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Vital work of laity: Rockeman lives out call

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

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Rev. Joel Winckler, Northwest District Superintendent (center), recognizes Karl Rockeman (right) as the 2023 Denman Award Winner for Laity at the 2023 Dakotas Annual Conference. Photos by jlynn studios.

Karl Rockeman attended The United Methodist Church in Donnybrook, North Dakota. He was baptized and confirmed there. In that church, he grew as a follower of Jesus and in his understanding of the importance of every member of the body of Christ. He says, “The United Methodist Church is a church of and for the people. The work of the laity is vital. It is not up to the pastor to do everything. It is everybody’s responsibility.”  

At the 2023 Dakotas Annual Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Karl Rockeman was recognized as the lay recipient of this year’s Harry Denman Evangelism Award. 

He has lived out that call throughout his church life. However, two years ago, he was called upon to take another step as a layperson in leadership in the church. In June of 2021, Karl’s congregation, Dickinson Prairie Winds, voted (by one vote) to disaffiliate from the UMC. But that was not the end of the story for the Dickinson congregation. Karl was a key leader in bringing people together with a commitment to continuing the United Methodist presence in Dickinson. Karl worked to set up places for those that wanted to be United Methodists to meet. He helped by leading worship, sharing messages, and organizing lay people.

With wisdom, Karl recognized the need for the Dickinson United Methodists to heal following the trauma of disaffiliation. But he also knew to fulfill the mission God had called the people to; they would need to be looking beyond themselves and begin inviting others into faith. Karl’s values of openness and welcome have formed how he leads—starting as a youth and seeing the value of open communion as a means for reaching people who might not feel like there is a place for them. That value was reinforced as he found himself recommitted to the United Methodist Church and its mission, stating, “I want to be part of a church where differences of opinions and hot-button issues are not what drives theology or the worshipping community.”

Karl has continued to help lead others to see beyond themselves and find ways to reach out to their community. 

Beyond his own church, Karl has been an inspiration to others. He was elected conference co-lay leader in 2022. He continues to share his church’s story of redemption and resurrection and his commitment to reaching others in the name of Christ. He believes in the witness and theology of The United Methodist Church and that it plays a unique role in people coming to know God in Jesus Christ. 

UMC

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