institute

For Daniel Reffner, it was the experience of a lifetime. The Wichita native, in his second year at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, was chosen to attend the prestigious Ecumenical Institute at Chautau de Bossey, located in Switzerland. 

The Southwestern College graduate was one of 29 young people from 17 different countries and representing 22 denominations chosen for the institute, which lasted from mid-September to late January. 

“(The) experience confirmed for me that I have a pastoral identity that I feel is a strong call to the priestly or pastoral roles,” the Wichita native said. “Over the summer I think I was trying to walk away from that a little bit, but some of the experiences reminded me about a few things about myself. That part of my identity was strengthened.”

Read more from Reffner in this Q&A.

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Annual Conference

Keynote speaker talks about
diving deep into community

Rev. Mike Mather, the keynote speaker for the Annual Conference sessions this year, led his Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis on a unique path a few years ago: “Stop helping people.”

The church closed its food pantry, clothing ministry and after-school program, as well as its basketball league and Girl Scouts.

But what it did instead, Mather says, is making more of a difference in the violence-riddled community where it has its home.

In this 15-minute video interview, Mather and church member De’Amon Harges talk about what kind of a difference Broadway UMC is making now in its neighborhood of Indy.

Watch the video here.

We are seven weeks and counting away from the Annual Conference, May 29 to June 1 at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.

Conference general information page.
Register here for the conference.

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Youth can get involved
at Annual Conference

Annual Conference is swiftly approaching, and registration is currently open for the 2019 Annual Conference sessions, May 29 to June 1 at the Expocentre in Topeka.

As we prepare for Annual Conference in the next coming months, it is important to remember that there are many opportunities for youth to contribute, both as voting and non-voting members. 

Many youths have had fun, enriching experiences as non-voting members. Ellis, Kansas teen, Eva Gaschler calls Annual Conference “the best way to learn about the church.”

She stated,” Even as a non-voting member, I still got to participate. I had the opportunity to count votes while being a non-voting member. It is a wonderful experience and I would encourage anyone to get involved!” 

This is an amazing way for churches and districts to involve their youth at the Conference level. There are countless opportunities for youth to take part, even if they are not voting members or do not typically engage in GPAC activities.

For more information, visit to learn more about how youth can get involved. 

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General Conference

Bishop Carter: Episcopal
leaders committed to church unity

Bishop Kenneth Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, said his fellow episcopal leaders have committed to church unity. Carter was speaking at the Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the forerunner of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Read more in this news release.

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Global church wrestles with
post-special session plan

United Methodists took time out of a joint international meeting in Manila to discuss the fallout of special General Conference. For some, it casts doubt on the future of a global church.

Read more from United Methodist News Service.

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Clergy Excellence

'A Time Apart' offers sermon-planning
at a spiritual retreat center in June

Time is running out to register for A Time Apart, a sermon-planning retreat in which you can expect to plan up to six months of sermons.

Whether you’re a fairly new pastor who is still establishing ongoing sermon planning practices or an experienced preacher who is looking for a recharge, you will have guidance to help and will have an opportunity to get input from colleagues about sermon series. You will have space and time on your own to do intensive preparation in a comfortable and spiritually rich environment.

We’re offering two weeks from which to choose, June 10-14 (Schuyler, Nebraska) or June 16-21 (Wichita) and the cost is $200 and includes meals and housing for the week at a beautiful spiritual retreat center.

Space for both weeks is limited so take a look today! Are you interested?

Check the website for details and the links to register: Contact the Rev. Nancy Lambert if you have questions ( or 785-414-4213).

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Clergy invited to attend second
‘For Your Life’ retreat this September

Clergy, we have an opportunity to help you create an intentional plan for growth in the context of a spiritual retreat through our new retreat, “For Your Life: Giving your soul time to grow.” Last fall, we held a pilot retreat for this process and now are opening it up to all clergy.
At the retreat, we will introduce an adaptable template along with resources you could use in developing a plan for growth. We know that not everyone is thrilled at prospect of “creating a plan” or even writing down their intended learning goals. However, we believe all clergy want to grow, first in their own personal discipleship and in their ability to nurture and guide the faith of those entrusted to them. The “plan” is an opportunity for you to spend time identifying the way God is calling you to grow.

This year's second retreat is Sept. 23-24 at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska.

