David Burke

David Burke serves as the content specialist for the Great Plains Conference.


'I want to be Pastor Nick before I'm Coach Talbott'

October 21, 2020

As the clock ticks down the minutes until kickoff for Kansas Wesleyan University football, Nick Talbott strides the field of the Graves Family Sports Complex.  He claps his hands and encourages players through warmup drills one minute, stops and chats with the refs the next, and even greets one of ...


Newest generation of Wilkes respects family name while blazing new trail

October 14, 2020

It sounded like a great idea. After 2 ½ months of worshipping inside their sanctuary, members of the Tonganoxie United Methodist Church would have an outdoor service at the town’s VFW Park on Sunday morning, Sept. 27.  But rain, anywhere from a drizzle to a downpour, dominated the outdoor ...


‘Steeple to Street’ webinar focuses on Fresh Expressions after pandemic

October 13, 2020

The pandemic has left too many churches in a state of limbo, said a presenter from Fresh Expressions who will be working with the Great Plains Conference in a webinar later this month.  “There’s such a state of overwhelm right now,” said the Rev. Matt Lake, pastor of First United Methodist Church in...


Congresswoman Davids visits Roeland Park UMC’s food distribution

October 12, 2020

The food distribution service by Roeland Park UMC caught the eye of U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids during the congresswoman’s visit on Oct. 9.  “The food insecurity issue is just so huge, and we’ve seen a real explosion of need,” Davids, who lives in Roeland Park, said after meeting the volunteers. “I ...


Genesis Family Health is prevailing through pandemic, leaders say

October 07, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has strengthened Genesis Family Health, its leaders say. Genesis, with locations in Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal and Ulysses, receives part of its funding from the Great Plains Conference and Garden City First United Methodist Church. It provides medical and dental ...


Resurrection celebrates 30th anniversary, reopening with ‘Love Your Neighbor’ campaign

October 07, 2020

Services at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection the first Sunday of October warranted a triple celebration.  It was the first onsite Sunday services at the Leawood church since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. It was also the 30th anniversary of the first services at ...


In delayed ceremonies, 29 clergy commissioned, ordained

October 06, 2020

It was neither the usual time of year nor the place that 29 clergy were expecting to be commissioned and ordained in the Great Plains Conference, but there were nonetheless celebrations Oct. 3 at Omaha St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church.  Here are those celebrated in ceremonies on Oct. 2:  ...


In three online events, laity of Great Plains connect virtually

October 06, 2020

The in-person fellowship was missing, but the unity and encouragement were alive and well at the virtual laity session and other events of the Great Plains Conference.  “We hope you will live with us into this new moment,” conference lay leader Lisa Maupin told the 185-plus online attendees at the ...


Bishop commends work during pandemic, challenges conference to grow in faith, love

September 30, 2020

In a virtual message to the Great Plains Conference, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. thanked the clergy, laity and churches of Kansas and Nebraska for their hard work and cooperation during a tumultuous 2020 and challenged them to grow deeper in their faith, love and discipleship in the future.  “So many of ...


After 16 years as site director, Trent Meyer leaving Camp Fontanelle

September 29, 2020

Acknowledging that depression issues and his workaholic nature gave his job greater priority over his family, Trent Meyer will leave as site director at Camp Fontanelle before the end of the year. “I’ve come to realize I put the camp above family and a lot of other things,” Meyer said. “I came to ...


During pandemic, Garden City relies on longstanding outdoor worship service

September 22, 2020

While other churches have experimented with outdoor worship services during the coronavirus pandemic, it came as second nature to Garden City First United Methodist Church.  The Rev. Charles Nyamakope delivers a sermon at Finnup Park in Garden City. Photos by David Burke The southwest Kansas ...


ERTs needed in Alabama, Florida after Hurricane Sally

September 18, 2020

Early Response Teams from the Great Plains Conference are needed in mid-October in Alabama and Florida for work in the wake of Hurricane Sally. Hurricane Sally has caused damaged throughout the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Photo by the Rev. Bobbie Lassiter, AWFC. The Rev. Hollie Tapley, ...


