Download the printable version of the May 13 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Churches have much to take into consideration before deciding to reopen
Ecumenical webinar on reopening scheduled for Thursday
Adapting church: worship and counseling to stay connected
Parking lot services energize pastors at six-point charge in Riley County
More coronavirus updates from the Great Plains and beyond

‘Threshold’ Clergy Excellence conversations continue next week
Clergy, candidacy mentors being sought for 2020-21
'Social Distancing, Not Social Isolation' is subject of webinar this Thursday

Lakeside putting camp registrations on hold until final decisions can be made
Learn about foundations of coaching in webinar coming this Saturday
Information on House Churches is now available from conference
Lay Servant Ministries blog: We need to adjust our vision
Campus ministry at UNK connects students in discerning their faith walk

Organizations advocate for workers in meatpacking plants
Shooting of Georgia man sparks call to end racism

Conference committees seeking people with passion for serving
Finance Friday looks at maintaining HIPAA compliance amidst COVID-19

Online resources for Heritage Sunday are now available
May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

Rev. Dr. Jack Bremer, KU chaplain, social justice champion, dies at 86
In other news
Blogs and commentaries

Churches have much to take into
consideration before deciding to reopen

Social distancing measures that came with the coronavirus pandemic forced churches to transition to online worship and ministry. As many states lift shelter-in-place orders, churches must contemplate how — or whether — to return to in-person worship. On May 10, a few United Methodist churches held their first small in-person services since the pandemic.

Read more from United Methodist News Service.

Our coronavirus page has been updated with best practices for returning to our houses of worship, including general considerations, gathering, sacraments, cleaning, finances, children's ministry and other instructions.

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Ecumenical webinar on
reopening scheduled for Thursday

A webinar, “What Communities Need to Know about COVID-19 and Reopening” at 12:30 p.m. CT Thursday, May 14. The interactive webinar will include representatives from the Centers for Disease Control interacting with ecumenical leaders. The webinar is sponsored by the National Council of Christian Churches, Christian Churches Together and Churches Uniting in Christ.

It comes with the recommendation of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

Register at this Zoom link.

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Adapting church: worship and
counseling to stay connected

The Rev. Dr. Kevass J. Harding talks with host Todd Seifert, conference communications director, about how his congregation, Dellrose United Methodist Church, has adapted to online worship, virtual Bible study and counseling over the Zoom videoconferencing platform. That's all in this week’s episode of his “In Layman’s Terms” podcast. You won't want to miss Harding's ideas for people as they worship from their homes (Amens! and claps are still greatly appreciated).

Listen here.

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Parking lot services energize pastors
at six-point charge in Riley County

Rather than a half-dozen services every Sunday morning, six churches in northern Riley County, Kansas, have combined for one.

Prompted by gathering restrictions and knowing many of their parishioners weren’t online, the Revs. Sandy and Bruce Ferguson started a parking lot church in Randolph UMC – centrally located, across the street from their parsonage, and the only church of the six with adequate internet.

All six churches – the Jerusalem Road Parish, plus the newly added Keats-Riley UMC – are usually represented by their vehicles.

“To be able to offer worship services both live and online for all their needs, or as many needs as we possibly can, that’s very rewarding to us personally,” Sandy said. 

Find out more and view a photo gallery.

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More coronavirus updates
from the Great Plains and beyond

The latest additions to our ministry amid coronavirus page include an Omaha church that hit a mask-making milestone and a western Kansas church that has a sweet way to show appreciation to essential workers, health professionals and truck drivers.

More than 30 entries already on the page have now been curated into three categories: Worship & Preaching, Community Outreach and Congregational Care.

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Clergy Excellence

‘Threshold’ Clergy Excellence
conversations continue next week

The Clergy Excellence team invites all clergy to join a series of conversations via Zoom hosted by the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford and the Rev. Shelly Petz that we’re calling “At the Threshold: Ministry in Liminal Time.” The purpose of the conversations is to identify new realities, discuss questions, and encourage the heart of pastors during this new, uncertain season in the life of ministry. The conversations will explore the theme of being in a “liminal time,” on the threshold of transition, from the way things used to be to … well, we just don’t know yet. While this is a season of disruption and loss, it is also full of opportunity and growth. We want to acknowledge both.

Each session is being recorded and will be shared in a podcast forma. Take a look at opportunities to join:

  • Creativity, Comparison, and Coping — A panel of four Great Plains pastors joined Ashlee and Shelly for conversation about these three tensions during this new season. It should be posted here shortly!

  • Mental Health Check-in (3 p.m. May 21) — Seanne Larson Emmerton, a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed independent mental health provider who comes from a long line of United Methodists, including circuit riders has a special interest in spirituality and health. Her specialties are relationships, trauma and resilience using positive psychology and a strength-based model. She invites clergy to join this conversation where we will explore best practices for mental health resilience during this liminal time with a focus on ways to renew and sustain energy. There will be time to examine your own internal house of wellness and gently identify next steps. Register here.
  • Practical Questions for New Ways of Ministry (10:30 a.m. June 4) — Several Great Plains pastors join Ashlee and Shelly to identify some of the questions—and opportunities during this new season! Register here.
  • More will be scheduled at 10:30 a.m. every other Thursday -- Info here.

