Download the Nov. 1 edition of GPconnect.

In this edition:

O&F speaker tells Great Plains clergy they're called to love
Epworth evolves with move to new location at York First UMC
Deadline for March racial justice encounter registration is Nov. 20
Communications team wins seven awards from UMAC
Oklahoma court orders church-exit suits be dismissed

Today is deadline to apply for clergy wellbeing mini-grants
Thursday is 'round robin' virtual tours of UM seminaries
Young adults: Explore a call to ministry, Feb. 16-18 in Orlando 

Nebraska-Iowa challenge is latest Camp Fontanelle fundraiser
Mark those calendars: 2024 Laity Summit set for March 10
Confirmation resource now available on website

Nebraska Organizing Project launches new chapter in Norfolk
Faith leaders nationwide can urge President Biden to reunify families
Peace with Justice article reprinted by General Board of Church, Society

Nebraska UM Foundation awards over $80,000 in ministry grants
Webinar set for next week on inspiring generosity, donation receipts

Books on intergenerational ministry are available from resource center
Here's how you can learn more about Native American Heritage Month
Learn about sustainable investing through Wespath webinar Thursday
Online conference on Nov. 18 highlights an inclusive church

Topeka First UMC celebrates centennial of its sanctuary
Concordia First UMC completes layette sets
Church’s supper tradition continues across county
Artist behind Resurrection’s stained glass is featured in documentary
In other news


O&F speaker tells Great Plains
clergy they're called to love

Through table conversations, writing messages on rocks and asking questions, Rev. Dr. Stacey Cole-Wilson asked the clergy of the Great Plains Conference to consider love during last week's Orders & Fellowship event in Kearney.

“Love creates the sky and the water,” she said. “Love makes us look around the room and say, ‘Who isn’t here?’ … Love is the storyteller. Jesus is the story.” 

More than 400 clergy attended the three-day event, the first time for their in-person gathering since January 2020.

Read more and see a photo gallery of 175 pictures.
See videos from O&F and download the PowerPoint presentations.
Related story: Clergy glad to be back together after 3½ years.

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Epworth evolves with move to
new location at York First UMC

A new name, a new chapter and a new location.

Those are part of the big changes at what is now Epworth Family Resources, a York, Nebraska-based social justice organization that began its work as Mothers Jewels’ Home orphanage in 1889. It will continue as a national mission institution for United Women in Faith.

“This is just a different way of doing things than we have for the past 134 years,” longtime board member Marilyn Zehring said. “It’s really exciting, and we want other national mission institutions to see how they can change, too.”

Read more here.

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Deadline for March racial justice
encounter registration is Nov. 20

The Great Plains Conference Mercy & Justice Team is offering an Oklahoma Racial Justice Encounter March 7-11, 2024. Oklahoma’s land is home to the stories of Native American and African American displacement and massacre, and resilience and celebration. On this Justice Encounter, we will explore the intersections of white supremacy’s impact on the people and experiences of Indigenous and African American people not just in Oklahoma, but in America as a whole. 

Join Rev. Lora Andrews, Denise Estes, Rev. Daekyung Kim, and Rev. Sarah Marsh for our third Great Plains Justice Encounter. This trip is open to individuals 16 years of age and older with a passion for social justice. We will be intentional about building a team of racially diverse individuals, while prioritizing participation of those 35 and under. If you are over 35 and believe this experience is something God may be calling you to... we need your application too!

Please complete this form by Nov. 20 to apply for a spot on the Oklahoma Racial Justice Encounter. Applicants will then be placed on a waiting list to fill any available cancellations. 

Cost per participant is $350. Partial scholarships will be available as needed.

For more information, contact Lora Andrews at

Find out more here.

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Communications team wins
seven awards from UMAC

The Great Plains Conference communications team won seven awards during the annual United Methodist Association of Communicators gala Oct. 25 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Eugenio Hernandez, multimedia production specialist, received the only first-place award for the team. He won in the video production category (with a cost of $2,000 or less for production) for his Great Plains Camps promotional video series. He also won second place in the video production category (with a cost of $500 to $2,000 for production) for the conference’s “Our Beliefs-Our Truths” video series.
Hernandez and Todd Seifert, communications director, won third place in the campaign/strategic planning category for the “Our Beliefs-Our Truths” videos and a single-sheet flier detailing United Methodist beliefs.
Hernandez also won third place for a video featuring Bishop David Wilson supporting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
David Burke, content specialist, won second place in the non-fiction story category for his feature on pastor Chris Nord, who died unexpectedly in February.
Jayna McFarland, social media and website specialist, won third place in the social media content category for the conference’s Facebook page.

