“So glad to finally see you.” Bishop Julius C. Trimble greeted the audience preceding the Call to Covenant during the 2018 Covenant Day gathering, held November 14 at Zionsville United Methodist Church. The bishop shared about his encounters during the recent Council of Bishops meeting the previous month in Georgia to discuss plans around the impending Special-Called General Conference in February 2019 in St. Louis, Mo. The bishops were tasked with creating the space and courage to overcome the “barriers to honest conversation.”
Bishop Trimble encouraged the audience to do the same during Passing of the Peace. The bishop reaffirmed a message he’s been adamantly promoting lately — that regardless of the plan selected during next year’s General Conference, where the Church will vote on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward and and ultimately set the tone for how we approach the topic of human sexuality in the United Methodist Church, he does not plan on leaving the Church. 
“ We make room for the people we love and we do not retrieve from grace-filled accountability. That is what Covenant means for us, friends.” 
The bishop continued, 
“To have a hermeneutic of grace in these anxious times is to be invited into covenant. Not for the sake of singing Kumbaya at the end of the day and returning to our silos of doing ministry the ‘best we can’. But a covenant that brings us closer to one another to love, learn, and lead together. “
The Rev. Dr. Maria Dixon-Hall was a guest speaker at the annual Covenant Day gathering for the second year in a row. Hall’s lesson-turned-sermon, titled “Do you want to be healed?” offered an eye-opening message on the ways we interpret and actionalize disciple-making ministry, and underlined the idea that by creating spaces for honest and genuine conversations, we are inviting growth, healing, and progression in our faith journey. 
“We are in a season that is unlike any other. It is a crucial season. Things we thought we’d never see again, we are seeing again. Behavior by preachers, politicians, and priests are stunning. Instead of leading the world into a better and happier place, the Church is showing the world how to be a more divisive place.” 
Hall used her platform to teach the body of United Methodist ministry leaders and challenge them to look within and acknowledge that healing begins when we start to focus more on our commonalities, but also celebrating our differences. And we cannot begin to start down that path without finding and honing a common language. 
“We cannot proclaim the Gospel to a world that we cannot speak to. It’s communicatively impossible. You can’t speak to people if you don’t know their language.” 
In 2016, Hall was appointed Senior Advisor to the Provost for Campus Cultural Intelligence Initiatives at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, but began her career with the University in 2004, as Director of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs.
Hall was a crowd-favorite during last year’s Covenant Day, where her witty and honest remarks during her learning time presentation on Cultural Intelligence, garnered her the attention of hundreds of Indiana clergy members. Bishop Julius C. Trimble was moved by Hall’s teachings and encouraged her to return with a follow-up presentation, as the Indiana Conference had begun its journey of reinforcing the practice and ministry of seeing all the people — the theme of the 2018 Annual Conference session.
Covenant Day invites clergy from around Indiana to celebrate God’s grace, strength, and beauty reflected in the work of those who have answered and committed to their calling in ministry. The day consists of events designed to strengthen the clergy covenant, allow clergy to catch up on important news happening around the Indiana Conference, allow them the time and space to connect with peers, congregate in worship and dialogue, and create spaces for extended learning opportunities. 
“We are called to a journey of going and growing,” said Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Dotson’s sermon, titled “The Game-Plan: Simple Instructions for Engaging Community,” inspired by The Great Commission passage in Luke 10: 1-9. Dotson used the passage to note the many ways God calls us to “go.”
“Christianity is going faith. The ultimate go was given to you and to me — The Great Commission.” 
He continued, 
“The Church is at its best when we are going. Our DNA is one of a go paradigm. Methodism, at its core, is a going church. Following life change and encounter with God, John Wesley was on the go throughout Great Britain with a vision for the conversion and the discipling of a nation.” 
Dotson spearheaded “See All the People”, an initiative designed to challenge leaders of the Church to be intentional in their discipleship, the ways they regard the communities they were appointed to serve and to ensure that leaders are not simply checking off boxes, but are seeing the people in our midst and responding to their needs in accurate and effective ways. 
“We see Jesus sending 70 leaders into the world. Jesus gives them a game plan. He gives them simple instructions for engaging the community. He gives them some very specific mission instructions that are just are relevant for us today as when they were first given.” 
But before church leaders can apply the mechanics of the game-plan into their own vision, they must acknowledge their own identity, as well as the identity of the church they’ve been called to lead.
“Identity determines activity. What we do is determined by who we are. Why does Jesus send the 70 every place he intends to go? Because it is an indication of our role and responsibility as believers in Christ.” 
So, what is our identity as The United Methodist Church? 
Dotson states, “We are seed-planters. We are ambassadors. We are bridge-builders. We are ministers of reconciliation. We are witnesses to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” 
Participants took time during the afternoon to celebrate commitments to ministry, as they commemorated significant milestones in work of Indiana clergy. 
Those celebrated during a Called to Fruitfulness included;
30 Years: Bruce Edward Mowery
25 Years: Paul Eugene Wagner, Lee Harvey Campbell, Toni Lynn Carmer, Carol Durham Fritz, Dewey L. Miller, Jr., John Alden Randall III
20 Years: Janice Sue Dimick, Katurah Worrill Johnson, Karen L. Koelsch, James Andrew Martin, Douglas Leroy Walker, George Mitchell Wasson
15 Years: Amy Michelle Covington, Roy Eugene Ice
10 Years: David Read Williamson, Vickie Van Nevel, William R. Garver, Joseph A. Homick, Catherine N. Koziatek
5 Years: William George Nickrand, Steven Paul Rundel, Christopher S. Gadlage, Lauren Hall, Damon Louis Soper, Gregory Waggoner