There is no cost for Great Plains-appointed clergy to attend the retreat, which includes lodging and meals. “For Your Life” is a retreat that will introduce you to the framework for creating a learning plan, give you resources, guide you in worship, and most importantly, give you space to spend time in solo reflection and/or connection with others.
Check out our website for details and to register.

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Equipping Disciples

Applications for Conference Council
on Youth Ministries are due Monday

The Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) is ministry of, by, and for the youth of the Great Plains Conference of the UMC.

CCYM provides a core for spiritual growth and development of youth leadership. This body serves to uplift other youth and set Christian examples in our daily lives. The CCYM plans conference events that will not only train but also guide youth in their spiritual journeys. The CCYM inclusively loves, supports and nurtures the youth of the Great Plains Conference. As a visible body, we serve as a link between all other levels of the United Methodist Church.

Expectations of CCYM Representatives:

  • Have a personal and active relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Be an active member of a United Methodist Church in the Great Plains Conference
  • Model positive, Christ-like leadership
  • Fulfill tasks or assignments related to CCYM activities
  • Be willing to voice ideas and assume responsibilities for change and improvement
  • Serve as a link between Conference, District, and your Local Church youth discipleship
  • Attend all CCYM meetings and required events


  • Summer Retreat (a Thursday-Saturday in August, in person)
  • Fall Meeting (a Saturday in October, by Skype/Zoom)
  • Winter Retreat (a Friday-Saturday in January, in person)
  • Spring Meeting (a Saturday in April, by Skype/Zoom)

All meetings are mandatory as well as attendance and leadership at The One Event and other conference youth events, including Confirmation Rally and Annual Conference. Apply here by April 15 for the 2019-20 term. Two representatives from each district will be chosen. If you have any questions, please contact the Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford at

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EmberHope Youthville seeks
volunteers for campus TLC

Is your church group looking for a ministry project? Does your youth group need a service project? Do you like to feed the masses? After years of providing a safe place for foster children, the EmberHope Youthville campus needs a little TLC. We are in of help with gardening, painting, cleaning and other general repair around our 19-acre campus. June 10-14 has been designated Volunteer Week. You can also participate by donating meals, water and other supplies. 

If you want to be a part of this service project, please contact Tricia Wells at or 316-243-9816 by April 30. Volunteers will receive a free T-shirt. 

We are looking forward to seeing you during this week of ministry, camaraderie, and support! 

EmberHope Youthville is a nonprofit, faith-based agency providing resources and support to inspire hope in thousands of at-risk youth and families each year. Through our foster care, residential and counseling programs, we use trauma-informed practices focused on the needs of the individual allowing them to become a catalyst of change.

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Micah Corps, pastoral leadership
summer internships still available

Do you know college students or young adults who would explore they can make a difference, explore leadership, and spend a “summer of service” in a paid internship that they will remember for a lifetime?

Share the information about Micah Corps team and invite them to connect your faith with social justice and practice leadership skills by visiting, researching and presenting key social justice topics throughout the Great Plains.

Are they interested in exploring their gifts in ministry and leadership through serving full-time in a local church, mentoring by a pastor and sharing in various aspects of pastoral leadership throughout the summer? Check out Pastoral Leadership Internships. For more information, go to To invite them to apply go to

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Monday is deadline for United
Methodist Men scholarship applications

Monday, April 15, is the deadline to apply for the United Methodist Men’s scholarships, which will be awarded during the 30th annual scholarship dinner and auction, May 29 at Topeka Countryside UMC.

The 100 Club scholarships and Fleming Family Scholarships will be awarded at the dinner, which coincides with the Great Plains Annual Conference sessions.

For more information on the scholarships, or to donate an item for the auction, contact Randy Fleming at 402-210-4885 or Half of the $40 dinner ticket underwrites all youth attending the banquet.

More information on the auction is available online at

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Healthy Congregations
Retreat is coming in two weeks

Health is much more than what happens in your doctor's office; it's about the places where we learn, live, work and pray.

Make plans to attend the 18th annual Healthy Congregations Retreat, April 26-27, sponsored by United Methodist Health Ministry Fund. The retreat is open to all Great Plains United Methodists interested in congregational and community health ministry, whether or not part of a current Healthy Congregations team.

Learn about health from a non-medical perspective with plenary speakers Kate Kingery and Jerry Jones. Three panels will highlight communities that are positively influencing healthy behaviors, teach us about food insecurity and hunger issues, and explore community responses to behavioral health concerns.

