Download the printable version of the Feb. 22 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

United Methodists host events to educate about legislative issues
Bishop's training on local-church vitality set for this Saturday
Renewed emphasis on mission field moves forward
Nominations open for Denman, Newman awards
'Wesleyan Live' Lenten lecture series canceled

Register now for booth space at the 2017 annual conference session
UMCOR kits to be packed, gathered at annual conference session

Culture of call – helping children discern a call

Calendar can improve your prayer life during Lent
Young-adult interns can lead VBS in your community

Omaha First UMC shares successes in helping refugees
Henry-Crowe concerned over lack of discretion in ICE raids
Nebraska Methodists show support in vigil
Nigeria Committee looking for committed volunteers
Summer Food Program a hub of nutrition, community engagement

Safe Gatherings protects, serves youngest citizens

Author Evans to be featured in lecture series
In Other News
Blogs and Opinion


United Methodists host events to educate about legislative issues

United Methodists in Kansas and Nebraska recently welcomed people of all faith backgrounds to events meant to help people learn about issues debated in the two states’ legislatures.

Continuing a tradition of learning about political issues in Kansas from a faith-based perspective, United Methodist Women in Kansas brought lay persons, experts and advocates together Feb. 12-13 in Topeka.
The 42nd annual Legislative Event for Advocacy in Faith, or LEAF, brought more than 110 women – and a few men – to First United Methodist Church in Topeka. The event’s keynote speaker was Judge Ardie Bland, a Kansas City, Missouri, municipal court judge who has tried to divert a growing prison population by unorthodox sentences such as having the convicted write essays.

Read the story about the Kansas event.

Nearly 200 people attended the Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day at Christ United Methodist Church in Lincoln. Also celebrating its 42nd year, the event featured workshops on immigration, human trafficking, LGBTQ concerns, juvenile justice reforms, mental health access, advocacy tips, ecology of farming and the human toll taken by alcohol abuse in White Clay, along the Nebraska-South Dakota border.

See the video story about the Nebraska event.

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Bishop's training on local-church vitality set for this Saturday

The Wichita East and West districts’ Laity Connection Team invites the Great Plains Conference to take part in a one-day workshop featuring Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. speaking on church vitality.

The workshop, titled “Leading Vital Congregations,” is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, from First United Methodist Church in Wichita. The event will be livestreamed for those who are unable to attend in person free of charge at Or, go to and click on “Live Stream Sundays at 11 a.m. CST” to connect to the video player.

Vital congregations are led by clergy and laity who are clear about their mission and focused on achieving a vision that seeks the good of the communities where they are planted. Vital congregations are healthy, growing, committed to forming disciples through God’s means of grace and open to transformational changes that will lead them from one level of fruitfulness and effectiveness to another.

This workshop will help you diagnose your church’s current reality and provide you with the frameworks, tools and processes needed to implement for transformational change that will focus and direct your congregations toward transforming lives and communities.

Also, the Laity Connection Team is planning a workshop titled “Attracting and Retaining Younger People” from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 29, at Asbury United Methodist Church’s west campus in Wichita. The workshop will begin with a sample worship service and then a panel discussion with factors that go into attracting and retaining younger people. More details on this workshop will come in coming weeks.

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Renewed emphasis on
mission field moves forward

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and the cabinet have announced the next phase of a transition to a more mission field-based system for district superintendent appointments in the Great Plains Conference. Effective July 1, the Rev. Dr. Mitch Reece, Wichita East District superintendent, will serve in that same capacity in Wichita East and the Wichita West districts.

Bishop Saenz said pastors will continue to provide the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order and Service in local congregations as before. But their role will begin to shift and expand as they live into becoming the chief missional strategist for their own community and region while leading their congregations to accomplish their mission. This means more and more congregations will begin shifting from a focus on institutional maintenance to becoming more of a missional movement in the Wesleyan way of leading people into a deeper love of God, proclaiming Christ, serving others, especially the poor, and seeking social holiness.

“This would not be possible without the enormous and largely untapped potential of more than 100,000 active laypersons in our Great Plains Conference,” Bishop Saenz said.

Read more about the changes in the two Wichita districts.

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Nominations open for
Denman, Newman awards

The nomination process is open for two awards to be given to clergy, laity and youth in the Great Plains Conference.

The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards

Named for the late Dr. Harry Denman, distinguished lay evangelist, whom Dr. Billy Graham called “my mentor in evangelism,” the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards honor a United Methodist clergy, youth and lay person in each annual conference who has exhibited outstanding efforts in Wesleyan evangelism by faithfully carrying out the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ.”

