Download the printable version of the April 24 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Profiles for 37 clergy, 43 laity candidates for 2020 conferences
Flood relief fund nears $500K; ERTs return to Nebraska this week
Regional gatherings continue this weekend in Grand Island, North Platte  
Church of the Resurrection to host meeting discussing future of UMC

Five weeks and counting until we gather at Expocentre in Topeka
Cokesbury to offer best-sellers, UM logo items, speaker books

Finding a puzzle piece leads the way to God’s grace

Youth to gather for Wesleyan Class Meetings at Summit Academy
Folded napkin is memory of the Resurrection for LSM director
Great Plains camps in search of counselors, lifeguards, camp nurses

Actions we can take to further peace on the Korean peninsula

Celebrate Holy Humor Sunday this weekend
Lincoln church among beneficiaries of Native American Sunday, May 5

Topeka church’s lifelike sculpture of Christ is ‘very meaningful’
Wichita pastor looks back at state education funding lawsuit
Kansas church group finds grenade while cleaning street
In other news
Blogs and opinion
The week ahead


Profiles for 37 clergy, 43 laity candidates for 2020 conferences

The Great Plains Annual Conference sessions are five weeks away and will include voting for delegates for the 2020 General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference.

Through self-nomination process, 37 clergy and 43 laity have offered themselves to be considered as delegates. Both are an increase from the 32 clergy and 27 laity who were contending for the 2016 conferences.

Among the clergy, 11 of the 12 delegates from the 2016 General Conference (and the 2019 special session in February) and jurisdictional are hoping to return. Ten of the 12 laity delegates to the general and jurisdictional have again been nominated.

Read more about the delegates – including a breakdown of male vs. female, Kansas vs. Nebraska and other demographics – in this story.

View the individual candidate profiles.

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Flood relief fund nears $500K;
ERTs return to Nebraska this week

The Great Plains Disaster Response Fund is nearing the half million-dollar mark since mid-March flooding caused historic destruction in Nebraska.

The amount donated so far -- $479,895, according to Scott Brewer, treasurer and director of administration – does not include money donated to the Kids Clean-Up Fund, introduced by Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and the Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, intergenerational ministries coordinator, several weeks ago.

Make donations at this secure page on our website.

After taking a break for Holy Week, Great Plains early response teams are back at work this week. The Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator, said volunteers are needed through the rest of the week in Columbus. Crews from the Great Plains, with assistance of ERTs from Arkansas, have already worked this week in North Loup, Valley, Ord and Fremont.

ERT training continues this weekend with sessions in Clay Center, Kansas, and Fremont on Saturday, and Omaha on Sunday.

Get more updates on our Great Plains Flood Relief webpage.

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Regional gatherings continue this
weekend in Grand Island, North Platte  

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s regional gatherings will continue this weekend with two Nebraska stops: 10 a.m. Saturday at Grand Island Trinity UMC, and 4 p.m. Sunday at North Platte First UMC.

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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Church of the Resurrection to host
meeting discussing future of UMC

The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection host a meeting of centrists and progressives from May 20-22 to talk about the future of the denomination.

Ten representatives from each of the 54 U.S. annual conferences will be invited, as well as active U.S. bishops and top executives of church agencies.

Read more about the meetings in this report from United Methodist News Service.

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Annual Conference

Five weeks and counting until
we gather at Expocentre in Topeka

Registration is open for the 2019 Annual Conference sessions, May 29 to June 1 at the Expocentre in Topeka.

Here are some details about this year’s Annual Conference:

  • Meet and Greet will be 4-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 29. Clergy and laity will meet in separate spaces which make it easier to meet persons who have submitted profiles for election to the delegation.
  • Register for the Therefore GO! 5K run on Saturday morning, June 1, when you register for annual conference – just follow the link.
  • Three offerings will be received at annual conference: Celebration of Worship and Table (Wednesday) -- GP Disaster Response. Money received in this offering will assist in the response to the spring flooding in Nebraska; Youth Worship (Friday) – Youth Service Fund (YSF). These funds are distributed by CCYM to projects planned and led by youth groups throughout the conference.; Ordination (Friday) – Crounse Fund. The Crounse Fund is designated for critical or emergency needs of clergy and/or clergy families. The bishop and cabinet disperse these funds in response to grants requests received. If your congregation would like to take a special offering for any of these, please make a check out to  and include a notation indicating which offering the gift is for (DR – Disaster Response; YSF – Youth Service Fund; Crounse – Crounse fund.
  • Clergy are invited to robe and process in for the Memorial Service, at 7 p.m. May 30 at Topeka First UMC. Please bring a white stole if you will be joining in the procession.  Space will be provided at Topeka First for clergy to gather and robe.

Cokesbury to offer best-sellers,
UM logo items, speaker books

Cokesbury is pleased to offer its most popular titles, UM official resources and speakers’ books in quantity through on-site sales at Annual Conference 2019 at Cokesbury Resource Centers.

