Download the printable version of the Aug. 19 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Connecting Council discusses adjustment amid pandemic
Brady, Collins, Williamston installed as new district superintendents
Task force formed for use of houses of worship by schools
More news about coronavirus from beyond the Great Plains
Conference working to improve children's, youth ministries
Bishops scheduled to lead National Day of Prayer Saturday for UM Men
‘Time to Listen’ videos available for study, discussion in churches
More about the stand against racism from beyond the Great Plains
Methodists worldwide mourn loss of Sierra Leone bishop killed in accident

Spiritual direction in time of uncertainty is topic of next week's 'Threshold’ 
Sept. 1 is deadline to register for For Your Life (Virtual) Retreat
Early bird registration for Resurrection's virtual Leadership Institute due Sept. 1

God can help us navigate through rough roads of 2020
Readiness 360 surveys gives a current picture of your congregation
Share your faith stories with us in daily devotions

Great Plains volunteers get to work after Iowa windstorm

Mission share letter for 2021 now available on conference website
Kansas Area UM Foundation grant applications due Sept. 1

Video of United Methodist Men discussion now available
Helping churches show solidarity for Korean peace

Wichita Chapel Hill selects new director of music ministries
Southwestern opens school year with record freshman class
In other news
Blogs and commentaries


Connecting Council discusses
adjustment amid pandemic

The Great Plains Conference Connecting Council heard reports about how the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause adjustments in how ministry is practiced in Kansas and Nebraska during the group’s meeting on Saturday, conducted online.

The meeting also included upcoming public discussion of the 2021 budget, plans for Annual Conference gatherings, a 2021 Laity Summit, decisions on renewal leave for clergy, and the Doing Justice Initiative.

Read more here.

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Brady, Collins, Williamston installed
as new district superintendents

Three new district superintendents were installed during a virtual gathering on Sunday. 

The Rev. Dr. Tom Brady was installed as Five Rivers and Parsons districts superintendent; the Rev. Jenny Collins was installed as superintendent of the Topeka and Flint Hills districts; and the Rev. Dee Williamston formally added the Hutchinson District to her duties as Salina District superintendent. 

“This is a historical moment for the Great Plains,” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said at the beginning of the 60-minute ceremony, noting it was the first time that multiple districts were celebrated together. 

Read more here.

Watch a video of the entire ceremony.

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Task force formed for use
of houses of worship by schools

New backpacks! New pencils and pens! A big box of crayons! New clothes! Signs of a new school year. This year will look different for many of our kids. The options of how to learn in the world of COVID-19 and the Multi-symptom Inflammatory Disease for Children have set before us a new normal. Schools are having to become creative in this time of multiple ways of making sure our kids are kept safe while learning. 

As a conference we see the challenge. In Kansas several of our houses of worship have been approached by school districts for the possibility of housing classes in their facility. Others are looking at providing space for the virtual learning to take place. Because we see this as a great opportunity to connect our houses of worship with the community, we are working with the Kansas State Department of Education and school districts to provide a safe place of learning.

We have formed a task force of the following individuals who are responsible for making this an easy process for any of our houses of worship within the Great Plains Conference. The task force consists of Rev. Jenny Collins, Flint Hills and Topeka districts superintendent; Rev. Dr. Mitch Reece, Wichita districts Superintendent; Rev. Nathan Stanton, congregational excellence director; Scott Brewer, conference administrative services director and treasurer; Sue Courtney from Assured Partners Insurance; Torrey Gerdes, Dave Seely and Pat Reeder our conference chancellors; and Rev. Hollie Tapley, conference disaster response coordinator. When our work is done there will be a checklist available that will cover the following issues: contractual, liability, logistical, safety, constitutional and pandemic. This checklist will be used for your conversation with the school district in order for them to hold classes in your facility. 

If your house of worship is connecting with schools for the purpose of hosting classes and students, this checklist will be available from any of the task force members.

--Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator

From FEMA: Three steps to protect your child during emergencies in the school day.

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More news about coronavirus
from beyond the Great Plains

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Conference working to improve
children's, youth ministries

The Great Plains Conference is in the midst of a two-year renovation of its children’s and youth ministry programs and is offering smaller churches the chance to improve their work with young attendees. 

Since late last year, the conference has been working with Tennessee-based Ministry Architects for a status report on kids and youth ministry in the conference and what can be improved. 

“They’re working on laying the foundation – and they use a lot of architectural terms – for bolstering youth ministry and creating a structure for kids’ ministry at the conference, which includes networking with our colleagues in kids ministry and youth ministry and really reinforcing them,” said the Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, intergenerational discipleship coordinator. 

Read more here.