In a photo taken following annual conference, team members are Hernandez, left, McFarland, Burke, administrative assistant Shontell Marshall and Seifert.
Besides the Great Plains team, the Richard and Julia Wilke Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern College received first place in the mobile apps category and best in class for internet communication for its BeADisciple study app.

Kathy Noble, former communications director for the Kansas West Conference, who later became editor of Interpreter magazine and editorial manager of Leader Communications for UMCom, was selected as a member of the UMAC Hall of Fame.
The UMAC awards celebrate the efforts in communications ministry from annual conferences, general agencies, local churches and extension ministries. Membership is open to all who are interested by filling out a simple form and paying the annual registration dues.

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Oklahoma court orders
church-exit suits be dismissed

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a judge had unlawfully interfered in The United Methodist Church’s disaffiliation policies and ordered that she dismiss two congregations’ lawsuits challenging those policies.

The Oklahoma rulings could have implications for other cases around the United States dealing with United Methodist disaffiliation rules.

Read more from United Methodist News Service.

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Clergy Excellence

Today is deadline to apply for
clergy wellbeing mini-grants

The last day to apply for a clergy wellbeing mini-grant in this grant cycle is today.  

To apply for a clergy wellbeing mini-grant, click here:

Clergy wellbeing mini-grants are available for up to $400 and can help to cover the costs of coaching, spiritual direction, reflective supervision, counseling, continuing education events, spiritual retreats, and/or a variety of possibilities for your physical, mental, or spiritual wellbeing.

For more information on clergy support available in the Great Plains Conference, see:

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Thursday is 'round robin'
virtual tours of UM seminaries

Attending a United Methodist seminary is a great way to say yes to what God is stirring in you. Are you (or is someone you know) wondering about a seminary education...what it's like, how to fund it, how you could experience it amid life/family/church responsibilities?

The Admissions Representatives from the United Methodist Seminaries have put together a joint effort to share what they call Seminary 101 with prospective students. It will be held via Zoom from 1:30-3 p.m. CT Thursday, Nov. 2. Sign up here.

If you're not sure if this is for you, talk to Rev. Dr. Ashlee Alley Crawford for more information,

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Young adults: Explore a call to
ministry, Feb. 16-18 in Orlando 

Do you know a college student or other young adult who has the gifts for and a possible call to ministry? Consider attending Exploration, a three-day event held in Orlando for young adults age 18-26 to hear, discern, and respond to God’s call to ordained ministry and to explore their gifts for service as a deacon or elder in The United Methodist Church.

The details:

  • It’s held in Orlando from Feb. 16-18 for people aged 18-26 considering a call to ministry.
  • There is a registration fee ($500, or $400 for a shared room). Register through our link to receive a $350 scholarship.
  • The Great Plains UMC will provide travel scholarships for airfare (while funds last … see below*). Submit receipts and report travel here, up to $650.
  • It’s a potentially life-changing opportunity to be open to or get direction in God’s call in the context of other young adults, ministries of the church, and campus ministers.
  • Participants will engage in vibrant worship, connect with other young adults, learn about ministry possibilities from workshops, and have space to encounter God in a new way. Representatives from the United Methodist Seminaries will be present for conversation if seminary is a next step. Check out their website here: .

Are you interested in learning more about the scholarships, or do you have questions? Contact Rev. Dr. Ashlee Alley Crawford: or 785-414-4216. 

 *Travel scholarships will be available up to $650/person (while funds last). Flights should be booked to arrive no later than 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16 and leave 2 p.m. or after on Sunday, Feb. 18.

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Equipping Disciples

Nebraska-Iowa challenge is
latest Camp Fontanelle fundraiser

Team Nebraska? Team Iowa? It is a true and legitimate question here in eastern Nebraska. You have the opportunity to show your team colors in November as Camp Fontanelle kicks off its annual appeal campaign with the Team Ryan (Iowa) vs. Team Daniel (Nebraska) competition.

It is a battle of Nebraska vs. Iowa and you have the chance to show your support for your team and Camp Fontanelle. Simply make a donation to the camp through the links above. The team that raises the least amount of money will wear the other team's colors during the Nebraska vs. Iowa football game on Nov. 24. 

If the kickoff campaign raises $20,000, both Ryan Siver (camp director) and Rev. Daniel Kipp (Elkhorn Hills UMC) will make a polar plunge in December. Not only is this fun, it is a way to support the ministry at Camp Fontanelle!

Show your team colors and go vote! Voting will take place until Nov. 20. Photos will be taken and shared via social media of which team raised the most (and least) amount of money! Go Team Fontanelle! We can do it!

-- Jane Van Horn, Camp Fontanelle

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Mark those calendars: 2024
Laity Summit set for March 10

Another year, another great Laity Summit in the works, so mark your calendars for March 10, 2024, from 1:30-5 p.m. CT and 12:30-4 p.m. MT.