This year’s Cokesbury Resource Center will look different as it continues to be responsible stewards of resources, the environment and our staff, while providing the most popular Christian resources to our customers. There will be fewer items on-site, but those will include the bishop’s recommended title, best sellers most often purchased by church professionals and volunteers and UM logo items. Customers may also be measured for and order clergy robes at a 15% discount.

Additional bishop recommendations, speaker books, and other titles and merchandise will be featured in a Conference-specific online catalog before, during and after Annual Conference across a two-month timeframe. This allows for greater exposure of these resources to more conference attendees for a longer period of time.

As always, free ground U.S. shipping is offered on orders of regularly stocked merchandise not available on-site at the Cokesbury Resource Center. Use the online code AC2019 at, telephone the Customer Care Center at 1-800-672-1789, or speak to the Cokesbury representative on site at the Annual Conference’s Cokesbury Resource Center.

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Clergy Excellence

Finding a puzzle piece
leads the way to God’s grace

"It was January 7. I only remember the date because it was the day after Epiphany when I had an epiphany moment," writes the Rev. Shelly Petz in this month's clergy faith and wellness blog.

Discover her simple, yet surprising realization in this post. Maybe it's the epiphany you need, too.

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Equipping Disciples

Youth to gather for Wesleyan Class
Meetings at Summit Academy

In our social media age, youth crave true meaningful connections more than ever. The Summit Youth Academy is a week-long youth theology institute, and it utilizes Wesleyan Class Meetings to provide a safe space for youth to reconnect with each other and with God.

In the Class Meetings, six students and two mentors gather every night and answer five questions to share the ways in which they have experienced God’s presence throughout the day. Questions include: when did you hear God’s voice today? When did you ignore Him? What is your plan for tomorrow? Create the perfect space for accountability, reflection, and communal transformation. 

Students at the Summit also have the opportunity to learn the origin and significance of Wesleyan Class Meetings through pastors and college professors. Last year’s visiting scholars were Dr. Scott Kisker, co-author of “The Band Meeting: Rediscovering Relational Discipleship in Transformational Community” and professor at the United Theological Seminary, and Rev. Dr. Stephen Rankin, Chaplin of Southern Methodist University. This summer, the Summit will incorporate the practice of Band Meetings!

If there is a high school sophomore or junior in your church who would benefit from this Wesleyan practice of community, nominate them for the Summit. Visit to nominate a student or to find more information about the Summit.

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Folded napkin is memory of the Resurrection for LSM director

A collector of napkins, Phyllis Stoppel understands the significance of the folded napkin that Jesus left in his tomb on Easter morning.

"For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, 'I’m finished,'" Stoppel, lay servant ministries director for the Hutchinson District writes in the LSM blog. "But if the Master got up from the table, folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the folded napkin meant, 'I’m coming back.'”

Read more in the LSM blog.

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Great Plains camps in search of
counselors, lifeguards, camp nurses

All six of the Great Plains Conference camps are in search of staff members for the summer.

The six camps – three in Nebraska, three in Kansas – are seeking camp counselors, and many are in need of lifeguards and camp nurses.

Look forward to a summer of faith, fun and friendship by being a part of the Great Plains camp family!

Click here to apply for the open positions.

Find out more about the Great Plains camps here.

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Mercy & Justice

Actions we can take to further
peace on the Korean peninsula

Claudia Roberts, PWJ coordinator Oregon-Idaho Conference, reporting on the Pilgrimage of Peace to Korea that she participated in last year.

For Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Ephesians 2:14)

At the recent Peace with Justice (PWJ) coordinator gathering at the Church Center for The United Nations in New York, one of the sessions focused on Korea. The United Methodist Church has long been involved in working for peace on the Korean peninsula. The resolution “Korea: Peace, Justice, and Reunification” (#6135) was passed in 1988. It has been amended and readopted several times since then.

Rev. PyungAhn Kim, PWJ coordinator of the Wisconsin Conference, facilitated the conversation. Rev. We Hyun Chang, chair of The Peace Committee of the Korean Association of The United Methodist Church, shared about the history and current situation. “Korea is stuck between globalism and self-determination. The people are left out and the future is not promising,” said Chang. “The cold war divided Korea, not the Korean people.” The importance of knowing the history was emphasized. There is just one Korea, one human race. But we often don’t know how to define reality without dualism and opposites. And once you define something as evil, you want to get rid of it. A challenge is to work towards “deconstructing the polarized perception by practicing a non-dualistic approach and the practice of empathy.”