In breakout sessions, learn about: your home county’s health rankings; neighboring as a community development tool; community gardening and other opportunities for health ministry teams; how one church provides child care in their building; and about tools and resources for advance planning work.

Dr. Debra Bolton's session will help us understand immigrant and refugee experiences, and Shelley Rich will discuss partnering with others in the community to make lasting change for the betterment of everyone's health.

Popular sessions Holy Yoga and Prayer Walking return as well.

Bring a team Thursday for the pre-retreat and be trained in the Healthy Congregations curriculum. Health ministry teams with an approved annual work plan are granted $1,000 to aid in their work and have access to other special opportunities. 

Daily worship led by Rev. Todd Guinn, Ulysses, and a Friday night Folk Music Sing-a-Long round out the schedule.

Participation is free, but don't wait -- registration closes next week! Visit for details and register to reserve your place. 

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Camp Fontanelle needs volunteers
for cleanup duty on May 4, 11

Get your work boots out and your work gloves on because Camp Fontanelle has set their Spring Service Days, May 4 and 11. Plan to be out to camp at 9 a.m. and assist the camp in getting ready for a busy summer.

There are trails to be groomed and chipped, windows to be washed, painting and all of the other spring cleaning tasks to freshen up the camp.

You will be making an impact on all of the work it takes to keep the camp looking beautiful and making sure that it is in great condition for all of the summer guests.

Please bring your own tools, if you would like, to help. Have them identified so tools go home with the correct person.

Lunch will be served at noon. Volunteering on these days will be a great boost to getting the camp ready.

Please contact Trent Meyer, 402-459-0686, with any questions.

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Summit Youth Academy is a
week for youth to hear God's call 

If there’s a high school sophomore or junior in your church or community who is wondering, “What is God’s purpose for my life?”  “What am I called to do?” “Who am I called to be?” Nominate them for the Summit Youth Academy, July 21-27 at Southwestern College in Winfield.
The Summit is a week-long faith formation program that provides young people with the resources to hear God’s answer to these questions.Resources such as theological classes, reflections in small groups, the practice of spiritual disciplines, and a strong community of faith.
Scholarships available for Great Plains youth and churches. Visit to nominate a student or to find more information about the Summit. You can also follow us on social media by searching @summitkansas on any social media platform.

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Mercy & Justice

Peace with Justice coordinators reflect
on words by Martin Luther King Jr.

Rebecca Cole, Director of Grassroots Organizing introduces participants to the Toolkit for Faithful Civic Engagement

Last week, about 25 Peace with Justice (PWJ) coordinators met at the Church Center for the United Nations. The goal for the gathering was to strengthen the work for peace with justice across our connection. In the opening worship on April 3, we reflected on the address “Beyond Vietnam” which Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered on April 4, 1967. He was assassinated one year to the date later.

“… We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

The PWJ coordinators spent two intense days together under the leadership of Mark Harrison, director of the Peace with Justice Program, and other staff from the General Board of Church and Society. The time was filled with worship, learning from experts on domestic and international issues we are involved in, and sharing about what is going on in our conferences. More information will be shared in the weeks to come.

The guiding prayer during the time together was: “God of Peace with Justice, we are grateful for your healing Spirit in our world. We confess that we have been hurt, broken, and divided. We sing for the day when there is no war and injustice on earth. Guide global political leaders and religions to work towards peace with justice for our fragile world. Inspire all of us to be peacemakers.”

Peace with Justice Sunday is one of our churchwide special Sundays and is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost. This year it falls on June 16. Congregations can also choose another Sunday to observe PWJ Sunday. Resources can be found here.

-- Andrea Paret, Great Plains peace with justice coordinator

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Groups approve plan to
divvy up slashed budget

After almost a week of sometimes tense conversation, the Connectional Table and General Council on Finance and Administration last week each approved allocations in a slashed budget. A big sticking point was the 35 percent budget cut for United Methodist Communications, which includes UMNews.

Read more from UM News Service.

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Resources helps equip
church leaders with information, tools

United Methodist Communications is pleased to announce their new leadership-focused website The site — that launched this month — was developed as a centralized portal to equip United Methodist leaders across the globe with helpful information, tools and multilingual assets.

This single web address eliminates the need to bookmark multiple denominational websites, as it provides easy access to all of the agencies of The United Methodist Church and their ministry resources. The easy-to-navigate website simplifies locating relevant and engaging content aggregated from across the connection, saving leaders precious time. The robust mix of insightful materials provided include the how-to’s of doing ministry, as well as ones that will motivate, encourage and inspire those in leadership roles.

