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Download the printable version of the March 27 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

THIS WEEK'S NEWS
Great Plains response teams bring hope to flooded towns
Nebraska church shares supplies, shoulder after devastating floods
Wahoo women lead effort to meet post-flooding needs
New webpage provides information on volunteers, financial donations 

CLERGY EXCELLENCE
Resurrection associate featured as Women's History Month honoree
Deadline approaching for sermon-planning retreat in June
Clergy, laity invited to discussion about scripture, divisions

EQUIPPING DISCIPLES
Next-step roundtable discussions for Fresh Expressions set for April
Registration still open for two events at Resurrection
Healthy Congregations retreat features Good Neighbor Experiment
Summit Youth Academy provides week for youth to seek God's call
Fontanelle plans variety of camps; counselor positions available

MERCY & JUSTICE
Training teaches how to prepare for and assist immigrants 
Team offers seed money grants for social justice projects

ADMINISTRATION
One last chance to learn about leaving a lasting legacy
Appeals court backs tax-free housing allowances
IRS releases publication to explain some key changes to tax laws

ACROSS THE CONNECTION
Church celebrates new organ on anniversary 
In Other News
Resources
Newsletters
The Week Ahead
Classifieds
 


Great Plains response teams bring hope to flooded towns

In small groups, they re-entered the church. Tired and a bit dirty, but with smiles on their faces, they swapped stories of ripping down soggy drywall, pulling up saturated carpet and hauling out furniture made extra heavy by materials that retained water. 

They are early response team (ERT) members of the Great Plains Conference, people trained to swoop in after a natural disaster to start the earliest stages of the recovery process. They are all volunteers who give their time and talents to help others recover after natural disasters.

“We’re called as Christians to get out and help, and we need to get up and go,” one ERT member said last week while helping in central Nebraska.  

Read about what ERTs do and how they help people in need.
 

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Nebraska church shares supplies, shoulder after devastating floods

Vern Olson calls the fellowship hall of St. Edward United Methodist Church in the small Nebraska town “our own little Walmart.”

Cleaning supplies take up one corner, paper towels and toilet paper are stacked in the lobby. Fresh pillows are stacked along the wall adjacent to the sanctuary, and a variety of donated food is in the center.

And the supplies are badly needed. The floods from Beaver Creek engulfed much of the town of 700 people. At least 83 buildings, including 13 houses, were destroyed, and 163 people were displaced.

The church jumped into action to help the people hurt by the floods in their community.

Read about their efforts.

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Wahoo women lead effort to meet post-flooding needs

An effort that started with an idea and a Facebook page has blossomed into a relief effort that requires a warehouse to store the supplies the community of Wahoo, Nebraska, has gathered for people recovering from floods.

Two women put out a Facebook invitation to meet in the basement of First United Methodist in Wahoo on a Friday night. Ten people showed up, brainstorming about supplies and donations and relief efforts. They met again the next day, and 20 people showed up.

Now more than 40 people strong, the effort has led to a 501c3 nonprofit known as the Wahoo Emergency Relief Team, and it has grown so large that its base has moved into a trucking company’s warehouse.

Read more about their efforts.

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New webpage provides information on volunteers, financial donations

If you would like to help with flood recovery efforts, please visit a new page on our website where you can learn how to make a financial contribution, take an Early Response disaster training and/or sign up to be a short-term volunteer (with on-site training):

UMCOR, which has a special giving Sunday scheduled for March 31, is supporting the efforts of the Great Plains Conference with a $10,000 solidarity grant. The conference asks that you consider giving either to UMCOR or directly to the conference's disaster relief fund.

When you give to the conference fund, 100 percent of your financial gift goes directly to disaster relief in Nebraska and Kansas.

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Clergy Excellence

Resurrection associate featured as Women's History Month honoree

The Rev. Cheryl Jefferson Bell recently was featured as one of the Women’s History Month honorees in Faith Magazine.

Bell, an associate pastor at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, was one of six women featured in the magazine.

See the short biographical story and statements of congratulations from her church and her family.

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Deadline approaching quickly for sermon-planning retreat 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 you sermon-plan in this way 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 in Schuyler, Nebraska, or June 16-20 in Wichita. If you register before April 1, the cost is $150. After April 1, the cost is $200. Included in the registration fee are all 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 our the website for more details and a link to register. Contact Nancy Lambert if you have questions, at 785-414-4213.

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Clergy, laity invited to discussion about scripture, divisions

 Active and retired clergy and laity are invited to a seminar featuring Dr. Bruce Birch, dean emeritus of Wesley Theological Seminary.

Titled “For Such a Time as This,” Birch will lead discussion on how scripture informs moral decisions and finding hope in a time of division both as a country and within the United Methodist Church.

