Download the Sept. 28 edition of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Bishops pushing back against recruitment tactics
Water’s Edge makes church plant in Cuba
Rugby is an exciting sideline for Baptist-turned-UMC pastor
Hurricanes batter gulf coast; donation to UMCOR is recommended

Oct. 10 is deadline to register for new Short Story Sandbox 
60-plus clergy attend Cross-Racial/ Cross-Cultural Workshop in Salina
Rest, restore, recharge during fall clergy retreat, set for Oct. 24-26

'Barriers to Embracing a Discipleship Making Culture' webinar available
Upcoming online workshops offer insights into ministry for young people
Video looks at discipleship, faith formation in UM camps
UM Health Fund supports health ministry
Grants available for emerging ethnic ministries

Meetings set to discuss payday loan reform in Kansas

Nebraska UM Foundation awards over $50,000 in scholarships
Friday is deadline for NUMF ministry grant applications 
Deadline for foundation's Justice Ministry Grants extended to Oct. 14

New video series to provide timely updates to United Methodists
COSROW provides resources to help in welcoming a woman pastor
Help bring about justice, healing for Native children
Advent devotions available for order from Society of St. Andrew

Topeka churches to join together for community-wide service Sunday
KC church closes after 178 years; will be part of Church of Resurrection
In other news


Bishops pushing back
against recruitment tactics

Bishops are trying to set the record straight on misinformation being spread about The United Methodist Church’s future.

They also are working toward building a church where traditionalists, centrists and progressives will all feel they belong.

Read more from United Methodist News Service.

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Water’s Edge makes
church plant in Cuba

After three years of supporting missionary efforts in Cuba, Omaha Water’s Edge UMC has funded a church plant in the country.

The Rev. Craig Finnestad, Water’s Edge senior pastor, said that since churches are not permitted to be built in Cuba, the ministry will be working from an existing building that will also include a laundromat.

The church is on Isla de la Juventud, a small island south of the main island, which includes Havana.

Finnestad has been in contact with Cuban pastor Leandro Perez since 2019.

“I’d been working with him on leadership structure,” he said.

With its 2019 Christmas offering, Water’s Edge purchased 13 bicycles for the missionaries of the church to travel. During COVID, the church purchased a supply of rice and beans during a shortage in Cuba, as well as cameras and audio equipment so it could continue its online ministry.

The church has already had outreach to Uganda and Belize with medical missions and Nicaragua with water, Finnestad said, but this is the first time it has worked to plant a church. He would not disclose the price, but said it was less than would be paid for a house on the island.

Finnestad expects the church to be operational by the spring. Fundraising will continue with plans for further ministries in Cuba.

“People here are very excited about it,” Finnestad said.

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Rugby is an exciting sideline
for Baptist-turned-UMC pastor

Though he's been executive pastor of discipleship and congregational care at Omaha St. Andrew's UMC for less than three months, members of the congregation aren't surprised to see him showing up with cuts and bruises on Sunday mornings.

Sievering began playing rugby as a way to get exercise while in Texas, and continues to play now that he's back in Nebraska, first with a team from Omaha and now a squad from Lincoln.

That's not the only team he's changed to this year: Sievering became a United Methodist after several years in the American Baptist Church.

Read more here.

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Hurricanes batter gulf coast;
donation to UMCOR is recommended

The Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, was on a conference call with her counterpart in the Florida Conference this morning. 

Word from Florida, where Hurricane Ian hit landfall in the past few hours, is that help will definitely be needed down the line, but EMT workers should not self-deploy.

The best recommendation to help, Tapley said, is to make an online donation to UMCOR .

Bishops ask for donations to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona.

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Clergy Excellence

Oct. 10 is deadline to register
for new Short Story Sandbox 

Pastors, are you interested in vitalizing your preaching in the year ahead? Short Story Sandbox is a five-session preaching peer group that is for you if you love stories and would welcome a chance to read something other than spread sheets and biblical commentaries(!).