Read more about the new site here.

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Pastor, leader’s kits available
for Native American Sunday

Native American Ministries Sunday is scheduled for May 5. Pastor and Leader’s Kits have resources to help you promote the special Sunday. You can post some of these resources on all your social media outlets. This website also provides a downloadable poster and a bulletin insert you can print out and insert in your church bulletin the week prior to this special Sunday.

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Across the Connection

Pittsburg UMC dedicates pipe organ,
sanctuary on 140th anniversary

First United Methodist Church of Pittsburg completed years of planning, prayer and hard work on Sunday, March 24, with the dedication and consecration of a new organ, and a sanctuary renovation that included a new altar, new communion table, new pew cushions and other related furnishings. 

More than 400 people, including members of the congregation, others from the community and visitors from places far and near, filled the sanctuary for the event, which was also a celebration of the congregation's 140th year of ministry in Pittsburg and the 105th anniversary of the construction of the current church building.

 “It was truly a day to celebrate,” said Rev. Mark Chambers, senior pastor. “God has blessed our ministry in this community and we are thankful for His faithfulness. This was also an opportunity for us to share with our guests, through music and word, the Good News of God's love for all people.”

The centerpiece of the celebration was the new organ, C.B. Fisk Opus 152. The organ is a direct mechanical (tracker) instrument designed by the Fisk artisans specifically for the space. The organ was designed primarily to support choral and congregational singing, and solo repertoire, all of which was demonstrated in the dedication.

The Fisk workers crafted the instrument in their Gloucester, Massachusetts, workshop in 2017 and early 2018. The organ was then dismantled and shipped to Pittsburg, where members of the congregation spent a summer day unloading the pieces. The Fisk artisans then assembled the organ in the newly renovated FUMC sanctuary over a period of months and voicers from the company spent another three months refining the individual voices of the pipes and then balancing them in ensembles to the acoustics of the worship space. 

The dedication and consecration ceremony and the accompanying musical program under the direction of Dr. Susan Marchant, FUMC’s director of music, demonstrated the wide range of the instrument’s abilities. The FUMC Chancel Choir was joined for the program by choral students from Pittsburg State University, comprising a choir of some 60 voices.

Assisting Rev. Chambers with the dedication and consecration service were the Rev. Jeff Gannon, senior pastor at Wichita Chapel Hill UMC; and Marcee Binder, associate pastor at FUMC of Pittsburg. Rev. Gannon also gave the homily for the morning worship.

As part of the service, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., of the Great Plains Conference of the UMC, delivered a video message. 

Rev. Mark Chambers said, “The Holy Spirit was truly moving on everyone, one way or another. Some had tears of joy streaming down their cheeks and others with smiles of joy and happiness. We had people from KC, and all areas of the four states region. The whole service from consecration to the dedication was a heavenly experience here on Earth."

For more information, including a video recording of the service, visit FUMC Pittsburg on Facebook.  

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In other news

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Blogs and opinion

  • Five reasons to consider a U.S. church: The U.S. church is the only member of the world Methodist family that doesn't have regional autonomy, the Rev. Dr. Mark Holland (pictured here at the 2019 General Conference) writes in a Mainstream UMC blog. Holland, a clergy delegate from the Great Plains Conference and Mainstream UMC founder, details five reasons it is time to consider some version of an autonomous U.S. church in the wake of General Conference 2019. 
  • LGBTQ people are welcome in UMC: The president of the Wesley Covenant Association believes his group has been wrongly characterized as condemning lesbian and gay church members. "Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the 2019 special General Conference major media outlets, and even some UM leaders, have unfairly given the public the impression our church has backtracked on these statements," the Rev. Keith Boyette writes. "It most certainly has not!"
  • What does UMC lose in a split?: Three groups – women, people of color and people with disabilities – will be among those who stand the most to lose if a split should occur in The United Methodist Church, writes the Rev. Rebecca Holland, pastor of Christ Community UMC in Altoona, Pennsylvania. “A schism threatens the very diversity that it claims to want to protect,” Holland writes in the Hacking Christianity blog.It is my prayer that, instead of shattering the United Methodist Church to pieces, you will stay and fight with me — not just for members of the LGBTQ community, but for all underrepresented groups.”

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The week ahead

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