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 It has been reposted with permission.

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