Holston Conference Honors Three with Denman Award

The Denman Evangelism Award was presented to (clergy) the Rev. Paul Seay, First United Methodist Church and Charles Wesley United Methodist Church in Abingdon, Va.; (lay) Norma Smith, Concord United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tenn.; and (youth) Lorelai Ziegler, Allen Memorial United Methodist Church, Athens, Tenn. These photos were originally posted on Facebook and as part of the Monday recap for Holston’s 2024 Annual Conference.

Pastor reflects Christ’s Invitation, receives Denman Award in Dakotas Conference

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Pastor Thanael addresses attendees at Annual Conference in Bismarck.

Rev. Thanael Certa-Werner received the Harry Denman Evangelism Award for Clergy at the 2024 Annual Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Some words embody Pastor Thanael’s call to life as a follower of Jesus, which he lives out as a clergy: joy, excitement, eagerness, humility, and passion, while embracing and continually reflecting Christ’s invitational grace and love to all people.

When Rev. Certa-Werner was asked to serve as pastor of Burke and Herrick UMCs, little did anyone know that something more would be asked of him in creating an even larger parish that would also include Gregory UMC, in Gregory, South Dakota.

Rev. Thanael Certa Werner. Photos by jlynn studios.

Rev. Certa-Werner, with unwavering faith, immediately envisioned the immense potential these three congregations could unlock in reaching people and nurturing disciples of Jesus Christ in Gregory County. Rather than being deterred by the challenges of declining worship attendance, inactive ministries, or financial worries, all three congregations united under a parish covenant, embarking on a transformative journey.

They took a bold step, identifying themselves as the Abundance Parish, a faith community that thrives on God’s abundance, not scarcity. This shift in mindset, coupled with the assurance of a welcoming culture, has led to a significant increase in worship attendance and participation in various church activities within and beyond the church walls.

A specific example is that even before the parish had officially formed, Pastor Thanael was planning a joint confirmation class for the youth of all three congregations. On Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2024, 15 youth confirmed their faith, including two who were baptized. The confirmation celebration is an authentic witness to growing God’s Kingdom.

Inviting and including people of all ages reflects Pastor Thanael’s heart, grounded in the commandments to love God and others. Certa-Werner’s presence is felt in the communities he serves, from nursing homes to school events and in walking alongside people in their discipleship journey. His life, words, and actions reflect the grace and love of Christ, a testament to his deep commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus. This dedication, aimed at helping others experience God’s transformative love, is a key reason for his recognition with the Harry Denman Award for Evangelism. 

This story was originally posted at https://www.dakotasumc.org/news/sharing-gods-abundance-2024-harry-denman-award-winner-rev-thanael-certa-werner. It has been reposted with permission.

Louisiana UMC Conference Recognizes Three Denman Award Recipients

In the above photograph, Carolyn Dove (left) is accepting on behalf of Nicholas Doine

The Louisiana Conference of The United Methodist Church proudly announces the recipients of this year’s Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, recognizing outstanding efforts in spreading the gospel through actions and commitment.

This year’s distinguished honorees, Nicholas Doine in the Youth category and Jan Cooke for Laity, have demonstrated exceptional dedication and service, embodying the spirit of evangelism in their communities.

Nicholas Doine: Youth Award Recipient

Nicholas Doine, a member of Pineville United Methodist Church, has made significant contributions to the church and his community, particularly among the youth. As a seasoned staffer at the Louisiana Happening retreats and the current Rector, Nick has spearheaded innovations like an online registration system, enhancing the accessibility and efficiency of this vital youth ministry.

His commitment extends beyond administrative duties; he actively engages his peers in faith through writing and preaching, particularly during the youth-led services.

Nick’s influence is not confined to the church walls.

He is an inspirational figure in his high school and a committed volunteer at various community organizations including Manna House, St. Mark’s Food Ministry, and several local food banks and missions.

His tireless volunteer work and ability to inspire his peers make him a deserving recipient of the Harry Denman Youth Evangelism Award.

Rev. Debra Keller: Clergy Award Recipient

Rev. Debra Keller, known for her heartfelt approach to worship and community service, has been honored with the Harry Denman Clergy Award.

Rev. Keller strives to make worship meaningful for young and old through various forms of worship, including offering services in local parks, particularly on Easter and Mother’s Day, welcoming all people to join in the celebration.

Her church’s partnership with the ecumenical group Helping Hands, both personally and financially, exemplifies her dedication to spreading God’s gifts to others.

The church’s participation in Back to School Blessings provided food, drinks, and 125 backpacks to children in the community, along with fifty-five $25 Walmart gift cards to help families with additional school costs.

During Christmas, Rev. Keller’s church hosts “Breakfast with Santa,” offering a hot breakfast and free pictures with Santa Claus to the community.

Rev. Keller’s commitment to service is evident in her church’s collaboration with other churches for events like the Martin Luther King Day “Day of Service” and the Brazil Family Benefit, raising over $1000 for a family that lost everything in a fire.

In response to the Jackson, Mississippi water supply crisis, Rev. Keller and her congregation delivered over 200 cases of bottled water. Additionally, the youth of her church have participated in Habitat for Humanity and delivered socks and blankets to a local nursing home.

Rev. Keller’s compassionate spirit and love for others truly exemplify Jesus’ teaching that to be His follower, one must have a servant’s heart. Her extensive efforts to serve and uplift her community make her a deserving recipient of the Harry Denman Clergy Award.

Jan Cooke: Laity Award Recipient

Jan Cooke of Asbury United Methodist Church in Lafayette is a beacon of faith and dedication in her community.

Jan’s leadership in the Community Outreach program and her coordination of the annual Spring Fair are just a few examples of her commitment to evangelism.

Her ministry, “Pearl’s of Faith,” provides spiritual support and community to women, reinforcing her role as a cornerstone of church activities.

Jan’s approach to evangelism is deeply personal and inclusive, focusing on connecting with people from diverse backgrounds, including those new to Methodism or those with past negative church experiences.

Her ability to share the gospel through both word and song, complemented by her role as the church pianist, exemplifies her multifaceted approach to ministry.

Her initiatives, such as distributing Valentine’s cards to nursing home residents, collecting essential items for disadvantaged children, and organizing donations of school uniforms and winter coats, demonstrate her practical application of faith in action. Jan’s extensive involvement in these acts of kindness and her continuous effort to draw more people into the loving embrace of the church community rightfully earn her this year’s Harry Denman Laity Award.


The Louisiana Conference of The United Methodist Church celebrates Nicholas Doine and Jan Cooke’s extraordinary contributions. Their dedication to evangelism and service profoundly impacts their communities, making them exemplary recipients of the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards.

As we honor these individuals, we are reminded of the power of committed faith and the difference it can make in the lives of others.

This story was originally posted at https://www.la-umc.org/newsdetail/celebrating-evangelism-the-harry-denman-award-winners-18374212. It has been reprinted with permission.