Q & A with Dr. Marcus Tripp
Dr. Marcus Tripp, Dublin District Superintendent
“I think it’s very important that clergy do ministry, but also help people discover their ministry.”
This is the first in a two-part series that will introduce the new District Superintendents.
ADVOCATE: Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in South Georgia?
DR. TRIPP: I was born in Savannah and went to school there. I was a member of Epworth United Methodist Church growing up and was in the same youth group as Nathan Godley and Mary Ann Traver. I went to college at Emory University and stayed for seminary. I then took my first pastoral appointment in 1974 at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in Macon.
ADVOCATE: What’s your faith journey?
DR. TRIPP: I’m one of those who grew up in the faith. I talked about going into the ministry as a child and as a young person, before I really had any business saying that. I remember people asking me, as a child, what I wanted to do when I grew up. I think I used to tell them that I was going to be a Major League baseball player and then enter the ministry, but I got a little direction on not being a Major League player. I went through school and toyed with a couple of things while in high school and college, but settled in to where I felt like pastoral ministry was what I was called to do and what I wanted to do, and was able to go through seminary and come into the Conference without too many detours.
ADVOCATE: Tell us about your ministry philosophy and your guiding principles.
DR. TRIPP: There was a time, in school, when I thought of ministry as being able to answer people’s questions. When I got out of school and got to working with folks I discovered that caring about people carried more weight than being able to answer theological questions. Certainly they come together because in ministry you’re called to think through things and focus on them from a biblical and theological perspective, but also be grounded in everyday life.
In everyday conversations about church business or about people’s lives you’re not necessarily quoting scripture, but the way you talk about things is shaped by what you believe and how you understand God to be at work in the world.
I think it’s very important that clergy do ministry but also help people discover their ministry.
My doctoral work was about enabling the Church for ministry. That was back when “enabling” was a good word! But helping people – “equipping the saints for ministry,” like it says in Ephesians 4 – that has been a high value for me. I’ve always felt that, if you could measure this, it would be the most important statistic. The statistics we report are very important, but what I wish we could report are the number of people who are finding and exercising their own ministry. We’ll never be able to collect that in a report, but if we could it would be the best measure of whether a church is doing their job or not.
ADVOCATE: You served four years as the Waycross District Superintendent (1999-2003) before serving 10 years at Vineville UMC. How will your previous experience as a District Superintendent help you in your new role?
DR. TRIPP: Having been a District Superintendent before is a tremendous help. I have kind of a basic idea of what to do and where to focus, but at the same time the job has changed a great deal in 10 years. Technology is radically different than when I was on the Cabinet before. We communicated by fax machine then, and that was state of the art. We made a lot of technological progress during those four years and it has gone on, so I’m trying to catch up with the technology the Conference uses now. Also, when you change bishops, things change. I had a year with Bishop Looney and three years with Bishop Watson and there was a significant difference then. Bishop King has his own unique style of working so that makes a difference. And of course, I’ll be in a different district; I’ve never before served in the Dublin District.
ADVOCATE: What are your visions, goals and hopes for the district?
DR. TRIPP: Because of the unusual situation we’re in, I’m not dreaming a lot of big dreams right now because one of my main tasks is to help us get into the new six-district configuration. There are a lot of ways in which that change is going to take a lot of attention from Conference leadership, but it won’t affect local churches that much. Churches are going to worship; they will have Sunday school and prayer meetings and Bible studies. They are going to visit the sick and reach out to new people and bring new people in, they’re going to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. Those things are going to go on this year and into the future. Most of what happens in the local church will be relatively unaffected by the change in the Conference.
ADVOCATE: What are the things that most excite you about the Dublin District or the South Georgia Conference?
DR. TRIPP: I’m very excited about the quality of clergy I’ve met and have gotten to know so far. I think they’re excited about what they’re doing in ministry. There aren’t many better indicators of good things that are happening than to have clergy who are excited about what they are doing. The same is true of the laity. They are glad about what they do. One of the things I am seeing in this District is open country churches that are doing well. Here, as I drive through the Dublin District, I see active United Methodist Churches all along the road.
ADVOCATE: What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing the Conference or District?
DR. TRIPP: I think we all know the situation we’re in as The United Methodist Church across the board. We’re struggling to find the way forward instead of looking back to the way things once were. We need to look for ways to reach the people who will be in the Church in 20 or 30 years, and there are a variety of ways to do that.
ADVOCATE: What do you like best about serving in the South Georgia Conference?
DR. TRIPP: We’ve always enjoyed what I would call “county seat ministry.” Not every appointment we’ve had has been that, literally, but the ways in which you can minister where people recognize you as the United Methodist pastor give you opportunities for ministry throughout the community. What I think we had there, and this is certainly true of the churches in this District, is an opportunity for ministry across the community like we had, for instance, in Macon.
ADVOCATE: How do you, in the midst of your busy schedule and your traveling, make time for your quiet time, prayer, and Bible study?
DR. TRIPP: It’s certainly a challenge because the Superintendent schedule changes all the time. It’s not like you can get into an easy routine. I think, when I was a District Superintendent before, I did a fairly good job of practicing those habits when I was at home and in the office, but on the road it gets really difficult.
ADVOCATE: Tell us about your family.
DR. TRIPP: My wife Jan and I met in college while at Emory and we married after my first year of seminary. She taught second grade in Decatur City while I was in seminary. We moved to Macon and our first child, Emily, was born. Our second daughter, Molly, was born four years later after we moved to Irwinton. They have been a great source of pride and joy for us. Emily now lives in the Dunwoody area. She and her husband, Andy, have a 4-year-old little girl, Elizabeth. Andy teaches at Dunwoody High School. Emily taught in Dunwoody for 11 or 12 years and was head of the English department. Molly is in Muncie, Ind. where her husband, Craig, is an architecture student at Ball State University. They have a 1 ½-year-old little girl, Maggie.
ADVOCATE: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests?
DR. TRIPP: Jan and I walk as much as we can. We love making trips to Atlanta to see our family there. They’re close enough to us that we can see Emily and her family fairly regularly and that’s always a highlight. Our main free time activities are walking, reading and keeping up with family.
ADVOCATE: What’s one fact about you that most people don’t know?
DR. TRIPP: Many folks probably don't know how much I enjoy classical and 1960s music, and sports like baseball and football.