The event is sponsored by the Great Plains Association of Retired Clergy and Spouses. It is scheduled for 1 to 5:30 p.m. April 23 and from 8 a.m. until approximately noon April 24 at Saint Paul United Methodist Church, 1144 M St., in Lincoln. The cost is $15 per person.

Birch, a Wichita native, recently has been active in responding to the actions of the 2019 General Conference. For years he has been a leader in teaching in the global church, especially in Moscow and Nigeria. While he has indicated that he plans to withdraw from those international connections, he is urging United Methodists to stay with the denomination to help create what he calls a just and inclusive church.

Direct any questions to Karl and Ketherine Lent at 402-904-4003, or send an email to kk.lent@twc.com.

Download the flier and registration form.

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Equipping Disciples

Next-step roundtable discussions for Fresh Expressions set for April

Fresh Expressions Roundtables, the next step in implementing the Fresh Expressions movement in the Great Plains, will take place from April 5-8 at five locations in the conference.

The roundtables will be at:

  • Derby Woodlawn UMC, 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 5
  • Colby First UMC, 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 6
  • Lexington First UMC, 4-7 p.m. Saturday, April 6
  • Omaha St. Andrew’s UMC, 2-5 p.m. Sunday, April 7
  • Topeka First UMC, 6-9 p.m. Monday, April 8

The cost is $100 per participating church, with up to 15 attendees per church. Register for any of them at this link.

Fresh Expressions Roundtables serve as an opportunity for small groups from a church, denominational group or area to:

  • Ask in-depth questions about the concepts, theological foundations, and the developmental process of fresh expressions
  • Envision the implications of fresh expressions for their specific congregation and community
  • Gain some experience with fresh expressions to get up close and personal guidance on how they take next steps on this journey.

Grants will be available to help launch new ministries, but churches must attend the roundtable discussions to be eligible. More details about grants will be available in coming weeks.


Registration still open for two events at Resurrection

Register your teams for one of two conferences hosted April 4-5 at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

The workshops are:

  • The Art of Radical Hospitality Conference. 
  • Empowered: A Model of Care.

Thirty-five states are represented with more than 400 participants already registered, which will make this training event a great opportunity for connection with church leaders from many contexts.

Register now.

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Healthy Congregations retreat features Good Neighbor Experiment

Health is so much more than what happens in our doctor's offices. The 18th annual Healthy Congregations Retreat, April 25-27, explores why factors in the places where we live, learn, work and pray are so critical to our health and wholeness -— and how local churches can improve health in both the congregation and community.

For 2019, the April 25 pre-retreat features the kickoff of a special new opportunity for churches to participate in the Good Neighbor Experiment curriculum from the SoCe Life Neighboring Movement team. Designed for churches and faith communities, Good Neighbor Experiment moves us from scarcity to abundance, from program to relationship, from needs to assets, and from fear to love. The curriculum is perfect for small groups, Sunday school classes, and leadership teams, working best as a coordinated effort across the congregation. In this first session, participants will learn about the curriculum and explore three key ingredients of neighboring: abundance, relationship, and joy. View a short video and learn more here.

The retreat is open to all Great Plains United Methodists, and is provided at no cost to participants through United Methodist Health Ministry Fund sponsorship. The event is scheduled for the scenic Rock Springs 4-H Center, near Junction City. 

Learn more and register online.

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Summit Youth Academy provides
week for youth to seek 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, Kansas.

The Summit is a weeklong faith formation program that provides young people with the resources to hear God’s answer to these questions. Resources include theological classes, reflections in small groups, the practice of spiritual disciplines, and a strong community of faith.

Scholarships are available for Great Plains youth and churches. Visit www.summityouthacademy.org 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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     Fontanelle plans variety of camps; counselor positions available

Camp Fontanelle staff is looking forward to an exciting summer, as they share the language of peace to the 2019 campers. Whether the lessons are the African philosophy of Ubuntu (embracing community, unity and interdependence) or Shalom, God is present and affecting the lives of campers to go out into the world in peace.

Camp Fontanelle has camps for all ages including a Family Camp weekend, preschool camps and a new Advanced Survivor Camp. There are the "same ol' " camps, which are always exciting, as well as a couple other new camps.

There are still openings for female summer staff. Those interested in applying should have a passion for Christ, the ability to work long hours and a desire to help children, youth and adults learn more about their faith. Contact Program Director Joel Coleman at jcoleman@greatplainsumc.org to apply. Interested candidates should be at least 19, or in their first year of college. 

Camp Fontanelle is a camp for all peoples. In 2018, there were 104 United Methodist Churches represented, with at least 12 other faiths attending and also those who declare no faith base as well. Camp Fontanelle is a place for the campers to find peace in nature, peace in their soul and strength to go out into the world to face everyday challenges

If you have been affected by the flooding and attending camp would be difficult, please contact the camp to learn about assistance.

To learn more visit here. For additional questions, email fontanelle@greatplainsumc.org or phone 402-478-4296.

