Pass the Torch Scholarship Impacts Next Generation of Clergy

With aspirations of serving every seminary student in the Great Plains Conference, the Pass the Torch committee stepped closer to their goal through the growth of the scholarship fund.

Since its founding, the Pass the Torch Scholarship has provided more than $100,000 to help seminary students answer their call. Through generous gifts and memorial funds, in 2021 alone the scholarship endowment fund grew by over $14,000.

“It’s an effort on the part of retired clergy and surviving spouses to address the needs of people wanting to answer God’s call to ministry in the church, but for whom the cost of that was prohibitive,” Pass the Torch Committee Chair Rev. Gary Beach

Started in the 1990s by retired pastors and surviving spouses of the Kansas West Conference, the Pass the Torch Scholarship has since expanded to serve the Great Plains Conference and provide financial support to the next generation of clergy.

“When obeying God’s call and making plans to attend seminary, I had to have faith that God would provide,” scholarship recipient Brenda Hogan said. “The cost of seminary is daunting. While still ‘dreaming’ of going to seminary, I learned about the Pass the Torch scholarship from my pastor at the time, Mark Conard. I filed it away as future help with school expenses. It was an early step in believing in the possibility of this new chapter in life. I was blessed to receive scholarship funds that have been a great help to me in furthering my

For the students receiving the scholarship, it not only helps provide financially, but also provides encouragement in the seminary journey.

“While the Pass the Torch scholarship only covers a small percentage of the annual cost of seminary, the impact is far greater,” Victor Peterson, a scholarship recipient said. “It warms my heart to know that former pastors and spouses are willing to invest in the future of the church and specifically help fund young pastors, like me, in training. Most retiring pastors are not wealthy, and there are numerous causes I’m sure they feel called to help fund. So their generosity toward me and my call both affirms my call and makes me feel valued and appreciated. Being in seminary and ministry simultaneously can be challenging and exhausting at times, but their gifts encourage me to continue pushing through.”

Brenda and Victor are just two of many scholarship recipients impacted by the generosity of past and current retired clergy and spouses.

As seminary costs continue to rise, the committee is hopeful it will be able to provide a greater impact through increasing the number of scholarships awarded and the dollar amount.

“The cost of seminary is far in excess of what we retired clergy would ever have had to pay for a seminary experience,” Gary said. “The retired clergy want to continue to beef up what we are able to do.”

The Kansas Methodist Foundation is honored to partner with the Pass the Torch committee to support the next generation of clergy through investing the scholarship endowment funds and helping administer the
scholarship program. If you are interested in joining the retired clergy in their efforts, please contact the Kansas Methodist Foundation.

Endowment Program Funds Upgrades for Live Stream Worship Service at Council Grove Dunlap UMC

When the pandemic started, members of Council Grove Dunlap UMC were not strangers to live streaming worship. However, when they resumed worship in person, they found new technology was needed to provide the in-person and online experiences they desired.

The church’s streaming worship service started with humble beginnings in 2019. A member of the congregation had a procedure that required him to be hospitalized for several months. Since he wanted to continue engaging in the weekly service, the congregation began using a cell phone and a tripod on Facebook live.

When the pandemic closed the church building, the congregation was familiar with live streaming and made quick adjustments.

“It wasn’t a leap for us at all to go to continue our live-stream worship service when they shut down buildings,” Rev. Brenda Davids, pastor of Council Grove Dunlap UMC said. “It was a bit of a leap to get it more intimate.”

Throughout the pandemic, they got better at providing a streaming option in which viewers felt a part of the service. However, when the building reopened, the camera person moving around became a distraction to those worshiping in person.

“We wanted to provide a hybrid worship service - continuing to worship with our online congregation,” Brenda said. “We have a pretty large following online now.”

As one of the only United Methodist Church in their area to offer a live stream worship service option, Council Grove found a niche broadcasting its weekly service. Although it is hard to estimate exactly how many people participate online after the livestream is ended, the Facebook recording receives numerous views throughout the week.

The congregation looked at options to provide an intimate worship experience in person and online and found a video solution with MSM Systems in Lawrence. There was only one hurdle.

“It was more money than we were expecting,” Brenda said. “We’ve had zero investment in this. We were using our own phones and Facebook live is free so we had no bank to do this project…. We had to come up with some money and that’s where we leaned back into our investments with the Foundation.”

Before an online service was on their minds, the finance committee chair had a dream of starting an endowment program. The congregation worked to start an endowment and opened investment funds with KMF.

“When we got the endowment started, I don’t think we even had $1,000,” Brenda said. “It really didn’t have anything, but what was important was starting it.” Congregation members could now leave an estate gift to the endowment fund to be used at a future date.

Through the endowment program and the faithfulness of congregation members to give, the church had immediate availability of funds to upgrade the cameras for the online service. Through these gifts, their legacy will live on in the church and community in a way they would probably never have imagined.

“Our live-stream worship service is missional,” Brenda said. “We were serving our own congregation and we were serving people who we don’t even know we’re touching. We don’t know when the next thing is going to happen where we would need a vital way to reach people.”