Lenexa church continues support group it created for adults with autism

September 09, 2020

It wasn’t the intention of Lenexa St. Paul’s UMC to create what it believes is the only support group in the Kansas City area for adults with autism.  The group grew out of St. Paul’s presence ministry, which provides dialogue in a relaxed setting rather than the sometimes-overwhelming world of a ...


Church plants retain momentum, but not numbers, UMC expert says

September 01, 2020

Like seemingly everything else in 2020, new church starts have stalled because of the pandemic. In fact, the Rev. Paul Nixon, a new church strategist for The United Methodist Church, says fewer conferences have planted this year than at any other time in his ministry. Nixon spoke to eight pastors in...


Bishop Hearn remembered for faith, focus, fairness

August 31, 2020

Colleagues of Bishop J. Woodrow Hearn remember the focus, adventurousness, and faith of the former Nebraska Conference leader, who died Aug. 31 at age 89. A Louisiana native, Bishop Hearn led the Nebraska Conference from 1984 to 1992, before being assigned to the Houston area until his retirement...


Conference working to improve children's, youth ministries

August 19, 2020

The Great Plains Conference is in the midst of a two-year renovation of its children’s and youth ministry programs and is offering smaller churches the chance to improve their work with young attendees.  Since late last year, the conference has been working with Tennessee-based Ministry Architects ...


Three new district superintendents installed in online service

August 18, 2020

View the entire appointment celebration video here. In a heartfelt ceremony, three new district superintendents were installed during a virtual gathering on Aug. 16.  The Rev. Dr. Tom Brady was installed as Five Rivers and Parsons districts superintendent; the Rev. Jenny Collins was installed as ...


Bishop, pastors discuss personal cases of racism during webinar

August 12, 2020

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. can look back at it now and chuckle.  In 2016, the newly elected ecumenical leader of the Great Plains Conference was moving into his new residence in Wichita. He was dressed informally, in shorts, when the boss of the moving crew began ordering him around.  “I played along,” ...


David City's Louise Niemann elected to national UMW board of directors

August 12, 2020

In an ideal 2020, Louise Niemann would have been told that she was elected to the national United Methodist Women board of directors at the group’s South Central Jurisdiction meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, with friends and colleagues gathering around to congratulate her.  Instead, she got a phone...


During webinar, school leaders ask for partnerships with churches

August 05, 2020

There’s never been a better time for churches and schools to work together, two educators told an audience of clergy during a recent webinar and podcast.  “We are all in this together, and the way we will get through is with the faith we will have with each other and the support we will give to one ...


Foreign-born pastors share their views, frustrations during 2nd 'Time to Listen' webinar

July 29, 2020

Four foreign-born clergy from the Great Plains Conference shared their perspectives — and their frustrations — in the second in the series of “A Time to Listen” webinars on July 25.  All said they were bothered by the civil unrest that has taken place in throughout the country this summer.  “I feel ...


Conference, district ask Nebraska for greater coronavirus protection for meatpacking plants

July 28, 2020

The Great Plains Conference and the Gateway District are among 25 organizations calling for greater coronavirus protection for workers in Nebraska meat and poultry plants.  “We have seen more than three months of slow and insufficient action by meat and poultry plants to proactively institute ...


K-State Wesley pays off $1 million mortgage

July 22, 2020

Eleven years after it has moved into its current home, K-State Wesley has paid off its $1 million debt.  “We had some very nice, really wonderful gifts to help us be able to do that,” said the Rev. Jim Reed, development director for the Manhattan ministry. “But we also had lots and lots of people ...


Adapting to coronavirus is latest challenge overcome by EmberHope Youthville

July 21, 2020

Like everything else in the world in 2020, EmberHope Youthville has had to make changes because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nickaila Sandate, president/CEO On March 13, all non-essential staff at the United Methodist-supported facility in Newton, Kansas – which serves at-risk children and teens ...


Responding to racism: What the Great Plains is doing to make a difference

July 07, 2020

Tragic events of the spring and summer of 2020 have brought to the forefront something that Black Americans have known for some time: The struggle for equality is still very real.  With a mission for mercy and justice in Nebraska and Kansas, the Great Plains Conference is committed to non-violent ...