In November 2018, a Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula was called together in Atlanta. A statement was developed with Calls to Action that we can all participate in:
1. We call all Methodist and Ecumenical partners to pray and work for the formal end of the Korean War and to replace the Korean War Armistice Agreement with a Peace Treaty, and we urge the international community to expedite negotiations for such a Peace Treaty.
2. We call all Methodist and Ecumenical partners to embark on prayerful advocacy for the lifting of international sanctions through letter writing and petition efforts.
3. We call on U.S.-based partners to embark on prayerful advocacy for the lifting of the U.S. travel ban through letter writing and other petition efforts.
4. We call on U.S.-based partners to set a goal of contacting all senators and representatives to advocate for the calls above, before the next anniversary of the Korean War, which began on June 25.
5. We call all Methodist and Ecumenical partners to join the World Council of Churches in observing each year the Sunday closest to August 15, the day of Korean Liberation, as a day of prayer for peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.
6. We call on all Methodist and Ecumenical partners to engage in relationship-building efforts with the people of both North Korea and South Korea.
Besides these suggested actions in the Atlanta Statement, Peace Action is an organization that many United Methodists work with on this issue.

Last year, a group of United Methodists from different conferences went on a “Pilgrimage of Peace to Korea.” Churches can help increase people to people exchanges which will further understanding and empathy and support our advocacy efforts. If you are interested in more information, feel free to contact your PWJ coordinator, Andrea Paret, at

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Celebrate Holy Humor
Sunday this weekend

Ever heard of Holy Humor Sunday? It’s a modern name for the early church tradition of Bright Sunday, celebrated the week after Easter.

“Churches actively encouraged the faithful to be merry and celebrate the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection. Communities would often throw parties with dances, jokes and even pranks,” according to this article by Philip Brooks at

“Today Holy Humor Sunday is a way to continue the Easter celebration in creative and hilarious ways. Pastors dress up in funny clothes and tell jokes from the pulpit. Choirs and church bands play upbeat and lighthearted music. Some churches dress their sanctuary with balloons and party decorations.”

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Lincoln church among beneficiaries
of Native American Sunday, May 5

The Great Plains Conference has a new ministry committee in formation: The Committee On Native American Ministries or ‘CONAM’ for short. One of its responsibilities is to assure that every congregation in our GP Conference knows about and celebrates Native American Ministries on Sunday, May 5.

United Methodist Native Americans — with many unique languages and cultures — honor Jesus and live as Christians, led by a contingent of primarily Native American pastors.

In Lincoln, Nebraska we celebrate the congregation of Sacred Winds Native Mission Church, a beneficiary of this special, annual offering. They worship at 11 am each Sunday at 2400 S. 11th St. in southwest Lincoln. To see photos and learn more about their congregation, you can view their Facebook page.

An overview of available UMC resources to promote Native American Ministries Sunday can be found here. These include social media graphics, videos, posters, bulletin inserts and much, much more.

You can include a message in your church newsletter or pastor's blog, using or adapting this text:

Did you know that more than 20,000 Native American people are part of The United Methodist Church? On Sunday, May 5, we will honor and celebrate Native American Ministries with a special offering that directly supports Native American congregations and enables them to authentically minister with their communities while honoring creative expressions of culture and heritage. The offering also provides scholarships for Native American seminary students.

Through our denominational connection and with our offering, we live out our commitment to repentance, healing, forgiveness and love. I encourage you to give generously on May 5.

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Across the Connection

Topeka church’s lifelike sculpture
of Christ is ‘very meaningful’

A lifelike sculpture of Jesus on the cross made Holy Week more meaningful for Topeka Countryside UMC. The sculpture, by church member Melissa Kingman Rau, has drawn church members to bring their friends to see the work.

“We’ve had a steady stream of people this week,” Brenda Bauman Swank, coordinator of member development and missions for the church, said. “They’ll be sitting in the sanctuary, having some quiet time.”

Story and photos from Phil Anderson in the Topeka Capital-Journal.

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Wichita pastor looks back at
state education funding lawsuit

The founding pastor of Wichita Chapel Hill UMC never thought he’d be the namesake of a lawsuit that claimed the state inadequately and inequitably funded public education.

“We’re just representing the common Joe,” the Rev. Jeff Gannon said of the 2010 lawsuit. “The person that is passionate about public education.”

Even though his children have graduated from Wichita Public Schools, he still awaits the outcome of the lawsuit, something he never preached about at his church.

“I made it very clear that this is as a parent who happens to be a pastor,” he said in an article in The Wichita Eagle. “This is not a pastor who happens to be a parent.”

Read more in The Wichita Eagle story.

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Kansas church group finds
grenade while cleaning street

While cleaning up a portion of 77th Street N in Park City, Kansas, on Good Friday morning, members of Valley Center UMC found something unusual – a pineapple-style grenade from the World War II era.

They called the police, who found the grenade to be “real but inactive.”

Watch the report from KWCH.

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In other news

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Blogs and opinion

Lifting up singles in the church: Never-married adults are a growing demographic, and they are a group that is looking for community. United Methodists of Arkansas offers a few ideas for helping singles feel more welcomed in church.

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The week ahead


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