Consider whether Short Story Sandbox may be just what the doctor ordered.

  • Virtual: Four Zoom sessions, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Oct. 25, Nov. 29, Jan. 24 and Feb. 21).
  • In-person: The final session (March 28, 2023), will be a face-to-face daylong capstone gathering in Salina at a church (TBA).

The registration deadline is Oct. 10 and space is limited! Register today!

Reading short stories can spark preachers’ imaginations and make us better at our craft. Sessions will focus on various aspects of storytelling (theme, tone, plot, point of view, imagery, scene, and character. The cost for registration is $100 and includes the in-person gathering in Salina.

Participants will read one or at most, two, short stories for each session. Sessions will consist of a time of teaching by one of the leaders, followed by discussion of a short story and sharing of brief reflections by group members.

The faculty for Short Story Sandbox are Dr. Larry Parsley, Dr. Alyce McKenzie and Dr. Lee Ramsey. Read more about the faculty, learn about why short stories are such a powerful tool for preachers, and register here: The group will be capped at 12 people, so register today!

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60-plus clergy attend Cross-Racial/ Cross-Cultural Workshop in Salina

More than 60 clergy attended the Cross-Racial/Cross-Cultural Workshop last weekend at Salina Trinity UMC.

Presenters included the Rev. Ever Mudambanuki, Nebraska City First UMC; Rev. Dr. Reuben Langat, Clay Center UMC; Rev. Robert Johnson, Wichita Saint Mark UMC; Rev. Seungli You, Kearney First UMC; Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff, Hutchinson Trinity UMC and the Rev. Dee Williamston, director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop.

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Rest, restore, recharge during
fall clergy retreat, set for Oct. 24-26

Clergy of the Great Plains Conference, you are invited to take some time away from the routines and challenges of ministry and be attentive to your relationship with God. We hope you will consider attending “Roots for Your Soul,” a spiritual formation retreat planned just for you.

The only cost to you is $50 to reserve your spot for this two-night, three-day retreat. Contact Hours for Continuing Education Units are available. Scholarships are available upon request. See the registration form for details. 

The retreat is Oct. 24-26, at St. Benedict’s Center, Schuyler, Nebraska
Presenter: Seanne Emerton, LMFT, LIMHP, LPC.
Theme: Restore. Rest. Recharge.
Click here to register for the Fall 2022 retreat by Oct. 10. 
Read bios of Roots for Your Soul presenters here.

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Equipping Disciples

'Barriers to Embracing a Discipleship
Making Culture' webinar available


Conducted over three months, the first two webinars covered Alex’s book “Discipleship That Fits,” the second “Growing in Discipleship as a Ministry Leader” in August and the third, “Barriers to Embracing a Discipleship Making Culture,” was online Tuesday. In the third webinar, Revs. Alex and Hannah Absalom spoke of church after the pandemic with five negatives and five positives, and five next steps to build a discipleship making culture.

To watch the recordings of any of the three webinars, find them at Each webinar is about 45 minutes long with questions and answers at the end. You can use these for Sunday school classes, small groups, and others to spark discussion on discipleship in your congregation and community. Some pastors have used this as sermon series or ideas for further discipleship within the church.

For further class curriculum, opening devotions or sermon ideas, check out the eight-minute videos and handouts in the Season of Witness discipleship course, a course is conducted by Revs. Alex and Hannah Absalom and curated for us the Great Plains, is now available at

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Upcoming online workshops offer
insights into ministry for young people

How can you adapt, innovate in, and improve your youth ministry? 

Three free, upcoming online workshops in October and November give churches, youth workers, and clergy a chance to hear what experts in the field have to say, at no cost. These workshops will offer ways to assess and tweak your youth ministry to best serve the teens in your congregation and community.