Laity Summit is designed for laity from all churches large and small, rural and urban communities and established and emerging leaders. It is a time to share ideas, learn from others around our conference and beyond, and take away nuggets of knowledge to assist in growing our footprint of God’s love in our respective mission fields.

Laity Summit 2024 is being planned to provide an opportunity for laity to gather in small groups and in community. Congregations are invited and encouraged to plan a watch party at your church. Together, you will be able to listen to the content of the messages from people in our Conference. Participants are encouraged to consider and discuss a couple questions within your group. How does what was said mean to us? Is there anything that we can put into action? 

We invite you to express your ideas for Laity Summit topics. If you have ideas or questions, please email them to Rev. Jeff Clinger at or to Jeanie Leeper at Remember our conference lay leader, Lisa Maupin ( is ready to hear from you, as are our conference associate lay leaders, Randall Hodgkinson ( and Keith Olsen ( 

There is excitement building around Laity Summit 2024. We are anticipating what God has for us, as we grow emotionally and spiritually healthy together. You are invited to mark your calendars to save the date and to plan a party. Stay tuned for more details!

-- Jeanie Leeper, Great Plains lay leadership coordinator

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Confirmation resource
now available on website

The second version of the Great Plains confirmation resource is here with new teachers, lessons, and activities! Great Plains leaders from across the connection have come together to create a free, online Confirmation resource for local church use.

This resource includes 17 confirmation lesson videos, activity suggestions, and Confirmation tips to support your local church in its confirmation journey. This resource is intended to supplement Sparkhouse’s “Collaborate: Methodist History & Doctrine” curriculum.
All churches are encouraged to purchase the leader’s guide and student handbooks for the most effective Confirmation experience. Please visit the Sparkhouse website to purchase the Leader’s Guide and Student Handbook.

Click here to access this free resource.

In 2021, the first version of the Confirmation resource was created. While there is some overlap in material, there are various video lessons and activity suggestions that differ between the two versions. You can still access the first version here.

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Mercy & Justice

Nebraska Organizing Project
launches new chapter in Norfolk

On Thursday, Oct. 26, the Nebraska Organizing Project of the Western Organization of Research Councils officially launched a new chapter based in Norfolk. Over 50 individuals turned out in support of the chapter kickoff, which included speakers in both Spanish and English. The Norfolk member-leaders and staff have intentionally built a multicultural and multigenerational organization in Norfolk that took a powerful step forward last week. 

Over the course of the year, chapter members listened to the stories of over 150 Norfolk residents from all walks of life. Based on those stories the chapter has decided to work with the City of Norfolk to strengthen its Language Access Program.

“We believe that we can build a rural Nebraska that everyone’s kids want to come home to. In Norfolk we know the city has room to grow when it comes to providing more information in Spanish and other languages, and we look forward to working closely with them,” Temple said.

The Nebraska Organizing Project aims to build a grassroots organization of local chapters in rural Nebraska to shape communities for the betterment of all. People living in rural communities often feel left behind, ignored and not in control of their own future. The Norfolk Community Chapter will be a vehicle for local people to have a real voice in decisions that affect their lives.

“My experience with the Norfolk Community Chapter has been impactful. I never in my life have been to meetings where I learn something, do something, and walk away feeling so proud of what we just accomplished,” said Julie DeFor, membership captain.\

The Norfolk Community Chapter’s first steering team was elected Thursday night and the regular membership meeting will take place in November. Nebraska staff is currently conducting an assessment of another rural community in Nebraska and hopes to launch its second chapter next year.

-- Mo Bailey, lead organizer

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Faith leaders nationwide can urge
President Biden to reunify families

At our annual conference in June 2023, this resolution was passed. Actions specified in the resolution were taken, among them a petition to General Conference and letters to the Congressional delegations of Kansas and Nebraska, the Director of USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), the Director of Homeland Security, and the President of the United States. Other actions are ongoing.

Our scriptures remind us again and again that we are called to treat the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee as one of our own, as a citizen, as another beloved child of God. 

Immigration Law & Justice Network (formerly National Justice for our Neighbors, an organization started by UMCOR many years ago) is sharing a sign-on letter for faith leaders from the Hearts@Home Campaign.

If you feel led to sign on, please do so. If you are laity, you can make your pastor or other faith leaders aware of this opportunity.

-- Submitted by the Immigration Rapid Response Team

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Peace with Justice article reprinted by
General Board of Church & Society

An article by Andrea Paret, Peace with Justice coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, about a September gathering of her fellow leaders has been reprinted by the General Board of Church & Society's website.

The article appeared in the Oct. 11 GPconnect.