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Mercy & Justice

Training teaches how to prepare for and assist immigrants 

United Methodists in the Great Plains Conference have been involved in reaching out and welcoming refugees and immigrants for many years. When the raids happened last summer in O’Neill, Nebraska, more congregations asked for training and how to prepare for and support the immigrant community if and when raids happen. There are many different ways to welcome the stranger.

The conference's Immigration Rapid Response Team invites you to "Faith Communities as Sanctuary: Standing with migrants for justice" for two consecutive evenings of training to explore ways congregations can welcome and stand with migrants for justice.

The training will be April 11-12 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. each night at Trinity United Methodist Church, 511 Elm St., in Grand Island, Nebraska. Dinner is included. Download the Grand Island flier.

A similar training is planned for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 13 at First United Methodist Church, 7020 Cass St., in Omaha. Lunch is included. Download the Omaha flier.

Participants will discuss the following topics for our current situation:

  • Migration and the Bible.
  • How does US Immigration work? Laws and legislative updates
  • How can congregations prepare and respond? Rapid Response and different forms of sanctuary. The presenters will share personal stories of people who have been in sanctuary. We will explore different ways welcoming congregations can support immigrants.

Presenters will include Rebecca Cole, director of organizing with the General Board of Church and Society, and Jennie Belle from the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee advocacy team.

Please RSVP to ensure accurate numbers for our meal by sending an email to Sandy Sypherd at ssypherd@windstream.net  or Andrea Paret at amparet08@yahoo.com.

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Team offers seed money grants for social justice projects

What situations do people in your community face that keep them from living a life of dignity and fulfillment? Or are there issues people in other parts of the world face that we could help alleviate by advocating and working for justice? Is your congregation or church group ready to get involved in a social justice ministry and outreach effort?

The Great Plains Conference Mercy & Justice Team is offering small seed money grants (for up to $1,000) to help with projects that address issues of social justice. Such projects look at root causes of situations of injustice and how to make positive change. Projects last year focused on predatory lending and a voter awareness/generational bridge-building/social issues awareness initiative. Other issues addressed over the years have included environmental issues, poverty, racism, and injustices migrants face. Justice-focused outreach goes beyond helping individuals by looking at structures that perpetuate societal inequities.

God wants abundant life for all of us. How can we help change unjust structures to help make this a reality?

In our United Methodist Social Creed we commit ourselves to “the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.”

Application deadlines are May 31 and Sept. 30.

More information can be found in this flier.

Fill out the online application.

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Administration

One last chance to learn about leaving a lasting legacy

The Kansas Area United Methodist Foundation will offer the last of its series of Leaving a Lasting Legacy workshops from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 9 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Hutchinson, Kansas. The workshop is open to all clergy and lay leaders. Lunch will be provided for all registered attendees. 

At the workshop, Dustin Petz, president and CEO of the foundation, will share on having a legacy (endowment) ministry in the church and inviting persons in the congregation to leave a lasting legacy. The workshop will provide tools and knowledge on how the foundation can partner with the churches in their work. 

Register for the event.

Email Joanna Trapp with any questions.

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Appeals court backs tax-free housing allowances

United Methodist clergy welcomed an appellate court ruling that allows clergy to keep getting tax-free housing allowances.
 
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reverses a 2017 federal court ruling that the tax exemption amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

IRS releases publication to explain some key changes to tax laws

The changes in tax laws have been confusing for more than a few people, including some clergy as they are trying to prepare tax returns.

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a new publication, numbered 5307, to explain various portions of tax changes stemming from reforms passed in 2018.

Download the publication.

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Across the Connection

Church celebrates new organ on anniversary — First United Methodist Church in Pittsburg recently celebrated its 105th anniversary in its current building. That same day, it celebrated a new C.B. Fisk Opus 152 organ and new furnishings for the altar. Fourstateshomepage.com provides a video story.
 

In Other News

 

Resources

Engage in Social Media — People will seek renewal this spring. Connect with them on social media with the help of brand new Easter and Holy Week shareable graphics! The free downloads can be used as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts. Use them on their own, or post alongside invitations to events and worship services, celebratory messages, inspirational words from a pastor and more.
Download now.

Disability website features practical tools — The United Methodist Disability Ministries Committee, now under the umbrella of the Council of Bishops, has launched a new website featuring practical tools and a helpful search engine. The committee also will co-sponsor legislation for General Conference 2020 with the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Mental Health Ministries, the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Committee. 
Read a press release
Visit the website

The difference between prayer and meditation — While different, both prayer and meditation help United Methodists become aware of God’s presence and experience deeper communion with God. Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications, takes a closer look at the practices. 
Read story 
More Ask The UMC

Generosity Pastor and Leaders' Kit — United Methodist Communications has assembled resources to help your leaders talk to their congregations about the connection of The United Methodist Church and the impact they are making in the lives of individuals around the world.
Download the kit

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