  • Oct. 11 – Assessing Your Youth Ministry: 3 Big Questions that Change Every Teenager -- Dr. Kara Powell from Fuller Theological Seminary and Fuller Youth Institute share what research says are the three major questions young people are looking for answers to, and how these questions can shape and improve the youth ministries you offer.
  • Oct. 25 – Helping Young People Hear God’s Voice – Are you actually teaching young people how to hear God’s voice? Rev. Wendy Mohler-Seib from Friends University in Kansas shares what she’s learned about helping young people develop the ability to listen to God, and practical methods you can use in your own ministry.
  • Nov. 8 – Innovation in Youth Ministry -- What’s next on the youth ministry horizon? Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean from Princeton University shares some of the trends and creative innovations that have been successful in youth ministries over the past five years.

Each workshop is one hour long and features short teaching videos from the speakers and short, guided discussions among participants. Recordings are not possible with this format and will not be available after the workshops; however, the workshop content will eventually be available at You can register for a workshop to be notified when these resources are available.

Registration is free and open to all, thanks to a grant from the Texas Methodist Foundation. Learn more at

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Video looks at discipleship,
faith formation in UM camps

As The United Methodist Church is changing, the UM Camp & Retreat Ministries is making adjustments as well.

Some of them are explained in highlights from “Discipleship and Faith Formation in a Camp and Retreat Setting,” from a Sept. 12 community conversation among the group.

See more in this two-minute recap video.

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UM Health Fund
supports health ministry

The United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, created with proceeds from the sale of Wesley Hospital in 1986, works to fulfill its mission of healthy Kansans through cooperative and strategic philanthropy guided by Christian principles.

The Health Fund’s Healthy Congregations program engages Great Plains United Methodist churches in projects to improve spiritual, physical, social, and emotional health in their congregations and communities. The Healthy Congregations program provides training, resources, and financial support to Great Plains United Methodist churches committed to health ministry.

Healthy Congregations churches receive a $1,000 grant for health ministry, which can be renewed annually, and are invited to apply for special grant opportunities such as community gardening or Mental Health First Aid training.

For more information on joining the Healthy Congregations program, contact Dashinika Poindexter at or 620-662-8586. Learn more at

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Grants available for
emerging ethnic ministries

The Vital Congregations team is offering grants for emerging ethnic ministries. Any emerging (new or developing) ministry to or with ethnic minority communities in the Great Plains can be considered.

Applications are being received through Dec. 1 and grants will be awarded before the end of the year. Applications can be completed here -- and questions can be directed to Rev. Jeff Clinger, Director of Congregational Excellence.

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Mercy & Justice

Meetings set to discuss
payday loan reform in Kansas

Kansas borrowers are being charged exorbitant interests on small dollar loans in the state of Kansas. The Great Plains Mercy and Justice Team, in partnership with Kansans for Payday Loan Reform, is working to stop predatory lending in the state. Borrowers are being charged interest as high as 700% and on average 391%. That means a $300 loan can cost $750 within five months. Do you want to support putting an end to predatory lending while maintaining access to small loans for all Kansans?

Come to a “Stop the Debt Trap!” event near you so you can learn more about predatory loans and what we are doing to stop them.

Stop the Debt Trap! Event Series

  • Oct. 9 – 7 p.m., Topeka Countryside UMC
  • Oct. 13 – 6:30 p.m., Hutchinson Trinity UMC
  • Oct. 17 -- 7 p.m., KIFA (Kansas Interfaith Action) Faith and Public Policy Forum - Predatory Lending, via Zoom
  • Oct. 24 -- 7 p.m., Wichita Saint Mark UMC
  • Oct. 27 -- 7 p.m., Overland Park St. Mark UMC
  • Date TBA -- The Hub, Kansas City, Kansas

Can’t make it to one of these events or don’t live nearby? Check out for more information, then call your legislator this week to ask them to support predatory lending reform. You can find your representative and senator at

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Nebraska UM Foundation awards
over $50,000 in scholarships


The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation is pleased to announce the distribution of over $50,000 in course of study, seminary and undergraduate scholarships for the 2022-2023 academic year.