Black pastors share their sadness, anger over racism in webinar

July 01, 2020

Participating in the June 27 webinar are, clockwise from left, Rev. Dee Williamston, Rev. Dr. Rose Booker-Jones, Rev. Dr. Wayne Reynolds, Rev. Dr. Charlotte Abram, Rev. Cynthia Smart, Rev. Darryl Burton, Pastor Ronda Kingwood, and center, the Rev. Harry Christian. Watch the entire June 27 ...


Pastors moving in 2020 say they miss closure with congregations

June 29, 2020

United Methodist pastors and their congregations know the drill all too well. Every few years, a pastor may be moved from one charge to another. The month of June is filled with trucks being packed and goodbyes said, while open arms wait at that pastor’s next destination. That is, until 2020. The ...


Despite pandemic, Great Plains camps find ways to connect with youth

June 24, 2020

2020 CAMP CHIPPEWA DURING COVID-19 from Great Plains UMC on Vimeo. The coronavirus pandemic-forced cancellation of summer camps in the Great Plains Conference this summer left hundreds of children and youth without a destination to explore nature and deepen their faith.  “We were all very ...


Pastors facing additional stress, depression, anxiety during pandemic

June 16, 2020

A survey by the Duke University Clergy Health Initiative in 2019 has shown that 11% of pastors reported symptoms consistent with having moderate or severe depression.  And that was before the coronavirus pandemic.  Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford “Those numbers are higher normally than the average ...


Great Plains churches adjust to keep VBS alive during pandemic

June 10, 2020

If everything had gone according to plan, about 50 children from 3 years old through fourth grade would have gathered at Prairie Village Asbury UMC for Vacation Bible School next week. But, like nearly everything else in 2020, nothing has gone according to plan. Instead, the Johnson County, Kansas, ...


Churches cautiously return to worship in Great Plains

June 03, 2020

With prayer, caution and proper sanitization, a handful of churches in the Great Plains Conference have returned to in-person services. The churches, all in western Kansas and western Nebraska, began in-person worship throughout May. Although those we talked to were apprehensive before opening their...


Condensed conference concludes with call to ‘Catch Fire’

June 02, 2020

Concluding an abbreviated and revised Annual Conference session conducted by telephone, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. told the Great Plains it needed to continue to “Catch Fire” — the unofficial title given to the one-day meeting.  “I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us in this new season of our church’s...


In opening sermon, Bishop Saenz thanks Great Plains for work during pandemic

June 02, 2020

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. saluted the churches, clergy and laity of the Great Plains for their work during the coronavirus pandemic during the annual conference session’s opening worship service May 29. Because of the pandemic and with a revised, condensed conference call with essential business ...


Revised conference session approves Comeca sale, church disaffiliations

June 01, 2020

With the assistance of, from left, the Rev. Nathan Stanton, Scott Brewer and the Rev. Nancy Lambert, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. opens the revised Annual Conference session from the Great Plains office in Topeka. Photos by David Burke   Calling it an unprecedented move for “unprecedented times,” ...


Parking lot services bring new energy to six-point Riley County churches

May 12, 2020

Revs. Sandy and Bruce Ferguson were already no slouches when it came to Sunday mornings.  They’ve been pastors of the Leonardville, Swede Creek, Randolph and Fancy Creek Zion UMCs in northern Riley County, Kansas – called the Jerusalem Road Parish – since 2014 and added the two-church charge in ...


Mainstream UMC calls for continued moratoriums until 2021 GC

May 06, 2020

On what was supposed to be the first day of the 2020 General Conference, the leaders of the Mainstream UMC movement urged fellow centrists and progressives to not let their guard down for LGBTQ equality.  “Their hopes and dreams were waiting in the balance, and now they have to wait another year and...


Bishop Saenz elected as chair of congregational vitality leadership team by Council of Bishops

May 05, 2020

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. is looking forward to his tenure as chair of the congregational vitality team of the Council of Bishops. The Great Plains Conference’s episcopal leader since 2016 was elected during a video conference during the final few days of April. Bishop Saenz will lead a group of about ...