Ashlee and Shelly will introduce each subject, occasionally have a guest join in the conversation, and will facilitate a discussion among the clergy present. You’re welcome to join the call and share in discussion, just listen, or listen to the recorded session following the live conversation here
Feel free to reach out with possibilities or questions to Ashlee,, or Shelly,

Rev. Shelly Petz’s Faith & Wellness blog: During Mental Health Month, a reminder that you are not alone.

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Clergy, candidacy mentors
being sought for 2020-21

Ministry does not happen alone. It happens with people — church members, other clergy and members of our community. Mentors are among the most significant influences in the life of someone discerning a call to ministry and developing effectiveness in ministry. Have you felt called to come alongside those in the beginnings of ministry? 

The primary way that the Great Plains does mentoring is in a group context. 101 Candidacy Summit and 401 Residency participants are assigned to mentoring groups. However, certified candidates and licensed local pastors who are required (by the Book of Discipline) to participate in mentoring are able to select their mentoring group from two options: 201 Preparation for Ministry and 301 Practice of Ministry. To find out more about the distinction of the two groups and other resources, visit the mentoring page.

We are currently requesting people to serve as clergy and candidacy mentors for the 2020-2021 Conference year. Those who have completed Course of Study or are ordained as a deacon or elder are eligible to serve as a mentor. Are you interested? If so, would you consider applying to be a mentor? Our deadline for applying is May 22, 2020. You can register here.

Are you currently serving as a mentor and want to continue? Please register even if you are intending to continue mentoring with a current group. The application will give you a chance to identify your intention about which type of mentoring you’d be willing to do and will be used to match willing mentors with mentoring needs.

If you have questions, please contact the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford, clergy recruitment and development coordinator, at , or 785-414-4216.

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'Social Distancing, Not Social Isolation' is subject of webinar this Thursday

The webinar “Social Distancing, Not Social Isolation: A Family Systems Perspective” will be from 10-11:30 a.m. CT Thursday, as well as 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 27.

Sponsored by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, the presenter is the Rev. Richard Blackburn, director emeritus and senior consultant for the LMPC.

Learn how church leaders can reach out to people in a spirit of compassion and help them overcome potential loneliness.  

The fee is $30, payable at the time of registration

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Equipping Disciples

Lakeside putting camp registrations on
hold until final decisions can be made

Hello Lakeside family,

We know there are many questions about the status of summer camp, especially as Kansas begins the phases into reopening today. 

At this point, we are working on an answer for you. There are still many unknowns that we must learn to navigate, in considering when/how we may be able to safely open Camp Lakeside for children, youth, adults and staff members. 

We can assure you that Camp Lakeside and GP Camps are closely following the updates being released by the CDC, American Camp Association and other camp professionals from around the country. There are many balls to juggle, in considering if it's possible to safely and logistically run summer camp sessions. There are many individuals involved in making decisions for what this summer will hold for camping ministry, and we are in communication with them.  

At this point, Camp Lakeside has paused all camper registrations. By the end of next week, we will have a better answer for you. No matter what this summer may end up looking like, we can assure you all decisions are being made with the safety of our campers and staff members as the highest priority. And whatever happens, rest assured that camp people are designed to come up with creative ministry!

We know there are still more questions than answers. It feels like that for many aspects of life right now. Sometimes the only thing we can do in times of confusion is to simply breathe, figure out one thing we CAN control, or talk to a loved one. 

We are praying each day for your families in this unprecedented time. Please continue keeping Camp Lakeside in your prayers as well, as our staff navigate these new waters and prepare for whatever the summer may hold for all of us. We are very much looking forward to when we can gather together, again. 

We'll be in touch with more information (and ministry) soon. 

In peace,

Ross Janovec (Site Director)
Kate Laing (Program Director)

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Learn about foundations of coaching
in webinar coming this Saturday

Join Great Plains laity and the Eureka Partners in making a discovery and learning the foundations of coaching. The coaching foundations course aims to equip laity with the skills and methods for successful leadership and coaching practice. If you are interested, attend the next informational zoom meeting with your questions and hear more about objectives. Informational meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. CT Saturday, May 16. Register in advance at this link.

The virtual coaching foundations course will be from 6-9 p.m. CT Friday, July 31, and 9 a.m. to noon and 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1. The cost is $20 per-person which includes online learning, nine hours of training, coaching relationships, and a book.
Registration is now open!
Watch this video to learn more.
If you have questions, email Shane Warta, lay leadership coordinator, at

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Information on House Churches
is now available from conference

House Churches are intentional small groups that meet weekly at a home to worship together. This enables individuals to remain connected with the church, cultivate their relationships with God and others, and provide congregational care to one another.