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Bishops scheduled to lead National
Day of Prayer Saturday for UM Men

Six bishops, including Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. of the Great Plains, and eight United Methodist leaders will provide meditations and prayers for racial justice and the COVID-19 pandemic during an Aug. 22 National Day of Prayer, sponsored by the South Central Jurisdiction United Methodist Men. This is the fifth National Day of Prayer sponsored by leaders of United Methodist Men in each of the five U.S. jurisdictions.

Bishop Saenz is scheduled to be the first speaker in the virtual prayer gathering from noon to 3 p.m. CDT.

Read more from United Methodist Men.
Download a flyer for the Day of Prayer.

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‘Time to Listen’ videos available
for study, discussion in churches

This summer, three webinars called “A Time to Listen” took place on Saturday mornings. They included panelists from a variety of backgrounds talking about racial issues in the Great Plains Conference and in our country.

The webinars were organized by the Rev. Dee Williamston, Salina and Hutchinson districts superintendent, and the Rev. Nicole Conard from the congregational excellence team. All three were moderated by the Rev. Dr. Rose Booker-Jones, a retired pastor and a former district superintendent in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference who now lives near Wichita.

Videos of each of these webinars are available for rewatching and for study and discussion purposes:

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More about the stand against
racism from beyond the Great Plains

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Methodists worldwide mourn loss of
Sierra Leone bishop killed in accident

Sierra Leone Area Bishop John K. Yambasu was remembered in The United Methodist Church for his leadership seeking unity and compromise and in his own country for his response to Ebola, a deadly landslide and COVID-19. Yambasu, 63, died Aug. 16 in a car accident. 

Read more from United Methodist News Service.

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Clergy Excellence

Spiritual direction in time of uncertainty is topic of next week's 'Threshold’ 

Since May, Rev. Shelly Petz and Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford have been leading conversations on topics that engage the challenges and opportunities during this new season. The conversations are called “At the Threshold: Ministry in Liminal Time” and have spanned various topics: ministry in this new season, mental health, leadership, death, children’s ministry, education, and poverty. Check out individual episodes here or find the podcast on Podbean or Apple Podcasts.
The next episode is “Discerning Spiritual Direction in a Season of Uncertainty” (Aug. 27, 10:30 a.m. CDT) — Spiritual Direction as a Christian practice offers ways to root us and help us discern God’s presence in this liminal time. Join retired Great Plains pastors Rev. Dr. Connie Wilson and Rev. Stephen Griffith, and lay person, Matthew Johnson of Neighboring Movement as we discuss ways to engage in the practice ourselves and also introduce it to others. Mark your calendar and register here.
Mark your calendar for Sept. 10 and 24 for 10:30 a.m. Check out the schedule here and find past episodes here:

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Sept. 1 is deadline to register
for For Your Life (Virtual) Retreat

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted much of our typical day-to-day life, both personally and in the life of the church. Every leadership skill that clergy have developed in the past has been utilized, and new needs have emerged for many clergy. And, while it’s always been important to minister out of a depth of a relationship with Christ, it’s never been as critical as it is now to be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. Would you benefit from having a two-day, guided virtual retreat to give you an opportunity to connect with others through (virtual) worship together, take an honest look at how you’re doing, and also walk away learn about creating a Rule of Life and Learning Plan for focusing your plan for growth?

For Your Life: Giving your soul time and means to grow is a virtual 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. Participants will join by Zoom and we encourage you to join us from a place that you can have space to create an environment for reflection and rest for the whole time of the virtual retreat. We will start at 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 14 and will meet at various times between then and 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15. While we will be meeting for worship, conversation, and feedback, the retreat will include several videos that will provide instruction and guidance for your solo work. The expectation is that you will be able to be fully engaged to the work of the For Your Life retreat during the length of the time we’ve identified, even if you are meeting from your home. The cost to participate in the For Your Life virtual retreat is $10 and includes a “Retreat in a Box” kit with resources, items for worship and a little bit of fun thrown in for good measure! The deadline for registering for the retreat is Tuesday, Sept. 1. 

To register and for more information, check out the website, or email the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford at

We will also be offering some mini-grants for those who might be interested in creating their own retreat setting at St. Benedict’s Retreat Center in Schuyler, NE. Individuals can make their own arrangements for a personal solo retreat and will reimburse the cost after the event, minus $25. To request a personal mini-grant, contact Rev. Nancy Lambert,

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Early bird registration for Resurrection's virtual Leadership Institute due Sept. 1

Registration is now open for The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute 2020, held online Sept. 24-25.

The online format is packed with relevant and actionable leadership development content through a livestreamed event, plus on-demand bonus material spanning across all ministry areas.

Individual tickets are $49 through Sept. 1.