Here is the version on the GBCS website.

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Nebraska UM Foundation awards
over $80,000 in ministry grants

The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation would like to recognize and congratulate the recipients of its ministry grant program for 2023:

Aurora UMC, Bellevue Aldersgate UMC, Bellwood UMC, Big Springs UMC, Brady UMC, Camp Fontanelle, Columbus First UMC, Dakota City UMC, Global Methodist Men, Great Plains Association of Retired Clergy & Spouses (GPARCS), Great Plains United Methodist Men, Kearney First UMC, University of Nebraska-Kearney United Campus Ministry, Lincoln Christ UMC/Loaves & Fishes, Lincoln Horizons UMC, Nebraska City First UMC, Omaha Dietz Memorial UMC, Omaha St. Luke UMC, Papillion St. Paul UMC, Polk UMC, Ponca First UMC, Seward UMC, The Vine UMC -- Scottsbluff, and Walthill UMC.

These grants are made possible through the generosity of fellow United Methodists contributing to the Foundation’s Gifts from the Heart Endowment Fund. If you would like to contribute to this or any of our other Gifts from The Heart, contact 402-323-8844.

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Webinar set for next week on
inspiring generosity, donation receipts

GCFA/UMC Support is hosting a webinar at 11 a.m. CT Wednesday, Nov. 8, via Zoom. Join GCFA’s Legal Services Team to learn how to optimize your ministry’s donation receipt processes, inspire generosity, and maximize donations from your congregation. 

Click here to register.

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Books on intergenerational ministry
are available from resource center

Seventeen books on intergenerational ministry are available to borrow from the United Media Resource Center.

They include "All are Welcome: A Primer for Intentional Intergenerational Ministry and Dialogue" by James Gambone; "Church Comes Home: Start a House Church Network Anywhere" by Dave Barnhart; "Generations Together: Caring, Praying, Learning, Celebrating and Serving Faithfully" by Kathie Amidei, Jim Merhaut and John Roberto; and "Messy Church" books, including those specifically for Christmas and Easter, by Lucy Moore and Jane Leadbetter.

Find those and more here.

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Here's how you can learn more about
Native American Heritage Month

The diverse cultures of Native American people will be featured during November, which is Native American Heritage Month. Bryan Tener, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, writes for Discipleship Ministries about joining one of four warrior societies and lists some resources to help better understand Native Americans.

Read more here.

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Learn about sustainable investing through Wespath webinar Thursday

College students interested in investing that is good for the environment are invited to a free webinar by Wespath to get information about a student corporate engagement challenge, where they will learn about going an extra step beyond picking a stock to considering how they’d make that company better and more sustainable. The webinar is set for noon CT on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Register for webinar.
Learn more.

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Online conference on Nov. 18
highlights an inclusive church

The United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy and Friends will hold its seventh annual inclusiveness conference online from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT  Saturday, Nov. 18. The theme of the conference is “Empowering United Methodists for Inclusive Mission and Ministry.” Speakers include United Methodist Bishops Daniel Schwerin and Karen Oliveto as well as Randall Miller, a well-known lay leader in the denomination.

Read press release.
Register for event.

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Across the Connection

Topeka First UMC celebrates
centennial of its sanctuary

Topeka First UMC celebrated the centennial of its current sanctuary on Oct. 22, remembering that it was 100 years since it reopened after a 1921 fire.

“Any chance to celebrate anything is a big deal, especially when it’s been 100 years,” said Rev. Brad Wheeler, senior pastor.

Watch video from WIBW..

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Concordia First UMC
completes layette sets

Concordia First UMC members assembled 75 layette sets this year for one of its annual projects.

Blankets handmade by the women of the church wrapped items for newborns, including onesies, socks, baby wipes, baby wash, diapers, and a book. The layettes will be distributed to the parents of newborns by Community Baby Showers and the Cloud County Health Department.

Read more from KNCK.

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Church’s supper tradition
continues across county

When Barnes UMC was no longer able to continue the tradition of its Lord’s Acre Supper, the tradition was picked up by the Cougars Den across Washington County in Morrowville.

Rustin Nanninga, the main cook at the Cougars Den, attended Barnes UMC and has fond memories of the meal, including turkey and ham loaf.

Find out more from KCLY.

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Artist behind Resurrection’s stained
glass is featured in documentary

Stained glass artist Tim Carey faced the biggest challenge of his career – creating a window for the new sanctuary of Resurrection, a United Methodist Church at its Leawood campus.

So, he called in a master, Mexican artist Narcissus Quagliata, for assistance. The new window debuted in 2017.

The creation of the window is the subject of the documentary “Holy Frit,” recently released in the United States.

Read more from WDAF-TV.

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In other news

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