The Course of Study Scholarship Program began in 2020 in an effort to help an increasingly growing group of individuals who are ministering to a congregation while also pursuing their education. Recipients of the Rev. Robert E. & Lily A. Berlie Course of Study Scholarships and the Frederick & Esther Paulus Course of Study Scholarships were Esther Achi and Lana Day. Pastor Achi was the recipient of the Rev. George & Mrs. Wilma Clay Course of Study Scholarship. Thank you to these families for their generosity toward our local pastors.

Fifteen seminary students were recipients of the following seminary scholarships:

  • Albert R. Murdoch Ministerial Scholarship – Tiffani Brewer
  • Alice Kruse Ministerial Scholarship – Kalingwishi Anny Kapundu, Albert Longe
  • Alice Kruse Seminary Scholarship – Ross Janovec
  • Alva Clark Seminary Scholarship – Albert Longe
  • Andrew & Nevabelle Howe Scholarship – Albert Longe
  • Baldwin F. and Amy L. Kruse Scholarship – Victor Peterson
  • Ben and Martha Simmons Scholarship – Lami Oladimeji
  • Charles & Marilyn Humphrey Seminary Scholarship – Monica Magoola
  • Cowles UMC Memorial Scholarship – Kalingwishi Anny Kapundu, Albert Longe, Victor Peterson
  • Darrell & Joyce Pickett Scholarship – Debra Copple
  • David Wayne Krick & Donald E. Krick, Jr. Seminary Scholarship – Albert Longe, Venedith Vargas
  • Dean, Jean & Randy Fleming and Humphrey/Goff Scholarship – Ross Janovec, Kalingwishi Anny Kapundu
  • Floma Taylor Ministerial Scholarship – Matthew Borland, Rachel Stone
  • Good Steward Scholarship (in memory of Rev. Richard E. Atherton, Rev. Cal Leeds, Mary Moore & Rev. Richard & Lois Urbach) – Ross Janovec
  • Harlan and Mabelle Wyrick Memorial Scholarship – Nick Baker, Christopher Harris
  • Joe Meeham UMM 100 Club Scholarship – Venedith Vargas
  • Merv Schleifert UMM 100 Club Scholarship – Venedith Vargas
  • Murdock Ebenezer UMC Professional Church Leadership Scholarship – Tiffani Brewer
  • Myrtle E. Williams Seminary Scholarship – Debra Copple, Kalingwishi Anny Kapundu
  • Rev. Albert W. Winseman Scholarship – Matthew Borland
  • Scahill Family Scholarship – Joanna Gillespie
  • UM Men’s 100 Club Scholarship – Tiffani Brewer, Debra Copple, Ross Janovec, Monica Magoola, Victor Peterson, Venedith Vargas, Grace Woods
  • Verl & Sylvia Miller Memorial Scholarship – Nick Baker
  • Women in Ministry Scholarship – Tiffani Brewer

The recipients of The Tither’s Scholarship were Alexandra Dobesh and Thomas Moss.

If you are interested in setting up a scholarship in honor of or in memory of a loved one, contact the Foundation at 877-495-5545 or 402-323-8844.

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Friday is deadline for NUMF
ministry grant applications 

The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation is pleased to announce a ministry grant opportunity available to Nebraska churches and affiliated agencies of the Great Plains United Methodist Conference.  

The Foundation is able to award these grants due to the generosity of donors to the Gifts from the Heart Endowment Fund. These grant dollars are available to enhance and expand your ministries. The ultimate goal of these awards is to provide assistance, both for new ministries and thriving ministries wishing to grow.

These grants are made for programs and activities and include operating expenses and supplies necessary for those programs or activities. They are not made for building repair, replacement, or expansion. 

The application deadline is Sept. 30. For application materials and more information, please visit our website at

If you have questions about the application process or would like to talk to the Foundation about how you can help grow these types of grants, call us 877-495-5545.

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Deadline for foundation's Justice
Ministry Grants extended to Oct. 14

The deadline for the Kansas Methodist Foundation’s Justice Ministry Grants has been extended to October 14, 2022.