If you know someone who practices the Great Commission by actively helping people experience the transforming love of God through Jesus Christ, nominate him or her for this award.

Download a brochure with more information about the award. 

Nominations must be postmarked no later than April 1, to be considered for 2017. 

The Angie Newman Award

Angie Newman (1833-1910) was active at many levels in the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC), the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the MEC, the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the MEC and the WCTU. In 1888, Angie was the first woman elected as a delegate to General Conference. While she and other women were denied seats on the floor, they made their presence known and worked so that women would have the privilege of voice and vote at General Conference.

The Angie Newman Award is to honor a laywoman of the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) whose contribution to the church and the community is an example of the spirit of Angie Newman. The ministry of the recipient should demonstrate commitment, compassion and a sense of justice for all people, especially women, youth and children.

If you know a laywoman who contributes to the church and community with a ministry that demonstrates commitment, compassion and a sense of justice, nominate her for this award. Nominations should be submitted in the form of an essay explaining how she has exemplified Angie Newman’s spirit.

Download the flier for more information about the award.

Nominate someone for the Angie Newman Award.

Nominations must be received no later than April 1, to be considered for 2017.

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'Wesleyan Live' Lenten
lecture series canceled

The “Wesleyan Live” class, “How the Lord’s Prayer Lost its Radical Edge,” has been canceled due to health constraints on the Rev. Dr. Robert Jewett, who was scheduled to be the lecturer for the Lenten study.

“I feel most concern for Dr. Jewett personally, of course, and wish him the very best in maintaining his strength,” said the Rev. Mel Luetchens, who facilitated the course. “I hope that by limiting his work in areas of public presentation, we will continue to have the benefit of his bright mind and meticulous scholarship through the printed page.”

Regardless of how class members paid their registration fees, those funds will be returned to you in coming weeks. 

“Thank you for your interest in this class,” Luetchens wrote to registered participants. “Dr. Jewett’s teaching has always generated good interest; his topic this time has had an especially strong response. I’m sorry we won’t get the benefit of his work as well as the insights and discussion you would provide.”

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2017 Annual Conference

Register now for booth space at
the 2017 annual conference session

The 2017 Great Plains Annual Conference Session is coming up June 7-10, and will be located at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Nebraska. Exhibit booths serve an important role in helping inform laity and clergy about ministries connected to the conference. United Methodist agencies, ministries supported by the conference and those endorsed or sponsored by a board, commission or committee of the conference or the general church are invited to apply and will be given priority. Others are also invited to apply.
The exhibit booth application form is now available online and will remain open through Tuesday, Feb. 28. The fee for each booth space is $100 and will include electricity and the wi-fi password.
To apply for booth space and view more details about the 2017 Annual Conference Session visit

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UMCOR kits to be packed, gathered at annual conference session

Volunteer to pack health kits

The Great Plains disaster response ministry invites you to help pack health kits during the 2017 Great Plains Annual Conference Session. A space will be designated at the annual conference session on Wednesday, June 7, between 1 and 6 p.m. Conference begins at 7 p.m., with opening worship. Assembly times are offered in 30 minute shifts but you can sign up to volunteer for as long as you would like.
All items for the health kits will be provided so all you need to do is sign up and show up. Sign up now. The value of each kit is $12 so you or your church will have the option to donate funds when you sign up online.

Pack kits for the UMCOR Truck

You may also pack kits at your local church and bring them to the annual conference session to drop off at the truck. The truck will be available for drop off on Wednesday, June 7, 1-6 p.m., or Thursday, June 8, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Kits must be boxed with an inventory list of what is inside tape on the top of each box. View the list of kits and the UMCOR packing standards.
Donations may also be made and dropped off to the UMCOR truck during the times listed above. Check should be made payable to the Great Plains Conference with “901440 (UMCOR)” listed in the memo line.
Please do not plan to pack kits unless you have somebody designated to deliver them to the truck at the annual conference session which will take place June 7-10, at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Nebraska.

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Clergy Excellence

Culture of call –
helping children discern a call

Creating a culture of call means that the behaviors, beliefs and attitudes of your congregation or community readily support the members of the community to identify and explore a call by God to serve God as a lay, licensed or ordained person. Not everyone who feels a call will work in a church, but as everyone seeks to live out his or her faith more deeply, pray that everyone will consider their work in the world — and even their everyday interactions with other people — to be an opportunity to live out God’s call.

