Wesleyan to present lecture addressing ‘troubles’ in Ireland

On April 4, West Virginia Wesleyan College will present the Brad Long Peace Education Fund Lecture in the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library at 7 p.m.

The featured speakers, Dr. Johnston McMaster and Rev. Gary Mason, will each present statements on their address, “Troubles and Reconciliation in Belfast and Northern Ireland,” with an open discussion to follow.

McMaster was director for 16 years of Education for Reconciliation, a community education program of the Irish School of Ecumenics. The programs operated throughout Northern Ireland and Irish Border Counties. He currently works for Ethical and Shared Remembering, an educational project he designed to provide an alternative and more ethical way of remembering the centenaries of key events that shaped Ireland for the rest of the 20th century and into the present.

Through involvement with Christian-Muslim dialogue, nationally and internationally, he is writing a commissioned book on the thought of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim philosopher and theologian, bringing his thoughts into dialogue with Jewish and Christian thought. The writing dialogue will pursue a shared Abrahamic ethic.

McMaster is an adjunct professor with the Irish School of Ecumenics/Trinity College Dublin and visiting professor with the Border Peace School in South Korea. He has been published, with works including A Passion for Justice: Social Ethics in the Celtic Tradition; Overcoming Violence: Dismantling an Irish History and Theology, An Alternative Vision; and Singing the Covenant: But Which One?

Mason, MBE, B.A., Dip. Th, D.D., PhD., is a Methodist clergyperson in Belfast; he has been in the pastorate for 25 years. In the course of his ministry, he has been involved in what has now been called the peace process. Behind the scenes, he has taken part in discussions with those wedded to violence in our society, trying to present an alternative way to resolve their differences.

Mason has spent his ministry in the inner city having a strong commitment to the church’s role in the urban setting. From 1992 until 1999, he had responsibility for two Methodist churches, one of which sits on a peace line in West Belfast.

In 1999, Mason was the Senior Minister and Mission Superintendent of one of the largest Methodist Missions in Europe at East Belfast Mission. This church, with 100 employees, is located in the inner city and is seen as one of the most creative churches in the area of social justice and peace building in Ireland. He was also a member of a working party on sectarianism drawn together by the Irish Council of Churches, which resulted in the publication Sectarianism, the most detailed report ever made to the Irish church on this topic. The Reverend was also the Methodist representative on the Loyalist Commission, a group consisting of loyalist paramilitaries, community activists, and church representatives.

Mason has traveled extensively in the USA and has spoken in Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and independent free churches, Jewish Synagogues and Jewish centers, and has also given lectures in a number of church, college, university, and denominational settings across the United States. He has spoken at political gatherings across the island of Ireland and Europe.

Mason studied business at the University of Ulster and worked as a health service administrator before studying theology at Queens University in Belfast and entering the Christian ministry in 1987. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Florida Southern College for his role in peace building in Ireland and also carried out doctoral studies at the University of Ulster and earned a Doctor of Philosophy from the School of Psychology. He was made a member of the Order of the British Empire for his work in the peace process and was awarded the honor in 2007 by HRH Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

The Brad Long Peace Education Fund was initiated at West Virginia Wesleyan by Reginald and Patricia Long. After losing their son in a car accident in 1983, the Longs wanted to honor Brad’s deepest wish for his life that he might be instrumental in creating a climate where peace could flourish. They chose to establish this fund to assist in a continuing effort by Wesleyan and the people of Buckhannon to explore avenues leading to peace between individuals as well as nations. The Longs also wanted to offer support and encouragement to young people of similar vision, to emphasize the importance of individual action, and to promote a basic attitude of peace in everyday life.

The program is supported by the Honors Athenaeum and the Spiritual and Religious Life program at the College. The event is free and open to the public.