The Power of Listening During Anxious Times
Bishop Julius C. Trimble is the Resident Bishop of the Indiana Area of the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Trimble has the personal mission to encourage all people with the love of Jesus Christ to rise to their highest potential. It is his commitment to his personal mission that led Bishop Trimble to create the “To Be Encouraged” Podcast along with co-host Rev.Dr. Brad MIller.
Bishop Trimble says, “I am compelled by Jesus to share with you an encouraging word or two about Jesus, theology, the bible, the pandemic, the environment, racism, voting rights, human sexuality, and the state of the United Methodist Church.”
To Be Encouraged with Bishop Julius C. Trimble is to be published weekly and is available at www.tobeencouraged.com and all the podcast directories.
Hello, good people. Welcome back to the to be in courage podcast with Bishop Julius treble. My name is Reverend Dr. Brad Miller, it is my pleasure to have conversation with Bishop Trimble on a regular basis about things that matter in the church and in faith in our society. And, and today, we're going to take a moment to talk about listening to talk about listening. So that means we need to take some moments to reflect about what it means to be a good listener. And to do to do that in terms of our life together. Vision, reason why I bring this up is because recently, here in Indiana, where he where you and I are located at you have had some listening sessions with folks in our church, both online and in person. And I'll just read kind of the description of what these are about. And I'd like for you to comment about what these were all about. It was said that this was an opportunity to hear from Bishop Trimble about his vision and hopes for the United Methodist Church, and the Indiana conference. And he will also speak about the delay in general conference, and how we can serve faithfully moving forward. So Bishop tell us what about your experience that you've had recently with these listening sessions?Bishop Julius Trimble:
Thank you for it and blessings to all who were will receive this podcast. You know, it's been said that, you know, we've been given one mouth, but two years. And sometimes we utilize the one mouth in excess, and not the two years sufficiently. One of the things I know God has been working with me since I've been in ministry is to really work on becoming a better listener. I've been married. We we've been married, going on 43 years. And I know that's something in those those persons who are married or in relationships, understand that listening is so critically important to a healthy relationship. And as a servant leader in the United Methodist Church, presiding bishop, resident bishop in Indiana, I know that I spent a good deal of time listening, but probably not enough, particularly during times, like we've been living through two years of pandemic social disruption. And that postponement now about the General Conference, the four year meeting of the United Methodist denomination, so people are experiencing some angst, people concerned about the survival of their own local congregations, having gone through two years of pandemic with a downturn in attendance. So it's been it's important in this season for me as a bishop to encourage people both to continue to pay attention to our spiritual disciplines of prayer, and fasting and listening, and meditation, but also to hear from people about the concerns that upon that on their heart. And so that's what I've been attempting to do in the recent weeks. And we'll be doing leading up and beyond the Holy, holy weekend of Easter weekend.Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:
Before we get at some of the details of the actual listening sessions that we are talking about here, give me some of your context, either biblically, or meditatively. And some of the other things in the Bible, what are some things that kind of help give you a framework for listening here,Bishop Julius Trimble:
I think, Psalm 46, which is Psalms 4610, which is on the wall in two different places in our home, including my home study, God speaks to the psalmist and says, Be still and know that I am God. And I think that is an invitation for us to just listen for the presence of the holy presence of God too often, before any great work has been done. It's been a period of prayer and listening, listening for the voice, force of God, whether it's Nehemiah and rebuilding the walls, or, or the invitation and say, Second Chronicles, for us to, to come before God in a time of prayer. I think the soft the Psalms in particular, I think, speak to me in terms of the need to, to listen and be aware of the presence of God in the presence of theRev. Dr. Brad Miller:
holy or to hear anyone, let alone God if we're not still from time to time. So what led you then in this process from your biblical framework, and from your own background, you mentioned about marriage and so on? What were some of the pressure points, if you will, that led to have a couple of listening sessions to really directly listen to folks in in the pews and the churches? I know you had one online and one in person. Maybe there were some other sections as well. But what kind of led to that?Bishop Julius Trimble:
What we did right now we've had 222 online and one in person and every single district. The way the Indiana conference is set up, we have 10 districts throughout the state and there will be opportunities for persons to be engaged and these listening conversation questions sessions with their conference superintendents. And I think when the United After discharge announced the general commission that its quadrennial meeting would be postponed once again, this is the third postponement of a general conference that was scheduled to take place in 2020, the level of angst and, and ambiguity was raised because people were anticipating at this coming, General Conference that matters, that have divided the church or right regarding human sexuality would finally be resolved. And there would be a graceful process for exiting for those churches or individuals who felt that they couldn't remain in a church where there was this ongoing division around inclusion. So because of that, you know, when there's a when there's a postponement, and there's a lack of information being shared, people tend to fill that void, with all kinds of voices. And Brad, you know, more more than most that with the onset of social media, there's so many ways in which people communicate rapidly, and people get lots of information, some of which some of its true, full, and some of its maybe partially truthful. And some of it's not really helpful, particularly to, I think, many of our laity who are simply wanting to run into know whether they there's a decision that they have to make in their local congregations, or what is the big ruckus about. So this, this means that listening, listening and providing clear information around our purpose, our vision, our commitment, as a United Methodist Church, and also not to be not to be overly critical of others who may make a decision or critical at all of others who made a decision, that there's another path where God is leading them. So so that's the purpose of of engaging,Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:
and it does seem like the delay of General Conference for third time triggerpoint it was a point wait kind of went too far for people to, to have to we're kind of trying to put their anxieties in check. It just kind of okay, we need some straight answers here. We need some answers, period. So what were some of the, what did you learn at these listening sessions? What? What were the points that people were feeling stress at? Or what were the questions that were asked of you?Bishop Julius Trimble:
I think one of the questions who was asked, Are we are we required to make a decision before annual conference? And my answer is there's no decision that you're required to make at all. Churches can continue to do their ministry as they're currently doing. But if churches have discerned or if there's a sense in the church, that we've, we feel that the United Methodist Church is headed in the wrong direction, or we feel that there's too much too much ambiguity, we have rules that are in our book of discipline that some people don't want to abide by. Some churches are feeling like, hey, we need to have clarity around this. And we need to have an option because there's been an invitation to join another movement that with the announcement of the global Methodist Church launching May the first so so I think that that kind of helped, that has added to the angst and the questions that people have. So another question people asked me was, what what's the why do we have to pay something? If we are disaffiliated? Why do we have to pay the conference? This calculated amount of money, and people don't often think of it this way. But I say think about the widows and the orphans. In the Bible, the Book of James, the book of Acts, Book of Deuteronomy talks about care, so our pension plan our obligations as an annual conference care for persons who are surviving spouses, retirees, again, you know, the widows and the orphans, if you will, from the biblical perspective, our connectional church, because of the great ability of many, many, many contributing to one, one pool of, of support and a pension. That means that for people often think about just their church and their current pastor, but you think about all of the church pastors that have served in this and the spouses and families that were supported by that. So that's the reason we're not we're, we're conferences are not trying to make money on churches leaving, we don't really want we don't want churches to leave. But if churches do leave, we do want to make sure that our what is called the unfunded liability is cared forRev. Dr. Brad Miller:
so part of it if I'm understanding you correctly, is what people just wanted to know was process one some timeline as well as well as because of the the nuts and bolts and dollars of sense of, you know, what in the world is happening here and what do we need to do? What are their actions we need to take like right now regarding things or can things play out a bit? And do you feel like in reading the temperature of the room of the rooms emotionally and and otherwise? Was, are these questions able to be addressed? Were people open to receiving the information was their curiosity defensiveness, just show me a little bit how it went.Bishop Julius Trimble:
All of the above and then some. But I would say I'd say anxiety was lowered, having heard from their bishop. And anxiety was lower, because it said, there's nothing that we need to rush to do. There, there will be churches that will disaffiliate this June at our annual conference, nine did so last in your conference, we, we prayed for those churches who have gone independent or who may be anxiously waiting to join the global Methodist church or some other some churches have left to join the Free Methodist Church. So so there's no, there's no rust. And even if churches don't complete the process, if they've discerned that they that they want to separate or disaffiliate, there will be another there will be other opportunities after annual conference, next annual conference and leading up to the General Conference. And hopefully, some will just some churches may just wait, wait to discern what happens after the 2024 General Conference.Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:
So even though they it is a time of anxiety, even though there is this open ended thing of no decision being made this year 2022, or next year 2023, or to the fourth quarter or third quarter release of 2024. That's a long ways off. For a lot of folks, message I'm hearing you say that you're trying to share is let's continue to work the process. And if you want to engage in the process of disaffiliation, you can and and there's means to do that. I'm sure there's links and what have you to to help people to do that. Is that helpful? Is that kind of what went on a little bit there?Bishop Julius Trimble:
Yeah, I think I think it might have been Home Depot, they used to have a model, you can do it and we can help. If you are choosing to disaffiliate, contact your conference superintendent in the annual conference, we can help you do that. If you're just choosing just to become a stronger local congregation, small membership church or large membership church, and you want to really ramp up your focus on your purpose and your mission. We can help with that as well. So we have not stopped the work that we're doing through congregation of development, leadership development, in terms of encouraging and equipping our our laity and clergy the border laity continues to focus on this as well. So So churches need not be dormant. Because one thing that we It has been proven. And I shared this in the sessions that I will continue to share this is that the sign that I was looking for prayer, God has revealed, nothing is impossible, apart from God, if the pandemic did not kill the church, certainly this certainly a postponed General Conference, or division over human sexuality should not dismantle the church, do you hear me if two years a pandemic, I mean, you would think that and somewhat sometimes we had some of the more strict restrictions of any institution in society, we're congregations, which previously, we had depended on, on the gathering Body of Christ. Now we have learned that even as the scattered Body of Christ, and now we can reach even more people, because of the various social platforms or platforms, online platforms that are available to us.Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:
Well, you certainly have mentioned here and that the kind of the opportunity that is before us, because what has been kind of the fog or the haze we've had to deal with outright chaotic storm, we've had to deal with the din. It's the noise. It's the cacophony of all this stuff out there. And listening I think helps us to cut through some of that and get through the Doulton to get through the chaos. And to come through to a place where you could have creation out of the chaos. I'm just wondering if you're seeing you mentioned that that's going on here. What are some encouraging signs, you see that even the midst of all this chaos and COVID in the disruptions in the church and politics and racism? Or in Ukraine, the whole bit violence out of these processes here? What are you seeing are some encouraging signs that we're going to get some another, we're going to cut through this and listen to the voice of God and to come through it.Bishop Julius Trimble:
Wow, that's a great question. And one of the signs I see is that people are still answering the call to ministry. Hardly a week goes by Why don't get word of someone answering a call to mention Ministry. Sometimes these are persons who've been in one career, I feel like God is calling them to a deeper level of service in the Christian movement to advance the cause of Christ. Just a few days ago, we had a gathering of clergy at St. Luke's church in Indianapolis. And, and one of the clergy couple said, we're looking forward bishop to you baptizing our second child, and annual conference, congregations are back again bred, baptizing babies and young people and adults, and persons are still responding as we should to, to creating a welcome for not only Afghan refugees, but soon as we are told now, refugees who will even be coming to Indiana from Ukraine. So So God bless the church, that we are faithful to our general rules of doing no harm, doing as much good as we can, and staying in love with God, God is able God is ableRev. Dr. Brad Miller:
Amen to that. And that is, I just love to hear that because you know, it's easy. Out of School speak for myself, it's easy to get cynical and a little jaded by what is going on, you know, it's easy to get a little day man, amen defeated at times, or even depressed, whatever analogy or whatever terminology we want to use. When you're telling me that there are still people, young people and middle aged people and other folks, second career and so on, are stepping forward and say, Okay, I'm going to jump into the fray. For it, it kind of reminds me a little bit of people who have cleaned up after a tornado which I was involved with one time several years ago, and helping with that process and how I got to be right now, people were either helping out in Poland and Ukraine with the terrible tragedy going on there. Let me ask you one more thing here about how this is going to lead us forward? What's the difference? Does all this listing make now and all the things we're talking about how to get through the crisis? But does it have implications kind of long term for strategy? Or have a policy, you know, things like this moving forward? How we can set the framework up for growth and for creation?Bishop Julius Trimble:
That's an excellent question. I think that we should not just listen in times of crisis. But we should build into our modus operandi them the opportunity for us to pause almost every single day. And Lent is a great time to do that. I know we're approaching now that the Holy Week, this is a great time for us to really do some self reflection and say, Okay, God, what is your assignment for us in this particular moment in history, in this particular matter, we are living in a particular moment in history. I think, for example, we've crossed the divide, whether we recognize that diversity is something that we not only have to deal with, but we have to make a choice of whether we will celebrate it, or whether we will fear it. And I think this is a point tower, which can we can listen to that. I think we really have to listen to whether or not servant leadership is something that we can embrace, not autocratic leadership, some of which we seen demonstrated on the global stage. But what does it mean for us as followers of Jesus Christ, to really embody servant leadership, then all that can happen I believe, if we take it fully full advantage of the gift of listening, sometimes I sit sometimes I sit out in the back of the back porch of our home, the back deck there. And just some of the best times I have, Brett are having some sweet tea, lemonade. And, and just and just listening because the bird with their big trees, all neighbors and I'll have big trees, just listening to the, to the birds. It's almost like they're put, put doing a concert just for me. And and it's amazing how the presence of the holy can come through when we find time for for the listening. And then I'm not as I'm not as frayed, because quite frankly, I like like most people over these last couple of years, they've been times where I've been so anxious. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising and often about things that I really can't do anything about in any immediate sense of the word. So one of the things is having conversations even like now, there are people who, who listen to this podcast, and they need to know prayer. That that God cares about the details I never forget is that at church I serve Aldersgate as church I served before being elected a bishop. People were leaving and you know, you shake the hands and people say how are you doing? How are you everybody said fat. One lady said fast I'm doing fine. If you don't ask for details, there you go. And she said, you don't have time to hear all about, there are people waiting to shake your hand. And I thought, I thought about that and reflect that. That's how we all feel. They've been dead days when you asked me, Brad, how you doing bishop, and I'll say bread, I'm doing fat. But I really want to say, I'm doing fine right now prayer, if you don't ask for details, because I'm praying for my daughter, I'm concerned about my grandchild or, or I'm traveling overseas or, or we don't have, we don't have pastors for all the churches. And I feel obligated as a bishop, to help every congregation get the appropriate leadership in place. So then then somehow, at the end, at the end, God works it all out. And I believe that's true for for most of us, God will, God will work it out, God will work itRev. Dr. Brad Miller:
out. God will work it out. But I just want to ask you one more question, then I want you to give us final comments. And then pray us out. We're a lot about the folks who came forward to be heard and about what we are experiencing our anxieties. But I would like for you to come in about the folks who were not listened to what I mean by that the folks who weren't at these meetings, you know, the folks who we are not properly listening to the people fall through the cracks in our society, what do we need to listen for? And how to be some way do we need to go to those folks to listen to them instead of waiting to come to a zoom call or church meeting?Bishop Julius Trimble:
Right, I think we have to find every mechanism we can to to in the words of Pope Francis to give the church away. And and to us as as the Discipleship Ministries, under the leadership of the late Reverend Junius Dotson, and we really embraced it in Indiana, we really have to see all the people see and all the people, we can't see all the people who just wait for them to come to us come through our Sunday service or come to our call meeting or our invitation to webinar. We've got to see all the people just as the other day we were at a restaurant and talking to the talking to the server, who was from when a when a Mac. You know where what am I do? Yeah, dude says that she wasn't United Methodist. But the here have mentioned a place where we have United Methodist Church. And it's not uncommon for me to say that when I met her so so I know, I happen to know where you're from. And so I think we really have to pay attention to seeing all the people and recognizing that we can't do everything. And God does not expect us to do everything. But for sure we could do something a little something we do really doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter.Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:
It does. Well, this has been a fascinating conversation here today, Bishop and as you know, the theme of our podcasts that you do your podcasts are we have together to be encouraged. And I want to say it's an encouraging thing that you took the time that you you made yourself available to be a good listener because that's always easy to do, because with the listing comes, you know, some good stuff, some flowers, but all sorts of slings and arrows sometimes.Bishop Julius Trimble:
God is still working with me.Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:
That's right. But I just want to leave you with and ask you to share any final thoughts you have that are encouraging to you your encouraging word of the day and then pray us out if you will.Bishop Julius Trimble:
Most certainly I want to share. This is the Serenity Prayer attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It's been adapted at different points along the way. But I do want to make sure I give attribution to Reinhold Niebuhr, God give us the grace to accept with serenity, the things that cannot be changed the courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living One day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time accepting hardship, as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that you will make all things right, if I surrender to your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next life. They God bless all who hear this podcast, all who walk the journey of life. They God bless the people of Ukraine and those who suffer in places of war and disruption. Those who have been removed from their homes and seeking refuge all across the globe. Oh God, we ask that you bless us as we draw closer to you. Coming this Easter, make us be the symbols of love that matter. In Jesus name. Amen.