Check out the featured resource for February, a video about helping children discern a call to ministry. Also, find free VBS curriculum that your church could use this summer or in an after-school program at

Check out two other Culture of Call programs:

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Equipping Disciples

Calendar can improve
your prayer life during Lent

Looking to bolster your spiritual disciplines during Lent? One way to start is by a daily commitment to prayer.

The Small-Membership Church Ministries team has developed a daily Lenten prayer chart, in consultation with laity and clergy in small churches. The calendar features a different person or group to pray for from March 1, to April 16, with an accompanying scripture to add to the experience.

This chart was developed for small-membership churches but works for anyone seeking to improve their prayer life during Lent.

Download the prayer calendar.

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Young-adult interns can
lead VBS in your community

If you are part of a congregation with 75 and fewer in worship, you can apply to have a team of interns come lead VBS in your community this summer.

It is a great way to bring more energy and fun to your VBS and to give young adults some leadership opportunities.

For more info and the application, go to, or contact Rev. Micki McCorkle, small-membership church coordinator, for more information at or 316-210-3996 (text or call).

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Mercy & Justice

Omaha First UMC shares
successes in helping refugees

Sonja Michelsen and Kay Peters agree that welcoming refugee families over the last few months has been a very positive experience. Together with other members of First United Methodist Church in Omaha, they have welcomed one family from Myanmar and one family from Syria.
Sharing about challenges and joys of working with these refugee families, Michelsen says: “In terms of joys, they are almost too numerous to count. I would encourage you to get to know families … knowing these people need friends more than anything,” And Peters adds, “Just jump in and do it! It is worth it.” 
To hear more about their experiences in welcoming refugee families, watch this 22-minute webinar.  
Please check out the resources the Great Plains Refugee Task Force has made available, including a webinar with two refugees sharing their stories:
To learn more about the ministry of National Justice For Our Neighbors ( and Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska ( go to their websites.
If you have questions and want to know what your church could be doing, please contact the Rev. Hollie Tapley at
Find more resources to help your church serve refugee families.

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Henry-Crowe concerned over
lack of discretion in ICE raids


In the past few days, the United States has seen a surge of raids targeting immigrant communities by Department of Homeland Security officials. These raids are occurring in homes, places of work, and even near churches. We are especially troubled by the raid outside of a United Methodist Church in Virginia on February 8th where men exiting a hypothermia shelter were confronted the minute they crossed the street off of church grounds. Targeting those seeking sanctuary or services provided by houses of worship will not be tolerated.
The United Methodist Church believes that “migrants should be given due process and access to adequate legal representation. Due to these raids and the ensuing detentions and deportations that follow them, families have been ripped apart and the migrant community has been forced to live in a constant state of fear.” (Book of Resolutions, ¶ 3281 “Welcoming the Migrant to the United States”)
While raids occurred over the past decades under the Obama, Bush and Clinton Administrations, we are especially concerned about the lack of discretion that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have shown recently as they profile communities – especially Latinx people – and engage in mass arrests.
To the United States government: we call upon you to immediately cease arrests, detainment, and deportations of undocumented immigrants, including children, solely based upon their immigration status until a fair and comprehensive immigration reform is passed. 
To people of faith: We affirm that all are created in the image of God and we are called to welcome immigrants into our congregations, provide care for those facing separation from their families, and advocate for policies that uphold the civil and human rights of all migrants.
To all who live in fear of detention, deportation, or separation from your family and community: you are valuable, deserving of opportunity, your contributions to society are important, and we will stand with you to advocate for justice.
“To refuse to welcome migrants to this country – and to stand by in silence while families are separated, individual freedoms are ignored, and the migrant community in the United States is demonized by members of Congress and the media – is complicity to sin.” (Book of Resolutions, ¶ 3281 “Welcoming the Migrant to the United States”)

This statement can be read online here

--Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary,
Board of Church and Society

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Nebraska Methodists
show support in vigil

United Methodists from Nebraska were among those out in force on Presidents Day for “Light the Way for Refugees and Immigrants,” a candlelight vigil supporting refugee and resettlement services.

Organized by Lutheran Family Services, the vigil brought people with signs and candles to symbolize peace and freedom to downtown Lincoln and Omaha. About 600 attended the Lincoln vigil, while the Omaha World-Herald reported hundreds gathered in Omaha. Similar events were scheduled in Kearney and Fairbury, Nebraska, as well as Portland, Oregon.

“Help us Light the Way with a message that America is a welcoming sanctuary for the world’s most vulnerable,” read an invitation from Lutheran Family Services.