The Great Plains Conference has developed this brief how-to guide to get you and your church started. Download the free PDF, which also can be found on our Virtual Church Life page.

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Lay Servant Ministries blog:
We need to adjust our vision

“At this time in the valley of the coronavirus pandemic, many people are recognizing God’s call to be of help to others,” Phyllis Stoppel, Hutchinson District Lay Servant Ministries director, writes in the latest LSM blog. “It’s a hard time as we hear each day of how many deaths there are, but we also see pictures of all the many people who are doing things to help their family, friends, and community. Not all of us are trained to be a health professional, truck driver, first responder, etc., but there are many small things we can do.”

Read more here.

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Campus ministry at UNK connects
students in discerning their faith walk

United Campus Ministries at the University of Nebraska-Kearney is excited to share the many ways our ministry connects with your students while attending UNK. Several UCM students shared "Why Campus Ministry Matters" while discerning their faith walk and exploring their gifts and leadership skills. This brochure highlights our ministry's programs, activities, and ways we’ve connected and share our ministry with churches and their congregations.

--Laura Stubblefield, campus minister

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Mercy & Justice

Organizations advocate for
workers in meatpacking plants

With cases of COVID-19 taking sharp increases at meatpacking plants, several organizations in Nebraska formed a strategy group to advocate for workers in the food-processing industry. Talking with workers and their family members showed clearly that in many workplaces no protection was offered or available until very recently. Workers were expected to come to work and stand side-by-side on the production line throughout their work hours. And this happened at a time when the importance of social distancing in reducing the spread of COVID-19 had clearly been shown. Some workers were and are told to come to work even when they are sick.

Read more from Andrea Paret, Peace with Justice coordinator.

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Shooting of Georgia man
sparks call to end racism

Church leaders are calling for all United Methodists to work for the complete eradication of racism in light of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while jogging in his neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23.

Read more from United Methodist News Service.

Read joint statement from GBCS and GCORR.

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Conference committees seeking
people with passion for serving

I have a favorite church sign. It says, "What is missing in this ch__ch? U R!"
Right now, this is a sign the nominations committee of the Great Plains Conference needs. Committees are in need of people who have a passion for serving.

Committees with openings are Archives and History (they keep the history of our church), Trustees (in charge of buildings and assets the conference owns), Nominations (finding good people to serve on the committees), Annual Conference Sessions planning team (in charge of planning annual conference), Connecting Council (oversee the mission and work of the committee through the year), Personnel (oversee staff employed by the conference), camp ministry (take care of our United Methodist camps in Kansas and Nebraska), and campus ministry (assist and employer the campus ministries across both states).

If you have a nomination submitted from before 2018, please nominate yourself again. Finally, please be patient with being called. Our hope is to find the best place for each person to serve. Sometimes that takes time to find the best fit. Thank you for your help in making this conference full of great leaders.

--Rev. Tessa Zehring, chair, nominations committee
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Finance Friday looks at maintaining
HIPAA compliance amidst COVID-19

This week’s Finance Friday takes a look at the fundamentals of safeguarding medical privacy and how maintaining it for parishioners is complicated by the pandemic. Plus, news of note, super fun charts and graphs, and your questions and comments. Join the weekly webinar this Friday at noon CT/11am MT at

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Online resources for Heritage
Sunday are now available

Worship, preaching, study and discussion resources are now available for Heritage Sunday, a denomination-wide Special Sunday to be observed May 24. "Our denominational roots and Wesleyan heart and soul — the things that have and continue to make United Methodists who they are — are important compass points to guide our living into an unanticipated, unprecedented 'new normal,'" said the Rev. Alfred T. Day, top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History. 

Read press release and get resources.

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May is Asian/Pacific
American Heritage Month

United Methodists join others across the United States in observing Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race has put together an infographic highlighting the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the church in the U.S.

Find infographic here.

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Across the Connection

Rev. Dr. Jack Bremer, KU chaplain,
social justice champion, dies at 86

The Rev. Dr. Jack Bremer, a Kansas native who became chaplain at the University of Kansas and whose championing of social justice took him to the White House, died last month at age 86.

Bremer was part of the American-Iranian Reconciliation Committee, according to his obituary.

“In Iran, he was a mediator with Iranian Students holding the American hostages at the Embassy in Tehran. Some of those Iranian students knew Dr. Bremer from attending his classes and it was their respect for his truthfulness and reverence for God that helped open the doors for him to visit with and attend to the hostages. He then reported on the situation to President Carter in the White House.”

Read Bremer’s obituary.

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In other news

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Blogs and commentaries

  • Rethinking Holy Communion: Central Texas Conference Bishop Mike Lowry initially supported offering online communion during the COVID-19 emergency. In a self-described "mea culpa" blog post, he shares why he changed his mind.
  • In support of virtual communion: New England Conference Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar's further reflections on online communion caused him to switch to favoring it as an option for churches during the coronavirus pandemic.

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