The Justice Ministries pathway provides matching grants for programs focused on healing racial divisions, increasing equity among God’s children, encouraging inclusion, and broadening people’s understanding of diversity and bias. Grants are awarded to churches and organizations across Kansas to advance ministries, especially in ways that are creative, innovative, and new. For more information, visit

The Kansas Methodist Foundation is grateful for the individuals and families who help make the Pathways for Discipleship grant ministry possible. If you are interested in learning more about how you can get involved in supporting ministries across Kansas to meet the needs of our changing world by exploring new possibilities, contact Tyler Curtis at or 620-664-9623.

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

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New video series to provide
timely updates to United Methodists

A new video series called The Recap: What United Methodists Need to Know launched this week to help United Methodists better understand what is happening in the church, find inspiration in stories of ministry and learn how the denomination is transforming the world. The videos produced by United Methodist Communications (UMCom) provide essential updates in a short, easily digestible, and engaging format.

The series features segments from around the world of broad interest to members and celebrates the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church’s vibrant connection. Story sources include UM News, Ask The UMC, annual conferences, denominational agencies, and others, with many stories aggregating information from several sources.

See more here.

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COSROW provides resources to
help in welcoming a woman pastor

The United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women is marking its 50th anniversary with the release of the Welcoming a Woman Pastor online resource. The self-paced learning module guides local churches through the orientation process when introducing a female pastor appointed to serve their congregations.

Read more and see resources.

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Help bring about justice,
healing for Native children

From Sept. 30 through Oct. 6, United Methodists are invited to observe a special time of prayer and action in remembrance of the atrocities against Native American children in boarding schools. "Justice for Our Children: Healing for Our Communities" is the theme of this year's observance. United Women in Faith is offering a two-hour virtual event on Oct. 6 that will include prayer, an educational program and reflection in small groups about the abuses suffered by Native American children in the schools.

Register for event
See resources

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Advent devotions available for
order from Society of St. Andrew

The Society of St. Andrew, a feeding ministry and United Methodist partner, is offering free devotionals for the season of Advent. This year's theme is "Prepare the Way of the Lord." The deadline to order print materials is Nov. 1. The daily devotions start Nov. 27 and run through Dec. 24.

To learn more and order

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Across the Connection

Topeka churches to join together
for community-wide service Sunday

Four downtown Topeka churches will join together in a community worship event, “Love Your Neighbor,” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Evergy Plaza.

Topeka First UMC, First Presbyterian, St. John AME and Grace Episcopal Cathedral will host the event.

“We realize we are not in competition with each other, we are all part of the body of Christ,” the Rev. Karissa Miller, associate pastor of Topeka First UMC, told “Eye on Northeast Kansas” on WIBW.

The service will include pastors from all four churches, as well as celebrating World Communion Day. A combined choir from the churches will sing.

Watch video interview from WIBW.

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KC church closes after 178 years;
will be part of Church of Resurrection

Kansas City’s oldest Protestant community, Central UMC in Brookside, closed with a final service on Sunday.

It will reopen as Church of the Resurrection Brookside at Historic Central on Dec. 18.

“To me, it felt like they birthed us,” said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, Church of the Resurrection senior pastor. “To have a chance to come back and bring new life into this space was really exciting.”

The Rev. Sally Haynes, who had been the Central pastor for three years, will become the location pastor at the Leawood campus. Rev. Wendy Chrostek will move from the Leawood campus to the new Brookside.

See more from KSHB and FlatlandKC.

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In other news

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  • A plan to re-church rural America: Acknowledging that something significant must happen to reverse United Methodist declines in the U.S., a retired pastor traces the historical trajectory of the denomination. The Rev. Mel West of Columbia, Missouri, outlines a “plan to re-church rural America.”
  • Political context and the meaning of church: A pending separation and changing international composition find The United Methodist Church in a time of rethinking what it means to be a church, and a global church at that. David W. Scott, director of mission theology at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, looks at the challenges of having different political contexts for different regions.

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