“We felt like Presidents Day was a really good time to send a message,” said Beth Katz, one of the organizers, told the World-Herald. “The holiday itself speaks to the ideals and traditions of our country. ... One of our most cherished traditions is being welcoming of immigrants and refugees.”

The goal in Omaha was to create a “corridor of light” during the rush hour, Katz said.

“We wanted to give people an opportunity to send a visible, powerful message of welcome,” she added.

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Nigeria Committee looking
for committed volunteers

The Nigeria Partnership Committee will meet on Monday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. at the Great Plains Conference Lincoln office. Anyone interested in joining in person or by phone should contact Kathryn Witte at 402-499-1009. You can read about the partnership on the Great Plains website at

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Summer Food Program a hub of nutrition, community engagement

The Summer Food Service Program, or SFSP, is a USDA program to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. SFSP reimburses sponsors, including faith-based and other nonprofit community organizations, and encourages them to provide fun activities for kids and teens to keep them coming back and to keep them physically and mentally active over the summer months. 

In 2015, United Methodist Health Ministry Fund began offering a special grant opportunity for Healthy Congregations churches to start or expand summer food programs in their communities. Through the 2016 season, five churches in the Great Plains Conference have participated, and have been successful not only at the primary objective but have seen many secondary benefits and strengthened connections within their communities.

To read more about how these congregations combined volunteerism, creativity, and innovation to make a difference in the lives of local children and their families, visit

The SFSP grant opportunity has been renewed for 2017, and is available to both existing Healthy Congregations and new signups. If your church would be interested in learning more about how you can participate, please visit to learn more -- and consider joining us on April 28-29 for the Healthy Congregations Retreat, which will include a panel with representatives of Hiawatha First UMC, Howard UMC and Holdrege First UMC sharing their experiences and learnings in the program. 

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Safe Gatherings protects,
serves youngest citizens

Nearly 40 years ago, 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from his SoHo neighborhood in New York City. He went missing on his way to a school bus stop in May 1979 and was never seen again. He was one of the first missing children to appear on a milk carton.

This month, the case was put to rest when Pedro Hernandez, a 56-year-old convenience store clerk from the boy’s neighborhood, was convicted of killing Etan.

Each case of child abuse, whether solved or unsolved, is a tragedy. In this case, the abuser may have been a stranger to the boy. But 90 percent of children who are abused know their abuser.

What does this mean for those who manage risk in a church, school or organization? Each person who volunteers or works with children and youth should be screened and trained.
Safe Gatherings makes this process easy. Our comprehensive system includes:

  • 1 ½ -hour online abuse prevention training
  • Electronic reference submission, evaluation and processing
  • Managed applicant review and administration
  • Administrative tracking and reporting
  • National, state and county background checks and offender registry checks

Establish best practices for your church, school or organization — and give your staff and volunteers the tools they need to fight abuse.
For more information, call 1-888-241-8258 or go to

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Across the Connection

Author Evans to be
featured in lecture series

Bestselling author Rachel Held Evans will be featured in this year’s Richard D. Greene Memorial Lecture Series, presented by College Hill United Methodist Church and University Congregational Church in Wichita.

Evans, whose most recent book is “Searching for Sunday,” will be featured in a series of three lectures and question-and-answer sessions:

  • 7-8:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, at College Hill, 2930 E.1st St.
  • 9-10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 22, at University Congregational, 9209 E. 29th St. N
  • 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at University Congregational

The cost is $20 per session or $50 for all three.

Tickets may be purchased from College Hill’s website.

Evans is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include "Faith Unraveled" (2010), "A Year of Biblical Womanhood” (2012) and "Searching for Sunday" (2015). Hailing from Dayton, Tennessee, she writes about faith, doubt and life in the Bible Belt. 

The Richard D. Greene Memorial Lecture Series was established in 2013 to recognize the Honorable Judge Richard D. Greene and his commitment to progressive religious scholarship and adult Christian education. The lecture series brings esteemed speakers to offer their insights and inspiration to the church and the community at large.

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In Other News


Blogs and Opinion

  • The loneliness of being a millennial in church: The Rev. Sarah Howell, associate minister at Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, laments that so few of her generation can be found in the pews on Sunday. A too-often-inward-looking church is part of the problem, she says.

  • Krusing the Capitol by former Senator, Rev. Lowen Kruse – Social Class Deficits

  • An executive order with memory: As U.S. President Donald Trump wields the power of executive order, bringing fear to vulnerable communities in 21st-century America, Japanese Americans across the country recall a similar moment in history from the last century, writes the Rev. Mark M. Nakagawa with the California-Pacific Annual Conference.

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