The conference features:

  • Four General Sessions on Thursday, led by nationally known speakers uniquely positioned to address the extraordinary issues church leaders are facing in 2020 and beyond, including Ron Heifetz, founder of Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership; the Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection.
  • Two Breakout Sessions on Friday, with six topics to choose from at each session, followed by live Q&A with the presenter(s). Sessions will be led by Resurrection staff and guest presenters.
  • A library of on-demand workshops covering a variety of ministry-specific topics, all with tangible takeaways for church leaders to implement in their own setting.
  • All the live sessions and the on-demand workshop library will be available exclusively to Leadership Institute participants for a year.

The conference also features a variety of ways for participants to connect with each other, including chat rooms for focused discussions and the ability to set “meet-ups” with colleagues.

Details and registration can be found at Early Bird price of $49 is available through September 1. For questions, contact the ShareChurch Team at or 913-232-4139.

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Equipping Disciples

God can help us navigate
through rough roads of 2020

Pat McReynolds, Parsons District director of Lay Servant Ministries, doesn't remember washing clothes with a washboard, but he does think about the washboard-like qualities of country roads.

That same kind of rough terrain is how McReynolds sees the current year. 

"We are confronted with situations that are unavoidable, many out of our control, from which there is no simple or quick solution," he writes in this month's LSM blog. "The COVID pandemic has changed our 'normal' ways of living.  

Read how faith can see you through the rough road in his blog.

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Readiness 360 surveys gives a
current picture of your congregation

Surveys are a great way to get a snapshot of where the congregation currently is. The summer is a great time to invite people to take a survey and have a wealth of information to jump off of for the fall. Leadership teams can take it in these summer months and expand the invitation to the congregation. The Readiness 360 Survey also provides a baseline data for pastoral transitions and ways to talk about the current areas of the church.

There are two open-ended questions that leadership can choose what they would like to ask, in addition to four key areas of cultural openness, spiritual intensity, missional alignment, and dynamic relationships. It is a free resource with free coaching with a leadership team, all available online.

Updated resources and information are listed on

Contact your Congregational Excellence staff person of your district if you would like more information or how to get started today:

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Share your faith stories
with us in daily devotions

Want to start your day with some inspiration? Get our daily devotions delivered to your email!

Do you want to share your story of faith with others in the Great Plains Conference? Join our talented group of writers from among the clergy, laity and staff of the conference.

Daily lectionary verses are available for inspiration, but if there is a verse that is on your heart, please feel free to use it instead. Write a meditation on the scripture of about 300 words and a two-sentence prayer for reflection.

We welcome a variety of experiences and viewpoints -- you do not have to be a seminary scholar to share your view of God's grace and Christ's love!

Use this link to sign up.

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Disaster Response

Great Plains volunteers get
to work after Iowa windstorm

A dozen volunteers from the Great Plains Conference disaster response team will travel to Cedar Rapids and Marion, Iowa, today through Saturday to assist victims of a rare derecho windstorm that hit the state last week.

The Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator, said her counterpart in the Iowa Conference told her that volunteers are needed to work in about 400 mobile homes where roofs have been torn off and families need assistance moving.

More than 150 communities have been impacted by the derecho, Tapley was told.

Donations can be made through that will go directly for the needed supplies for volunteers. Photo by Iowa Annual Conference.

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Mission share letter for 2021 now
available on conference website

Your church's 2021 mission share letter is now available to view on the conference website at Once at the website, type the church name in the search box, click search and click on the church. From there you can view your church's 2021 mission share letter, 2020 remittance form, and/or most recent remittance statement. The 2021 mission share letter is also being sent via USPS to the church mailing address on file. 

Please note, the 2021 mission share amount is subject to change pending the actions of the voting members of the Annual Conference. If there are changes to the 2021 mission share, a new letter will be mailed out to each church in October as well as another email notification.

If you have any questions about your 2021 mission share letter, please email me at or Scott Brewer at or call the conference office at 877-972-9111.

--Niki Buesing
Assistant treasurer/controller

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Kansas Area UM Foundation
grant applications due Sept. 1

What ministries could be possible with the support of a matching grant? The Kansas Area United Methodist Foundation is offering Pathways for Discipleship Grants to Kansas churches and organizations in three key areas of ministry: children and youth programs, ministry and outreach, and leadership education. Applications for the matching grants are due on Sept. 1. The application is available at

Children and Youth program grants are available to support all aspects of programming for children, youth and young adult ministries. The grant assists with the development of new, unique programs to attract children, youth, and young adults to the church through local church, district, campus ministry or conference experiences.

Ministry and Outreach grants help support churches in reaching the community in activities such as, programming, mission trips, and outreach ministry

Leadership Education grants support education and leadership development of clergy and lay leaders. Grants may also assist in providing trainings for a church, network, or regional gathering.

If you have any questions, please contact the Foundation at or 620-664-9623.