Health, social service organizations adapting during pandemic

April 29, 2020

Three Kansas-based health and social service organizations have made adjustments because of the COVID-19 pandemic as they have all seen an increased need for their services.  All three — Genesis Family Health, with clinics in Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal and Ulysses; GraceMed, with clinics in ...


Chaplain from Great Plains on front lines vs. COVID-19 in Florida

April 21, 2020

The Rev. Denise Sawyer has seen nothing like it in her nearly nine years as a chaplain at a southwest Florida hospital. The Rev. Denise Sawyer, right, prays with a staff member at Florida's Cape Coral Hospital. Contributed photos “The leadership team was watching for it, but it still felt like ...


Nebraska women among singers in Discipleship Ministries Easter video

April 15, 2020

E Brenda Cochran, circled, is among the singers. Editor's note: This story was updated on April 20. When Brenda Cochran recorded herself singing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” for an internet project, she didn’t know she’d be part of a global video.  “I didn’t realize it was a worldwide ...


Ministry amid coronavirus: stories from across the Great Plains

April 08, 2020

  The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the creativity, compassion and caring of churches and clergy in the Great Plains Conference.  In the past few months, new ideas have been tried and longtime staples have been adjusted because of the limits of crowd sizes and the dangers of infecting some ...


Amid pandemic, Lydia Patterson faces difficulties due to border closing

March 31, 2020

The good news for Lydia Patterson Institute is that the school was already technologically equipped for the coronavirus-related shutdown of all schools in El Paso, Texas, that began March 16. “We were prepared to finish online,” school President Socorro de Anda said in a phone interview. “We’ve ...


Via livestream, conference’s first Laity Summit rolls on

March 23, 2020

Like many other events scheduled for the month of March, the Great Plains Conference’s first Laity Summit did not go according to plan. Media producer Eugenio Hernandez, left, instructs Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and Shane Warta, lay leadership coordinator, before the beginning of the Laity Summit ...


Legislator, Resurrection ‘force’ Nancy Brown dies at 77

March 12, 2020

Those who knew her best remember Nancy Brown as someone who cared deeply for her church and her community. Brown, who died of complications from cancer March 9 at age 77, served from 1984-1994 in the Kansas House of Representatives from the 27th District. She was also one of the founding members ...


Great Plains delegation votes to endorse protocol

March 11, 2020

In their meeting on Feb. 28, the Great Plains Conference delegation approved these actions: The Great Plains Delegation formally endorses the items presented by Wespath to safeguard pensions during this turbulent time. The Great Plains Delegation formally endorses the Protocol of Reconciliation ...


Some worship elements in Great Plains change thanks to coronavirus scare

March 11, 2020

Handshakes, for now, are out. The Passing of the Peace during many worship services in the Great Plains Conference replaced the handshakes with fist bumps, elbow touches, waves, toe taps, peace signs, bows and even a Vulcan salute a la “Star Trek.” The Rev. Chris Jorgensen, pastor of Omaha ...


'Breaking Chains' theme of 2020 LEAF sessions

February 18, 2020

Kansas Secretary of Labor Delia Garcia, Secretary of Labor Randy Watson and Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman participate in a panel discussion at LEAF. Photos by David Burke More than 90 people focused on stopping what they see as oppression during a ...


Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day becomes a tribute to its longtime leader

February 12, 2020

The 45th annual Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day included a tribute to its longtime leader. Ruby Thelander from Lincoln, who was among the founders of the event co-sponsored by United Methodist Women, is stepping down as its chair. “I’m going to stay on the committee, but I’m not ...


Prairie Rivers wins inaugural ‘Kansaska Cup’ for mission shares payout

February 05, 2020

The Prairie Rivers District is the first home for the Kansaska Cup, a new traveling trophy presented to the district with the highest mission share payout for a calendar year. The district, covering south-central Nebraska, finished 2019 with a 97.9% payout. The Rev. Lance Clay, Prairie Rivers ...


Topeka churches beefing up security after series of break-ins

February 05, 2020

Two Topeka United Methodist churches are surveying damage, estimating loss, and considering new security measures after each suffered several burglaries over the past few months. Topeka First United Methodist Church Topeka First UMC suffered burglaries Dec. 2, 19 and 24, as well as Jan. 9. “The ...