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Video of United Methodist
Men discussion now available

A video recap of the United Methodist Men’s recent panel discussion is now available at this link.

The discussion, hosted by Stilwell United Methodist Church in Kansas, was a virtual Zoom session focused on the importance of growing spiritually active men in our local churches.

Three keynote panelists from around the denomination addressed the participants, followed by a question and answer period.

The topics included:

  • Why men are important to the life and growth of the church
  • How men can help improve the life and growth of the church
  • What men can do as individuals or as a group to strengthen their connection and deepen their relationship with Christ.

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Helping churches show
solidarity for Korean peace

A new collection of resources from the World Council of Churches, “The Light of Peace: Churches in Solidarity with the Korean Peninsula,” is designed to help churches recognize 70 years of unresolved conflict on the Korean Peninsula during 2020. The content is drawn from a variety of contributors.

Read press release.
See resource.

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Across the Connection

Wichita Chapel Hill selects
new director of music ministries

Wichita Chapel Hill United Methodist Church has hired conductor and music educator Rayvon T.J. Moore as its new director of music ministries.

“Chapel Hill has always been committed to providing services of worship which respect the tradition of the ancient forms of worship such as hymns and creeds. However, we want to take the ancient and express it in a way our culture can appreciate and respond to. Dr. Moore brings an awareness and appreciation of our methodology and has the expertise to create a memorable and meaningful worship experience,” said Pastor Jeff Gannon, Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.

Moore is a Southern California native who has a decade of experience directing and conducting choirs as well as teaching conducting, voice, and piano. He most recently taught at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, as the interim director of choral activities and was director of music at Western Presbyterian Church in Palmyra, New York. This month, he starts his new position as the director of choral studies at Friends University where he will oversee the choral program, conduct the Singing Quakers, and teach courses on choral conducting, choral methods and applied voice.

As the director of music ministries at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, Moore will guide all music ministries throughout the church while supervising the Praise Team, directing the Celebration Choir, leading the children’s choir, and providing vocal support. He will join the staff on Sunday, Aug. 23, and his first performance during the church service will take place on Aug. 30.

“I am excited to begin my tenure as the director of music ministries at Chapel Hill! It is always a privilege to serve God and His people. I look forward to the great music making that will take place here. Chapel Hill is a special place in that we have a blended service offering both traditional and contemporary worship. It is my desire that we give the Lord the very best of ourselves musically and spiritually. After all, He deserves it,” Moore said.

A baritone, Moore has sung backup for artists such as The Rolling Stones, Barry Manilow and Andrea Bocelli. Moore holds a bachelor of arts in choral music from the University of Southern California, a master of music degree in choral conducting from California State University-Fullerton, and a doctor of musical arts degree in conducting from the Eastman School of Music.

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Southwestern opens school
year with record freshman class

Southwestern College opened its 136th year with a record 630 full-time students enrolled for the fall semester. The college has welcomed 227 freshmen to campus this year, which tops the previous largest freshman class (2017) by nearly 40 students.

“It is a joy to see students at home on our hill again,” said President Brad Andrews. “Our students are fully aware of the unique opportunities and obligations that come with being a college student in these times. They have done a great job adapting to the new normal on campus. These are great people and we are proud that they are Builders.”

Southwestern began moving students into residence halls on July 23 to begin a campus-wide pre-semester quarantine. As students reported for their assigned check-in they were tested for COVID-19, as were non-residential students, faculty, staff, and coaches. Classes began on Monday, Aug. 10, making Southwestern the first college in the region to resume classes.  Additionally, masks are required to be worn by everyone on campus and increased cleaning practices have been implemented.

“We are committed to moving forward and to moving forward safely. While many facets of the student experience have necessarily been modified, students are still engaged as they usually are – learning, sharing in traditions, and creating meaningful relationships,” said Andrews. “We know that an in-person residential education has a profoundly positive effect on student outcomes, including higher grade point averages and graduation rates.”

The college’s revised academic calendar brought students back to campus earlier and discourages non-essential travel throughout the semester by eliminating three-day weekends. Accordingly, classes will be held on Labor Day, and Fall Break has been canceled. Starting the semester earlier and cancelling breaks allows the college to complete finals prior to Thanksgiving on Nov. 24.

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In other news


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Blogs and commentaries

  • On voting rights, we are not there yet: In the 100 years since the 19th Amendment’s ratification, the United States has made strides in increasing access to the ballot. But there are still many barriers to citizens exercising their right to vote, write the Revs. Madeline Luzinski and Mary Mitchell of the Florida Conference.
  • Slavery and the founders of Methodism: The founder of Methodism was a staunch abolitionist and the early church was antislavery, but that dedication later faded, writes the Rev. William B. Lawrence. Lawrence, former dean of the Perkins School of Theology, outlines the complex history of the church regarding slavery.


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